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Blind Services - Florida's Response to the 2004 National Agenda

Final Draft 6/21/05

FLORIDA'S RESPONSE TO THE 2004 NATIONAL AGENDA for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities

The mission of the State Leadership Work Group is to create a shared vision, an agenda, and an ongoing plan of action for Florida that closely aligns with the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities.

Goal 1: Referral

Students and their families will be referred to an appropriate education program within 30 days of identification of a suspected visual impairment. Teachers of students with visual impairments and orientation and mobility (O&M) instructors will provide appropriate quality services.

  1. Ophthalmologists will refer children with suspected or confirmed visual impairment to their local Early Steps provider (birth to 3 years), their Local Education Agency (LEA) (3 through 21 years), and/or the local Division of Blind Services Children and Families Program (birth through 21).
  2. Ophthalmologists and optometrists will identify themselves as interested in being a preferred provider of diagnostic and vision management services for children with suspected or confirmed visual impairment, including children with other disabling conditions.
  3. A uniform Eye Specialist Report form distributed to ophthalmologists will assist in the appropriate referral of young children to Early Steps.
  4. Local Early Steps providers will utilize a single criterion for the determination of eligibility for services based on visual disability.
  5. Local Early Steps providers will receive information on individuals who have the training and experience to perform functional vision assessments on infants and toddlers.
  6. Local interagency agreements will be developed with early intervention providers, such as Early Steps, LEAs, DBS, etc., that define how services will be provided for families of children with visual impairments using all available resources.
  7. Local Early Steps providers will implement a uniform procedure to assess visual function and skill development via use of a parent interview protocol on all children referred to Early Steps who do not have a diagnosis of visual impairment. All children for whom concerns are identified using this protocol will be referred to a medical eye specialist. A uniform Eye Specialist Report form will accompany each of these referrals.
  8. For older students with newly identified visual impairments, Local Education Agencies (LEAs) will have a certified teacher of students with visual impairments perform assessment and individualized educational planning.

Goal 2: Parent Participation

Policies and procedures will be implemented to ensure the right of all parents to full participation and equal partnership in the education process.

  1. Parents/guardians will be encouraged to be actively involved in all meetings/decisions regarding their child's academic, cognitive, emotional, functional and social development.
  2. Educational and resource information will be disseminated to families of newly identified children in a proactive and timely manner including:
    1. statewide resource packet listing services for families with visually impaired/blind children;
    2. list of resource books and pamphlets focusing on early childhood development, coping with the challenges of parenting a visually impaired child, and other applicable, tangible information to everyday life;
    3. list of educational and placement options, diploma options, and information on transition;
    4. list of frequently used abbreviations ("alphabet soup"); and
    5. list of advocacy groups with contact information
  3. In order to promote a cohesive team of parents/guardians and professionals for every child, information/strategies will be provided to families on advocacy and participation in the process for developing the IFSP/IEP, including guidelines on visual assessments and sample IEPs.
  4. Agencies serving the blind, parent organizations, school programs for students with visual impairments, and the medical community will be encouraged to collaborate on the exchange of information and referrals for each other's services.
  5. Parents will be encouraged to participate as equal partners on state and local advisory boards and become involved with current legislation/policy-making relative to the needs of students with visual impairments.
  6. Family-centered conferences will be conducted in which medical and educational professionals will be involved. Conferences will focus on the unique developmental and educational needs of children with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities.
  7. Families will be encouraged to connect with established state and national networks like FFCVI (Florida Families of Children with Visual Impairments), FDBA (Florida Deaf-Blind Association), and NAPVI (National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments), thus fostering mentoring relationships between experienced families and families of newly diagnosed children with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities.
  8. Families will be encouraged to join with Florida's educators and agency personnel as they engage in state and national trainings specific to students with visual impairments and Deaf-Blind learners. Examples of such trainings include: Weekends with the Experts from Florida Department of Education, VIISA/INSITE trainings, New Teacher Orientation, Vision Contact Meeting, Hadley School for the Blind correspondence courses, etc.

Goal 3: Personnel Preparation

Universities with a minimum of one full-time faculty member in the area of visual impairments will prepare a sufficient number of teachers and orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists for students with visual impairments to meet personnel needs throughout the country.

  1. Ongoing funding of institutions of higher education will be supported to produce qualified teachers.
  2. Agencies will support responsible initiatives that are likely to result in the growth of training programs in the area of visual disabilities, including the endorsement of maintaining or increasing the number of tenure line faculty.
  3. Information on visual impairment will be provided to all early childhood and special education personnel preparation programs.
  4. The appropriateness of the content of the teacher certification test to qualify teachers of the visually impaired in terms of updated content and related competency outcomes will be explored. As a part of this activity, the content of the state tests will be reviewed.
  5. Teachers of children with visual impairments and orientation and mobility specialists will be encouraged to promote the field of teaching children with visual impairments to high school and community college programs in their geographic area. Appropriate tools to support this effort will be provided to individuals involved in such recruitment efforts.
  6. A pre-service training initiative to address the needs of students with sensory impairments who also have additional disabilities will be considered.

