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Excerpt from Foundations of Education: Education Essentials - Tips for Building Teamwork

Foundations of Education, Third Edition, Volumes 1 and 2. M. Cay Holbrook, Tessa McCarthy, Cheryl Kamei-Hannan, Editors

Excerpted from Chapter 1 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.

Students who are blind or visually impaired have complex learning needs. Partnerships and teamwork among professionals who work with students with visual impairments are best practices in providing services to students with disabilities.

The student with a visual impairment will benefit educationally from a team of professionals from different disciplines. Professionals should know how to move smoothly in and out of their roles on the team without feeling ambiguous about the role transitions. For example, the teacher of students with visual impairments is qualified to conduct specialized assessments and instruction in the areas of sensory and adaptive skill functioning and material and environmental adaptations. His or her ability to help other team members make use of the resulting information through effective communication and collaborative-consultative techniques—such as role extension, enrichment, expansion, exchange, release, and support—will benefit students.

The following list of special considerations is important for building teamwork among professionals who are working with students with visual impairments:

  • Provide accessible materials for all team members. Attend to the need for such accommodations as braille copies, assistive technology, optical devices, and tactile graphics. Records of team proceedings and student notes can be provided in a variety of formats depending on team member needs and on the activities to be accomplished.
  • Communicate with eye care specialists. Team members need information about the student's eye health status prior to developing an educational program. If the eye condition is deteriorating, team members must know the status of the condition to determine how it may affect the student's educational program. Feedback to the low vision clinician about a prescribed device is recommended to decide how effectively the device is being used and what changes, if any, are needed.
  • Select learning and literacy media for the student. All team members, including parents, should contribute to this process. This assessment is critical to planning the student's educational program and guides the team in making deliberate and informed decisions for instructional materials and media.
  • Determine the level of influence of visual or other impairments on the student's learning. Team members need to discuss the results of their assessments and determine if the visual impairment is affecting the student's ability to learn or if a delay in learning is primarily due to a motor, cognitive, or other learning disability. In the case of the latter, other professionals will play a major role in developing a student's educational program.
  • Engage in frequent communication. This should include all teachers, parents, dormitory staff (in specialized schools), paraeducators, and related service specialists. Such communication will ensure consistent instruction and prevent misunderstandings. Decide how core curricula, such as mathematics and social studies, and expanded core curricula—independent living skills, sensory efficiency, career education, social skills, recreation and leisure, and assistive technology, for example—will be taught to the student.

For more information about improving education-related communication, read Foundations of Education, Volume I, Chapter 6, or the remainder of Volume II, Chapter 1, available in the AFB Store.

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