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School for the Blind Expands Online Resources for Educators, Education Week
A storied institution for the blind is promoting and expanding its online resources for educators across the country who teach students who have visual impairments—a move that coincides with a U.S. Department of Education directive that Braille instruction should be the default literacy medium for blind students.
The 184-year-old Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., which educated both deaf-blind activist and author Helen Keller and her instructor Anne Sullivan, is looking to increase use of Perkins eLearning, a collection of nearly 100 webinars, tutorials, and seminars.
The two-year-old eLearning portal is not just for teachers trained to educate students with visual impairments, said Kevin Bauman, the senior director of Perkins eLearning. Most students who are blind are in classes with typically developing peers, and only spend a fraction of their school week with a specially trained teacher. The resources in Perkins eLearning don’t replace the expertise of a special educator, but can help the regular classroom teacher understand and support the specialized instruction, he said. Most of the resources on the website are free, except for seminars that can be used to earn continuing education credits.
Perkins has 200 day and residential students as well as national and international programs. School leaders say it can be a resource for districts that may want to bolster their teachers’ knowledge of education needs for blind students, especially after the Education Department’s June letter stating that technology such as speech-to-text readers or magnified text cannot be used as automatic replacement for Braille instruction.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities recently launched a website intended to help doctors and other pediatric health-care professionals talk to parents about specific learning disabilities.
The LD Navigator was created in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and funded through a grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The resource offers informational handouts that can be printed for parents; talking points for doctors to guide conversations about referrals and evaluation; screening questions for new patients; and information on federal and local laws that govern educational services for students with learning disabilities.
A learning disability is defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as a psychological processing disorder which may manifest itself an inability to listen, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. It is the most common disability label given to students covered by IDEA; of the 5.8 million students covered by the disability law in fall 2011, about 2.3 million were identified as having a specific learning disability.