For students with visual impairments, the ages between six and 21 are spent on learning to read and write braille, as well as the usual school subjects. It's very important to develop fluency in reading and writing, for all students. Braille is just as important as print literacy.
In addition to braille and the other school subjects, students and their parents need to think carefully about the next step. College and employment are the goals for most families.
Unfortunately for my family, our son, Tyler, was not able to make progress at this stage of his education. His medical needs became overwhelming, and he was not able to attend school very much over the last year or so of his life.
So I rely on other people to give me information about this stage of education. The FamilyConnect.org website again is a wealth of information.
Babies start learning about the world as soon as they are born. Babies who have visual impairments need some help to learn what they need to know. Special therapists and teachers help these babies learn, and they also help the parents work with them.
It's important that the entire family is involved in the baby's development (and that is true for sighted babies too!). So the process at this point is to develop a family plan, especially for their needs. This is called an Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP). This plan is part of a program called Early Intervention. It is not usually delivered through the school district. Our Early Intervention services were provided through the Health Department.
For much more about Early Intervention services, and to locate services for your child, please visit this FamilyConnect.org website.
Last week we talked about IDEA, which is a law mandating that children with disabilities receive educational services. For the next two weeks, we will look at what kind of services they receive.
The first thing to know is that services vary by age. You might be surprised to learn that babies are eligible for services under IDEA! Our son Tyler, who was blind from stage 5 Retinopathy of Prematurity, started getting some services before he even got home from the hospital. Babies start learning about their environment as soon as they are born, and it's important that visually impaired babies don't fall behind their sighted peers.
Another surprise might be that IDEA services can be available until a student is 22 years old. Some students with multiple disabilities are not able to graduate at the typical age, and it is good to give them a bit more time.
So here are the breakdowns for services by age:
Check back tomorrow when we talk about birth to age three!
This is a very interesting article on diagnosis and treating babies who are at risk for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). Approximately 40,000 to 60,000 babies need screening for ROP, and not all of them have access to the proper screening.
The National Institutes of Health, and the National Eye Institute funded a study at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Babies were screened and examined by ophthalmologists in the usual way, and then, also, images of their eyes were uploaded into a central server, where trained non physician staff identified which babies were showing signs of ROP.
The group of image readers were very reliable. They identified 98% of the babies who needed treatment. The hope is that this process can be used to upload images from areas that don't have access to pediatric ophthalmologists, so the NICUs can determine which babies need further help and treatment for ROP.
Read all about this study here.
I'm the owner of Family First Braille, the author of this blog, and the editor of Family First Braille Magazine.