Your Role as Parent
If you are the parent of a child who is visually impaired, then it is incumbent upon you to insure that your child receives the best education available. In order to do so, it is imperative that you understand fully the nature of your child's disability, that you understand his/her needs, that you are knowledgeable as to what services are available to meet those needs and that you are aware to some degree of what strategies should be employed to educate your child. In short, you must advocate for your child by asking the appropriate questions at parent/teacher conferences to ascertain that your child's needs are being met and appropriate services are being provided.
Understanding Your Child's Disability
There are many reasons why some people are visually impaired. How a person sees depends upon his/her type of visual impairment and the degree of vision loss. In order to meet the needs of children who are visually impaired, parents and educators must be cognizant of the factors relevant to the child's particular type of impairment. They need to understand as clearly as possible what the child sees in order to determine his needs and what services should be provided to meet these needs. The staff at the Arkansas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired can assist you in making these determinations. ASBVI operates a low-vision clinic, staffed by Dr. Kenny Doan, the only low-vision specialist in Arkansas, and a certified teacher of the visually impaired knowledgeable of the various types of visual impairments and how they impact the education of children. This clinic is available to any parent of a visually impaired child residing in the state. You may schedule an appointment for your child at the clinic. Your child will receive a complete visual examination, and the staff can explain the nature of your child's visual impairment and make recommendations as to what low-vision aids, services and strategies might be employed to assist your child in acquiring an education. To schedule an appointment or to request additional information, please contact Debbie Mayes, (501) 683-5107, or Email Debbie Mayes.
Determining Least Restrictive Environment
Federal law 94-142 states that every child with a disability must receive a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment. "Least Restrictive Environment" means that education must occur in the environment which is the least restrictive to the child's normal development. Ideally, a child should attend school in his/her local school district, and receive a free, appropriate public education. Unfortunately, many persons responsible for the education of children with disabilities have tended to place great emphasis on children attending local schools, and have paid scant attention to whether educational programs offered at those schools are accessible to children with disabilities, or whether their needs are being met. Such a narrow interpretation could have devastating consequences to the development of a child who is visually impaired. In applying this narrow and erroneous interpretation to the above term, special educators have abrogated their responsibility to provide a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment for children with visual impairments and placed that responsibility with the parents of those children. In determining if the current educational placement is the least restrictive environment for a child who is visually impaired, parents should ask the following questions:
- Does my child participate fully in school activities?
- Is my child functioning at grade level in reading and math?
- Does my child travel independently in his/her school?
- Are all books, hand-outs and other educational materials available in my child's appropriate reading media?
- Is my child allowed to participate in physical education?
- Is technology available which will allow my child to fully utilize computers and access the internet?
- Does my child interact informally with other boys and girls?
- Are opportunities provided for my child to participate in extra-curricular activities?
If the answer to all or most of these questions is no, then your child's current educational placement is restrictive to his normal development and his opportunity to acquire a free, appropriate, public education. If you would like further information on determining the educational environment which is least restrictive to your child, please contact Tyrone Williams, (501) 683-5106 or Email Tyrone Williams.
Services Which Are Essential
The services which a school should provide depend on the specific needs of the individual child. However, there are many services which are essential to the growth and development of all children, and must be provided. These are:
- Daily instruction in the appropriate reading media.
- Instruction in orientation and mobility at least one period per week.
- Instruction in the use of appropriate adaptive computer technology.
- A physical education program which facilitates full participation.
Parental rights Federal Law 94-142 guarantees the rights of parents of children who are visually impaired to participate totally in decisions which concern programming for their children and their educational placement. You, as a parent, have a say in your child's educational placement and what services he receives. However, parents must fully comprehend and exercise their rights in order to optimize the chances for their children to become independent, productive citizens. If you would like further information as to your rights as a parent, please contact Tyrone Williams, (501) 683-5106 or Email Tyrone Williams.
What Does ASBVI Provide?
- The opportunity for students to participate fully in school activities;
- Teachers certified in teaching visually impaired children to facilitate children's ability to function at grade level in reading and math;
- Specialists in teaching Braille to augment classroom instruction and to provide additional instruction to further facilitate children's functioning at grade level;
- Daily instruction in the appropriate reading media by teachers certified in teaching Braille and reading large print;
- Orientation and mobility specialists who provide a minimum of 1 period per week of instruction to facilitate independent travel;
- Technology for producing all books, hand-outs and other materials in print, large print and Braille;
- An adaptive physical education program which allows for full participation by all students;
- Three computer labs and computers in all classrooms equipped with speech and display enlarging software which allows all students to utilize computers and access the internet;
- Opportunities for all students to interact informally with peers at recess and during scheduled recreational activities;
- A vast array of extra-curricular activities which includes: choral music, band, student council, swimming, wrestling, track, gymnastics, and numerous clubs which are available to all students at no charge.
ASBVI Has a Parent Resource Center
The ASBVI Parent Resource Center is located in our "Hill Cottage" (a.k.a. "Girls Cottage" or "Birth to 3 Building") just to East of our ASBVI Infirmary. You are welcome to visit us. To schedule a visit to ASBVI, please contact Teresa Doan, (501) 296-1810 or Email Teresa Doan.
At ASBVI, learning is lots of fun! We have eager, enthusiastic, curious children who enjoy school and are quick to learn. We have dedicated, qualified teachers who understand how children learn. The Arkansas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired utilizes experience, the latest research, proven methodology and the most up-to-date technology to provide a quality, total educational experience for children who are visually impaired. If you are seeking an alternative educational environment for your child, visit us. See what we have to offer. We have the answers. You are welcome to visit or call for further information.