Jodi Sticken and Gaylen Kapperman, both of the NIU College of Education’s Vision Program, were awarded a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to train teachers and orientation and mobility instructors to work with children who are blind.
Kapperman said the grant – which will be dispersed over the next five years – enables the program to continue to recruit nationally, provide full tuition, fees, insurance and stipends for admitted students, and address a nationwide need for teachers and orientation and mobility instructors for blind and visually impaired children.
With the grant, NIU will train 70 to 82 professionals over a five-year period at the graduate and undergraduate level in both a full-time format and summers-only format.
These specialists will be recruited and trained to work with children with visual impairments from early childhood through age 21, including those with multiple disabilities and those from high-need, multicultural, multilingual backgrounds.
“The research indicates that we will never catch up, we will never have enough educators to provide services for all of the blind youngsters in the United States,” Kapperman said. “The officials in the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, recognize that. Thus, they have determined to invest money in training more professionals to work with blind and visually impaired students.”
The NIU Vision Program has been grant funded continuously since 1976 to train specialists to work with blind and visually impaired children. Kapperman and Sticken have co-authored federal grants together for the past 30 years, with grant awards totaling about $10 million in that period.