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Montana School for the Deaf and Blind Help Students Reach Full Potential

Carol Clayton-Bye is the Supervising teacher of the Blind and Low Vision Department at the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind (MSDB) in Great Falls.  She says, "visually impaired students are a low incident population. We serve about 20-30 students on campus and 250 throughout the state of Montana".

The term 'visually impaired' can have a lot of different meanings.  Clayton-Bye explains, "total blindness meaning they can't see light and dark to low vision".  Low vision could deal with distance or be related to light, or even muscle strain.  Clayton-Bye explains, "vision fatigues. It's like any other muscle; your eyes have muscles".

Historically, visual impairments were caused by lack of oxygen and illness.  However, modern immunizations have reduced some of those causes and now vision loss is often the result of birth defects and accidents.

Clayton-Bye says, "most of the students that come to our school, they come because we have the accommodations and modifications, the technology to make their curriculum accessible".  At MSDB, students are given the key to unlock education, while learning life skills.  Clayton-Bye says, for example, "shopping and budgeting and how to travel using the bus system". 

The school's goal is that students leave with education, communication, and independence for life.  Clayton-Bye says, "all of these students have a similar sense of self and that would be the community that brings them together. They're all missing the vision component and understand what a critical piece that is, and yet come to this campus and know that we have ways to adjust for that and still allow them to be typical kids".

Patricia Levy is a visually impaired student from Darby taking classes at MSDB.  She says, "here I feel like I'm always going to be able to talk to people because they have the same needs that I do".

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