For Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs), writing and reviewing IEP goals are an integral part of the job description – IEP goals drive every lesson! Academic IEP goals follow the general curriculum with attention to the specific tools, modifications, and needs that a student with visual impairments/blindness has. In recent years, high-stakes testing has pushed academic achievement and the majority of the IEP goals reflect these academic standards; often, critical transition IEP goals are left behind. So, what are the common transition needs that should be considered and developed in high school?
Most states begin to include transition goals when the student turns 14 and transition goals are given additional emphasis when the student turns 16.
This post will focus on college-bound transitional skills that will help empower a high school student with visual impairments and blindness to be successful and independent in college. What can a student learn and practice in high school that will make him/her successful in college?
TVIs can encourage his/her student to use online resources by initially assigning appropriate articles, YouTube videos and posts to encourage students to keep current on ever-changing technology. Then, assign tech-related topics for the student to research so that the student can learn to independently conduct online searches versus being spoon-fed the materials. Have your student find articles and resources and show that he/she has incorporated the information gleaned from these articles. Encourage the student to follow and get involved in age-appropriate online groups with similar interests – post a comment, question or article. (Paths to Technology has a Student Section just for this!) Example: Interested in keeping up with VoiceOver on the Mac? Check out Apple’s Accessibility page, AppleVis (community-powered website for blind and low vision-users of Apple products), Mac for the Blind Facebook group. You can also search for specific topics relating Mac accessibility using the Technology Search feature on the Paths to Technology website!
YOU will be the one working directly with professors and the Disabilities Office.
Below is a wonderful video that a student who has albinism created and shared with her new general education teachers as part of her transition to middle school.
Read the College Prepredness Series #3: How to Explain Accomodations post by a successful low vision college student. See Verionica’s attached Accomodtions Letter.
Note: Low vision students should be evaluated by an Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M) as part of their IEP transition plan. A student can demonstrate good O&M skills in the familiar high school environment; however, this student may have college-related O&M needs.
For additional information read College Preparedness Series #5: How to Navigate Campus, written by a successful low vision college student who uses a long cane.
In college, the student is required to determine any O&M needs and to request O&M services. These O&M self-advocacy skills can be developed in high school. O&Ms, have your student take ownership of his/her O&M goals. Early on, the student should be aware of his O&M goals and how he/she is progressing with these goals. Discuss the O&M goal before a lesson and review after a lesson; discuss the IEP and IEP progress reports. The student can actively participate in writing O&M goals (initially with O&M providing direction) and have the student verbalize his/her present level of skills during the IEP meeting. When the IEP is in place, have the student roughly divide the IEP goals into time chunks for the year.
Be sure to include longer routes that involve a combination of public transportation, street crossings, and a shopping goal. Ideally, these longer routes can be done after school, on a teacher workday, weekend or summer break so that the student does not have an hour time limit. Students need to build both their physical stamina and their mental stamina!
Your son/daughter will be traveling independently at college; he/she needs opportunities to travel independently in his/her familiar local community first!
You will be living in a dorm or apartment – without mom and dad. That means YOU will have to make your own bed, clean your room, wash your own clothes, do your own shopping, etc. Your roommate(s) do not want to live in a pig-pen or be your personal slave!
College students need to do laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, banking and a variety of independent living skills all while adapting to college life, going to classes, and doing homework. Master these independent living skills before going to college.
The Expanded Core Curriculum are concepts and skills that often require specialized instruction with students who are blind and visually impaired that include daily living skills and O&M skills. While educators try to address these needs during school hours, students need additional learning and practice in order to master these skills. Summer programs for students with visual impairments (such as programs through the school for the blind and summer camps) provide opportunities for students to have supervised overnight experiences that naturally include daily living skills activities.
Parents: Expect your son/daughter to have regular household chores that include cooking, cleaning and laundry. Set up a bank account and teach your son/daughter how to manage the account. Many online banking websites and apps are accessible. While every student should be able to make purchases using cash, your son/daughter may find using a debit card (and if appropriate a credit card) easier than handling cash. Students need to learn the value of money and money/banking responsibilities while under parental supervision. Advancements with digital payment tools such as Apple Pay are becoming more widely used.
Education is a means to an end – with the end goal of finding a good job. Finding a part time job helps with expenses and provides real-life job experiences that you cannot get in the classroom! Unfortunately, many students with visual impairments/blindness focus on academics only, forgetting about job experiences and graduate from college without ever having a job!
Good work ethics and experience begins with basic high school jobs. Unfortunately, many “typical” high school jobs may not be appropriate for a student who is visually impaired/blind, such as mowing yards or flipping burgers at the local fast food restaurant. However, there are many jobs available for high school students who are visually impaired/blind. Those entry-level jobs also provide eye-opening experiences such as how to deal with other personalities and the realization that you do or do NOT like that particular type of work.
Begin by taking on responsibility for tasks around the house and at school. Develop skills that you might be interested in such as working with younger students and office skills. Volunteer in the children’s nursery at church, help with story time at the library, babysit for family and friends, answer phones in the school office, help out at the local garden center, wood working shop, auto shop. Network with family, friends and teachers. Job shadow and find mentors. High schools have diverse classes and clubs – job shadow the computer science teacher, the shop mechanic, the cafeteria workers.
College is a time to meet new friends – these friendships will support you through school and will often last a lifetime. Get involved and meet your new best friend!
Students with visual impairments and blindness may miss some of the visual cues that are a part of social interactions, such as eye contact when walking past a friend in the hallway. Social skills are important and students with visual impairments and blindness should be taught about social skills at a very early age. College students have numerous opportunities to develop friendships – in class, in the dorm, in the dining hall, at games, clubs, sororities/fraternities, and more. Jump into college life!
Grow your circle of friends by joining school clubs and by finding social activities outside of the classroom. How about student council, yearbook, newsletter, drama, 3D printing or robotics? Take lessons – especially group lessons. If typical team sports such as football or volleyball, is not your sport, find a sport that you are interested in such as swimming, gymnastics, karate, or horseback riding. These social activities just might guide you to a career opportunity!
Social interactions and friendships begin with parents inviting friends over with their children, carpooling to lessons/activities, and family/friend outings. Teenagers (prior to driving) rely on an adult or older sibling to provide transportation to activities. This is the ideal time to offer to take your son/daughter and friends to the mall or drop them at the movies – make this a habit! When your son/daughter’s peers begin driving, they will naturally invite your nondriving son/daughter along.
Successful college students who are visually impaired/blind enter college with a strong set of personal skills. These foundation skills should be introduced at a very young age and are fine tuned in high school. Upon high school graduation, a student will not magically transform into a college-age adult! This transition is the result of a carefully crafted and implemented process. Educators and parents should thoughtfully consider these critical transition skills, identify transition IEP goals, and incorporate activities that strengthen these skills while the student is in high school.
By Diane Brauner