Ferrell, Kay Alicyn
Correa-Torres, Silvia M.
Smith, Mark A.
School of Special Education
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
In order to truly meet the unique learning needs of young children with blindness and visual impairment (BVI), it is critical to accurately define the population to create and implement quality and responsive support services. The current analysis utilized existing data gathered from the Babies Count database to examine the defining characteristics of a sample of 588 young children, aged birth to three, with BVI and then used these characteristics to predict the influence of potential barriers to early referral. This study also examined the multiple variables through descriptive statistics and then utilized a multiple regression procedure to determine which variable, or characteristic, contributed to or predicted the age of diagnosis of a vision condition that leads to BVI and the age of referral for specialized visual impairment services within the early intervention (EI) system for children with disabilities aged birth to three. The study found that the three most prevalent eye conditions were cortical visual impairment (CVI), optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH), and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Over 1/3 of the overall sample reported a visual diagnosis of cortical visual impairment. The sample was reported to have a range of visual abilities, with about 35% of the sample either meeting or functioning at the definition of blindness and the remaining with low vision or near normal visual function. In addition to visual abilities, over 80% of the sample were identified as having additional delays, with 1/3 of the sample with severe or profound disabilities. The sample was also found to have large EI support teams with over 40% of the sample reporting more than four EI services and 76% receiving monthly or bi-weekly visits from the specialized visual impairment provider. Young children with BVI were diagnosed with a visual condition at a mean age of 7.2 months and referred for specialized visual impairment services at a mean age of 9.5 months, with a mean delay of 5.2 months between diagnosis and referral. The variables of primary eye condition (CVI) and etiology (postnatal) were most predictive of later ages for diagnosis of a visual condition. The variables of state (New Mexico) and referral source (medical provider) were most predictive of early referral for specialized visual impairment services. The descriptive results of this analysis were compared to previous analysis of the Babies Count database by Hatton, Ivy, and Boyer (2013). The top three prevalent eye conditions were the same with CVI as most prevalent in both, but OHN as second and ROP as third in the current study. Both samples had high incidences of additional disabilities. The comparison and the similarities found can assist the field of early education for children with BVI to build a longitudinal perspective of the entire population of all ages of children with BVI. This study found that young children with BVI have diverse visual and developmental needs. Complexity found within the sample creates challenges in providing appropriate educational services, but also creates opportunities for partnerships and collaboration with other professionals who also provide EI and educational services to this unique population.
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