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Edited by KC Dignan, PhD

Introduction

Teachers certified in visual impairments (TVIs), certified orientation and mobility specialists (COMS), and paraprofessionals, be they itinerant or not, work with a broad range of students and varied settings—classroom, home, and community settings. Because of this and the disability-specific pedagogy, the skills required of VI professionals and paraprofessionals are expansive and require several years of teaching to develop. Deafblind interveners, for example, are an emerging category of paraprofessional; many applicants will not have the deafblind-specific skills necessary and will require training. Seldom will an applicant walk in the door with the complete array of experiences needed to match the needs in your district. A thorough interview process will help you get a better grasp of the range of skills present in the candidate and identify his or her potential professional development needs.

This chapter includes interview information for the following positions:

  • VI teachers (TVIs)
  • O&M specialists

Assumptions

  • The interview questions are sample questions. There are many other questions that could and should be included in the interview process.
  • No one will use all of these questions. The hiring team will select questions that reflect the district’s student populations and professional needs.
  • The responses given are a guideline for administrators or others in evaluating the responses, and should not be considered to be the only acceptable responses.
  • Administrators will consult with the VI personnel at their education service center, residential school, or elsewhere with other experts in visual impairments regarding skills needed for candidates.
  • The administrator is ready to respond to questions from the candidate about:
    • basic support requirements for the position, including:
      • office space and storage of materials, including availability of space on individual campuses
      • mileage reimbursement for travel or provision of a car
      • ready access to a computer, including access to the internet
    • instructional materials budget
    • opportunities for professional development (including disability-specific training)
    • student/teacher ratio and service configurations that reflect the district’s or co-op’s desire to provide quality instructional service to students with visual impairments
    • availability of on-the-job support for new VI teachers and O&M professionals from existing district staff, VI personnel in education service centers, and outreach programs at the state’s residential school for the blind and visually impaired, and/or other options

How to use the interview questions

The sample interview questions are intended to provide guidelines on questions to ask and a framework for desired responses.

Prior to scheduling the interview, you will want to determine the amount of experience the candidate has so that you can select the appropriate interview tool. Candidates usually fall into one of the experience categories listed below:

  • New graduate of a VI or O&M program with no teaching experience in any area
  • VI professional with experience in a classroom, such as a VI-specific resource room (this is different than a more common special education resource room, and usually only available in large urban programs)
  • O&M specialist from a residential or an adult-oriented rehabilitation facility
  • Experienced teacher from another discipline (such as math or special education), with little or no VI experience. This candidate may still be in a training program
  • VI teacher with experience from a residential setting
  • Experienced VI professional from another district or state

Further, the following should be considered when reviewing the questions and responses:

  • The interview questions are general guidelines, and are by no means cast in stone
  • You will be making your own decisions about how this candidate communicates, and whether or not the candidate meets existing staff and district needs
  • No order or priority is implied in the listing of the questions

A note about the interviewing process

It can be a challenge to have a robust pool of candidates for VI-related positions. A common temptation for administrators is to allow their concern about the limited number of VI candidates to drive their hiring decisions. Using effective and proven recruitment techniques in the search for a highly qualified candidate is important.

Administrators have experience hiring classroom teachers. However, itinerant specialists operate with little supervision, and must function very differently. Including a VI professional or other itinerant professional on the interview panel is strongly encouraged.

Remember that the very nature of any itinerant position makes it a difficult one to monitor. Therefore, the professional and ethical attributes of your future VI professionals are very important, possibly even more than when hiring classroom staff. Chapter 5: Recruiting VI Professionals and Chapter 7: Hiring Options identify important techniques for attracting competent VI professionals, including “growing your own” staff. These techniques may prove critical to the success of your VI program.

Administrators are encouraged to “get another set of ears” to assist them in evaluating the candidates, the quality of the responses, and determining the level and types of professional development necessary upon hiring a new VI professional. Consider inviting a VI professional from an education service center, or other center with VI expertise, to join the interview team. You might also consider inviting the outgoing VI teacher or existing future VI co-workers. If none of these are available, consider asking related service personnel (PT, OT, Speech Therapist), especially those who are itinerant, to assist in the interview process. These positions work closely with VI teachers and O&M specialists, and may be able to provide valuable insights.

Request documents in advance

A writing sample

The official reports that VI professionals write are very important to the provision of quality services. Additionally, these documents may have legal implications. Consider requesting a sample report for review. This will let you know if or what type of additional professional development your candidates will need to meet your district’s standards. If you decide to request a sample report from the VI professional, you will need to do so in advance. Please remember to reinforce the need to remove all personal data from the report.

University transcripts for VI certification

Some states allow future VI teachers to take the exam(s) prior to completing their coursework. Some VI teachers then complete the coursework, while some do not; they assume that if they can pass the exam(s) they have all the skills they need. That is almost never the case. Those VI teachers (TVIs) may be fine in their current setting. However, when their caseload changes, or when they change settings, services provided may be inadequate and legal requirements may be unfulfilled. Programs may find themselves with a serious professional development need for which they were unprepared.

A copy of the O&M certificate

States typically review certifications for teachers. However, these reviews usually don’t extend to O&M specialists. Additionally, most educators are familiar with those certifying organizations that verify credentials for educators, physical therapists, speech and occupational therapists. Information about the organizations that certify O&M specialists is less well known. Given that O&M specialists are responsible for the safety of students when they are on campus and out in public, it behooves the interviewer to verify that the certification is current.

Teachers certified in visual impairments (TVI)

This tool can be used with applicants who:

  1. have recently graduated from college with a VI certificate;
  2. are certified in other areas and have added a VI certificate, but have no experience teaching students with visual impairments;
  3. have been working as a VI teacher in a residential program; and/or
  4. have been working as an itinerant VI teacher.

Selection of specific questions should reflect your needs and the candidate’s situation.

Many of the questions presented in the interview tools are fairly open ended, with no set right or wrong response. They are designed to help you get a clearer picture of the person you are interviewing. Those questions whose answers should reflect recommended practices are identified below. The strongest candidates are likely to refer to those practices in their responses.

The attached form should help you identify the questions you intend to ask and aid in your review of possible responses.

