Visually Impaired Preschool Services
As much as 80% of brain development takes place before the age of six. Add to that the fact that 85-90% of early learning occurs through the use of vision, and we can understand how a visual impairment can leave a young child at risk for global developmental delays.
Young visually impaired children must learn how to use their other senses, plus any residual vision they may have, to understand the world around them and how it works. Without vision, information is gathered piecemeal through touch, hearing, and smell and must be integrated into a whole picture of what is going on around them, much like putting the pieces of a puzzle together.
Visually impaired infants, toddlers and preschoolers in Kentucky and Indiana have the benefit of receiving early intervention services from Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS). VIPS was founded in 1985 in Louisville as the only agency in Kentucky specifically dedicated to mitigating the developmental impacts of visual impairment in children, birth to five.
Initially, children within a 50-mile radius of Louisville were served. By 1990, VIPS had opened a satellite office in Lexington to serve children in Central Kentucky. In 2012, an Indiana VIPS office was opened and is today located in Indianapolis. Through creative partnerships, VIPS now serves well over 500 children and their families all throughout Kentucky and Indiana, including very rural areas.
Most VIPS children are seen through in-home developmental intervention visits from highly qualified teachers. The home is where young children and their parents are the most comfortable and ready to learn. This model allows teachers to demonstrate teaching techniques for parents that they can incorporate in all their daily routines with their child. In-home intervention also allows for siblings and significant others to participate in VIPS visits. Once children reach the age of three, they become eligible for preschool. VIPS Louisville and Central Kentucky offer center-based programs to help children transition into preschool from the home. In Louisville, there is a comprehensive, 5-day-per-week preschool, where VIPS children receive instruction in the skills that make it possible for them to function in a sighted world. These include braille, mobility, social and self-help skills, and technology.
VIPS offers a variety of educational and support opportunities for parents as well. VIPS believes that parents are their children’s first and best teachers and strives to help parents develop the special competencies they need to help their children reach their highest potentials.
Mrs. Pauletta Feldman spoke about early intervention through Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS). Mrs. Feldman and her husband both volunteer with the program and have a son who is blind.
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