Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Robert Wall Emerson

Second Advisor

Dr. Nickola Wolf Nelson

Third Advisor

Dr. Jane Erin


This dissertation research comprised three studies focused on vision-specific skills, and their association with functional and academic outcomes for school-age students with visual impairment. The studies involved analysis of secondary data for 850 students with visual impairment who participated in the Special Education Elementary Longitudinal Study (SEELS). Data in the SEELS were gathered using direct assessment and parent and teacher responses for a nationally representative sample of elementary and middle school students.

The first study used Chi Square analysis to determine if participation in Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training, or if the time when O&M instruction was received, was associated with performance of mobility activities. Results showed that participation in O&M instruction was not associated with higher performance of outcome indicators.

The second study involved correlation analysis of factors associated with the development of literacy skills for sighted students and students in the "ABC Braille" study. Regression models were tested, which included factors that correlated most highly to scores on Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) and Reading Comprehension assessments and that retained sample size (not all participants took all measures). Hierarchical linear regressions revealed that participation in structured literature activities contributed positively to both ORF and reading comprehension test scores.

The third study investigated factors that contribute to higher standardized math test scores for students with visual impairment. Outcome measures were scores gathered at three points in time on a math calculation achievement test. Hierarchical linear regressions were conducted using the six variables that were correlated most highly with math calculation scores and met the requirements of sample size. Across the three waves, student factors contributed as much as 20% of the variance and educational factors contributed as much 39% of the variance in test scores. Current grade level in math and reading made the largest contribution.

These studies suggest that functional and academic outcomes for students with visual impairment are related to educational programs that provide instruction in both the vision-specific expanded core and the general core curriculum. The research also has implications for improving large scale data gathering with low incidence populations.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access