VI Teachers—All Candidates

These questions are in no specific order. It is assumed that the interviewing team will select and order the questions according to their needs. However, the questions are roughly grouped into basic topical sections. Additionally, it is assumed that the interview team will preface any interview with introductory remarks.

QuestionsNotes/Possible Responses

What questions do you have about the responsibilities listed in our job description?

 
With what ages and in what settings have you worked? Please include your experience with and without students with visual impairments.  

How do you organize your work environment?

 
Tell me what you know about how to determine eligibility for a student with a visual impairment?

The applicant should mention the need for

  • a medical eye report that indicates a significant vision loss after correction,
  • a functional vision evaluation (if required by your state),
  • learning media assessment (if required by your state), and/ or
  • other evaluations that indicate a need for special services.

Even if your state does not require an official functional vision evaluation or learning media assessment, the candidate should indicate an understanding that such information is invaluable to VI teachers and their educational partners, including parents. It provides information about how the student functions and which literacy medium is most efficient. You may want to follow up with questions that address visual functionality.

Additional “credit” may be considered if the candidate indicates the critical use of those tools as important to communications among all professionals; that all instructional team members should be able to build their instructional plans based on data included in the report. The VI evaluations should be seen as a vital tool, not just an exercise to meet state and/or federal requirements. Rather, the reports should clearly demonstrate a direct link to instruction by all educators.

What are some of the major resources you will be using, or have used, in the education of students with visual impairments?

The applicant should mention a blend of recent and classical resources. Look for mention of the following:
  • Professional journals, such as Journal of Visual Impairments and Blindness (JVIB), Insight: Research and Practice in Visual Impairments and Blindness, The candidate may also refer to either as “the AERBVI journal” or “AER journal.”)
  • Comprehensive Internet sites, such as the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (www.TSBVI.edu) or the Perkins School for the Blind (www.perkins.org)
  • Resources for the Expanded Core Curriculum (RECC), on the TSBVI Web site (www.TSBVI.edu/recc.htm)
  • Publications from the TSBVI Curriculum and Publications, such as
    • Evals
    • Independent Living
    • Teaching Students with Visual and Multiple Impairments (Smith)
    • Calendars (Blaha)
    • Making an Evaluation Meaningful (Lofton)
    • Empowered   (Cleveland, et. al)
    • Braille Fundamentals (Cleveland , et. al)
  • Foundations of Education (Koenig and Holbrook, American Foundation for the Blind–www.afb.org)
  • Focused on Social Skills (Sacks & Wolffe, American Foundation for the Blind–www.afb.org)
  • Itinerant Teaching: Tricks of the Trade for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments, Second Edition(Olmstead, American Foundation for the Blind–www.afb.org)
  • Understanding Braille Literacy (Wormsley, American Foundation for the Blind–www.afb.org)
  • Various resources for young students or those with multiple disabilities by Lilli Nielsen, such as The Little Room or Active Learning, or any of the following books:
    • Space and Self
    • Are You Blind?
    • The Comprehending Hand
    • Early Learning: Step by Step
  • Classroom Collaboration by Laurel Hudson, (Perkins School for the Blind)
  • Remarkable Conversations: A Guide to Developing Meaningful Communication with Children and Young Adults Who Are Deafblind, by Barbara Miles and Marianne Riggio, (Perkins School for the Blind)

Various textbooks, such as those published by the American Foundation for the Blind or the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

(New VI teachers)

What was your final grade in braille proficiency? or

(Experienced VI teachers)

How do you rate your braille proficiency?

Appropriate responses to this question will vary, as will the value of those responses. If the teacher has not had a student who reads braille, then the braille skills may be a bit “rusty.” If she/he has had a braillist in the previous district, then the braille-production skills may be limited but the braille-reading skills may be good.

Evaluating the result of this question will depend on the braille needs of the students in this district, and whether there is a braillist in the district. If the district currently doesn’t have a braille reader, or this VI teacher won’t be assigned one, restricted abilities may not be a critical issue. If the abilities are rusty and the district has braille-reading students and no braillist, then the VI teacher will need to describe how she/he will bring the skills up to speed.

Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with someone at work and how it was resolved.

VI teachers are very dependent on their consultation skills and collaborative skills in working with other team members. Also, as itinerant professionals, they are more autonomous than most educators. It is important that your VI teachers are able to develop relationships and resolve difficulties that are sure to arise.

What role do you feel parents play in working with the educational team?
  • Sharing their expertise on their own children
  • Setting priorities for IEP/IFSP development
  • Sharing assessment information
  • Supporting instruction
What strategies have you used for communicating with parents about their child?
  • Notebooks
  • Phone calls
  • Home visits
  • School observations and/or meetings
  • Support groups and/or workshops
  • Electronic communications, such as e-mail, discussion boards, etc.
  • Active member of the team

Do you have an area of special interest or expertise (such as assistive technology, infants and toddlers, or braille)?

It is fairly common for VI professionals to develop levels of expertise in specific areas, such as technology, young children, or independent living skills. This expertise does not, nor should not, excuse the candidate from all of the duties and responsibilities required of the position.   However, it may provide the district with insight on the skills and abilities of the candidate.

If the candidate has expertise in a specific area, his/her experiences and resources may reflect that expertise. For example, if asked about valuable resources, a candidate with expertise in early childhood may be more likely to mention references such as the INSITE checklist. VI teachers who’ve worked primarily with students transitioning out of public schools may be more likely to mention a job training resource.

What is your understanding of the role of an itinerant teacher for academically oriented students who are blind or have low vision?

For blind students and students with low vision:

  • Observe student in several settings to determine VI-related needs, including home, school, and community
  • Administer informal diagnostic evaluations to determine functioning levels; document findings and share them with others
  • Provide modifications to the curriculum, including coordinating modification of instructional materials
  • Provide direct instruction in the expanded core curriculum (ECC) domains
  • Provide adapted materials and technology, and training for their use
  • Consult with teachers, parents, and related service personnel
  • Write progress reports and keep contact logs regarding student progress

(Note: It is not the function of a VI teacher to tutor the student in the core curricular areas.)

What is your understanding of the role of an itinerant teacher for students with moderate to severe multiple impairments, including deafblindness?

