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Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By William “Bill” Daugherty, Superintendent,
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract:  Superintendent Daugherty discusses the decision-making process as students and families consider “the college question.”

Key Words:  blindness, visual impairment, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, TSBVI, Superintendent Bill Daugherty, post-secondary education, college


A sometimes-heated discussion between parents and educators in our business is the question of whether or not college is in the future for a particular young person.  This happens most often around students who, for whatever reason, have not made typical grade-by-grade progress in the general curriculum.  Parents view their children going to college as a rite of passage into adulthood as much as they view it as an educational or career path. Educators sometimes view going to college as a straight trajectory of prerequisite academic preparation combined with a solid plan for what a student wants to do for living.  Sometimes it’s hard for these two groups to get on the same page.  Fortunately, both are advocates for the child, and both want what’s best.

Ever heard an educator say “College is so unrealistic for Johnny”? Ever heard a parent say “The school doesn’t recognize Johnny’s talents that could be built upon to make college a realistic option”?  Somewhere along the line as parents and schools work together on a child’s future, we sometimes begin to get a disconnect on what adulthood will look like, and this can really come into focus as decisions are made about the amount of school time devoted to the skills of daily living and the time devoted to academics.

It’s true that academic knowledge and skills without the skills of daily living is an incomplete package, and it is equally true that the skills of daily living—how to dress, cook and clean for basic examples—won’t necessarily pay the rent.  We should be looking for that sweet spot for each child where these two critical parts of life are in the best balance that can be achieved.

Parents, we have to really look at our children as the individuals they are and do our best not to project our plans and aspirations upon them in ways that ignore who they are as people. On the other hand, I do this projection all the time with my own kids, and occasionally I’m even successful in accomplishing something good for them.  More often I’m not. Educators, we’ve got to become very well versed in the many forms college and post-high school education takes.  There are alternative routes and versions of the college experience that can accomplish much of what students lacking the typical entrance criteria want to achieve. We have to start early on helping parents and their children explore these options, and many of us are not familiar with what the options are.

Mostly we’ve got to listen to each other and we have to listen to the children and students for which we share a common advocacy.  We have to know what’s out there in terms of options, and we have to get united on action that addresses the many gaps and voids we know exist.  The education system in Texas—TSBVI, ESCs, ISDs—and the adult services system—DARS/DBS—are working together on the issue of transition to adult life more than ever before.  Those of us in the middle of it know just how difficult it is for the non-typical learner to locate an appropriate post-high school experience and to be successful in it.  Our partnering with the community colleges to develop, and fund, new opportunities for this group of students is essential.  Parents, your voice and advocacy on this front is the most powerful and influential tool we have.