Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Michigan Severity Rating Scales: Usage and Validity

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Michigan Severity Rating Scales: Usage and Validity

Article excerpt

For many years, increasing caseloads for vision professionals have caused concerns about the impact on educational services. Average caseload sizes in the literature have remained fairly consistent across decades, with 19.5 students per professional in the 1980s (Pelton, 1986), 18 students in the 1990s (Griffin-Shirley, McGregor, and Jacobson, 1999), and 22 students in the 2000s (Griffin-Shirley et al., 2004). In contrast, the optimal caseload for vision professionals has been approximated as eight students (Mason & Davidson, 2000). Discrepancy between ideal and actual caseload sizes may partly be due to how service levels are determined. Lack of consistency in determining the appropriate level of service for a given child can lead to inflated caseload sizes and ineffective services.

Goal 4 of the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities noted that caseloads are based on the assessed needs of students (American Foundation for the Blind, 2003). An example of such a rubric for determining service delivery levels was developed by the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (see, for example, MacCuspie, 1998). In 1995, the Michigan Department of Education's Low Incidence Outreach office began adapting a model developed in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, that used student and environmental characteristics to determine service delivery levels. The task force that was created to adapt the model developed a set of "in house" severity rating scales to determine optimal vision service levels. The scales were revised in 2008 based on feedback from surveys of Michigan vision professionals and with input from professionals across the United States. The scales are now popular enough that national surveys of how the scales are being used seemed appropriate. Interest in the scales is shown by links to them on such vision-related websites as that of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, ; the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, ; Maryland-based orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist Dona Sauerburger, ; and Paths to Literacy for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, . The scales are available online at the Low Incidence Outreach website: .

The current study reports on the responses from a cross section of O&M instructors and teachers of children with visual impairments to demonstrate how the scales are perceived and being used by professionals. The study presented here also reflects an initial attempt at determining content validity of the scales. The four severity rating scales assessed were the Orientation and Mobility Severity Rating Scale (OMSRS); the Orientation and Mobility Severity Rating Scale Plus (OMSRS +), which is for use with children with multiple disabilities; the Vision Services Severity Rating Scale (VSSRS); and the Vision Services Severity Rating Scale Plus (VSSRS +), which is for use with children with multiple disabilities.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Two surveys, one with the O&M scales and one with the Vision Services scales, were distributed to achieve a representation of both O&M specialists and teachers of children with visual impairments. Potential participants were notified about the online surveys through announcements and flyers distributed at the 2012 conference of the Michigan Chapter (MAER) of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) and postings on vision professional electronic discussion groups (MAER, O&M, AER). After a brief explanation of the intent of the surveys, professionals were asked to visit either or both surveys and ill them out online. …

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