A variety of services are available for children birth- to three- who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind. These can be provided by ECI agencies, local education agencies (LEAs), and state agencies.
ECI agencies are responsible for making referrals to the local education agency (LEA) for all students who are blind, visually impaired, Deaf/hard of hearing, or deafblind. With your permission, both ECI and a certified vision teacher, orientation and mobility specialist, and/or parent advisor from your school district will evaluate your child to see if she is eligible for their services. If your child is eligible, ECI will invite you and the school district’s teacher for infants and toddlers with visual impairments and/or hearing loss to an ECI team meeting. There you will work with them to develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
ECI is responsible for making sure your child has all the necessary vision and/or auditory evaluations and medical examinations. School district DHH/VI teachers will use those evaluations to provide the vision and/or hearing services that are on the IFSP. Your child’s medical reports will be shared with the school district vision and/or hearing teachers only with your permission.
NOTE: DARS, mentioned in this video, is now HHSC Blind Children's Vocational Discovery and Development Program. The information in this video is still valid.
The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services-Division for Blind Services (DARS-DBS) assists individuals who are blind or visually impaired and their families. The Blind Children's Vocational Discovery and Development Program is designed to help children and their families. Visit DARS-DBS for an overview of their programs.
The Deafblind Services Unit of DARS-DBS (Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Division for Blind Services) may be able to help you if your child has deafblindness or a dual sensory loss. To apply for services or get more information, ask your Blind Children’s Program Specialist to connect you (or make a referral) to the Deafblind Services Unit. Or contact the DARS-DBS office nearest you.
DARS-ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) works with teachers of children who have visual impairments (TSVIs) to serve families and children from birth to age 3 who have visual impairment, blindness, and deafblindness. Get info about making an ECI referral or inquiry.
Children birth to three with visual impairments and hearing loss are eligible to receive services from both ECI and the local school district. ECI is responsible for making a referral to the local school district, obtaining evaluations and examinations to address the child’s impairments, and for inviting the TSVI, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS), and/or Parent Advisor (teacher for children with hearing loss) to IFSP meetings.
There is an agreement, called the DARS-ECI TEA Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) that outlines how DARS-ECI and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) work together to serve infants and toddlers who have visually impairment and/or hearing loss.
The term “VI” is often used as shorthand for visual impairment within the Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI) and the public school system. Teachers for children who are blind or visually impaired are called TVIs or TSVIs (Teachers of students with visual impairments). Certified orientation and mobility specialists, also known as COMS, work with students with visual impairments on travel skills. TVIs and COMS are employed by school districts to support children from birth- through 22- years old and their families.
Consult the nearest Education Service Center (ESC). Each Education Service Center (ESC) has specialists in visual impairment (VI), orientation and mobility (O&M), and/or deafblindness. These specialists can help you connect with ECI and your local school district staff, provide technical assistance for your child’s teachers, and help you find local parent groups and training.
Each Education Service Center also has a specialist dedicated to low incidence disabilities (LID). These specialists support families who have children with significant and/or multiple disabilities such as deafblindness and dual sensory loss. Contact the LID specialist at the ESC that serves your area.
Children ages 3-21 with visual impairment, blindness, deafblindness and dual sensory loss can get services from their local school district from teachers for children who have visual impairments (TSVIs), certified orientation and mobility specialists (COMS), and deaf education teachers. Find your local school district using TEA's school district locator or by using an internet search tool.
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) is a special public school for students who have a visual impairment. Students, ages 6 through 21, who are blind, deafblind, or have a visual impairment, including those with additional disabilities, are eligible for consideration for services on the TSBVI campus. Children are referred to TSBVI campus programs by their local school district. Find more info at the TSBVI website.
TSBVI Outreach Programs are a statewide resource for professionals and parents of children with visual impairments starting from birth through 21. These Outreach Programs have family and educational consultants who can give you information and resources and connect you to other programs and services.
The Texas Deafblind Project at TSBVI provides information and training about deafblindness for families and the professionals who work with them. One service within the Texas Deafblind Project is Texas Deafblind Outreach, which provides a wide array of supports for families.
TSBVI Consultations are available to address specific concerns you have about your child. Find contact info for TSBVI Family Support Specialists or request info from a TSBVI Family Support Specialist.
There are several types of consultations you can request from the TSBVI Outreach Programs and the Texas Deafblind Outreach Project.
Infant-Toddler Consultations are for infants and toddlers under three who are typically served in their family home. You can request an Infant-Toddler Consultation online. A consultant from TSBVI Outreach or the Deafblind Outreach Project will respond to your request, and either you as the baby’s parent or the Outreach consultant will contact a teacher of children who are visually impaired (TVI) from your local school district to keep them “in the loop” so they can be part of the visit.
Family Consultations focus on any issue about how to support your child. Family consultants can meet with you in your home and give you ideas and information about helping your child. Request a Family Consultation online.
School Consultations are for children 3-21 years old. Often it is helpful for a TSBVI family support consultant to visit your child’s school to observe the program and share ideas with your educational team members. If you want a school visit, your local school district can request a School Consultation (the request must come from the school district, ECI, or other program staff). Outreach consultants typically bring along Education Service Center specialists on their school visits. School consultations also include visits with family members, either at their home or during the school day.
Texas is the only state in the U.S. to have a Medicaid Waiver Program specifically for people who have deafblindness and multiple disabilities. This program is a long-term care program which provides many supports and services. Call 1-877-438-5658 to get on the “interest list” for this and other Medicaid Waiver programs. More info about the Texas Deafblind Medicaid Waiver.