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Visually Impaired



Check out the Vision Materials available in our Resource Library

What is vision?

Vision is a cognitive act which enables us to look at an object, identify it, determine where it is, its size, its distance from the observer, its rate of movement, and everything else that can be determined by visual inspection.   It has been estimated that 75% to 90% of all classroom learning comes via the visual pathways.

Research has estimated that up to 90% of what every child learns in the first three years of life is learned visually, primarily through imitation.  Vision is the sense that allows us to integrate all of the things we learn about the world.  Without normal vision, the child must learn to "see" and understand the world in new ways.

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What visual skills are needed for school achievement?

  • Eye movement
  • Eye teaming skills
  • Eye-hand coordination skills
  • Visual form perception (visual comparison, visual imagery and visualization)

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What behaviors could signify a problem?

  • Shows sensitivity to light
  • Squints to see things close or far away
  • Turns or tilts head to one side to see better
  • Rubs eyes a lot
  • Blinks often when reading or watching TV
  • Closes or covers one eye to see things close or far away
  • Stares at lights for long periods of time
  • Has trouble locating or picking up small objects
  • Has crusty eye lids, red and watery eyes, or frequent styes
  • Eyes do not move together
  • Eyes are crossed

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Astigmatism: an unusual shape or curve of the lens of the eye that results in blurred vision.

Farsighted (hyperopia):  has trouble seeing things at all distances, particularly close up.

"Lazy Eye" (amblyopia):  an eye muscle weakness that results in poor vision and is not correctable with glasses.

Nearsighted (myopia):  has trouble seeing things far away.

Stye:  and infection of an eyelid glad that causes a painful, inflamed bump at the base of the lashes.

"Crossed Eye" (strabismus:  a vision problem in which the eye does not line up properly.

Opthalmologist:  a medical doctor who can examine and treat the eyes for diseases, provide lens prescriptions, prescribe medication, and perform surgery on the eye.

Optometrist:  a doctor of optometry is a state licensed professional who diagnosis and treats vision problems, provides routine eye care, and prescribes and prepares eyeglasses.

Optician:  a person who fills the lens prescriptions for eyeglasses, and can help clients determine the best style of glasses to fit their lifestyle and needs.

Photorefraction:  Photorefraction is a screening process that involves taking two photos of the student's eyes in a darkened environment.  The process takes approximately 3 minutes per student, depending on the cooperation of the child.  Photos are taken on a high speed Polaroid film providing the ability to determine if photos need to be retaken before the student returns to class.

Photorefraction may indicated near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism, strabismus, and structural abnormalities such as aniridia and cataracts. It cannot detect cortical vision impairment, amblyopia, glaucoma, or other conditions related to neurological dysfunction.  Photorefraction does not require that the student be able to read or communicated verbally.

When your child's diagnosis is a visual impairment...

The earlier a child receives interventions and learning opportunities, the easier it will be for him/her to develop adaptive skills.  A teacher of the blind and visually impaired are trained to work with you and your child.  They can assist you with:

  • Assist in understanding a child's vision loss and how it impacts his/her education.
  • Provide specialized instruction which allows the student to participate in classroom activities, use their adaptive equipment, and learn to function as independently as possible.
  • Adapt and provide supplemental materials for the classroom teacher and/or student.

What is a best practice Referral Process?

A)  If suspected vision concerns:

  1. Check results of school screening/other concerns with school nurse.
  2. Discuss concerns with IEP team, particularly parents, and obtain input.
  3. Access eye report (if available)

B)  Pre-referral recommendation:

  1. Contact Teacher of the Blind/Visually Impaired about concerns.     

              * Will assist in determining if referral is appropriate.
              *May be able to assist in obtaining medical information, resources for the family, etc.

C)  Referral Process for Assessment:

  1. Follow district referral process.
  2. Copy of eye physician's report is needed for verification.
  3. Functional visions assessment may include:
    *near distance, mid distance, far distance fields
    *learning media (sensory preferences- visual, tactile, auditory), media (print, Braille)
    *(variables: lighting, familiar-unfamiliar environments, color, contrast, clutter, spacing, size,
      movement, eye-hand coordination, visual motor, low vision magnification)

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What criteria must a student meet to receive service?


Evaluation            Reevaluation                                  DATE of Evaluation Report                         
Federal Setting                    DOB                              Eligible:  YES     NO

A student is eligible for special education and related services when the student meets the criteria in A and one the items in B.

A.  Documentation of visual impairment by licensed eye specialist                      YES     NO
      (at least one area)
            visual acuity of 20/60 or less in better eye with best conventional correction
            visual field of 20 degrees or less or bilateral scotomas
            congenital or degenerative condition:                                                                
B.  Documentation of functional evaluation of visual abilities (at least one area)   YES    NO
      (evaluated by teacher of visually impaired)
           limited ability in accessing program appropriate educational media without modifications
           limited ability to access full range of program appropriate materials or media without accommodating 
           actions (changes in posture, squinting, focal distance, etc.)
           variable visual ability due to environmental factors (lighting, contrast, color, movement, or weather) that
           can't be controlled
           reduced or variable visual ability due to visual fatigue


Documentation in evaluation report of one of the following criteria components:
A.        Visual acuity 20/200 in better eye with correcting lenses                        YES    NO
  or       Limited field of vision of no greater than 20 degrees
B.  Medically indicated expectation of visual deterioration                                 YES    NO
     (Documentation in evaluation report)

For complete information regarding eligibility requirements, refer to Minnesota Rule 3525.1345

Region 10 Teachers of the Blind/Visually Impaired

Rita Sanderson:          Rochester Public Schools
Carmen Tripp:            Faribault Public Schools
Dag Riseng               Goodhue County Education District
Sharon Kyllo              Hiawatha Valley Education District
Jeannie Worden         MSAB
Jane Hofkamp            ZED/Albert Lea
Mary Kautto              RRED

Minnesota Department of Special Education Blind-VI Specialist:

Jean Martin, Director
Resource Center Blind/VI Handicapped
P.O. Box 308 615
Olof Hanson Dr.
Faribault, MN 55021
Phone: (507)332-5510 or (800) 657-3859
Fax: (507) 332-5494

Minnesota Resource Center: Blind/VI of the Minnesota Dept. of Children, Families & Learning
615 Olof Hanson Dr.
P.O. Box 308
Faribault, MN 55021-0308
507-332-5510 or 800-657-3859

National Association for the Visually Handicapped
3201 Balboa St.
San Francisco, CA 94121

American Council of the Blind
1155 15th. NW, Suite 720
Washington, DC 20005
202-467-5081 or 800-424-8666

National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired
2180 Linway Drive
Beloit, WI 53511
608-362-1380 or 800-562-6265

American Foundation for the Blind
15 West 16th St.
New York, NY 10011
212-620-2000 or 800-232-5463

National Coalition for Deaf-Blindness
C/O of Perkins School for the Blind
175 North Beacon St.
Watertown, MA  02172

American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Ave.
P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, KY 40206

Library of Congress
National Library Service
Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

1291 Taylor St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20542
202-707-5100 or 800-424-9100

National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson St.
Baltimore, MD 21230

Association for Education and Rehabilition of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)
206 North Washington St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

Division of the Visually Handicapped
The Council for Exceptional Children

1920 Association Dr.
Reston, VA 22091

American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults (AAF)
Free Braille Books Program

MN State Services for the Blind
2200 University Ave - Ste 240
St. Paul MN 55114-1840
1-800-652-900 (voice & TTY)