New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired - 1900 North White Sands Boulevard, Alamogordo, New Mexico 88310, phone (800) 437-3505

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For Parents - Curriculum at NMSBVI Residential Campus

The expanded core curriculum produces a concept of the blind or visually impaired person in the community. It is difficult to imagine that a blind or visually impaired person could be entirely at ease and at home within the social, recreational, and vocational structure of the general community without mastering the elements of the expanded core curriculum. What is known about congenitally blind and visually impaired students is that, unless skills such as orientation and mobility, social interaction, and independent living are learned, these students are at high risk for lonely, isolated, unproductive lives. Accomplishments and joys such as shopping, dining, attending and participating in recreational activities are a right, not a privilege, for blind and visually impaired persons. Responsibilities such as banking, taking care of health needs, and using public and private services are a part of a full life for all persons, including those who are blind or visually impaired. Adoption and implementation of a core curriculum for blind and visually impaired students, including those with additional disabilities, will assure students of the opportunity to function well and completely in the general community.

The Expanded Core Curriculum includes:

Compensatory or Functional Academic Skills, Including Communication Modes
Compensatory and functional skills include such learning experiences as concept development, spatial understanding, study and organizational skills, speaking and listening skills, and adaptations necessary for accessing all areas of the existing core curriculum. Communication needs will vary, depending on degree of functional vision, effects of additional disabilities, and the task to be done. Children may use Braille, large print, print with the use of optical devices, regular print, tactile symbols, a calendar system, sign language, and/or recorded materials to communicate.

Social Interaction Skills
lmost all social skills used by sighted children and adults have been learned by visually observing the environment and other persons, and behaving in socially appropriate ways based on that information. Social interaction skills are not learned casually and incidentally by blind and visually impaired individuals as they are by sighted persons. Social skills must be carefully, consciously, and sequentially taught to blind and visually impaired students.  Instruction in social interaction skills becomes a part of the expanded core curriculum as a need so fundamental that it can often mean the difference between social isolation and a satisfying and fulfilling life as an adult.

Recreation and Leisure Skills
Physical education in the form of team games and athletics is the usual way in which physical fitness needs are met for sighted students. Many of the activities in physical education are excellent and appropriate for visually impaired students. In addition, however, these students need to develop activities in recreation and leisure that they can enjoy throughout their adult lives. Most often sighted persons select their recreation and leisure activity repertoire by visually observing activities and choosing those in which they wish to participate. The teaching of recreation and leisure skills to blind and visually impaired students must be planned and deliberately taught, and should focus on the development of life-long skills.

Career Education
There is a need for general vocational education, as offered in the traditional core curriculum, as well as the need for career education offered specifically for blind and visually impaired students. Many of the skills and knowledge offered to all students through vocational education can be of value to blind and visually impaired students. They will not be sufficient, however, to prepare students for adult life, since such instruction assumes a basic knowledge of the world of work based on prior visual experiences. Career education in an expanded core curriculum will provide the visually impaired learner of all ages with the opportunity to learn first-hand the work done by the bank teller, the gardener, the social worker, the artist, etc. It will provide the student opportunities to explore strengths and interests in a systematic, well-planned manner. Once more, the disadvantage facing the visually impaired learner is the lack of information about work and jobs that the sighted student acquires by observation.

Because unemployment and underemployment have been the leading problem facing adult visually impaired persons in the United States, this portion of the expanded core curriculum is vital to students, and should be part of the expanded curriculum for even the youngest of these individuals.

Technology is a tool to unlock learning and expand the horizons of students. It is not, in reality, a curriculum area. However, it is added to the expanded core curriculum because technology occupies a special place in the education of blind and visually impaired students. Technology can be a great equalizer. For the Braille user, it allows the student to provide feedback to teachers by first producing material in Braille for personal use, and then in print for the teacher, classmates, and parents. It gives blind persons the capability of storing and retrieving information. It brings the gift of a library under the fingertips of the visually impaired person. Technology enhances communication and learning, as well as expands the world of blind and visually impaired persons in many significant ways. Thus, technology is a tool to master, and is essential as a part of the expanded core curriculum.

Visual Efficiency Skills
The visual acuity of children diagnosed as being visually impaired varies greatly. Through the use of thorough, systematic training, most students with remaining functional vision can be taught to better and more efficiently utilize their remaining vision. The responsibility for performing a functional vision assessment, planning appropriate learning activities for effective visual utilization, and instructing students in using their functional vision in effective and efficient ways is clearly an area of the expanded core curriculum.

