Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

A Team Approach for the Transition to Middle School and beyond for a Young Man Who Is Deafblind and Gifted

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

A Team Approach for the Transition to Middle School and beyond for a Young Man Who Is Deafblind and Gifted

Article excerpt

Although there is ample research to guide an educational team in the transitions of a student who is deafblind, there is little research to inform such transitions when intellectual giftedness is also a factor. In this article, we describe the role of a multidisciplinary team in transition planning for a student in a public school full-inclusion setting. The student, John (a pseudonym), had hearing impairment and cochlear implants; a visual diagnosis of microphthalmia, which enabled him to perceive shapes; and an exceptional intellectual ability that was recognized in school district-wide testing on multiple assessments in the third grade. In his fifth-grade year, the educational team focused on five areas that they felt would be integral for the student's success in the transition from elementary to middle school: staff dynamics, sound dynamics, social competencies, environmental knowledge, and academics.

John's parents were active participants with the educational team in planning his education. A teacher of visually impaired students and an orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist addressed vision issues, a teacher of hearing impaired students focused on auditory issues, a speech-language pathologist worked with speech articulation, an occupational therapist guided fine-motor development, and an adapted physical education specialist monitored physical education accommodations and adaptations. In addition, a braillist produced materials in braille and served as an on-site paraeducator; and a specialist in the field of hearing impairment, from the University of Kansas, served pro bono as an advisor. A county social worker addressed "outside of the school" issues. John's parents also requested that a district administrator join the educational team, because of their son's unique intellectual abilities and possibilities. Key to the team process was the establishment of a guiding philosophy: The parents insisted that John's limitations would be overcome by his own talents and abilities, and that any limitations set in his path by others would not be considered insurmountable. An instructional "best practices" model followed the philosophy of "living in the solution and not in the problem."

The United States Department of Education's Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Students: Policy Guidance (2000), Assistance to States for the Education of Children with Disabilities (2005), and the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004 provided ample support for the creation of an educational program that focused on the use of assistive technology, braille, career education, O&M, compensatory skills, social interaction, recreation, and leisure skills.

STAFF MEMBER DYNAMICS

Transitions can be particularly stressful for students with visual impairments as they move from a familiar environment to an unfamiliar school. They may also be difficult for general education staff members, who may never have taught a student with visual or auditory impairments and may have little understanding of expectations, accommodations, or interaction techniques for such students.

TRANSITION TIMELINE

Preparation, planning, and communication can help ease the difficulties that might occur when students are making transitions. To smooth this process for John, a teacher of visually impaired students created a transition timeline that was initiated in elementary school, prior to John entering the seventh grade in the middle school, and it was repeated at the end of eighth grade for his transition to high school. All components were implemented with input from team members as needed.

Winter

In accordance with the timeline, in December, John's teacher of visually impaired students and his O&M specialist met with the new school's counselor and administrator to provide an overview of John, necessary accommodations, and space requirements for a vision office for braille production. …

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