SOESD / Learning Matters / Newsletter Archive / December 2006 / January 2007 / Regional Program for the Visually Impaired: What's It All About?
Regional Program for the Visually Impaired: What's It All About?
Cheri DeWaard, Teacher of the Visually Impaired
Regional programs, as a concept, have been in place in Oregon since 1982. There are eight contiguous regional programs covering our state. These are contracted programs through the Oregon Department of Education. Regional programs were developed and have worked well to serve the state in the realm of "low incidence" students. Low incidence students are those children who have a less common disability and fewer numbers throughout the state. The Southern Oregon Regional Program is also known as Region 3 and serves southwestern Oregon. This comprises about 25% of the state, geographically. Southern Oregon Education Service District maintains the contract for Region 3. Low incidence children served by regionals include: children with a hearing impairment, children with autism, children with severe orthopedic impairments, and children with vision impairments. Serving these students regionally creates the ability to employ qualified professionals trained in their low incidence specialty and allows these individuals the flexibility to provide services across a variety of school districts and early intervention programs, with a significant economy of scale. The premise in regional development has been that students with low incidence disabilities have a right to an appropriate educational program, regardless of where they reside in Oregon.
The goal of regional programs is to assure that students with low incidence disabilities have the support they need through specially designed instruction from qualified teachers. This allows for proper access to the educational mainstream and preparation for successful transition into adulthood.
The Program for Visually Impaired in Region 3 serves approximately 105 children ages birth to 21 who are blind or have low vision. These children attend schools (or early intervention/early childhood education programs at home or in preschools) in 5 counties. Our region consists of Lake, Klamath, Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties. This model of service sends the teacher of visually impaired to the student. Our 9 teachers, 5 full time and 4 part time, travel daily; some within one county, some over several counties, in order to instruct children in a range of educational settings. Average caseloads vary between 10-25 students. Services can range from consultation/advising classroom teachers, to teaching compensatory skills unique to blindness like reading using Braille or math using an abacus. The principal role of a teacher of the visually impaired is to participate in making the education of the children as accessible and meaningful as it is to every other student. To efficiently "get the services out" to students, our region also employs a highly trained group of braillist/compensatory assistants that assist our traveling teachers in the day-to-day development of Braille and low vision materials as well as providing additional paraprofessional support.
Pictured above is Curtis Norton, a PVI student at South Medford High School, shown working on school assignments using a braille notetaker. Curtis has recently been awarded Student of the Year from the Oregon Commission for the Blind's Summer Work Experience Program. Curtis earned this award while spending the summer in Portland at Reed College completing a summer of work experience.
We are proud of what the regional model has provided for students with low incidence disabilities in Oregon. We look forward to our silver anniversary next year!