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Office of Special Education Services

Services for students with disabilities
from birth through age 21


Contact Information

Gaithersburg Middle School
2 Teachers Way
Gaithersburg, MD 20877

Phone: 240-740-1810

Fax: 301-670-2259

Supervisor: Susan Russell
Instructional Specialist: Elizabeth Nehrbass

View Staff Directory

View Staff List

Vision

The Vision Program provides educational supports and services to students who are blind and visually impaired (ages birth-21). Teachers of the Visually Impaired deliver a range of services to these students including: consultation to school staff regarding students’ vision needs; direct instruction in the expanded core curriculum (i.e. Braille, compensatory skills, technology, utilization of functional vision, Orientation & Mobility); provision of adapted materials and specialized equipment.

The Vision Program has a staff of 24 full and part time staff which includes certified Teachers of the Visually Impaired, Orientation and Mobility Instructors, technology specialists, paraeducators, a Braillist, a Program Support teacher and an Instructional Specialist.

The Vision Program is committed to ensuring that each student has the necessary accommodations and appropriate materials/equipment and instruction to successfully access the curriculum in the least restrictive environment.


Programs

We deliver a range of different programs to better assist the needs of our students:

Infants and Toddler Services

Infant and Toddler Services are provided to families and children in their homes. A Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI):

  • coaches parents in implementing techniques and adaptations to maximize their child’s visual functioning.
  • provides ongoing assessment of visual functioning in a variety of settings.
  • reviews eye reports and consults with the family and educational team regarding implications for the child’s visual functioning.
  • collaborates with other service providers during home visits to assess if the child’s vision may be impacting on overall skill acquisition and suggests appropriate strategies and adaptations to be implemented.

Pre-School Services

A Teacher of the Visually Impaired and a Special Education Paraeducator provide a multisensory approach to learning for preschoolers who are blind and visually impaired. The class provides a low student to teacher ratio to ensure that each child receives specialized, individual instruction in areas of need. The instruction follows the MCPS Preschool Curriculum with the goal of preparing the students for a successful kindergarten experience in their home school or in a special educational program, as determined by the IEP team.

The class is located in an MCPS elementary school. Bus transportation is provided to and from home or day care location.

  • Students may attend either a half-day or full day program, depending on their age, developmental level, and services as determined by the IEP.
  • All students participate in Art, Music, and PE, taught by the school’s specialists.
  • Students may also receive services from Occupational Therapists (OT’s), Physical Therapists (PT’s), Speech/Language Pathologists (SLP’s) and Orientation and Mobility Instructors, if recommended by the IEP team.
  • Students may spend part of their time at school interacting with non-disabled preschoolers to encourage and facilitate the development of appropriate social skills.

Pre-school Itinerant Services 

Eligible preschool students may also receive Itinerant Vision Services, as appropriate, in other MCPS sites, including special education preschool programs, or in private preschools within Montgomery County.

Itinerant Services

Itinerant Vision Services may range from consultation with school staffs to direct instruction to the student. The Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI):

  • completes Learning Media Assessments and Functional Vision Assessments annually on all students.
  • consults with and provides information to school staffs regarding impact of students’ visual impairment on their learning.
  • collaborates with student’s other service providers.
  • provides on-going assessment and monitoring of visual functioning and visual needs.
  • teaches compensatory skills to students
  • assesses need for and provides special equipment and adapted materials
  • trains appropriate students to use specialized assistive technology, including screen magnification and screen reading software, video and hand held magnifiers, Braille note takers, talking and large display calculators, e-texts, audible books, etc. to address individual needs.

Orientation and Mobility

For a visually impaired student the choices of where, when and how are his own only to the extent that he can get around by himself, and has learned the skills and mastered the techniques involved in traveling without sight. It is through Orientation & Mobility that a student can take a step in accomplishing those skills.

  • The role of a Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist (COMS) is as follows: to assess students; determine appropriate travel goals; plan sequential lessons to build skills; teach independent skills to access academic environments and the community; and team with parents, staff and students.
  • The basic O&M skills taught by a COMS as appropriate or needed are as follows: basic mobility skills (sighted guide, trailing, protection); concept development; visual efficiency(scanning); mobility devices(long cane, monocular); environmental concepts; street crossings; public transportation; and self-help skills

Technology

For students who are blind and visually impaired, assistive technology is an important component of their education. Assistive technology refers to any device or product that helps an individual with disabilities increase their capabilities and/or perform activities that otherwise would be impossible. From talking dictionaries and calculators to special computer software and other more sophisticated devices, adaptive technology provides the blind and visually impaired student the ability to access the curriculum and become more independent.

The MCPS Vision Program staff perform a careful assessment of students to determine what types of technology would be beneficial for their particular situation (i.e. visual limitations, learning styles, curriculum demands).

Talking Devices

  • Calculators

    We accommodate our students with the use of calculators with large display, voice output or both. Some have the basic operations while others are scientific calculators. Also, our students use accessible graphing calculator software like AGC and/or Math Trax for advanced math.

  • Dictionaries

    The use of speaking English dictionaries help some students to access the curriculum. Also, bilingual dictionaries with voice output benefit students whose primary language is other than English, as well as students who take foreign language classes.

Screen Magnifier/Reader Software

  • Screen Magnifiers

    Screen magnifier is software capable to enlarge part of or the whole computer screen. Some are capable to a magnification up to 36x, enhance the cursor and pointer, adjust colors and background, etc. The use of screen magnifiers requires training.

  • Screen Readers

    Screen readers software decode and read aloud the text displayed on the computer using a voice synthesizer. They are operated using a combination of different keystrokes to perform the desirable actions (read the title and/or context, go to a previous page, open links, etc.). The use of screen readers requires training.

Electronic Note Takers

Braille notetakers are small devices with braille keys and speech synthesizer, which carry many functions of a regular computer. Some of them also have a refreshable braille display. Braille notetakers are able to transcript any braille input into regular print, which allow students to present their print out work to their teachers. The use of braille notetakers requires intensive training.

CCTV's

Close Circuit Television (CCTV) consists on a video camera used to project a magnified image of books and other written materials on a TV screen. Usually, the magnification, brightness and contrast of the screen display could be individually adjusted.

Digital Players

Digital players are devices that allow the blind and visually impaired to listen to e-books and other MP3 materials. They also have a build in speech synthesizer for reading files in text format. These books and other reading materials can be downloaded free of charge from Bookshare.org and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). The most popular digital player for the visually handicapped is the Victor Reader Stream.

Electronic Braillers

An electronic braille writer is a notetaker and embosser with file storage and speech feedback.  If connected to a regular printer, it produces a print translation of braille output. If connected to a regular computer keyboard, anybody could type an assignment for the student without needing to know the braille code.


Resources

Everything about braille: 

Learning about eye care and common diseases of the eyes: 

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