FUNCTIONAL VISION EVALUATION
By: Carmen Willings
Updated April 27, 2014
The Functional Vision Evaluation, conducted by the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) is important to determine what enhancements and adaptations may be helpful to maximize the visual potential for each student. Prior to conducting the functional vision assessment, a review of background information on the student's eye condition and medical treatment will be conducted. It is essential to obtain a current eye report (within the past year) as vision can change dramatically over time as well as the student's cognitive abilities and ability to cooperate during the assessment.
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What is the Purpose of the Functional Vision Evaluation?
A functional vision evaluation (FVE), also called a functional vision assessment (FVA) is an evaluation of the day-to-day visual skills of an individual who is visually impaired. A Functional Vision Evaluation is a legally required document. The purpose of the Functional Vision Evaluation is to supplement the results of the clinical eye exam with descriptions of the student's observable behaviors that may relate to vision. Unlike a clinical eye exam, the purpose of an FVA is not to diagnose a medical condition or to prescribe a therapeutic treatment such as patching, surgery, or medication, but is to determine how the students vision impacts their education. This includes what material and instructional adaptations are necessary, and areas in which the student will need to receive instruction.
The FVE identifies the student's range of visual function; determines how much usable vision a student has to perform visual tasks; and identifies priorities and strategies for intervention. The FVE paired with medical information, helps the TVI/O&M describe how each eye condition translates into real life situations and how a medical condition impacts the individual student's functioning in the daily environment. There are students who have no vision, and functional vision reports are required for them, as well. The purpose of the report confirms the absence of vision and presents recommendations on how to modify instruction for the student. Legally, the report must also address, for all students, whether there is need for a clinical low vision evaluation, or assessment for orientation and mobility services.
When is the Functional Vision Evaluation conducted?
A functional vision assessment is initially conducted to determine the need for services from a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments. It is also conducted to determine appropriate goals and level of support needed. The FVE is reviewed on an annual basis to ensure the student is being instructed in the proper learning mode and is receiving appropriate accommodations. In addition to an annual review of the FVE, the TVI continually assesses how a student is using their vision through observations in the student’s learning environment as well as through direct instruction.
The TVI will use the information the classroom teacher provides as well as observations and direct interactions to continually monitor the student’s progress and use of vision, and to ensure the student’s learning environment is appropriate. An updated FVE may also be conducted following the clinical low vision evaluation to ascertain the benefits of prescribed optical devices, determine if instruction is needed for new devices, and view changes in visual function that are the result of the clinical evaluation.
What is assessed in the Functional Vision Evaluation?
The evaluation must be based on observations of a student in a variety of settings, both indoors and out. It should be conducted at different times of day, across different environments, in the situations where the student is going to be asked to learn. Some students, particularly those with multiple disabilities, may need to be observed in a variety of positions since positioning may also impact visual functioning.
The recommendations section of the report presents guidelines on programming. It discusses the kinds of adaptations and modifications which will most impact learning. This assessment yields information about the impact of a student's visual impairment on learning. It also provides information that will assist in developing interventions and strategies, such as environmental adaptations and sensory motivators that will enhance the student’s use of vision for early learning activities.The report helps determine eligibility for services as a special education student with visual impairments.
The Result of the Functional Vision Evaluation
The results of the functional vision assessment identify factors that help or hinder student performance and provide recommendations to the educational team about how to increase and enhance the student's visual efficiency. The results will identify a student's visual skills with and without optical devices in a variety of environments and with a variety of levels of visual difficulty. Note ways in which visual fatigue or discomfort can be alleviated or minimized. This information will identify visual skills that need to be learned. The results will determine eligibility for vision services and determine if a referral for other assessments such as an assessment by an Orientation & Mobility Specialist or by a Clinical Low Vision Specialist is needed.
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