Services for Children & Young Adults

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VIA offers an array of programs and services for children, young adults and their families.  From Early Intervention to transitioning into adulthood, we work in collaboration with families, teachers, counselors and our students to gain the skills necessary to be successful.

Pediatric Low Vision

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should receive additional eye exams at 3 years of age, and just before they enter kindergarten or the first grade at about age 5 or 6.

For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually or according to their eye doctor’s recommendations. School screenings are not adequate and often miss vision issues.

Taking your child(ren) to an eye doctor and having an early eye exam is very important because children need the following basic visual skills for learning:

  • Near vision
  • Distance vision
  • Eye teaming (binocularity) skills
  • Eye movement skills
  • Focusing skills
  • Peripheral awareness
  • Eye/hand coordination

Because of the importance of good vision for learning, some states require an eye exam for all children entering school for the first time.

Scheduling an Eye Exam for Your Child
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says on its website that your family doctor or pediatrician likely will be the first medical professional to examine your child’s eyes. If eye problems are suspected during routine physical examinations, a referral might be made to a Pediatric Ophthalmologist for further evaluation. Eye doctors have specific equipment and training to assist them with spotting potential vision problems.

When scheduling an eye exam for your child, choose a time when he or she usually is alert and happy.

Specifics of how eye exams are conducted depend on your child’s age, but generally the exams will include a case history, vision testing, determination of whether eyeglasses are needed, testing of eye alignment, an eye health evaluation and, if needed, prescription of eyewear.

Your eye doctor may ask whether complications occurred during the pregnancy or delivery. Other questions will concern your child’s medical history, including current medications and past or present allergies.

Be sure to tell your eye doctor if your child has or displays any of the following:

  • A history of prematurity
  • Delayed motor development
  • Frequent eye rubbing
  • Excessive blinking
  • Failure to maintain eye contact
  • Inability to maintain a gaze (fixation) while looking at objects
  • Poor eye tracking skills

Also, be sure to mention if your child has failed a vision screening at school or during a visit to his or her pediatrician.

VIA’s Certified Low Vision Therapist is here to evaluate your child’s vision and answer your questions around your child’s visual impairment

Educational Support

girl playing with blocksEarly detection of potential vision loss and getting the right help is critical in the education and development of your child. VIA offers specialized services including vision, education and mobility training to children from birth to age 21 in order to maximize each student’s potential. Our caring, professional staff members are trained, certified and licensed in their respective fields.

A system of services to support infants and toddlers with disabilities (up to their third birthday) and their families

To identify the program in your community, ask your Pediatrician for a referral. Typically in WNY, Early Intervention services are supported by the County in which the child resides.

If your child is between the ages of 3-21 it’s recommended that you get in touch with your local public school system. The school should be able to instruct you in the process in getting your child evaluation free of charge. If found eligible, your child can begin receiving services specifically designed to address his or her educational needs in addition to other services associated with their disability.

Specialized instruction is provided in a child’s home and/or classroom
• Full education and vision assessments
• Vision/Optometric Services
• Orientation and mobility training

Services are funded by the NYS Department of Education, the NYS Department of Health and the student’s county of residence.

Pre-Employment training

VIA, in conjunction with the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB), offers a wide range of programs and services for children and young adults who are legally blind. Our staff has developed these programs to allow the student a natural transition as they proceed from one program level to the next.
While most of our structured programming does have preferred age ranges, we consider each candidate individually and place them in the program that will best meet their needs. 

Programs are funded by the NYSCB and require authorization from the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to participate.

summer programs

The goal of the YES introductory program is to increase your pre-teen’s (generally ages 10-14) self-awareness and prepare them for success as they approach working age. 

Program components include:
• Introduce themselves
• Use of appropriate body language
• Self-advocacy
• Speak to and in front of their peers
• Listening skills
• Begin to learn about their personalities and interests and how each differs from one another
• Learn about responsibility and the daily living skills that should be managed independently for their age
• School activities, how to get involved and what it’s like being a student with vision loss

This four-day program held in late August incorporates these life skills into fun, community-based activities while visiting local attractions, businesses, and restaurants.

This Center and Community-based program was developed to assist students in acquiring the skills necessary to succeed in entry-level work experience.

*Students may be placed in a part-time paid work experience or participate in only the Center-based sessions.  This is determined among the rehab counselor, VIA staff, student and the family.

It is recommended that the student has successfully completed both the YES and Pre Vocational Skills Class prior to participating in Onsite. 

