A Closer Look

How to Prepare for an Evaluation for a Student With Visual Impairments

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Visual impairment (VI) is a low incidence eligibility category, accounting for less than 1% of students served in special education. Given the low incidence nature of VI, most school psychologists serve a small handful of students with VI in their careers, and many school psychology graduate programs do not cover how to serve this population in depth. If you have an evaluation of a student with visual impairments coming up and don’t know what to do, this blog post is for you.

Planning the Evaluation

Here are some steps you should take to prepare to conduct an evaluation for individuals with VI.

  1. Review introductory information about VI. Watch “More Than Meets the Eye: Working with Students With Visual Impairments,” a video from the California School for the Blind created to help educators understand VI definitions and the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC).
  2. Recognize that VI affects more than visual access. Watch “Expanded Core Curriculum: An Educational and Legal Requirement,” a webinar from the American Printing House for the Blind that provides additional information about the ECC.
  3. Consult with a teacher of students with visual impairment (TSVI) and use knowledge of VI and related needs to plan the evaluation. Some large districts have TSVIs on staff. Small districts often have TSVIs from the county office of education supporting their district. Collaboration is essential! Collaborate with your TSVI throughout the evaluation process (i.e., during planning, administration of tests, scoring and interpretation, and report writing). TSVIs provide guidance on what the student can access visually, how to appropriately adapt activities and environments to provide access, what is the student’s learning media, and what assistive technology is necessary to facilitate the student’s access and learning readiness. Consult with your TSVI about optimal sizing and positioning of materials, lighting requirements, visual fatigue, contrast needs, color deficiencies, best times of day to test, and presence of any eccentric viewing behaviors. Collaboration is also important to understand the likely impact of the VI on testing performance.
  4. Use the RIOT/ICEL approach to the evaluation. If RIOT/ICEL is a new concept to you, review “The RIOT/ICEL Matrix: Organizing Data to Answer Questions About Student Academic Performance & Behavior” from Intervention Central. This comprehensive approach is part of bringing social justice practices into evaluations and shifts the focus beyond standardized assessments. We need to look beyond the numbers for meaningful data! The California School for the Blind webinar called “Psychoeducational Evaluations of Students With Visual Impairments” includes a review of RIOT/ICEL approach considerations for assessing students with VI.

More Resources to Review

Here are several resources that you may find quite helpful to better understand the needs of students with VI and how to conduct a meaningful evaluation.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with all of this information, try consulting with TSVIs or other psychologists who have experience working with individuals with VI. Want to connect with others who are interested in serving students with VI? Join the NASP BVIPsych: School Psychology Services for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Interest Group with this linked invitation, or join BVIPsych: School Psychologists Serving Students with Visual Impairments, a Google Group open to psychologists everywhere.

About the Author

May Nguyen
May Nguyen is a Licensed Educational Psychologist and Nationally Certified School Psychologist serving the California School of the Blind Assessment Center. In addition, she is an adjunct faculty member for the School Psychology Program at California State University, East Bay. She is also a cofounding member of Resilient Minds Collective, a private practice of Californian Licensed Educational Psychologists who provide assessments, mental health supports, and educational resources to individuals with diverse needs.