Goal 4: Provision of Educational Services

Caseloads will be determined based on the assessed needs of students.

  1. Data obtained through child-centered caseload analysis, population analysis and job descriptions of teachers of students with visual impairments and O&M specialists will be used to establish guidelines for determining appropriate size and composition of student caseloads.*
  2. The Florida Department of Education will be encouraged to develop recommendations for determining appropriate caseload size and composition in local special education programs.
  3. Information will be provided to LEAs on various service delivery models to assist them in developing and implementing appropriate program options.
  4. In order to facilitate the determination of appropriate caseloads, training in the requirements of IDEA and OSEP regarding assessment of students with visual impairments will be provided for school personnel and parents. Training will include but not be limited to:
    1. how to select appropriate assessment instruments and informal inventories to determine student achievement levels;
    2. strategies for providing appropriate accommodations and adaptations to assessment instruments and administrations to ensure maintaining validity and reliability;
    3. importance of considering the impact of a student's visual impairments on learning and development; the interpretation of assessment results; and future needs of the student;
    4. establishing IEP/IFSP goals and objectives through the use of valid assessment results; and
    5. the expanded core curriculum and unique skills needed by students with visual impairments to access their current and future learning environments.

Tools for caseload analysis:

  • Quality Programs for Students with Visual Impairments (QPVI), University of Texas
  • Literacy for Students with Low Vision; A Framework for Delivery of Instruction by Anne Corn and Alan Koenig
  • Assuring Quality Literacy Instruction for Students who are Blind by Alan Koenig and Cay Holbrook
  • AER Guidelines for Determining Caseload Size for Teachers of the Visually Impaired

Theoretical formula for determining caseloads:

Assessed needs of student determines IEP Team Priorities (Annual Goals and Objectives), which determines level and intensity of student services which determines placement and minutes served. Compute the number of minutes served and time for materials preparation and travel along with the contractual agreements (length of work day, planning time, lunch, etc.) to determine teacher caseload.

Goal 5: Array of Services

Local education programs will ensure that all students have access to a full array of service delivery options.

  1. Schools will be provided materials and onsite technical assistance to ensure that students with visual impairments are appropriately assessed and have access to a full array of placement options through the provision of regular education, special education, and related services as determined by the IEP team.
  2. Parents will be provided technical assistance regarding Section 1003.57(3) of the Florida Statues: "The district school board has the responsibility to annually provide information describing the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind and all other programs and methods of instruction available to the parent of a sensory-impaired student".
  3. The Florida Department of Education will update and disseminate its publication, Florida's Educational Opportunities for Students with Sensory Impairments (306280), to interested parties.
  4. An assortment of materials (technical assistance papers, NICHCY papers, etc.) related to the value of various placement options will be disseminated, as will an annotated bibliography through the Clearinghouse Information Center of the Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services regarding the education of students who are visually impaired.

Goal 6: Assessment

All assessments and evaluations of students will be conducted by or in partnership with personnel having expertise in the education of students with visual impairments and their parents.

  1. In response to the "Just Read, Florida!" initiative and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)/Reading First program, intensive professional development/training will be provided to teachers of students with visual impairments, support staff, and/or parents in the assessment of reading, exemplary reading assessment models, and methods to conduct action research on this topic. Resources, articles, books, and tools addressing the assessment of reading will be compiled and disseminated.
  2. Professional development and technical assistance in strategies for assessing the individual needs of students (infants, toddlers, children, and adolescents with visual impairments including those with multiple disabilities) will be provided to:
    1. parents and families,
    2. early intervention providers for infants and toddlers with visual impairments, and
    3. school district personnel, including school psychologists, in the areas of
      1. incorporating the expanded core curricula areas in comprehensive assessments;
      2. establishing collaborative relationships among the assessment teams, the teachers of the visually impaired, and parents; and
      3. evaluating students' abilities to learn academic, functional, and adaptive skills for school, home, and the community.
  3. Individuals knowledgeable and experienced in the education of students with visual impairments should participate in the:
    1. Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) Bias and Sensitivity Committee;
    2. initial item review process for the FCAT and FCAT Sample Tests at all grade levels/subject areas;
    3. development of the Scripts for Test Administrators;
    4. proofreading of the large print version of FCAT and the FCAT Sample Tests;
    5. proofreading of the Braille version of FCAT, the FCAT Sample Tests, and the Braille Notes; and
    6. transcription of students' answers from braille onto print answer documents
  4. Information will be distributed to district staff and parents concerning Web sites related to the standardized assessment of students with visual impairments (Sunshine State Standards, sample FCAT items, accommodations for students with disabilities), DOE publications and FCAT administration material.
  5. Teachers of the visually impaired will be knowledgeable of allowable assessment accommodations and making informed assessment decisions.