Independent Living Skills (ILS)
Based upon IEP team determinations the students will have the opportunity to participate in activities of Independent living. Opportunities for learning specific living skills and personal independence are provided to students ages 5 to 21 through courses in Independent Living Skills and experience in residential dormitories. Independent living skills, leisure, recreational and vocational skills provide the focus for these students. Students are involved in activities of independent living throughout the day whether it is dressing or vocational endeavors.

Areas of emphasis include the following:

  • Personal grooming and hygiene, including daily bathing, care of teeth, and proper use of cosmetics and personal items.

  • Clothing care, including folding and hanging clothes, orderliness in drawers and wardrobes, selection of appropriate clothing, laundry, and minor clothing repairs.

  • General room-care, including making and changing beds, mopping floors, dusting.

  • Foods and kitchen skills, including shopping and food preparation, menu planning, and personal eating skills.

  • Use and care of personal possessions and school property.

  • Earning and spending money for goods.

  • Personal management and organization.

Secondary education students have the opportunity to enter a simulated, supervised Apartment Living Experience in the dormitory. Students will be provided additional opportunities to refine their Independent Living Skills (ILS) through a cottage program.  Students must have successfully completed the apartment living experience before being considered for the Independent Cottage Living Program.  The IEP Team will determine participation, goals and objectives.  Each student will be provided only one cottage experience.

Orientation and Mobility (Independent Travel)
Independent movement is critical for all children with visual impairments and physical impairments. Orientation and mobility skills should begin to be developed in infancy starting with basic body awareness and movement, and continuing into adulthood as the individual masters skills that permit him/her to navigate the world efficiently, effectively, safely, and gracefully.

Students and staff members are expected to travel with the greatest possible degree of independence, assuming responsibility for their personal safety while on campus or while engaged in school-sponsored activities off-campus.

All students will undergo an Orientation & Mobility assessment upon arrival at NMSBVI, and annually thereafter.

a. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) team will consider current and future orientation/mobility assessments, as well as cognitive, psychological, orthopedic, neurological, and other assessments in determining which students need to use a mobility device to safely navigate the constantly changing obstacles, elevations, textures, and lighting conditions that will be encountered both on and off campus. 

b. Orientation & Mobility goals will be determined during the IEP process. However, specific goals will be determined in consideration of the following precepts:

(1) Orientation & Mobility training will be provided so as to achieve maximum safety and independence in all environments and under all lighting conditions typically encountered on and off-campus.

(2) Orientation & Mobility training will be provided with the expectation that students are responsible for their own personal safety at all times, both on and off-campus.

(3) Orientation & Mobility training will be provided with an emphasis on comprehensive skill building/problem solving in preference to route memorization.

(4) The ultimate goal of Orientation & Mobility training is to train students to function, to the highest degree possible, as fully independent, self-sufficient individuals, capable of navigating their environment independently, with safety, skill, confidence, and grace.

(5) Students determined to need a mobility device for independent travel will do so as follows:

(a) Students are required to use their canes on campus at all times with the exception of the dormitory room.

(b) Sighted guide is not considered to be independent mobility, and shall be used only in rare circumstances, such as emergency medical situations, adverse weather conditions, construction areas, high noise environments, and the like. In such circumstances, sighted guide will be used as a supplement to the mobility device, not as a substitute for the mobility device.

A studentís first cane is provided at no cost. Replacement canes will be given as needed, provided that the Orientation and Mobility Instructor/staff member involved feels that damage to their original cane was caused by normal wear and tear from proper usage. If neglect/abuse of property is suspected, the involved student(s) will be required to pay for the replacement cane. Payment may be in the form of money or community service.

Mobility Cards:
Students who have demonstrated the necessary mobility skills and maturity have the opportunity to earn a mobility card delineating their level of independence. Current mobility card applications will be kept in the Orientation & Mobility instructorsí offices. Mobility cards are a privilege and not a license to leave campus upon demand. Staff have the right and responsibility to withhold permission to leave campus when appropriate. Only the Student Services Support Coordinator or the studentís mobility instructor shall authorize revocation of mobility cards for disciplinary purposes.


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Last Updated: 3/22/2007