Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Is an Intervener?

An intervener is a highly trained, one-to-one aid who is a specialist in deaf-blind communication. Her primary job is to help the student understand and interact with the student's surroundings. Events in school go very fast and if you're a child who is both blind and deaf, those classroom events can be incomprehensible. An intervener helps bridge the communication gap and helps the child keep up with the pace of school. She also facilitates the child's interaction with peers and teachers. The trick is to know when to step in and help the child, and when to step back and allow the child to communicate with peers on her own. An intervener should not become a crutch that the child depends on solely for communication. A well trained intervener enlarges the child's world, she doesn't isolate the child from normal peer interaction.

Here is an explanation of what an intervener is from the Texas School for the Blind website:

In educational settings, an intervener is a staff person who provides individual support to a student who is deafblind. The term "deafblind" refers to a combination of a vision impairment with a hearing impairment that affects the way a student is able to access information and function in the educational environment. Even mild impairments can have a profound effect when combined with another sensory loss. A student with deafblindness is defined by the state for educational purposes in 19 TAC §89.AA, Commissioner's Rules Concerning Special Education Services, §89.1040(c).

There is an array of instructional models regularly used within traditional general and special education settings that may potentially provide the unique instructional support needed for a child with deafblindness. However, when traditional models fail to provide access to appropriate services, another option for the IEP committee is to designate a support staff as an intervener assigned to the child.

An intervener is a paraprofessional with specialized skills and training who is designated to provide direct support to a student with deafblindness for all or part of the instructional day. The intervener supports the existing service delivery model in implementing the student's IEP. The decision to use an intervener is based on the level of support a student currently needs to effectively participate in his or her instructional environment. Additionally, if a student with deafblindness requires extensive and novel modifications to the existing educational model, the services of an intervener can be used to simplify the process for the other members of the educational team.

Though the use of interveners for students with deafblindness is relatively new in Texas, the effectiveness of the model has been validated through widespread use for many years in Canada, and more recently in Utah and several other states. On its web site, the Canadian Deafblind Rubella Association defines this kind of intervention as "the process that allows individuals who are deafblind to receive visual and auditory information that they are unable to gather on their own in a way meaningful to them such that they can interact with the environment and thus be enabled to establish and maintain maximum control over their lives."

In an article on Utah's program to provide interveners in schools, the following basic definition of an intervener is given. "An Intervener is specially trained to provide clear and consistent sensory information to an individual who is deafblind, compensating for both vision and hearing loss in such a way as to facilitate and enhance learning and interaction with the physical environment and with society. An intervener acts as the eyes and ears of the individual who is deaf-blind, making him or her aware of what is occurring and attaching language and meaning to all experiences. An intervener intercedes between the individual who is deafblind and the environment in such a way so as to minimize the affects of multisensory deprivation, and to empower the individual to have control over his or her life." (Henderson & Killoran, 1995.)

Understanding what an intervener is, and why this support model has evolved and is becoming more widely used, begins with understanding the needs of children and youth who are deafblind. Deafblindness, or the combination of visual impairment with hearing impairment, often presents unique challenges to educators and others working with a child. The role of the intervener is to join with the entire educational team to meet those challenges by providing individual support for the child.

Paddi Henderson & John Killoran, "Utah Enhances Services for Children who are Deaf-Blind," Deaf-Blind Perspectives, Fall, 1995

What is an Intervener?

In summary, an intervener is defined as follows:

* An intervener is one of an array of strategies and services which can be used to effectively meet the educational needs of a student who is deafblind;
* An intervener is a paraprofessional with specialized skills and training in communication and other issues related to deafblindness, who works as an essential member of the student's educational team;
* An intervener works individually with a student who is deafblind within any educational setting as determined by the IEP;
* An intervener provides access to information, environments, and materials the student might otherwise be unable to access or understand due to sensory impairments;
* An intervener communicates with a deafblind student using methods and strategies that are effective for the individual student;
* An intervener guides the student through activities and hands-on exploration of materials as appropriate based on individual learning styles;
* An intervener provides modifications to lessons as needed by the child and specified in the IEP.

There is a lot more information about what an intervener does on the Texas School for the Blind's website.

Because this person is such an integral part of Queen Teen's education, I want to make certain that the intervener is there when Queen Teen needs her. Perhaps the intervener doesn't need to be there full time, which is okay, as long as I understand the decision for a part time intervener. Right now, it feels like a financial decision rather than a needs based decision. I understand the schools are broke, especially right now in California, but we need to discuss the situation and make sure Queen Teen has what she needs to thrive at school.

I'll let you know how it goes.



Very interesting information...thanks for posting. Not many people know a lot about blind-deaf needs. We are just starting to look into things.

Terri said...

Thank you for the explanation. It is not a financially sound decision to employ services that will not work (or implement them in ways that they will not work.)

There is a great form in this book called COACH that talks about how goals will be worked on in what settings. I expand it beyond the intent and fill it out whenever I have a question about implementation--in which settings or when exactly something will occur. It gives a nice visual representation...

Lydia said...

What a coincidence. I just learned what an intervener was this past weekend at a conference I attended after talking with a parent advocate. He gave me a nice example of the kind of interpretive, descriptive work that interveners do.

I met the intervener at conference in Boston last weekend. Here's a review of the conference, on the latest research, but for parents/general public: