The DARS Division for Blind Services (DBS) Blind Children's Vocational Discovery and Development Program (BCVDDP) works together with children who are blind or visually impaired and their families to offer resources so the children can achieve their full potential.
Blindness and severe visual impairments in childhood create unique learning and developmental barriers for employment and independence later in life. The BCVDDP helps children who are blind or permanently and severely visually impaired from birth to age 22 work toward achieving financial selfsufficiency and independent lives in their community.
Specialized case management services help eligible children and their families access the medical, social, educational, developmental and other appropriate services necessary to meet these goals. Direct habilitation services help children to develop the basic skills and confidence for independence in travel, communication, social skills, life skills, career awareness and community involvement that are needed to create a foundation for success as adults.
BCVDDP offers a wide range of services that can:
- Assist a child in developing the confidence needed to be an active part of the community.
- Provide support and training to help parents understand their rights and responsibilities throughout the educational process.
- Assist a child and his or her parents in the vocational discovery and development process.
- Provide training in areas such as food preparation, money management, recreational activities and grooming.
- Provide valuable information to families for additional resources.
As BCVDDP staff members work with families, they help children develop the concepts and skills needed to reach their goals in life.
Quality Education for Children with Sensory Impairments
Harlingen BCVDDP staff, the Region 1-Educational Service Center, and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired partnered to host an event for parents with children who are blind in the Harlingen area. The purpose of this event was to help parents learn strategies for how to work with their child's school to ensure their child's needs are met, as well as to build parents' confidence in their role within their child's educational team.
Changing Perspective of First Graders
BCVDDP expanded their efforts into one consumer's first grade classroom to provide awareness and sensitivity training about visual impairments to his classmates. Students who received the training were provided with information and resources to help them appropriately interact with peers who are blind or have visual impairments.
Diane Swims, Never Sinks, in Achieving Goals
Diane, 8, of Houston is an intelligent girl who was diagnosed shortly after birth with Stargardt disease, which causes progressive vision loss. Although she still had some vision, Diane's vision loss made it more difficult for her to do activities that she loved, and her parents were afraid to let Diane be independent.
DARS Blind Children's Specialist (BCS) Gabby Echavarria worked with Diane and her family. It was Echavarria's first case, and she was touched by the commitment, emotion and support Diane's family showed. "During the comprehensive assessment to determine what supports and services Diane would need, Diane's mom became very emotional. I kept pushing through the lump in my throat, holding back my own tears. I thought to myself, I must help this family as much as I can and provide them hope," explained Echavarria.
BCVDDP provided Diane with assistive devices, including a bright lamp and stand to allow her to see better in her low-lit bedroom at home. Diane also received counseling services, vision loss training and group skills training to help her learn nonvisual skills for participating in everyday activities like sports. In addition, Diane received swimming classes, which helped Diane gain confidence in herself and helped her parents gain confidence in Diane's ability to be independent without vision.
When Diane's school held an Admission, Review and Dismissal meeting with Diane's parents, BCS Echavarria attended the meeting to support the family and ensure Diane would receive the supports she needed. "Diane's mom, who speaks only Spanish, was quiet and turned to me when she could not understand something. I caught myself moving my chair closer and closer toward her, to remind her that I was there for support," explained Echavarria. When the school representatives explained the wonderful services Diane would receive at school, her mom cried, for the first time, not out of fear for her daughter's future, but out of relief and joy.
Diane is now an independent swimmer and is teaching her mom how to swim. Diane's parents are now confident in her ability to be independent and will not let Diane's vision be a barrier for anything in her life.