REFERRAL PROCESS FOR VISION SERVICES
By Carmen Willings
Having taught students with visual impairments in North Carolina, Ohio, and Georgia, I am aware that it is important to keep in mind that each state and/or agency may have different eligibility guidelines or criteria.
More Eligibility Resources...
When Student Doesn't Qualify
Vision Therapy Controversy
Vision Tests & Tools
Interpreting the Eye Report
Structure & Function of the Eye
Refractive Errors & Other
Parents/Caregivers, School Nurse, Teachers or Therapists have concerns about a child’s use of vision.
The school or agency must receive a current (within one year) eye report from the child's optometrist or ophthalmologist. If the parents/caregivers have not already done so, they must schedule an appointment with an Optometrist or ophthalmologist to evaluate the child’s vision. (For students with Cortical Visual Impairment, a report from a neurologist diagnosing the student with CVI is also permissible.) It is critical to have current information as the student's vision can change as well as their cooperation with the evaluation.
The Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments will review the Eye Report. The TVI will note the acuity as well as the diagnosis and prognosis. If the student does not meet the eligibility criteria set forth by the state for school based vision services, the referral will stop. If the student meets or is suspected to meet the eligibility criteria, the referral process will continue.
If the student meets the eligibility criteria, the Parents/Caregivers must sign permission for a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments to conduct a Functional Vision Evaluation and Learning Media Assessment.
The Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments conducts the Functional Vision Evaluation and Learning Media Assessment to determine the need for vision services.
For infants, toddlers and preschoolers, the team will assess the developmental strengths and needs of the child (required) and the priorities, resources and needed supports for the family (optional). Services necessary to meet identified child and family needs are specified. Outcomes (goals) to be reached through participation in EI supports and services are also formulated.
For school age children, a Clinical Low Vision Evaluation is scheduled for students with low vision for the purpose of determining the need of prescribed low vision devices for near and distance viewing. (It is unlawful for a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments to prescribe low vision devices. These MUST be prescribed by a certified low vision specialist.)
Note: It typically takes weeks to months to receive a Low Vision Evaluation. For this reason, the evaluation process may continue and the IEP will be amended as needed based on the results of this evaluation.
For children who are birth through age 2, an IFSP meeting will be scheduled to discuss the outcome of the evaluation. An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a written plan that states child and family outcomes, as identified through the assessment process. It also spells out the services and supports necessary to reach intended outcomes. The initial IFSP is written by a team, including the child’s parents.
If the student is 3-21, and in need of school based services, these will be identified on an Individualized Educational Program (IEP).