For students with moderate to severe multiple impairments, including deafblindness:

  • Work with educational team members to perform evaluation(s)
  • Observe the student in a variety of situations, working with a variety of professionals, while recording data from the observations
  • Administer informal diagnostic evaluations to determine functioning levels; document findings and share them with others
  • Make recommendations regarding visual needs to all personnel and family
  • Provide accommodations/modifications to the curriculum, including coordinating modification of instructional materials
  • Work with educational team members to design meaningful routines and communication systems
  • Consult with assistive technology team to select and implement appropriate technology
  • Write progress reports and keep contact logs
  • Train and/or supervise the training of vision-related tasks for educators, paraprofessionals, therapists, and other team members (role release)
What is your understanding of the role of an itinerant teacher with infants, young children, and families?

For infants, young children, and families:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of developmental milestones and/or references for such information
  • Develop activities and/or consult with other professionals about activities that build concepts in an array of areas
  • Model methods for helping parents with grieving issues, including resources in the community and print references
  • Demonstrate understanding that working in the home as a guest of the parents is different from functioning in the classroom
  • Demonstrate understanding of the team concept or experience working as a team member, especially with professionals from other programs, such as those from early childhood intervention programs, who may have different types of therapies, service delivery systems, and/or philosophies than the district

Have you worked with children in an early childhood intervention (ECI) program before? If so, please talk about your experiences.

ECI programs vary greatly from state to state, and city to city. For those with experience with very young children, look for some basic themes in the information shared:

  • VI professional must follow Part C guidelines, not Part B of IDEA
  • Parents determine the priorities
  • Timelines are different for ECI programs and must be followed
  • Paperwork requirements are slightly different, and use different terminology, and have a different degree of detail
  • When working with the family, in their home, the VI teacher is always a guest

All students eventually leave school. Can you give an example of how a young adult with no additional disabilities could use assistive technologies and devices (including daily living tools) in his/her postsecondary education, employment, or daily life?

How would a student with additional disabilities do the same?

It is important that VI professionals understand classroom experiences translate to real life experience as an adult.

Look for responses that indicate the following concepts:

  • Knowledge of common devices and strategies used to meet the needs of daily living, such as managing money, laundry, and food purchasing and preparation
  • Knowledge of workplace skills, including assistive technology, transportation, social skills, adaptive materials, workplace communication, and workplace safety
  • Knowledge of the importance of “soft skills,” which are critical to a successful life as an adult, such as employing appropriate social skills, fitting in with a group of people, and knowing how to use community resources
  • Providing guidance to young adults who may require an attendant or personal assistant for driving, helping those young adults know how to hire and supervise such people
  • Understanding how to use and/or arrange for transportation, with both public and private transportation sources
Can you please describe at least three agencies or resources available in this community that provide services or assistance to young adults with visual impairments?

The specific responses will depend on the community.   Look for responses that represent a broad knowledge of community resources.

Responses may reference the following:

  • The state’s vocational rehabilitation services, which may or may not be vision specific
  • Community-based group homes or long-term care program
  • Disability-oriented recreational programs
  • Special transportation services
  • Independent-living programs
  • Community programs with a special knowledge or interest in visual impairments
  • Consumer and family organizations related to visual impairments
Can you provide examples of some student-related activities that will increase independence in your students’ postsecondary world?

Be able describe the following in a positive way:

  • Their disability (with a degree of accuracy) and the impact thereof
  • Accommodations in both the educational and non-educational environments
  • Any assistive technologies needed
  • Access disability-related services independently, such as disability services in college
  • An array of functional strategies to meet social and work needs, such as negotiating transportation and reciprocating for services provided
Have you spent any time with or know of any visually impaired and/or adults who are deafblind in the community?

VI professionals may not have had any knowledge of what happens to their students once they leave the public school system. This knowledge is likely to add to the candidate’s commitment to a program that will support independence in the next environment. Interactions with the real life experiences of siblings, friends, or former students with disabilities (especially visual impairments) may provide the information that deepens their understanding of how the educational experience will impact the post-school outcomes.

Those who have had knowledge and experience may be stronger candidates.

Please describe the most critical domains in the expanded core curriculum (ECC) or vision-specific areas of instruction for students with visual impairments.

Although becoming more and more common, some VI professionals may be unfamiliar with the term “expanded core curriculum.” Some VI professionals will be able to describe the domains below, while others may reference specifics without using the domain title. For example, a candidate may say, “learn how to use magnifiers and telescopes” instead of “low-vision devices,” or “visual efficiency skills”. In these instances it can be especially valuable to have another VI professional participating in the interview. Knowledge of the current preferred term may not reflect on the candidate’s skills. However, it is important that strong candidates are familiar with the concepts and (hopefully) have had experience evaluating and teaching the skills of the expanded core curriculum (ECC).

Expanded Core Curriculum Skills

  • General and assistive technology
  • Technology devices and skills that are necessary and expected in general classrooms and assistive devices that are needed due to the visual impairment
  • Assistive technology ranges from low-tech options, such as a book stand or adapted switches to complex braille devices and accessible graphing calculators; tablets may also be included
  • Instruction in braille
  • Abacus
  • Nemeth Code (Nemeth is the code used for math and science.)
  • Concept development
  • Study skills
  • Pre-reading skills
  • Listening and speaking skills
  • Exploring understanding, and participating in a wide array of work-related experiences and career options, based on skills and interests
  • Also includes assuming work responsibilities at home and school
  • Learning about various physical and leisure-time activities; includes following rules, making choices, safety during activities, and subtleties, such as learning how to take turns and following rules
  • Includes skills related to knowing how one’s body relates to the environment and how to move within and between various environments
  • Includes students of all ages (starting at birth), students with multiple disabilities and those who are pre-mobile
  • Includes a broad array of skills commonly learned via visual experiences
  • Skills include understanding personal space, conversational skills, expressing emotions appropriately and socially appropriate physical behaviors, like shaking hands and facing speakers
  • Learning about oneself, and taking charge of one’s life; this domain should be addressed for all students, regardless of age or functional abilities
  • Using existing vision to maximize information about the environment
  • Includes use of optical devices, augmentative and tactile communication systems (including tactile sign or tactile symbols)
  • Independent living skills
    • Skills necessary for independent living, regardless of the cognitive level
    • May include clothing care and grooming, money management and various home-related skills
  • Compensatory skills necessary to access the academic and functional curriculum, including communication modes
  • Career education and transition
  • Recreation and leisure
  • Orientation and mobility
  • Social interaction skills
  • Self-determination
  • Sensory efficiency skills (may also be called visual efficiency skills)

Have you ever taught braille to a new user? How old was the student? Can you tell me about the experience and the materials you used?

