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Parent Leader Vivecca Hartman Advocates for Local Supports

Posted on December 19, 2013

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I just got back from the TASH Conference in Chicago, where I had the honor of presenting the Open Hands, Open Access (OHOA) Modules on Deaf-Blindness with Beth Kennedy, Diane Foster, Michelle Clyne and Amy Parker.  The OHOA Modules are a part of a national effort to assist in the development of content about intervention for students who are deaf-blind that can be adopted by intervener training programs and others interested in learning about deaf-blindness!  I am so honored to have been able to participate with Amy Parker of NCDB, and continue to help support the development and promotion of educational training for interveners and anyone working with deaf-blind individuals.  This is due to my personal experience as a mother of a 16 year old son, Christopher, who happens to be deaf-blind.

In our family’s journey, we spent many of our beginning years having people with caring hearts in the role of intervener, but not enough training.  It was a major time loss for my son’s learning years.  He was 10 when we experienced what it was like to have a trained intervener.  It was amazing and my son literally came to life! 

I am dedicated to help spread and promote the need for quality education and training for Interveners; which the whole educational team would benefit from as well.  When the whole education team understands the delivery methods needed for the deaf blind-child, the whole educational experience is enriched for the student!

It is every child’s right to an education, so deaf-blind children have that right as well.  The point that took me so long to understand is that there is an established system in place for the majority of children that are “regular” education learners.  However, due to the low incidence of deaf-blindness, there has not been an established system in place where staff in local schools know how to educate students who are deaf-blind. 

In addition, not every deaf-blind child is the same, so you have to be savvy enough to know the various learning and communication techniques to work with each child to identify what works with them and then train their family so the efforts are not lost through time.  It is the family that stays with the child lifelong, so they are a major aspect to the education of a deaf-blind child – not to mention the extreme importance of continuity between home and school when a child who is deaf-blind is first learning new skills. These modules help establish a foundation to support wide spread access to information and training.  Our families, children and communities will benefit from training!

It is important to be aware that these OHOA Modules do not currently lead to credentialing for an intervener.  This is a work in process.  It is also important to know that the modules are not entirely done, but when they are, they can be incorporated into intervener training programs. At this point in time, in the United States, there are several training programs offered by state deaf-blind projects and two online programs offered by universities.

Currently, there is an option to obtain an intervener credential that is available to interveners who take the Utah State University courses.  These courses are wonderful and taught by Linda Alsop – who has been a major leader in the development and promotion of the intervener role in the United States!  She also has great supportive material and information to share at www.Intervener.org.  I recommend everyone review this site!  There is also an online comprehensive certificate program at East Carolina University in North Carolina. In my opinion, the OHOA modules would be a particularly good fit for a 2-year college that also offers sign language classes.  Ultimately, we want the modules to be a support that helps establish and support more programs for there to be access to training anywhere in the United States.

Having a nationally established intervener role would be a wonderful foundation for a change that is needed in IDEA.  IDEA currently includes the role of educational interpreters as a related service but does not formally include the role of the intervener. With all the efforts to set the foundation of learning and the credentialing, there would be no reason not to allow for such wording in IDEA.

We just need to continue to promote and develop more wide spread training and credentialing opportunities nationwide to help the intervener be a recognized and respected role!  Will you join me in this ongoing effort?


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