For Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs), writing and reviewing IEP goals are an integral part of the job description – IEP goals drive every lesson! Academic IEP goals follow the general curriculum with attention to the specific tools, modifications, and needs that a student with visual impairments/blindness has. In recent years, high-stakes testing has pushed academic achievement and the majority of the IEP goals reflect these academic standards; often, critical transition IEP goals are left behind. So, what are the common transition needs that should be considered and developed in high school?
- Individual Educational Program (IEP) is a plan developed by a team of educators and parents to ensure that a student who has a disability in elementary or secondary school will receive specialized instruction, related services and carefully crafted accommodations.
- Transition IEP goals are postsecondary goals related to training, employment, and independent living skills; and, the transition services needed to assist the student in reaching those goals. These goals focus on the skills required to be independent and successful after high school.
- College Transition IEP goals are skills that will enable a student to be successful and independent in college and goals that support career options, exploring colleges and applying to colleges.
Most states begin to include transition goals when the student turns 14 and transition goals are given additional emphasis when the student turns 16.
This post will focus on college-bound transitional skills that will help empower a high school student with visual impairments and blindness to be successful and independent in college. What can a student learn and practice in high school that will make him/her successful in college?
College Transition Goals
- Orientation and Mobility (O&M)
- Independent Living Skills
- Work Experience
- Social Skills
Student: KNOW your technology!
- Explore and be familiar with setting options, features and accessibility of each device/software.
- Be comfortable with software updates, know how to research and how to embrace updates, and know how to determine when to update.
- Find tech resources (mentors through listservs, social media, Youtube videos, online and personal acquaintances.
- “Tools in the toolbox”: Try various devices and software applications and determine what device/software is best for you depending on the task, situation and the environment.
High School Technology Activities
TVIs can encourage his/her student to use online resources by initially assigning appropriate articles, YouTube videos and posts to encourage students to keep current on ever-changing technology. Then, assign tech-related topics for the student to research so that the student can learn to independently conduct online searches versus being spoon-fed the materials. Have your student find articles and resources and show that he/she has incorporated the information gleaned from these articles. Encourage the student to follow and get involved in age-appropriate online groups with similar interests – post a comment, question or article. (Paths to Technology has a Student Section just for this!) Example: Interested in keeping up with VoiceOver on the Mac? Check out Apple’s Accessibility page, AppleVis (community-powered website for blind and low vision-users of Apple products), Mac for the Blind Facebook group. You can also search for specific topics relating Mac accessibility using the Technology Search feature on the Paths to Technology website!
Student: Become a self-advocate!
YOU will be the one working directly with professors and the Disabilities Office.
High School Self-Advocacy Activities
- Family and TVIs should openly discuss the student’s eye condition; the student should be able to share a quick statement about his eye condition, preferred accommodations, and technology he/she uses. The TVI can initially help the student write a quick summary of his/her eye condition and accommodations that the student then shares with his/her general education teachers. These accommodations should be updated as new classes begin, technology changes and especially if the student’s vision changes.
Below is a wonderful video that a student who has albinism created and shared with her new general education teachers as part of her transition to middle school.
- The student can practice sharing the accommodation summary (TVI can model this if needed), before the student is given opportunities to share this information with general education teachers. In high school, the student should be independently contacting his/her teachers. Another good starting point is for the student verbally share this summary with the IEP team.
- High school and college students should have a current one page-or-less summary that they share with their teachers/professors.
Read the College Prepredness Series #3: How to Explain Accomodations post by a successful low vision college student. See Verionica's attached Accomodtions Letter.
- TVIs should actively involve the student in IEP goals – before new goals are discussed and created. The student can be an active participant in the IEP meeting.
- The student should “own” his/her IEP goals!
- Students should also practice sharing basic information about their technology and tools with general education teachers and with the IEP team. Initially, students should be prepped to answer common questions. Setting up practice scenarios can be fun and will also promote student confidence!
- With digital assignments and teacher/student communication, it is easy for students to communicate directly with general education teachers. TVIs should set the student up for success with teacher communication skills and then the TVI should take a step back. Students should be expected to communicate and problem solve with the general education teacher before an issue gets out of hand; the TVI should only get involved if and when the student asks for support.
- Students should learn how to convert print materials into accessible digital materials. There will always be a last minute document or quiz that will need to be converted on-the-fly in the classroom! In college, the student is responsible for converting all of his/her materials or taking appropriate materials to the Disabilities Office to be converted. In high school, the student should be involved in the process; the TVI should not be doing everything on behalf of the student!
- Students should take responsibility for reminding general education teachers about specific modifications - such as receiving PowerPoint Presentations ahead of time or needing the book titles of future reading assignments.
Orientation and Mobility
Student: Be an independent and confident traveler!
- One of the most crucial pieces of college success is the ability to travel independently – you have to physically get to class before you can learn!
- College students will be traveling independently to classes, in the dining hall, and around the community. College campuses tend to be large and often complex with internal intersecting sidewalks through the middle of campus. Students must be able to quickly walk long distances to get around campus. That means high school students should build their endurance and speed in preparation for college travel!
- Students should be confident travelers using their residual vision (if applicable), cane, dog guide or combination of navigation tools in unfamiliar environments, crowded environments, in bright daylight and in the dark. Students should be comfortable with public transportation such as buses, Uber/Lyft/taxis and ride sharing skills. Students should be able to give clear, concise directions, especially driving directions.
- It is common for rising college freshmen who are interested using a dog guide to receive their dog during the summer between high school and college. Note: Solid O&M skills are required before a dog guide school will accept a candidate!
- The college student should be competent in using GPS/navigation apps – including setting critical Points of Interest around the complex college campus. There are many accessible O&M apps, including public transportation apps.