Depending on the age of the student who is learning braille, and when the instruction occurred, the candidate may mention

  • Any of the programs in the Patterns series (American Printing House for the Blind)
  • Braille FUNdamentals (Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired)
  • Mangold Developmental Program, also known as “Mangold materials” (Exceptional Teaching Aids)
  • Braille Beginnings (Utah School for the Blind)
  • Beginning with Braille: Firsthand Experiences with a Balanced Approach to Literacy (American Foundation for the Blind), which may also be called “Anna Swenson’s materials”

Many experienced VI teachers have not had this experience.Lack of these experiences should not necessarily reflect badly on the candidate. If the district anticipates needing to teach braille to a young reader, future professional development will be necessary.

If the candidate has not had this experience, he/she should be able to identify major resources, such as those listed above, that he/she would use to teach braille.

What are key components when designing a program for  students who are deafblind?

Students who are deafblind are extremely idiosyncratic. Specifics of the response will likely reference the experience of the candidate, and may significantly vary from candidate to candidate. However, look for an emphasis in the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Access to information
  • Sensory modification

What is your perception of how a visual impairment impacts learning?

The limited vision can affect the following areas:

  • fine and gross motor development
  • emotional issues
  • social skills
  • social integration
  • acquisition and synthesis of information (concept development)
  • study skills
  • language development
  • body and spatial concepts
  • mobility
  • recreation
  • daily living skills

Please note that this is a partial listing, and that the candidate may approach the topic from a different perspective, possibly using te domains from the expanded core curriculum (ECC). Also, since people don’t “speak in bullets,” the above is intended as a topical listing. However, you should be able to make connections between the response given and the topics above.

How would you rate your skills on the following types of assistive technology?

  • Note-taking devices like the BrailleNote, or PacMate
  • Screen reading programs such as JAWS
  • Employing adaptive switches so the student(s) can use other devices, such as toys, electronic devices, or other educational or recreational materials
  • Magnification software such as ZoomText or MAGic, including magnification techniques in commonly available software
  • Braille embossing or printing software
 
What instruments, tools, or other strategies do you use to evaluate a student's need for assistive technology?

Candidates may use a variety of tools, some of which may be "teacher made," some of which may be developed by an organization with specific expertise in this area. Quality information and/or instruments have been developed by

What experience do you have with technology for students with visual impairments?

  • Regardless of the skills and abilities of the students, assistive technology is a major professional domain for VI teachers.         It is important that you know and understand what the current skills are, and what will need to be developed in the future.
  • New VI professionals may have limited experience with VI-specific assistive technology. Those candidates who are experienced special educators, but new to VI may have experience with other types of technology, such as augmentative communication or switch technologies, and may reference such experience here. Although not vision-specific assistive technology, this information may provide you with data on how skilled the candidate is with a technology in general, and how comfortable when learning new technologies.
  • As in other areas, the responses from experienced candidates will reflect the needs of the students in the previous district and should be evaluated as such. Regardless of the previous situation, the strongest candidates are likely to be those who have a comfortable history with technology.
  • Assuming that the candidates previously had a full caseload, it should be assumed that students needed and used assistive technology. If not, it may reflect on the VI teacher’s (TVI’s) lack of comfort and skills in this area.
  • Responses may reference any or all of those listed below. Please note, the samples below include both specific types of common equipment and generic terms.
  • Braille note-taking devices, such as a BrailleNote or PacMate
  • Electronic brailling machine and embosser, such as the Mountbatten Optical screen reading software, such as that developed by Kurzweil
  • Screen magnification software, such as ZoomText.
  • Screen reading software, such as JAWS+, WindowEyes (Continued on next page)

Continued

What experience do you have with technology for students with visual impairments?

  • Video magnifiers, or CCTVs
  • Adaptive switch equipment
  • Victor, GH Player, or other DAISY-formatted voice output device
  • Duxbury, or other braille translation software

In what areas do you feel your knowledge of technology is limited?

Assistive technology changes quickly. Also the skill and experience level of candidates are likely to directly reflect the needs of his/her previous caseload and the district’s ability to access assistive technology. These needs may be quite different from your district’s needs.

It is reasonable to expect limitations and the need for professional development in most VI professionals. Candidates without experience teaching VI students may have very limited knowledge and skills with assistive technology (AT). Many training programs are not able to provide experiences working with AT equipment. Responses should only be rated low if the candidate is unable to articulate his/her experiences or needs.

For a student who is functioning at or near grade level and who has a significant visual impairment, what computer skills would you target and at what grades?

Primary grades (K–2):

  • keyboard skills, word processing
  • braille writer
  • tape recorder

Intermediate grades (3–5):

  • word processing, JAWS, scanner
  • DAISY/Victor audio reader
  • electronic note-taking devices, such as PacMate or BrailleNote
  • audio dictionary, such as Franklin
  • talking calculator

Late intermediate (5–8, but possibly earlier):

  • note-taking devices, such as the BrailleNote, or PacMate
  • accessible graphing calculator

Secondary

  • Advanced computer skills using an array of standard software using access technology

Have you conducted a functional vision evaluation and/or a learning media assessment? What are the major components of these assessments?

