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Excerpt from Foundations of Education: Challenges and Solutions to Providing Instructional Time

A young student sits at a desk with a braille embosser. His teacher looks over his shoulder as she instructs him how to use it.

Excerpted from Chapter 6 of Foundations of Education, Third Edition, Volume II, edited by M. Cay Holbrook, Tessa McCarthy and Cheryl Kamei-Hannan, and available at the AFB Store.

It can be challenging for teachers to provide the recommended instructional time for students with visual impairments. School districts face special challenges when setting up appropriate services for students who are blind or visually impaired, and teachers may encounter a variety of obstacles to scheduling additional instruction time for students. Here are two key reasons why, along with possible solutions.

Teacher Shortage

The following are suggestions for contending with the limited availability of teachers of students with visual impairments:

  • Provide data to school district administrators regarding the required qualifications of teachers of students with visual impairments and the challenges in accessing personnel preparation. This can help encourage school districts to offer support and incentives to teachers to access the specialized training necessary to become a teacher of students with visual impairments.
  • Recruit teachers of students with visual impairments from within a school district and refer interested teachers to programs that provide specialized personnel preparation. Presumably the teacher who will be recruited will have ties to the school district and the community, making it more likely that he or she will remain in the school district following completion of specialized course work. In addition, a teacher recruited from within a school district will have knowledge of school district policies, will have established collegial relationships with teachers who will work with students who are visually impaired, and will have an understanding of the community context.
  • Work closely with university personnel preparation programs to determine options for preparing teachers of students with visual impairments to serve communities in need. Many university programs now have online courses that alone, or in combination with on-campus courses, will allow students to continue to work in their current teacher role while completing certification or graduate degree course work.

Large Caseloads

Most teachers of students with visual impairments are not decision makers when it comes to assignment of their caseload. In some situations, the teacher will be an integral member of the administrative team and have a strong voice at the table, but, in most cases, administrators assign a teacher’s caseload.

The following are some suggestions for teachers of students with visual impairments that may help address caseload issues:

  • Be proactive in providing information related to the educational needs of students with visual impairments in general.
  • Make sure that administrators and parents are well aware of the need to address areas of the core curriculum and expanded core curriculum.
  • Take advantage of any opportunity to present information to principals, classroom teachers, and community members to inform them about educational issues related to students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities.
  • Make sure that the individualized educational program (IEP) for each student includes appropriate and comprehensive goals and objectives. IEPs for individual students must stand alone without consideration of teacher availability or the instructional needs of other students in the school district.
  • Collect ongoing (at least weekly) data on how IEP goals and objectives are being addressed for each student and share this information with school district administrators. Make sure that parents are informed about how much time their child will receive in both direct and indirect instruction from a qualified teacher of students with visual impairments.
  • Maintain high standards for provision of services without compromise because of logistic difficulties. Acknowledge difficulties in providing appropriate services and discuss possible solutions with school administrators.
  • Use state or national guidelines for establishing appropriate caseloads.

For more information about planning and delivering instruction in unique, disability-specific skills, read the remainder of Foundations of Education, Volume II, Chapter 6, available in the AFB Store.

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