May 13, 1998
Contact: Jean Moore, 615-322-2706
Vanderbilt awarded $960,000 to train teachers for students with visual disabilities
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Vanderbilt University professor has been awarded a grant of more than $960,000 to help train teachers for students with visual disabilities. Anne Corn, a professor of special education and of ophthalmology, directs the Preservice Program in Visual and Multiple Disabilities, which addresses the shortage of teachers certified to teach children with visual or multiple disabilities.
"There is a critical shortage of these teachers in Tennessee and in the nation," Corn explained. "There is also a critical shortage of orientation and mobility instructors who teach children who are blind or with low vision to travel safely within their school and home communities. That means that some children receive only minimal services, while others do not receive services."
Citing data from 1995-96, the last year for which figures are available, Corn said that an average of only 5.5 new teachers were certified to work with students with visual disabilities in each state. An average of just 1.9 orientation and mobility teachers were trained, and fewer than one (.9) received dual certification in both areas.
The three-year grant from U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Program provides tuition and other support for students who want to become teachers of visually impaired children or teachers of visually impaired children with additional disabilities.
"Primarily our program attracts those who already have been teaching and who become interested in a child who is blind," Corn said, adding that most children with visual disabilities attend their local schools while only a small percentage are enrolled at special schools for blind children.
As a result, most of the program's graduates become itinerant teachers who travel from school to school to provide instruction to children and consultation to regular education teachers. They also teach parents about the development of children with visual disabilities and the specific skills parents will need at home, for example, how to teach their children to cut meat and pour liquids, how to use an optical device on a family outing or how to take care of daily chores.
"Many teachers thrive on this type of teaching. They have one-on-one involvement with children and their families. They enjoy the freedom of visiting several schools, and they are challenged with learning the skills that lead children to become active members of their communities. The teachers and orientation and mobility instructors learn skills unique to the learning needs of children with visual disabilities, such as reading with Braille, helping children with low vision use optical devices and providing instruction in social skills and daily living activities.
The U.S. Department of Education grant will provide funding needed to increase the number of graduates ready to teach children with visual disabilities. Peabody College also is looking to expand its faculty in the area of visual disabilities, according to Pat Wallace, Peabody's director of development.
Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately
5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded
in 1873, the University comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute,
a distinguished medical center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center.
Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences,
education and human development, engineering and music, and a full range
of graduate and professional degrees.
For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the News and Public Affairs home page on the Internet at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/News.