The workshop focused on explaining what an intervener is and how she/he works within the IEP team, not on training us to be interveners, which is a huge job and would require hundreds of hours of training. In fact, two universities, Utah State University and East Carolina University have distance-ed programs to train interveners. California DeafBlind Services is part of a national movement to formalize intervener training in the US because right now training is limited and sporadic. As you can imagine, there are a lot of road-blocks and hoops to jump through to set up a new profession and a new training regimen, and they are still discussing the impact all of this formal training will have on school districts being able to afford an intervener at all (can you imagine a highly skilled, one-on-one aid with a degree in DeafBlind intervention working for $10.00? Me either). I'm excited by the prospect of formalized training and standards for interveners, though. Having trained and supported staff should help deafblind students reach their goals with more ease and create a more harmonious experience for everyone.
The range of duties an intervener is supposed to know and do is overwhelming. An intervener must:
- attend trainings on effective educational strategies for children who are deafblind.
- know the vision and hearing losses of the student, as well as the functional implications of both.
- be familiar with the student's likes and dislikes.
- establish a bond and develop a trusting relationship with the student.
- know and use the student's communication style/method/system (sign language. tactile, signals, cues, assistive devices...)
- be a bridge, not a barrier; model and demonstrate for others how to interact and communicate with the student.
- provide motivation for the student to participate in activities and routines.
- provide support for the student's use of the other senses to enhance learning.
- provide opportunities for repetition and practice.
- adjust the pace of instruction to the student's abilities.
- provide direct learning experiences that are functional and meaningful
- include student participation in all steps of activities.
- view what appears to be negative behavior as communicative and work with the team to understand and address the student's needs.
- participate in program planning with the teacher and the team.
- create instructional materials.
- collect data on student.
- assist in assessments.
- provide input to the IEP team.
- recognize that the supervising teacher has the ultimate responsibility for instruction and classroom management.
- understand the IEP and team goals and how to help achieve those goals.
- act as a bridge in facilitating and supporting teachers and related service providers.
- serve as a resource on issues related to deafblindness.
Wait a minute, I do have this job. I've been Queen Teen's interverner for the last four years, longer if you count when she was "just" blind.
By the end of the workshop I was no longer feeling overwhelmed though, because rather than scaring everyone into deciding intervention with deafblind children is too hard, the room was excited and talkative, sharing ideas and problem solving how to implement some of the things on this list. Queen Teen's O and M instructor came up with two ideas while talking to me over lunch.
At one point in the workshop, the idea of control came up, specifically how deafblind children often have very little sense of control in their lives. This made me think of Queen Teen and her current battle with me and her teachers over what she will and will not do. I need to think of more ways Queen Teen can have the control over what happens to her, like when we all decided she didn't have to wear her glasses any more. What other decisions can I give her to decide for herself?
It was a great workshop. Thank you Mendocino County SELPA for hosting it, and a big thanks to everyone who attended.