Description of The Role of Specialized Schools for Students with Visual Impairments in the Continuum of Placement Options: The Right Help, at the Right Time, in the Right Place
Structured abstract: Introduction: This study examined the current role of specialized schools for students with visual impairments and compares these results to a 1994 study. Methods: Two surveys were used to gather data from specialized schools that were members of the Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB). The first survey gathered information about current enrollment in K-12, preschool, early intervention, and postgraduate programs. Data were also obtained from an ongoing longitudinal study of 2007–2012 graduates of specialized schools. Results: Enrollment levels at specialized schools were the same as when measured in 1994. The sample had a higher percentage of students with additional disabilities than in the past, but academic programs still played a significant role at these specialized schools, with over 60% of students with visual impairment and no additional disabilities attending college after graduation. The study found that 80% of the specialized schools were involved in outreach activities, with nearly 50% providing direct instructional services to students attending school in general education environments. Specialized schools also provided consultations and in-service training sessions to educators who work in general education environments. Discussion: The study shows that specialized schools continue to provide an essential placement option for some students with visual impairments at some time during their primary and secondary education. The majority of students at specialized schools have additional disabilities, but these schools continue to provide successful academic programs for the students who need them. Furthermore, the study shows that many of the specialized schools are involved in providing direct and indirect services to students being educated in general education environments. The continuum of placement options differs according to state. These differences result in varying degrees of involvement by specialized schools in the general education environment. It is critically important to ensure the continuum in each state affords every visually impaired child an appropriate education, although the location in which educational services are rendered may change with the needs of the student during his or her schooling.