Inexperienced teachers will not be as thorough on this question, as they probably have not performed many assessments. Major areas of assessment include:

  • Functional vision evaluation (FVE)
    • blink reflex
    • pupillary response
    • shift of gaze
    • tracking large and small moving objects
    • functioning on both near and distance tasks
    • scanning to find an object
    • muscle imbalance
    • visual fields
    • acuity
    • contrast information
    • text and/or object size for varying types of assignments and/or environments
    • modifications
    • Learning media assessment (LMA)
      • reading speed
      • print sizes, lighting
      • how the student accesses literacy materials

Assessment practices (for both evaluations) should include:

  • Testing should be done in a variety of environments to be able to assess functioning in educational and community settings
  • Conditions necessary for optimal visual performance

The report must include:

  • Required information from the eye doctor’s report (acuity, prognosis, information about the visual condition, recommendation whether the child is visually impaired and/or legally blind)
  • Educational implications
  • A recommendation to the IEP committee about eligibility
  • Functional recommendations for an array of team members, written in such a way that they are immediately applicable to various team members
  • If the student is deafblind, the report should include information about the student’s use of hearing

What do you consider to be characteristics of a well-written report?

The report must include

  • Required information from the eye doctor’s report (acuity, prognosis, information about the visual condition, recommendation whether the child is visually impaired and/or legally blind)
  • Specifics of the testing conditions, including the size of the objects presented
  • Specifics about distance and lighting conditions
  • Educational implications
  • A recommendation to the IEP committee about eligibility
  • Functional recommendations for an array of team members, written in such a way that they are immediately applicable to various team members
  • If the student is deafblind, the report should include information about the student’s use of hearing
  • A summary of the findings

The recommendations should be

  • Functional
  • Readily understandable by all team members including a new classroom teacher (one who has had no exposure to visual impairments)
  • Provide all team members with the basic knowledge needed to work with the student on the first day of class

Please note that many VI professionals are highly skilled at conducting a functional vision evaluation and learning media assessment.   However, report-writing skills may be less developed. The purpose of the report is to communicate the findings so they can be implemented.   A poorly written report may suggest the need for additional professional development and supervision until report writing is improved.

If presented with a report with clear limitations, another VI professional, or someone with experience with an array of reports, may be helpful in determining whether the limitation was due to the procedures or to the report writing.

What is your experience in writing IEP/IFSP goals and objectives?

Those who receive their VI training mid-career following training as a classroom teacher may have limited experiences writing goals and objectives. You may want to provide a scenario and ask the candidate to write a set of goals and objectives to ensure they are clear, behavioral, and measurable.

How would you determine the modifications your VI students will need to access the general education classroom setting? What role do you think you should take in providing modifications?

Highly scored responses should include the following concepts:
  • the recommended modifications have a direct (and stated) relationship to the functional vision evaluation and learning media assessment
  • observing the student in the classrooms and other learning environments periodically and developing anecdotal or objective data from those observations
  • meeting with classroom teachers
  • talking with students
  • developing assessment data for future evaluations
  • The VI teacher should assume an active role in providing suggestions for modifications and materials
How would you determine the ongoing progress of students?

Start with clear measurable IEP objectives.

Look for evidence of:

  • the importance of clear measurable IEP objectives
  • understanding of and (preferably) experience with collecting data from students and making arrangements for others to collect data as necessary to ensure that the objective generalized to other settings
  • making educational recommendations and/or decisions that are based on that data
  • reporting the progress of the resulting instruction
  • the candidate should describe the circular nature of assessment, instruction, reporting progress, and assessing for the next progress period

Progress can be determined through informal assessment and data collection, information from other personnel and parents, and structured observations of student performance. School districts frequently have specific requirements for determining annual yearly progress. If the candidate has previous experience as an O&M, his/her response may reflect those specific requirements.

How do you determine where to start with students?

Answers should include references to evaluation and assessment, and may include:

  • Functional vision and learning media assessments
  • Every Move Counts
  • TSBVI’s Assessment Kit
  • Evals: Evaluating Visually Impaired Students Using Alternate Learning Standards Emphasizing the Expanded Core Curriculum (TSBVI)
  • The Oregon Project
  • Diagnostic Assessment Profile
  • Arena assessment
  • Play-based assessment
  • Curriculum checklists
  • Informal assessments
  • Observations
  • Checklists for specialized skills such as braille, abacus, or study skills

Answers should include references to:

  • interviewing parents
  • interviewing students when appropriate
  • Consultation with other team members

What kind of information would a TVI need to share with other school professionals?

The nature of a collaborative consultation is that the VI professional is critical for VI professionals. Consider the following as you evaluate the responses:

As a minimum, look for:

  • Student’s visual condition
  • Modifications/accommodations for vision
  • Technology the student will be using
  • IEP goals related to vision deficiency
  • TVI schedule of services (amount of time and frequency of VI service delivery)

A strong candidate may discuss:

  • Classroom arrangement to enhance vision
  • Process for timely provision of print in order to transcribe into braille
  • Visual or tactual modifications to communication system for cognitively impaired student
  • Testing modifications
How do you ensure implementation of VI-specific modification when you are not there?

The response here should be similar to any educator who works with others and wants to be sure that the modifications are being carried out in other educational environments. To the degree that there is a variance with other educators, VI teachers may look for modifications that are beyond the team member’s experience or not part of the more typical modifications needed by other students, such as those with learning disabilities.

Additionally, like other itinerant educators, VI professionals will have limited access to the classroom teacher. This may affect the implementation of modifications.

If you were going to establish a collaborative partnership with another professional, what steps would you take to ensure success?

Possible answers:

  • Meet with teachers at the beginning of the school year
  • Explain my role as the TVI
  • Provide information related to the vision impairment
  • Offer to model techniques that might be effective with students with cognitive disabilities
  • Provide my contact information
  • Ask to participate in team meetings related to student programming
  • Observe the student in the classroom setting periodically to determine how I can support the curriculum

Describe both a successful and challenging collaboration experience you have had with another educational professional.

This request is designed to get the applicant to elaborate.  

If the applicant has worked in a school system, call references to ask specific questions related to team collaboration.  

In which areas will you need mentoring or training to acquire new skills or increase skill level?

Other questions are more detailed questions about various types of students and experience working with those students. If those questions are used, you may want to omit this more general question.

Describe what you believe programming for students with visual and severe cognitive impairments should emphasize, and what you believe the VI teacher’s role should be in implementing those priorities.

Programming should emphasize modifications that emphasize other sensory use, such a hearing and touch. Practices should accommodate for the level of functional vision. Examples may include modifications for communication symbol systems, lighting, placement of materials within the field of vision, training in the use of a calendar system, and modifying daily routines.

