Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Evaluating the Empowered Curriculum for Adolescents with Visual Impairments

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Evaluating the Empowered Curriculum for Adolescents with Visual Impairments

Article excerpt

Abstract: The study reported here evaluated a self-determination intervention using the empowered curriculum for students with visual impairments. The perceptions of students, family members, and teachers of the usefulness of the chosen curriculum were also evaluated. Despite design limitations, the qualitative data suggest that the students enjoyed the empowered curriculum and found it to be useful.

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The study reported here was the first known evaluation of an intervention that was specifically designed to improve the self-determination skills of adolescents with visual impairments (that is, those who are blind or have low vision). Whereas previous research has examined self-determination as a function of interventions with students with other disabilities (see, for example, Abery & Rudrud, 1995; Cross, Cooke, Wood, & Test, 1999; Powers et al., 2001), the impact of self-determination instruction on students with visual impairments remains unknown. This impact is still unknown, despite the suggestion that skills in self-determination for this population are essential for positive learning outcomes (Sacks & Silberman, 1998; Wolffe et al., 2002).

Self-determination is "a combination of skills, knowledge, and beliefs that enable a person to engage in goal-directed, self-regulated, autonomous behavior" (Field, Martin, Miller, Ward, & Wehmeyer, 1998, p. 2). Compared to students without disabilities, students with disabilities may have an even greater need to increase both their capacities and opportunities to learn specific self-determination skills (Mithaug, Campeau, & Wolman, 2003). This is especially true for students with visual impairments who are educated in approved private schools (that is, private schools that are licensed to deliver special education services to individuals with specific disabilities), because the capacity of self-determination may be a function of the restrictiveness of the educational setting (Lipkowitz & Mithaug, 2003). In addition, Mithaug and colleagues (2003) and Robinson and Lieberman (2004) suggested that students with visual impairments are not given commensurate opportunities to engage in self-determination behaviors at home and in other social and vocational settings. Such opportunities become scarcer as visual acuity decreases (Robinson & Lieberman, 2004). When self-determination is conceptualized as a product of opportunity and capacity, it becomes apparent that students with visual impairments are in need of interventions that will maximize both these areas.

Adolescents with visual impairments harbor weaker self-concepts (Beaty, 1992) and weaker self-esteem (Huurre & Aro, 1998) than do sighted adolescents and students with chronic illnesses (Huurre & Aro, 2000). For students with visual impairments, problems with self-esteem may be further exacerbated by the severity of their visual impairments, and girls may be more adversely affected (Huurre & Komulainen, 1999) than boys. Students with visual impairments have been shown to perceive themselves as lacking the self-determination skills that are necessary to be causal agents (Tuttle & Tuttle, 2004). Deficiencies (or, at least, perceptions of deficiencies) in self-determination skills then adversely affect students' self-concepts, which, in turn, directly affect students' self-esteem. Thus, efforts to improve the skills, knowledge, and beliefs that enable a person to engage in goal-directed, self-regulated, and autonomous behavior (that is, self-determination) may also directly and positively affect the person's self-concept and self-esteem.

Self-determination has been found to be such an essential component of the educational curricula for students with visual impairments that it was recently added to the expanded core curriculum (ECC; Hatlen, 2003). The ECC includes nine content areas that, if taught, may lead to positive outcomes for students with visual impairment in adulthood. …

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