Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chicago Lighthouse provides adapted education for the visually impaired

Education can be adapted for all children to meet the special needs their disabilities require.

Children who are blind or visually impaired with additional disabilities require specialized curriculums that fit their needs. Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired is the place to go. More that 30 children from the age of 3 to 21 attend the self-contained special education day school at Lighthouse.

"It's a five and half hour school day and there here everyday we have a long school calendar because the students need a lot of therapy services and we want them to make program and gain skills," said Director Mary Zabelski.

"The primary is actually considered the blindness and visual impairment and the severe and profound cognitive limitations or multiple disability," said Zabelski.

" All of them have been in public schools but they weren't making adequate program because they really needed smaller class sizes al ot of intense therapeutic services."

All of the students are provided one-on-one instruction.

"The students can bet occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, orientation and mobility, vision and hearing services, nursing services," said Zabelski.

"The teachers are trained you can't get their kind of training in colleges although they come out with a certification in visual impairment and many of them have three or four special education certificates working with cognitively impaired children or children with behavioral program you really learn on the job," said Zabelski.

Nikki Lopez has been teaching at Lighthouse for two years. She has a bachelor degree in special education.

"We take what their needs are and we re-do the curriculum for each student every hour every minute so what ever their needs are we just work with it. If it's math and we're trying to reach them to give us one that could be their whole goal is to hand me one and just learn what one is then we could move on to more and do two," said Lopez.

There is no cost to parents if the public schools pay the tuitions.

" We have mostly children from Chicago but we do have some children from suburban school districts," said Zabelski.

Some of the students go back to public schools.

"Because they've made enough progress where they can go back into the classrooms," said Zabelski.

The most important thing about teaching these children is patience.

"I have friends who are teachers and they say, 'Oh, I could never do what you do.' But, I think you have to have a big heart and instead of sympathy you have to have empathy," said Lopez.

For more information on Lighthouse's day school call (312) 666-1331. Or visit


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