Mindy Ely, assistant professor in the Department of Special Education, teaches in the Low Vision and Blindness (LVB) program and focuses her research on early intervention visual impairments and cerebral visual impairments. She has been in the College of Education since 2014. Like many of her colleagues, she is involved in many projects in addition to her teaching, but the new master’s program in LVB and the Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI) Clinic with Easter Seals are the two that she is most excited about right now.

New master’s program: M.S. Low Vision and Blindness
The master’s program, set to begin in summer 2021, will be for individuals who have a bachelor’s degree in education and are interested in obtaining licensure to work as a teacher for the visually impaired. In recent years, Ely has been part of a statewide effort to recruit more people into the field as there is a severe shortage of teachers of the visually impaired.

The new master’s program will be fully online with ten new graduate-level courses. Ely has a list of over 20 people who have expressed interest in this program and she looks forward to launching formal recruitment efforts in the fall.

“We began work on this master’s program the very first month I began my job as an assistant professor at Illinois State in 2017,” said Ely. “I have heard the University talk about a master’s in low vision and blindness for as long as I can remember (20 years maybe) and I am ecstatic to see it actually come to fruition.”

CVI Clinic with Easter Seals
Cerebral visual impairment, vision loss caused by neurological injury, is a relatively new diagnosis in the field, yet it makes up approximately 35% of students identified with a visual impairment. Similar to the improvement seen in stroke patients, students with CVI can experience gains in visual function with appropriate interventions. But much research is needed related to identification of intervention strategies that teachers of the visually impaired can put in place for these students.

For several years, Ely has been working with Easter Seals on topics related to CVI and recently they secured funds for a CVI program through Easter Seals that will include a multidisciplinary evaluation clinic (i.e. vision, speech language pathology, occupational therapy) with telehealth follow-up support to local school teams. This will be the only multidisciplinary clinic to evaluate CVI in the country.

“The clinic has the potential to impact children and families across the United States,” said Ely.

Ely sees important possibilities for the field that could include hands-on training for our students (undergraduate and graduate), in-service training for working professionals and research in the identification of best practices.

“The work of the clinic will put ISU on the forefront of practices for children with CVI,” said Ely. “Our students will benefit from cutting edge instruction that is based in research associated with the clinic. They will also benefit when they participate in the research itself.”

The clinic was supposed to launch in April 2020 but has been postponed to October 2020.

Fun fact: She loves designing spaces
Ely and her husband have renovated eight houses in the last 25 years. In the current project, they have swapped their kitchen and family room, changed the roofline and updated landscaping. She is excited because, thanks to her two twenty-something sons, this is the first project that she has designed, without having to help with the construction.