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National Center for Special Education Research


Facts From NLTS2: Orientation and Mobility Skills of Secondary School Students With Visual Impairments
NCSER 2008-3007
November 2007

About this Report

Research Questions

Although instruction in orientation and mobility skills is an essential component of the educational experience of students with visual impairments, little is known about the provision of these services in public secondary schools nationally. What percentage of secondary school special education students who are classified as visually impaired receive orientation and mobility services as part of their school program?1 Does the receipt of such services vary with instructional setting? How well do youth classified as visually impaired perform on specific orientation and mobility tasks? Does the level of orientation and mobility skill vary with the presence of coexisting disabilities, level of severity of visual impairment, or demographic characteristics?

Data Sources

These questions are addressed by using data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) Student's School Program Survey, conducted in 20022. At that time, students were 14 through 18 years old and were attending secondary schools in grades 7 through 12 or were in ungraded classrooms. School personnel who were most familiar with students' school programs3 completed self-administered questionnaires about the students' characteristics, school programs, services, and performance. Data to identify the presence of a coexisting disability were taken from a list of disabilities indicated by school personnel in response to the request to "mark all of this student's disabilities." Additionally, if the student had a visual impairment, school personnel were asked o rate the student's orientation and mobility skills.

Basic demographic data and data to distinguish the level of students' severity of visual impairment are drawn from information provided by the students' parents or guardians during the NLTS2 parent telephone interview conducted in 2001, when students were 13 through 17 years old. During a telephone interview, respondents provided information about students' individual and household characteristics. Regarding disability characteristics, respondents were asked "With what physical, sensory, learning or other disabilities or problems has [the youth] been diagnosed?" Response options related to visual impairment were "blind" and "partially sighted."

The phrase "students with visual impairments" used in this report includes only students with visual impairment as their primary disability category, as reported to NLTS2 by the school district or special school and designated according to the criteria specified by each state. The primary disability classification is central to the statistical weighting methods used in NLTS2, and including students in this report who had visual impairments but were assigned to other primary disability categories would have obscured the population to which the findings generalize. Thus, this report does not include students who had visual impairments but received special education services under other IDEA disability categories (i.e., for whom visual impairment was not the primary disability) or who did not receive special education services at all.

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1 NLTS2 does not specifically ask school respondents about the students' need for orientation and mobility services, only whether or not such services are received.
2 The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2), being conducted by SRI International for the U.S. Department of Education, has a nationally representative sample of students who were between the ages of 13 and 16 and in at least seventh grade and receiving special education services in the 2000–2001 school year. NLTS2 students were chosen from rosters of students receiving special education from or through public school districts and state operated special schools. These education agencies were instructed to include all students for whom they were responsible, regardless of where they went to school or the type of school attended (e.g., a residential school in another state). Approximately 820 youth with visual impairments were included in the initial sample that was designed and weighted to represent a total of 1,838,850 youth with disabilities and 11,610 youth with visual impairments in the NLTS2 age range nationally, according to federal child count figures (U.S. Department of Education 2002). The sample of students for this report are the students classified as visually impaired for whom the Student School Program Surveys was received (N=480). For more information about the study, including the sampling and analysis design, sample weighting, methods, and standard errors of estimates, see the study's website at www.nlts2.org.
3 School personnel who were most familiar with students' school programs could include special education and general education teachers, related services personnel, case managers, school guidance counselors, and others. School personnel were asked, "Are you able to describe the school program for the student named on the cover [of the questionnaire]? If no, do not complete this questionnaire. Please pass it on to the school professional who is best able to describe the student's school program."