The weekly center-based session addresses both vocational and daily living skills, components include:

  • Necessary soft skills learned to be successful in the workplace
  • Personality/interest profile testing
  • Research career opportunities in their area of interest including educational requirements, demand in that area, pay scale and anticipated job duties
  • Career exploration by visiting/touring community businesses
  • Socialization and self-advocacy
  • Orientation and Mobility training (community travel and public transportation)
  • Assistive technology

The Onsite program runs for approximately 7 weeks over the summer.  Center-based lessons and field-trips take place on Wednesdays.  Participants must arrange their own transportation or use public transportation to get to/from the work-site as well as to VIA for the center-based portion of the program.

*Students partaking in the work experience must obtain working papers.

Transitions is an exciting new program to meet the needs of Western New York high school juniors and seniors either preparing to go to work or planning on attending college after high school.

The summer program will focus on the skills necessary to successfully transition from high school into employment or college with an emphasis on career exploration and research of their field of interest.

Lessons are focused on three major areas:
• Personal Management
• Career Management
• Life Management

All major student activities will create a transition portfolio, which will help with their exit IEP meeting from school, in addition to having a chance to complete several worthwhile inventories and profiles identifying their career preferences, learning styles, personal strengths, etc.

The capstone project will encompass research for careers for the work-based students and majors if they are going on to pursue a college education.

The classes will be held four days per week.
Three half-days will be devoted to classroom learning and the other half-day will be in the community shadowing employers and visiting local colleges.
The final week will be one-to-one student-teacher meetings to edit, review and complete the capstone project.

The Paid Work Experience program introduces and reinforces the necessary skills to prepare young adults ages 14-18 years old for a successful work experience or part-time employment prior to their completion of high school.

Objectives include:

  • Learning appropriate interpersonal skills
  • Shaking hands and creating a “one-minute” introduction
  • Identifying interests and abilities
  • Self-reported independent living skills checklist
  • Learning how to fill out a job application
  • Introduction to resumes and how to start building a resume
  • Difference between school and workplace behaviors

Our Pre-vocational Skills classes are typically held over winter and/or spring breaks here at VIA.  While the students benefit the most from the group instructional setting, individual training is also available.

recreation programs

VIA offers structured socialization and recreational opportunities to help individuals and their families overcome barriers, including social isolation. Our team provides the tools and mechanisms for you to remain confident and active while accessing different types of activities and experiences.

FOCUS is a two-day/one-night program for children ages 10-21 who are legally blind. The program is held at Beaver Hollow Conference Center and transportation is provided. Students must have an active case with NYSCB to participate.

Program objectives include:
• Provide exposure and promote participation in social activities
• Increase self-confidence and self-worth
• Goal setting and achievement
• Increase interpersonal skills
• Promote the importance of teamwork and leadership
• Student’s commitment to increasing independent living skills

Students take part in activities that focus on communication, problem-solving, goal setting, teamwork, process improvement and understanding roles and responsibilities.

(Recreation, Experience, and Activities Dedicated to Youth)
READY is a family recreation program designed to facilitate access to community activities for children and young adults’ ages 5 – 21 who are legally blind and their families.

  • Activities run monthly during the school-year (Sept.-June) on Sunday afternoon.
  • Families are responsible for their own transportation.
  • Participants must have an active case with NYSCB.

Program Objectives include:

  • Provide exposure and promote family participation in social activities available in the community
  • Increase networking among families, parents and siblings, of children who are Blind/Visually Impaired
  • Introducing families to the adaptive modifications and social skills to encourage continued independent family activities
  • Goal setting and achievement

Each activity requires at least one parent/guardian to attend however we encourage participation from the entire family. Participants are provided with appropriate adaptations and advocacy skills to include all family members in existing community recreation opportunities.

Program staff supports the building of independence and socialization skills for the youth along with education and networking opportunities for parents and siblings.
Each activity includes a relevant life skill which is discussed and explored with parents for their use during the activity and for future family outings.


Activities are arranged for Sunday afternoons and details are emailed or sent in the mail by request on a monthly basis.

2020 Schedule of Events
• January 12th – Ice Skating / Blind Hockey at RiverWorks
• February 9th – Tubing at Holiday Valley
• March 8th – Get Air (Trampoline)
• Apr (Date TBD) – Bison’s Game at Sahlen Field
• May 17th – Llamas at Hemstreet Farm
• June 14th – Whitewater Rafting at Letchworth Park