Goal 7: Access to Instructional Materials

Access to developmental and educational services will include an assurance that textbooks and instructional materials are available to students in the appropriate media and at the same time as their sighted peers.

  1. The timeliness with which accessible instructional materials are delivered to students who are blind or visually impaired ages 0-21 will be improved. The Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired (FIMC-VI), in cooperation with school districts statewide, will:
    1. implement/maintain online materials' ordering system for LEAs;
    2. provide on-going training/technical assistance to users on the use of the online materials' ordering system;
    3. disseminate information to LEAs on how to improve the timeliness of receiving accessible instructional materials;
    4. establish a monthly reporting system to monitor the time between initial order and delivery of materials;
    5. analyze turnaround time and quality of materials from commercial vendors producing large print and Braille;
    6. provide on-going training to users on utilizing specialized materials and technology to achieve instructional outcomes; and
    7. sponsor on-going workshops for volunteers who transcribe materials into braille or audio formats in an effort to update skills and recruit new transcribers.
  2. Early Steps (intervention) providers will have access to instructional materials for infants and toddlers with visual impairments available through the Federal Quota Program. Toward this end:
    1. on-going training/technical assistance will be provided as requested to Early Steps on the student registration process and on the online materials' ordering system; and
    2. input to the American Printing House for the Blind on the appropriateness of instructional materials for infants and toddlers will be offered.
  3. A pilot project which utilizes electronic publishers' files to produce braille textbooks will be initiated. Certified braille transcribers will be provided access to online seminar training through the National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities at the University of Northern Colorado. Through the online seminar, the transcribers will learn to convert publishers' files, including text and graphics into braille.
  4. Agencies and LEAs will collaborate with the staff at the Talking Book Libraries to increase access to services by students and families.

Goal 8: Expanded Core Curriculum

All educational goals and instruction will address the academic and expanded core curricula based on the assessed needs of each student with visual impairments.

  1. Agencies and schools will collaboratively identify and promote strategies to provide needed services/training for families and students in the areas of the expanded core curriculum.
  2. The existing Florida Department of Education Special Skills Courses (Unique Skills Vision grades 6-8, 9-12 and Orientation and Mobility 6-8, 9-12) course requirements and objectives will be reviewed to determine correlation with the expanded core curriculum.
  3. Examples of strategies to integrate the expanded core curriculum with existing instructional activities will be disseminated to families, agency personnel, TVIs and O&M Specialists in the state.
  4. Support will be provided to schools to ensure that students with visual impairments have access to both the academic and expanded core curricula through the provision of special education and related services as determined by appropriate assessments and the IEP team.
  5. Exceptional Student Education Directors will receive information on the importance of providing expanded core curriculum instruction to students with visual impairments.
  6. Early intervention providers will receive training, technical assistance and materials about including expanded core curriculum services in the IFSP to encourage the development of independent life skills.

Goal 9: Transition Services

Transition services will address developmental and educational needs (birth through high school) to assist students and their families in setting goals and implementing strategies through the life continuum commensurate with students' aptitudes, interests, and abilities.

  1. Youth and their families will be provided with information related to transition, including information about their rights, responsibilities, options, and community resources.
  2. Collaboration among diverse agencies will improve in order to create "seamless" linkages between early intervention and educational systems, and between "youth systems" and "adult systems."
  3. Teachers (TVIs) and other service providers will be assisted to develop Transition Individual Educational Plans (T-IEPs) that are person-centered, positive, and that address preparation for adult life in the domains of competitive and supported employment, post secondary education and training, and independent and supported living.
  4. In-service training of Transition Specialists and other personnel employed by school districts will be offered on the unique learning styles of students with visual disabilities, and on strategies for assessing and providing appropriate transition services to this population.
  5. A list of strategies used by TVIs and other agencies will be compiled and published to support and facilitate the successful transitions of students with visual impairments.
  6. The active involvement of youth and families in transition activities will be encouraged through support and advocacy training.
  7. A publication detailing the progress and timelines involved for students and their families will be developed and disseminated to them as they prepare to participate in nationally offered achievement and college entrance tests.

Goal 10: Ongoing Professional Development

To improve students' learning, service providers will engage in on-going local, state, and national professional development.

