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Pearls: Treasures from a Journey in the Field of Deafblindness


Pearls: Treasures from a Journey in the Field of Deafblindness

Posted on December 8, 2014

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This Fall, CEC launched their first edition of the Visual Impairment and Deafblind Education Quarterly.  This inaugural issue offers articles from individuals who are deaf-blind, families of children who are deaf-blind and professionals within the deaf-blind community.  NCDB's Amy Parker served as guest editor for this edition.  The post below is an excerpt of one of the articles.


Debbie Sanders    Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, Deaf-Blind Teacher Specialist

I recently stopped for a moment to reflect on my journey as an educator in deafblindness.   Like many who have juggled a full family, professional life, and graduate school, taking time to think - let alone reflect - seemed like a strange luxury. A friend, knowing I was at a crossroads in my journey, encouraged me to share with others the “pearls” of wisdom that I have developed as a part of my deafblind teaching experiences.  Her encouragement and this brief interlude of reflection gave me the chance to capture a few of my experiences in the field of deafblindness. 

Pearls are interesting things.  They are created when something unexpected gets inside an oyster shell.  The oyster coats the unfamiliar object with layer upon layer until it becomes smooth and lustrous, something beautiful and of great worth.

My heart has been touched by the wonderful, yet mostly unexpected opportunities that have unfolded in front of me. I can truly say my journey with deaf-blindness has created numerous pearls, which I can figuratively cradle in my hands, remember, and be ever so grateful for.  As I examine my figurative pearls, my experiences as an intervener, as a family support specialist, and as a deaf-blind specialist, I treasure each experience.  My experiences are just as precious to me as pearls of great worth.  

My most recent pearls have been created by opportunities through my master’s program at the University of Utah, beginning with the opportunity to be a Helen Keller Fellow.  Through this fellowship, I was afforded the opportunity to meet and interact with individuals from around the nation through enrichment trainings and internships.  My fellowship experiences lead to the opportunity to participate on writing teams for the “Open Hands, Open Access” Deaf-Blind Intervener Learning Modules with the National Center on Deaf-Blindness. While participating in my graduate program, a brand new teaching endorsement for teachers of the deafblind became available in Utah.  By adding some additional course work, I was able to qualify for the deafblind teaching endorsement, in addition to a master of education in visual impairments, when I graduated this past spring. 

The size and quality of a pearl an oyster produces depends upon factors, such as water quality and nutrition. The richness of my deafblind experiences are due to those who have mentored, supervised, and encouraged me from the time I was first hired as an intervener until this very day.  After my initial training as an intervener, the ongoing training and technical assistance provided by my Deafblind Specialist was invaluable.   Because of my experiences as an intervener, I take very seriously my role as a Deafblind Specialist and now teacher of the deafblind. Interveners, teachers, and class teams can benefit if I properly do my job to help them understand and implement best practice deafblind strategies.  My students with deafblindness may have a different classroom teacher each year or every few years. That can mean they start over with a teacher who has not been exposed to deafblind strategies. It is not the role of the intervener, who works one-on-one with them, to provide training and technical assistance to the teacher.  It is my role to provide the needed support to classroom teachers and other professionals; therefore, if I do my job well it is the child with deafblindness who ultimately benefits.  That is what my profession is about - the children! Many of my favorite pearls are the amazing people I have met: family members, fellow graduate students, and colleagues; many of them have become treasured friends.   Yet in my handful of figurative pearls, the students, and my experiences interacting with them, are my most lustrous pearls.

Looking back, not much in my personal experience with deafblindness has come easy; but when I consider the entire field of deafblindness, growth has not been easy!   I don’t think it is easy for an oyster to create a pearl of worth. It requires time, effort, persistence, and patience.  Likewise, effort, persistence, and patience are also necessary in order create the systems changes needed to positively impact children who are deaf-blind on national, state, local, and individual levels.  Sometimes the biggest change is the change that happens within each of us. I am very grateful for the opportunities, friendships, and most of all the children with deafblindness who have so greatly blessed and changed my life. It is my sincere desire that others will grab ahold of opportunities to be an intervener or a teacher of the deaf-blind and that many others will create their own collection of precious “pearls”.

Sanders, D. (2014). Pearls: Treasures from a Journey in the Field of Deafblindness. Council for Exceptional Children: Visual Impairment and Deafblind Education Quarterly. 59(5).

Link here for the full issue of the publication.  



Comment (1)

Debbie, this is really a beautiful reflection of your journey! Thanks for sharing!

Patti McGowan

Posted Dec 9, 2014 by Patti McGowan

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