October 4, 2021


by: admin


Tags: children, correctly, serve, SpecialEducation, teachers


Categories: Special needs education

To serve our youngsters accurately, RI wants extra special-education academics

Representatives Julie A. Casimiro and Thomas E. Noret

Rep. Julie A. Casimiro, a Democrat, represents District 31 in North Kingstown and Exeter. Rep. Thomas E. Noret, a Democrat, represents District 25 in Coventry and West Warwick.

Earlier this year, when the students and families at the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College feared they would lose access to critical educational opportunities for blind and visually impaired students, a coalition of students, their families, faculty, and lawyers jumped in action. Together, the General Assembly recognized the topic and agreed in a very short time to support the Sherlock Center from the state budget for 2 years so that our blind and visually impaired students and their service providers stay together.

Legislators then created a joint Vision Services Task Force to ensure that blind and visually impaired students are never again faced with the risk of losing their highly dedicated special education teachers, whom they can rely and rely on.

At our first meeting on September 17th, this proven and successful program was increasingly threatened – a shortage of special educators. In 2021, 47 states reported a need for special education vacancies. Rhode Island has reported a shortage of special education teachers since 1998 to date, particularly among students with mild disabilities. In 2004, the General Assembly created a special House Commission to promote and develop a comprehensive education system specifically to address the shortage of teachers for the visually impaired (TVIs) to address this very issue in Rhode Island.

To address this problem, Rhode Island worked to increase the number of TVIs for blind and visually impaired children. Additionally, Rhode Island ensured that students had access to a comprehensive program by incorporating services from Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMs). At that meeting, the Sherlock Center announced that its program includes 10 TVIs that serve the needs of our students with visual impairments. However, national bottlenecks persist as many states report they have vacant TVI positions and recruitment websites advertising more than 192 TVI open positions. The task force also learned how difficult it is to replace orientation and mobility specialists and how this affects children and their learning.

The staffing challenges faced by the Sherlock Center are only a small part of an ever-growing problem in Rhode Island that must be addressed immediately for the benefit of our most vulnerable residents. The top priority is to increase COMS’s population in Rhode Island. In addition, we need enough certified TVIs to meet the changing needs of students and future staff retirements.

So what can we do?

A specific recruitment and retention plan must be drawn up. There are not enough specialists to help our children and there is a great concern that not enough is being done to recruit future generations of these important teachers and carers.

These are fulfilling careers that allow individuals to truly help others grow and be successful in their lives. We need to make better known the many advantages of entering this career path; the state may even start recruitment programs at high schools. We also need to make the educational and dual certification processes for these professions more accessible to those who are willing and able to provide these vital services.

Make no mistake about it, this situation will have catastrophic consequences for our special needs students in the future if it is not addressed. We need to fix this problem before it is too late and these children are no longer getting the services they deserve and need.


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