  1. To support the participation of educators and agency personnel in disability-specific training, administrators will be encouraged to provide release time, travel costs, travel time, registration costs, etc. using available funds set aside to support the education of students with special needs.
  2. Opportunities for educators and agency personnel to engage in state and national trainings specific to students with visual impairments and learners with deaf-blindness will be supported. Examples of such trainings include: Weekends with the Experts from Florida Department of Education, VIISA/INSITE trainings, Classroom Teacher New Teacher Orientation, Vision Contact Meeting, Hadley School for the Blind correspondence courses, etc.
  3. Teachers will align their individual professional development plans with student needs as identified on IEPs and with effective instructional practices. Teacher professional development plans should correspond with the Professional Development Standards of the Florida Department of Education.
  4. Programs and agencies will provide regional and onsite technical assistance and/or professional development to general and special educators, other service providers, and families. Suggested topics include:
    1. strategies for providing appropriate services to children with visual impairments
    2. accommodations and modifications for the public school classroom;
    3. materials procurement and production; and
    4. service delivery models and related services.
  5. The appropriate roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals and other support personnel will be identified and provided to districts and professional development entities.

Glossary of Agency and Program Acronyms

AADB
American Association of the Deaf-Blind
ADA
Americans with Disabilities Act
ACB
American Council of the Blind
AER
Association for the Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
AFB
American Foundation for the Blind
AHEAD
At Home and At Day Care (program)
APD
Agency for Persons with Disabilities
APH
American Printing House for the Blind
ASHA
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
AT
Assistive Technology
ATEN
Assistive Technology Education Network
BEESS
Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, FDOE
CARD
Centers for Autism and Related Disabilities
CAST
Center for Applied Special Technology
CIL
Centers for Independent Living
CMS
Children's Medical Services
CEC
Council for Exceptional Children
CRP
Community Rehabilitation Program
CSPD
Comprehensive System of Personnel Development
DB-LINK
The National Clearinghouse for Deaf-Blind Information
DBS
Division of Blind Services
DD
Developmental Disabilities
DDC
Developmental Disabilities Council
DEI
Developmental Evaluation and Intervention (a Part C office)
D/HH
Deaf/Hard of Hearing
DOE
Department of Education (in Florida, refers to Florida's Department of Education)
DOH
Department of Health
DSI
Dual Sensory Impaired
ESE
Exceptional Student Education
EUA
Evaluation under Anesthesia
FAASB
Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind
FACIL
Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living
FADB
Florida Deaf-Blind Association
FAPE
Free Appropriate Public Education
FCAT
Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test
FCRR
Florida Center for Reading Research
FDLRS
Florida Diagnostic Learning Resources System
FDOE
Florida Department of Education
FEHI
Florida Educators of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals
FFCVI
Florida Families of Children with Visual Impairment (a state Chapter of NAPVI)
FILC
Florida Independent Living Council
FIMC-VI
Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired
FIN
Florida Inclusion Network
FND
Family Network on Disabilities
FNDB
Florida Network on Deaf-Blindness (a network of state agencies)
FOP
Florida Outreach Project for Children and Young Adults Who Are Deaf-Blind)
FSDB
Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
FSU
Florida State University
FVA
Functional Vision Assessment
GEPA
General Education Provisions Act
GPRA
Government Performance and Results Act
HKNC
Helen Keller National Center
HI
Hearing Impaired
IDEA
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IEP
Individual Educational Plan
IFSP
Individual Family Support Plan
I&R
Information and Referral
INSITE
In-home Sensory Impaired Training and Education
IPE
Individual Plan for Employment
ISRD
Institute for Small and Rural Districts
LEA
Local Education Agency (Florida school districts)
NAPVI
National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired
NASDSE
National Association of State Directors of Special Education
NCLB
No Child Left Behind
NCLID
National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities
NFADB
National Family Association for Deaf-Blind
NFB
National Federation of the Blind
NICHCY
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
NIMAC
National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center
NIMAS
National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard
NTAC
National Technical Assistance Consortium
O&M
Orientation and Mobility
OSEP
Office of Special Education Programs (US Dept. of Ed.)
PreK
Prekindergarten
PTI
Parent Training and Information Center
QPVI
Quality Programs for Students with Visual Impairments
RCMA
Redlands Christian Migrant Association
RFBD
Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic
RSA
Rehabilitation Services Administration (US Dept. of Ed, under OSEP)
SEA
State Educational Agency
SIG
State Improvement Grant
SKI*HI
Sensory Kids Impaired -Home Intervention (program)
SLD
Specific Learning Disabilities
TA
Technical Assistance
TAP
Technical Assistance Paper
T-IEP
Transition IEP
TVI
Teacher of the Visually Impaired
UDL
Universal Design for Learning
USDOE
United States Department of Education
VE
Varying Exceptionalities
VI
Visually Impaired
VIISA
Vision Impaired Inservice in America
VR
Vocational Rehabilitation