Students who are blind or visually impaired have received educational services for over 200 years. The first of these services were provided by men and women who, despite the prevailing attitudes and practices of their day, believed that children who were blind were capable of success in education and in life. These early pioneers and the countless others who have come after them have provided us with a rich, solid foundation for our profession. Through documented accounts of observation, instruction, and formal research, we have grown into a profession with a clear understanding of the theories that underlie what and how we teach students with visual impairments.

Teachers of students who are visually impaired work with a wide variety of students every day. They provide educational services to students of all ages and ability levels who are learning academic skills, as well as skills needed for success outside of the classroom. There are no absolute rules for providing these services. Teachers must carefully examine the needs of their students in light of the information available on the way in which students with visual impairments learn and then make decisions about the best way to provide instruction. In order to accomplish this complex task, it is important that teachers have an understanding of the foundations that help us plan effective instruction.

Experienced teachers of students who are visually impaired add their own dimension of expertise to these foundations as they work with students and get a more complete understanding of the way students learn. Most beginning teachers, however, have no experience on which to draw when making decisions about appropriate instructional strategies. It is important for inexperienced teachers of visually impaired students to develop a clear understanding of the complex issues facing these students and their parents. These complex issues have an impact on students' development as well as on educational programming.

Foundations of Education: History and Theory of Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, as well as its companion volume, Foundations of Education: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, are designed to provide information on both theory and practice for beginning teachers. Although the volume on educational strategies provides more direct and focused information about instructional practices, the volume you are reading provides information about the underlying theory that guides our practice. This textbook is intended to be a text for teachers who are starting their professional lives. It provides basic information that will be helpful to university students in graduate or undergraduate teacher training programs. Experienced teachers and other professionals already in the field, as well as parents, may also find the information absorbing and useful.

Foundations of Education: History and Theory of Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments contains 10 chapters. The first chapter presents a historical perspective on the field of visual impairments. This chapter focuses specifically on events that have influenced the way in which we provide educational services to students today. Our history is rich and complex. It is a formidable task for one chapter to address the entire history of our field. For this reason, Chapter One emphasizes the events of the past 50 years, especially those events that relate to the provision of educational services in a range of service delivery settings.

Chapter Two contains general information about blindness and visual impairment, giving readers a perspective on the population we serve. Next, Chapter Three addresses the structure of the eye and medical and clinical issues related to visual impairment. Although we expect that university students will receive a more comprehensive discussion of the causes of visual impairment within their coursework, this chapter is designed to provide basic information that will help give an overview preceding the remainder of this book and its companion volume.

The next three chapters address developmental issues. Chapter Four provides information about early childhood development. Chapter Five addresses the development of students in middle childhood and adolescence. Chapter Six addresses the psychosocial needs of students with visual impairments.

Unique populations are addressed in the next two chapters of this book. Chapter Seven provides information about students who are blind or visually impaired and have additional disabilities, whereas Chapter Eight addresses the complex issues related to students who are visually impaired and who are from diverse cultural backgrounds.

The last two chapters in this text address educational programming (Chapter Nine) and professional concerns (Chapter Ten). These chapters present information for the beginning teacher about the issues related to the unique job of providing educational services to students who are blind or visually impaired.

Foundations of Education: History and Theory of Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments joins the other literature in our field to provide a comprehensive perspective on the students with whom we work and the issues related to our profession. It is intended to prompt readers to engage in ongoing efforts to learn more about the students they teach and to pursue unfolding knowledge about the best practices of our profession.

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Foundations of Education, 2nd Edition, © 2000 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2000 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved.