Instruction in Areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum Linked to Transition Outcomes for Students with Visual Impairments

Article excerpt

Abstract: A secondary analysis of pertinent measures from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 found numerous significant relationships between instruction in the content areas of the expanded core curriculum and positive outcomes for students.

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The provision of services to youths with visual impairments who are in transition from school to work and adult life is not a new concept. Projects have focused on this population for many years within the rehabilitation and education communities. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the U.S. federal government passed numerous pieces of legislation that demonstrated its commitment to the career development of people with disabilities and mandated their inclusion in meaningful educational and rehabilitation experiences (see, for example, P.L. 93-112, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975; P.L. 94-482, the Vocational Education Act Amendments of 1976; and P.L. 95-207, the Career Education Incentive Act of 1977). Both the Rehabilitation Act and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and, more recently, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, have been consistently improved over time through the reauthorization process to support the inclusion of people with disabilities in the community (Rubin & Roessler, 2008; Wilson, 1998).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-336) extended protections under the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act to all people with disabilities, guaranteeing access to public buildings, programs, transportation, telecommunications, and employment. Despite these legislative efforts, however, positive transition outcomes for youths who are blind or have low vision have remained elusive (Capella-McDonnall, 2010; Shaw, Gold, & Wolffe, 2007; Wagner, Newman, Cameto, & Levine, 2005). To gain a better understanding of the factors that are inhibiting their pursuit of employment, independent living, and other positive transition outcomes as these youths move from school to work and adult responsibilities, we investigated which disability-specific services these young people receive through the public school system and how those services translate into outcomes for the youths who receive them.

Educational experts in the field of visual impairment long contended that content areas outside the general education curriculum are critical for students who are blind or have low vision to master to succeed in school, obtain employment, and fully participate in society (Alonso, 1987; Curry & Hatlen, 1988; Hazecamp & Huebner, 1989). These disability-specific content areas, which came to be referred to as the expanded core curriculum (ECC), include compensatory, orientation and mobility (O&M), assistive technology, independent living, social interaction, recreational and leisure, sensory efficiency, career education, and self-determination skills (Hatlen, 1996; Huebner, Merk-Adam, Stryker, & Wolffe, 2004). Although there was general agreement that these areas are important, teachers and advocates continued to debate how to accomplish the task, given the time constraints of the school day and who was responsible for teaching which elements of the ECC (Lohmeier, 2007; Lohmeier, Blankenship, & Hatlen, 2009; Wolffe, Hatlen, & Blankenship, 2010; Wolffe et al., 2002). We were interested in exploring whether there was empirical evidence to support the importance of providing instruction in areas of the ECC by virtue of enhanced outcomes for the students who received such disability-specific instruction.

The study reported here involved a secondary analysis of pertinent measures related to the ECC that were taken from an existing federal database, the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2 (NLTS2).

Although not all areas of the ECC were addressed in the NLTS2 data, relevant items were included, such as instruction received in braille, O&M, assistive technology, and career counseling (albeit not career education per se, students and parents were asked if the youths had received help in finding a job, training in job skills, or vocational education). …