The VI teacher’s role is to participate as a team member in assessment, IEP/IFSP development, determining the effect of the visual impairment on programming, modeling techniques, and providing specialized materials and information about the impact of the visual impairment to other team members.

Describe your experience with using low vision devices with students.

Though answers to this will vary, the excellent candidate should have some experience with training in the use of magnifiers, telescopes, and monoculars.

Additional Interview Questions for Experienced VI Teachers and VI-Certified Teachers from Residential Settings

 

How frequently would you schedule your time with:

  1. a totally blind elementary-age academic student;
  2. a low vision elementary-age academic student;
  3. a severely cognitively impaired 5th grade student?

Answers will and should vary widely and should be predicated on needs-based assessment. Typical responses include

  1. Four to five visits per week or approximately 4–6 hours of direct instruction with additional time for consultation
  2. Two to four times per week, or approximately 2–5 hours per week, plus additional time for consultation
  3. Actively consult with service providers for the student weekly or twice a month. This does not mean “drop by and visit” with the classroom teacher.

Responses should include consulting with related service providers, and all other team members. They should also include observations of instructional interactions between service providers. For example, the VI teacher might demonstrate how to identify purposeful movement, or use active learning technology and methods.

 

How do you rate yourself on using/teaching the abacus?

Can you describe your experiences using it?   Teaching it to students?

The abacus is a critical tool for understanding number concepts and performing mathematical operations. It is simple and easy to use. It will greatly advance students’ abilities to solve math problems quickly and with confidence. The abacus is very valuable for both academic and functional-academic students.

Due to time limitations, some professional preparation programs do not emphasize the acquisition of skills in the abacus by the VI professional. If the candidate has not had the opportunity to acquire them since initial certification, she/he will need to do so. There are several options that you can guide the VI professional to, including the TSBVI Web site (www.TSBVI.edu) or the Hadley School for the Blind, which offers free correspondence courses in a variety of domains.

 

What role do you typically take in a professional team structure for your students?

Candidates should endorse practices that use a team approach to working with students. This may include transdisciplinary teaming, role release, integrated IEP/IFSPs, and staff meetings to discuss assessment, IEP/IFSP development, and student progress.
 

Do you have any samples of the following documents: functional vision evaluations, learning media assessment, progress reports?

The candidate should be informed prior to the interview if these documents will be expected. Of course, all personal information should be blocked out.

When evaluating the report, please do a critical analysis on how well the document:

  • Connects assessment to instruction for all team members
  • Communicates with a variety of readers, including parents, classroom teachers, and related service personnel and paraprofessionals

Can the reader read it, and understand areas of strength and challenges, and how he/she will need to modify instruction?

Orientation and Mobility Specialists

This tool can be used with candidates who have various levels of experience. Some candidates may have experience at a residential school or rehabilitation agency. Others will have taught within the itinerant model. Before beginning the interview, give the applicant time to review the job description.

QuestionsNotes/Possible Responses
What questions do you have about the responsibilities listed in our job description?  
What populations have you served?

Experienced COMS who have been working full time as O&M specialists should mention a wide range of visual abilities, ages (including infants), and physical and cognitive abilities. If any areas are missing, you should ask about why those areas were not served.  

A blend of the following three scenarios is typical:

  • The district’s VI populations did not include all of the above groups.
  • In the past, services to a wide range of students have been complicated by several issues. Some O&M specialists were slow to recognize the need for O&M skills for students with more challenging, diverse needs. Some VI teachers did were reluctant to refer either a very young student or one with multiple impairments for an O&M evaluation. As a result, VI professionals may have been slow to acquire the assessment and service delivery skills necessary to recommend a student for an evaluation, or provide quality services to the wide range of students who may benefit from mobility training.
  • Caseloads in the previous position were such that all of the students who could benefit from O&M services were not able to receive services, and the services were focused on academically oriented school-age children.

Regardless of the reason, a limitation in the range of students served indicates the probable need for professional development in the deficient area(s). Reflect on and evaluate the responses carefully if the candidate shows a “flat spot” in his/her service history.

Can you give me some examples of how you organize yourself in any of the following areas?

  • Scheduling
  • Travel
  • Record keeping
  • Communications with parents and other professionals
  • Monitoring progress on IEPs/IFSPs
 

What are some of the major resources or references you will be using for teaching safe, efficient, and independent travel?

The applicant should be able to list four or five of the following current resources:

  • The Art and Science of Teaching Orientation and Mobility (Jacobson)
  • Beyond Arms Reach (Smith & O’Donnell)
  • Early Focus (Pogrund, Fazzi, & Lampert)
  • The Family of Owen M. (Flaherty, Hawkins, & Heaton)
  • Foundations of Orientation and Mobility (Blasch, Weiner, & Welsh)
  • Hand in Hand (American Foundation for the Blind)
  • Itinerant Teaching, 2nd Edition (Jean Olmstead)
  • Journal of Visual Impairments and Blindness
  • The O&M Primer for Families and Young Children (Dobson-Burk & Hill)
  • Orientation and Mobility Techniques (Hill & Ponder)
  • Orientation and Mobility Techniques for Independence (LaGow & Weessies)
  • Re:View (This journal has recently been discontinued. However, it was a solid source of information)
  • AER Journal: Research & Practice in Visual Impairment & Blindness         (This is the new journal that has replaced Re:View)
  • TAPS (2nd or 3rd ed.; Pogrund, et al.)
  • Travel Tales: A Mobility Storybook (Hallpern-Gold, Adler, & Faust-Jones)
  • The orientation and mobility listserv, among others
  • Imagine the Possibilities (Fazzi & Petersmeyer; AFB)
  • Cortical Visual Impairment (Roman-Lantzy; AFB)
  • Finding Wheels (Corn & Rosenblum; PRO-ED)
  • Oregon Project Assessment Tool (Brown, Simmons, & Methvin; Southern Oregon Education Service District)
  • Calendars (Blaha; TSBVI) to implement object doors labels in coordination with classroom schedule for mulithandicapped
  • Growing Up Assessment & Curriculum
  • Carolina Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers; Carolina Curriculum for Preschoolers (Johnson-Martin, Hacker, & Attermeier; Brooks Pub.)
  • Teaching Students with Visual and Multiple Impairments (TSBVI)
Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with someone at work and how it was resolved.

