Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Intervener training from California DeafBlind Services

On Monday, I went to a workshop on what an intervener does, taught by California DeafBlind Services. They were kind enough to travel all the way up to my hometown to teach us what an intervener is and how an intervener works with a deafblind student. All of Queen Teen's education team was there, as well as another mom with a deafblind child (who is now 20 and in the middle of the transition process) and her team of therapists and social workers. Education teams from two other counties, Marin and Contra Costa, also came and I got to meet a mom who's child is 3 and just entering the school system. So between all of us, there were perspectives from a pre-schooler, a teenager, and an adult, which made for great dialogue.

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.
... and on and on the list goes. This is just a few of the duties of an intervener. By the time we read  and discussed this information, I was worried that we'd completely overwhelmed Queen Teen's intervener who was sitting across the aisle from me. I know I wouldn't want this job.

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.


therextras said...

Tomorrow my post will be roughly about vision issues. I'd appreciate it if you would check it, and let me know if any of it is wrong-enough to be modified. Please?

Come to think of it, I will link this post into mine.

Thanks in advance! Barbara

Michele said...

Oh wow...
Great post.

All I can say is WOW.
What an incredible woman you are. What an incredible mother and daughter team you make.
I never really thought about how much you must go through...

I am in awe of you, and your daughter!

leah said...

I saw a news story recently on how there are not enough intervenors available. It is such a big job- they definitely deserve a LOT more than $10 per hour!

The battle for control has to be a tough thing. I guess you could find things in her life that are "negotiable" and "non-negotiable." For instance, homework would be non-negotiable. But the time and place that she does her homework might be negotiable...

Elizabeth said...

It sounds so interesting. I work very closely with an organization that is working on improvements in healthcare for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

therextras said...

Stopping-in to request - would you look at this post?

See if you have anything to offer this mom. Thanks, Barbara