It takes just one or two days, but it can dramatically improve a student’s academic opportunities for years to come.
It’s an independent educational evaluation, a service offered to public school students with visual impairments by Perkins’ Educational Programs division.
Each year, students like Megan, 12, visit Perkins to undergo a battery of tests and evaluations conducted by Perkins specialists. The results help those students’ local public schools provide a better education that accommodates their needs.
“Our evaluators have specialized expertise in working with students with visual impairment that most schools out there don’t have,” said Justine Rines, associate director of admissions and evaluations. "This is something they do every day."
When Megan visited Perkins in May, she was thinking ahead about her transition to high school. Her hometown school in New York, like most public schools, lacked a complete team of blindness education experts on staff, so they turned to Perkins for help. Evaluations are usually sought by a student’s school district, though parents can also request one.
Over the course of Megan’s one-day evaluation, Perkins professionals from different disciplines – technology, psychology and academics – evaluated her strengths and needs. Megan has low vision and is a “dual learner” in braille and print, factors which the evaluators noted. They also considered her visual ability, academic performance and more.
“One thing that makes us unique is that students can come here and get all those (areas) covered in one place,” said Rines. “We have staff in all areas that have worked with children with vision impairment, so they have a battery of tools for assessing the abilities of people who are visually impaired.”
Students can also receive evaluations in speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy and orientation and mobility.
The evaluation team used the information they gathered to make specific recommendations to Megan’s school: what accessibility technology she needs, how she can balance her use of print and braille, what social or practical skills she needs to improve, and more. Megan’s school will use those suggestions to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that will guide her next three school years.
Megan’s parents will also get a copy of the report. “The evaluation gives the parents and TVIs (teachers of the visually impaired) the support they need to advocate for the child,” said Rines. If they have follow-up questions in the months that follow, they can take advantage of the evaluation team's consulting services.
When she returns to her public school this fall, Megan will still attend class, take notes and study – just like any other student. But with the plan from Perkins evaluators to help guide her educational journey, having a visual impairment shouldn’t be an obstacle to her academic success.
Learn more about how an Independent Evaluation by Perkins can help your child.