Good consultation skills and the ability to work well with other team members are critical for successful O&M specialists and the success of the students they work with. Consultation skills will also model self-advocacy skills for students. Also, as itinerant professionals, O&M specialists are more autonomous than most educators. It is important that your O&M specialists are able to develop relationships and work out difficulties that are sure to arise.

What role do you feel parents play in working with the educational team?

Parents are a crucial component in successful orientation and mobility for the child. The O&M specialist should work closely with parents to ensure carryover into a wide variety of environments. Progress reports should be provided based on the schedule followed by the district. Safety concerns should be shared immediately.

May I see a sample of an evaluation you have written for a blind student, a student with low vision, and a student with multiple impairments?

The candidate should be informed prior to the interview if these documents will be expected. Of course, all personal information must be blocked out.

Evaluations should include the following components:  

  • Background history
  • Conditions under which the evaluation was conducted
  • Gross motor skills.        

This information is more likely to be included for either younger students or those who have had a delay due to a visual impairment.

  • Concepts, including:
    • body imagery
    • spatial concepts
    • environmental concepts

This information is more likely to be included for either younger students or those who have had a delay due to a visual impairment.

  • Technology assessment (low-vision devices, GPS, use of objects, modified door handles, and other adapted devices)
  • Visual skills
  • Auditory skills
  • General orientation
  • General mobility, including areas such as:
    • Cane skills
    • Residential travel
    • Business travel (for older students)
    • Street crossings
    • Public transportation
    • Implications for multiple environments
  • Summary and recommendations

When evaluating the report, please do a critical analysis on how well the document:

  • Connects assessment to instruction for all team members
  • Communicates with a variety of readers, including parents, classroom teachers, and related service personnel and paraprofessionals.

Can the reader read it, and understand areas of strength and challenges, and how she or he will need to modify instruction? Does the report provide a connection between O&M and independent functioning, and educationally-related goals?

What is your understanding of the O&M specialist’s responsibilities when working with students who are either totally blind or have low vision?

For blind students and students with low vision

  • Observe in all settings to determine needs
  • Administer informal diagnostic assessment to determine functioning levels in multiple environments
  • Facilitate modifications to the environment
  • Develop travel strategies
  • Provide direct instruction in unique (or compensatory) skill areas
  • Provide adapted materials and technology, including training for the technology
  • Consult with teachers, parents, paraprofessionals, and related service personnel
  • Write progress reports and keep contact logs regarding student progress
What is your understanding of the O&M specialist’s responsibilities when working with students who have moderate or severe multiple disabilities, including deafblindness? For students with moderate or severe multiple disabilities, including deafblindness
  • Work with educational team members to perform assessment
  • Make recommendations regarding visual needs to all personnel and family
  • Work with educational team members to design meaningful routines that promote movement, mobility, and communication systems
  • Consult with assistive technology team to select and implement appropriate technology, including low-vision devices, using a note-taker for travel purposes, etc.
  • Write progress reports and keep contact logs regarding student progress
  • Understanding how to adapt the environment to encourage safe and independent travel, especially for very young children
What is your understanding of the O&M specialist’s responsibilities when working with infants, young children, and families?

For infants, young children, and families

  • Demonstrate knowledge of developmental milestones and how a visual impairment may impact developmental milestones (which may be out of typical order) or references for such information. (Note: It may be more important to know the order in which typical developmental milestones occur rather than the typical age range.) Also, young children with visual impairments may “skip” steps, such as crawling, in their development.
  • Provide activities and/or consult with others about activities that build concepts in an array of areas, including temporal, spatial, and environmental.
  • Assist parents to find the resources needed to deal with grieving issues, including resources in the community and print references.
  • Understand that when working in the home, the O&M specialist is a guest of the parents, and should function differently than when in the school environment.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of adaptive mobility devices, such as adaptive canes or using toys for “bumpers.”
  • Understanding how to adapt the environment to encourage safe and independent travel, especially for very young children.
  • Understanding the team concept (at least) or experiences working as a team member (preferable), especially with professionals from other programs, such as early childhood intervention (birth to 3 years old) programs that may have different types of therapies, service delivery systems, and/or philosophies.
Which professional growth activities do you find helpful?

Highly qualified candidates should have participated in a mixture of the following types of activities:

  • have attended professional seminars
  • taken additional university courses
  • subscribe to a professional journal
  • Statewide vision-related conferences (such as Texas Focus, statewide, or multi-state O&M organizations)
  • Professional development opportunities (workshops, on-sites, etc.) that may be available through a state’s school for the blind and visually impaired

National conferences such as:

  • International Mobility Conference
  • Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AERBVI)
  • National Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired (NAPVI)
  • National Coalition on Deafblindness
  • American Council of the Blind (ACB)
  • National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
  • Other professional or consumer associations

Someone who has been teaching for a while but does not take advantage of professional growth activities is less likely to provide services that meet the current standards. You may need to develop an active professional development plan for such a person.

Please describe what you believe programming for students with visual and severe cognitive impairments should emphasize, and the O&M specialist’s role in implementing those priorities.

Programming should emphasize methods to accommodate for existing vision. For example, modifications for communication symbol systems, lighting, and placement of materials within the field of vision, training in the use of a calendar system, and/or modifying daily routines. Specific examples for O&M specialists may include:

  • Arranging the furniture to promote safe and independent travel
  • Determining the use of textures and/or objects to establish predictability in the environment
  • Increasing or decreasing lighting according to visual and task needs
  • Providing increased contrast in materials or environment

The O&M specialist’s role is to participate as a team member in assessment, IEP/IFSP development, determining the effect of the visual impairment on programming, modeling techniques, and providing specialized materials and information regarding the impact of the visual impairment to staff. The O&M specialist also has a role to provide in-service training to other team members, such as the impact of vision impairment on motor, social, cognitive, and language development, as well as basic sighted guide or mobility techniques.

What role do you feel parents play in working with the educational team?

  • Sharing their expertise about their own children
  • Setting priorities for IEP/IFSP development
  • Sharing assessment information
  • Supporting instruction
  • Participating in school observations and/or meetings
  • Participating in support groups and/or workshops
  • Providing opportunities for the students to practice skills learned at home, in the school, and community

What is your perception of how a visual impairment affects learning?