Note: Low vision students should be evaluated by an Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M) as part of their IEP transition plan. A student can demonstrate good O&M skills in the familiar high school environment; however, this student may have college-related O&M needs.
For additional information read College Preparedness Series #5: How to Navigate Campus, written by a successful low vision college student who uses a long cane.
High School O&M Activities
In college, the student is required to determine any O&M needs and to request O&M services. These O&M self-advocacy skills can be developed in high school. O&Ms, have your student take ownership of his/her O&M goals. Early on, the student should be aware of his O&M goals and how he/she is progressing with these goals. Discuss the O&M goal before a lesson and review after a lesson; discuss the IEP and IEP progress reports. The student can actively participate in writing O&M goals (initially with O&M providing direction) and have the student verbalize his/her present level of skills during the IEP meeting. When the IEP is in place, have the student roughly divide the IEP goals into time chunks for the year.
Example of first semester O&M goal schedule
- August: Learn new high school/class schedule
- September/October: Public transportation goals
- November/December: Orientation to indoor environments and skills (independent shopping, banking, etc.). Inclement weather days: work on supporting technology (Apple Pay, banking apps, setting up account for discounted bus fair/van share services)
Be sure to include longer routes that involve a combination of public transportation, street crossings, and a shopping goal. Ideally, these longer routes can be done after school, on a teacher workday, weekend or summer break so that the student does not have an hour time limit. Students need to build both their physical stamina and their mental stamina!
Your son/daughter will be traveling independently at college; he/she needs opportunities to travel independently in his/her familiar local community first!
Independent Living Skills
Student: Master your independent living skills!
You will be living in a dorm or apartment – without mom and dad. That means YOU will have to make your own bed, clean your room, wash your own clothes, do your own shopping, etc. Your roommate(s) do not want to live in a pig-pen or be your personal slave!
College students need to do laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, banking and a variety of independent living skills all while adapting to college life, going to classes, and doing homework. Master these independent living skills before going to college.
High School Independent Living Activities
The Expanded Core Curriculum are concepts and skills that often require specialized instruction with students who are blind and visually impaired that include daily living skills and O&M skills. While educators try to address these needs during school hours, students need additional learning and practice in order to master these skills. Summer programs for students with visual impairments (such as programs through the school for the blind and summer camps) provide opportunities for students to have supervised overnight experiences that naturally include daily living skills activities.
Parents: Expect your son/daughter to have regular household chores that include cooking, cleaning and laundry. Set up a bank account and teach your son/daughter how to manage the account. Many online banking websites and apps are accessible. While every student should be able to make purchases using cash, your son/daughter may find using a debit card (and if appropriate a credit card) easier than handling cash. Students need to learn the value of money and money/banking responsibilities while under parental supervision. Advancements with digital payment tools such as Apple Pay are becoming more widely used.
Student: Earn your own way!
Education is a means to an end – with the end goal of finding a good job. Finding a part time job helps with expenses and provides real-life job experiences that you cannot get in the classroom! Unfortunately, many students with visual impairments/blindness focus on academics only, forgetting about job experiences and graduate from college without ever having a job!
Good work ethics and experience begins with basic high school jobs. Unfortunately, many “typical” high school jobs may not be appropriate for a student who is visually impaired/blind, such as mowing yards or flipping burgers at the local fast food restaurant. However, there are many jobs available for high school students who are visually impaired/blind. Those entry-level jobs also provide eye-opening experiences such as how to deal with other personalities and the realization that you do or do NOT like that particular type of work.
High School Work Experience Activities
Begin by taking on responsibility for tasks around the house and at school. Develop skills that you might be interested in such as working with younger students and office skills. Volunteer in the children’s nursery at church, help with story time at the library, babysit for family and friends, answer phones in the school office, help out at the local garden center, wood working shop, auto shop. Network with family, friends and teachers. Job shadow and find mentors. High schools have diverse classes and clubs – job shadow the computer science teacher, the shop mechanic, the cafeteria workers.
Student: Join the fun!
College is a time to meet new friends – these friendships will support you through school and will often last a lifetime. Get involved and meet your new best friend!
Students with visual impairments and blindness may miss some of the visual cues that are a part of social interactions, such as eye contact when walking past a friend in the hallway. Social skills are important and students with visual impairments and blindness should be taught about social skills at a very early age. College students have numerous opportunities to develop friendships – in class, in the dorm, in the dining hall, at games, clubs, sororities/fraternities, and more. Jump into college life!
High School Social Activities
Grow your circle of friends by joining school clubs and by finding social activities outside of the classroom. How about student council, yearbook, newsletter, drama, 3D printing or robotics? Take lessons – especially group lessons. If typical team sports such as football or volleyball, is not your sport, find a sport that you are interested in such as swimming, gymnastics, karate, or horseback riding. These social activities just might guide you to a career opportunity!
Social interactions and friendships begin with parents inviting friends over with their children, carpooling to lessons/activities, and family/friend outings. Teenagers (prior to driving) rely on an adult or older sibling to provide transportation to activities. This is the ideal time to offer to take your son/daughter and friends to the mall or drop them at the movies – make this a habit! When your son/daughter’s peers begin driving, they will naturally invite your nondriving son/daughter along.
Successful college students who are visually impaired/blind enter college with a strong set of personal skills. These foundation skills should be introduced at a very young age and are fine tuned in high school. Upon high school graduation, a student will not magically transform into a college-age adult! This transition is the result of a carefully crafted and implemented process. Educators and parents should thoughtfully consider these critical transition skills, identify transition IEP goals, and incorporate activities that strengthen these skills while the student is in high school.