Under federal and state law, a child with a disability must be evaluated before an Individual Educational Plan is developed, and follow up evaluations must be conducted at least every three years. South Dakota law also states that a student with vision corrected to 20/200 or less in the better eye should be evaluated to determine if Braille instruction is needed.
Under our state's special education regulations, a child who is visually impaired must regularly be examined by a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist; this is essential for good eye care. Although some eye conditions are stable, others are not and must be closely monitored so corrective action can be taken when necessary. In addition, children become easier to test as their ability to communicate increases and more precise information can be obtained. If a child has not had a recent medical eye exam, one should be completed either prior to or during our evaluation of the child.
However, information contained in a medical eye report often leaves the classroom teacher without the concrete information needed to serve a child in the classroom. Does 20/200 mean the child needs Braille? Can he see the board if he's in the front row? Should she take part in volleyball? Is direct or indirect lighting preferable? How does the child's vision loss affect other test scores? How should ability and performance be compared?
The role of the SDSBVI assessment team is to assist in interpreting what is known about the eye condition into practical terms for the classroom. The team, which is determined based on the child's age, development level and individual needs, represents a variety of discipline areas. Their goal is to identify the child's strengths and weaknesses, modes of learning, and interactions with both people and the environment. All information is analyzed by the team so that useful recommendations can be made.
There is no charge for any evaluations conducted by the SDSBVI faculty and staff. If desired, ophthalmological, optometrical, audiological, sensory processing, and physical and occupational therapy evaluations can be obtained at a reasonable cost from local providers who then become part of the team.
When an evaluation has been requested by a local school district, the first step for SDSBVI is to gather background data, including previous eye reports, educational and medical testing, and current IEPs for review. The Outreach Vision Consultant may visit the school or home and talk about the specific concerns that have prompted the request.
After the child is evaluated, the team reviews the data and makes specific recommendations based on the child's needs. A written report is mailed to both parents and school district in four to six weeks, and the Outreach Vision Consultant will follow up to offer assistance.
In most cases these evaluations take three days. In all cases, the child needs to be accompanied by an adult, preferably a family member, and, if possible, also someone from the local school district.
For more information or to schedule an educational evaluation, please contact our SPED Director at 605-626-7834, 605-626-2581 or 1-888-275-3814.