A visual impairment affects development in the following areas:

  • fine and gross motor development and concept development, especially as related to
    • body,
    • spatial,
    • temporal, and
    • environmental concepts
    • study skills
    • social skills
    • language development
    • mobility
    • recreation
    • daily living skills

Skills need to be taught in “hands-on,” experiential ways. Opportunities for incidental learning can be severely affected by the lack of sufficient visual information.

Please note that this is a partial listing, and that the candidate may approach the topic from a different perspective. Also, since people don’t “speak in bullets,” the above is intended as a topical listing. However, you should be able to make connections between the response given and the topics above. Once one of the domains has been mentioned, encourage the applicant to provide specific examples.

Do you speak any other language other than English, including any sign language?  

How do you determine whether or not a student referred for an O&M evaluation will qualify for O&M services?

If the student does not travel safely and independently in the school, community, and home, or is at risk for unsafe travel, the student should receive O&M services. The decision for services should not be dependent on whether or not the student:

  • can walk
  • has additional disabilities
  • is an infant or preschooler

The student may need direct experiential training that focuses on:

  • spatial, environmental, and/or positional/directional concepts
  • awareness of and the use of other senses necessary for travel, including visual, auditory, olfactory, proprioceptive, and tactile
  • skills to safely cross streets in the community
  • use of a cane or adaptive mobility devices
  • development of self-confidence for travel, or functional experiences in the community or school
  • learning to use public transportation, or how to access alternative transportation if the prognosis is such that getting a driver’s license is unlikely
  • Problem-solving skills

The assessment process should include consideration of the following:

  • Review medical reports and other relevant data, with attention to field restrictions, prognosis, contrast, and functional vision in a variety of lighting conditions.
  • If the student’s knowledge level and performance of travel and safety skills are not commensurate with students of the same age or cognitive level, O&M services should be recommended.
  • When modifications in the environment are necessary for safe and efficient travel or when difficulties in orienting to the environment are being experienced, O&M services should be recommended.

How does the O&M specialist allow students access to the general curriculum?

What role do you think you should take in providing modifications?

Look for evidence of understanding and experience with collecting data from students and making educational recommendations or decisions that are based on that data, and reporting the progress of the resulting instruction. The candidate should describe the circular nature of assessment, instruction, reporting progress, and assessing for the next progress period.

Progress can be determined through informal assessment and data collection, information from other personnel and parents, and observations of student performance. School districts frequently have specific requirements for determining progress. If the candidate has previous experience as an O&M, his/her response may reflect those specific requirements.

An awareness of the grade level state assessments is essential, as all instruction should relate to established standards of knowledge and skills.

What has been your experience with using low-vision devices with students?

The answers to this will vary. The O&M specialist should have some experience with training in the use of magnifiers and telescopes (monoculars).

How do you determine where to start with students and what kinds of diagnostic assessments would you implement to make this determination?

Ask what tools the COMS uses to assess. Ask him/her to bring a copy of what they use to the interview. Also, responses should include the results from formal and informal observations in a variety of settings.

What role do you take in a professional team structure for your students?

Candidates should endorse practices that use a team approach to working with students. This may include transdisciplinary teaming, role release, integrated IEPs/IFSPs, and staff meetings to discuss assessment, IEP/IFSP development, and student progress.

In which areas will you need mentoring or training to acquire new skills or increase skill level?

Other questions related to this include more detailed queries about various types of students and experience working with those students. If those questions are used, you may want to omit this more general question.
What area of instruction do you think is your greatest strength?  
What is the O&M specialist’s role in the IEP process?   What paperwork do you need to prepare?
  • All members should contribute information that enhances decisions made on behalf of the student
  • Assessment reports along with other documents required for a related service
  • A review of the student’s present level of academic skills and performance
  • Proposed IEP goals and objectives
What ongoing documentation do you keep on student progress?
  • Updated IEP or progress reports based on IEP
  • Attendance
  • Lesson plans (bring sample)
  • Daily notes
  • End-of-year report
  • Other paperwork related to the services provided (e-mails, parent contacts, teacher contacts, transportation requests, assessment forms, etc.)
How does the O&M specialist affect school-wide performance on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and/or other statewide systems that assess student performance?
  • Since orientation and mobility training should be integrated into the general curriculum, the O&M specialist should be familiar with the state’s instructional standards for knowledge and skills.
  • O&M expands on many of the concepts learned in the classroom and applies them to the environment outside the classroom.
  • O&M addresses skills needed in the transition from public school to college, work, and other post-secondary environments.

Questions the candidate may ask

When and where can I work with students?

Whenever and wherever the student needs it. A district that limits itself to only during school hours and only on campus cannot provide the full spectrum of services needed by the student and is not in compliance with the new IDEA regulations.

How is transportation of students handled?

School districts are responsible for providing the transportation necessary for the instruction identified in the IEP. This may take the form of public transportation, school buses, or vehicle supplied by the district. O&M specialists should not be expected to provide student transportation in their personal car. Please note: this refers to student transportation, not the travel that is incurred when the O&M specialist is traveling between students.

Is professional development available?

In addition to providing quality services, professional development is an important part of the recruitment and retention strategies. Specialists will value attending professional seminars and conferences on a regular basis (without being excessive) to keep their skills sharp. The administrators should also encourage the applicant to present papers at such events and reward publication in professional journals. Access to appropriate professional development is highly correlated with a district’s ability to maintain a high rate of retention of VI professionals.

Candidates may also ask any of the following questions about the district:

  • How does the district handle travel for its itinerant staff? Are cars provided? How are personal costs reimbursed?
  • How many students are currently receiving VI services?
  • If multiple VI professionals work for the district, how is the population divided?
  • How many students are currently receiving O&M services?
  • How often do students receive an O&M evaluation, or a clinical low-vision evaluation?
  • How many students are waiting for, or are at risk for, needing an O&M evaluation?
  • Are there any non-English speaking or students who have deafblindness? How are interpretive services provided?
  • What performance evaluation is used? How will you gather information about my performance as an itinerant professional who also works in the community, on multiple campuses, and in the homes of my students?