Council for Exceptional Children’s Convention: Participating in A Larger Dialogue

Posted on May 11, 2015


Amy Parker - NCDB Coordinator of Professional Development and Products

This year, Linda McDowell and I attended the 2015 CEC convention in San Diego, CA both as representatives of the National Center on Deaf-Blindness, and as members of the newly named Division on Visual Impairment and Deafblindness.  As professionals in the low incidence disability field of deaf-blindness, the convention was both invigorating and grounding. The convention is exciting because it’s big! One need only to look at the CEC’s old fashioned paper program book, which is over ¾ of a inch thick, richly describing 800 sessions and 500 exhibitors, to see that the convention is vast. This year’s smart phone app was greener, of course, easy, and allowed convention goers to access presenter handouts and slides on the spot. As we cruised past the slick marketing on display at the booths, and overheard some presenters discussing controversial issues, we realized that being a part of the larger special education milieu can be fun. We are a part of an international community that believes in the rights of students with disabilities and their families. This was our kind of convention!

Being a professional in a low incidence disability field at this type of event can also be grounding. Of the 800 sessions, 15 were devoted explicitly to students with visual impairments and deaf-blindness. Within the main stream special education topics, we sometimes wondered how many of these strategies would benefit the students that we serve.  In the end, as we talked about the benefits of attending the convention, Linda and I concluded that professionals in the field of deaf-blindness, like students themselves, have a great deal to contribute to special education. It is also vital that the field have a place where personnel that serve students and families can be recognized.  A field has many elements which include research, practices and people who are known for having specific knowledge, skills and roles within systems.

                                                             NLCSD Fellows and DVIDB Board members in front of division poster

                                          Jessica Kolvites, Nicole Johnson, Sarah Ivy & Robyn Herrera

few highlights from the CEC included:  Mark Campano’s presentation on systematic approaches for delivering technical assistance to teams; Nicole Johnson’s poster on measuring indices of happiness within a communication intervention; and Jessica Kolvites undergraduate research on using object symbols. For me, it was great to present with Katie Humes and Maurice Belote on the use of the OHOA modules to address the needs of teams in their states. Linda enjoyed connecting with her colleague Melody Musgrove at OSEP’s session at the CEC. Beyond the presentations themselves, the CEC Division on Visual Impairments and Deafblindness, DVIDB, offered other opportunities to socialize and learn at the business meeting and evening social, where we buzzed around table displays and met with fellows from the National Leadership Consortium in Sensory Disabilities.   At the Deafblind Community Forum, Adam Graves, Alana Zambone, Susan Patten and others from the field met virtually with Clara Berg, from the National Family Association for Deaf-Blind, and Lisa Weir, CHARGE Foundation, to organize efforts and a plan of action for the year.  You will find the full report here, including information related to the committee’s desire to partner with national family organizations in promoting teachers of the deafblind and interveners.  

Susan Bruce and Nicole Johnson in front of marina  Nicole Johnson and Susan Bruce

    Katie Humes and Gina Quintana                               Katie Humes and Gina Quintana at poster session

One of the most exciting aspects of working within the structure of the CEC is that it provides a professional home for knowledge and skill competencies for both teachers of the deaf-blind and interveners, which serves as a guide for direct service provision, personnel preparation and technical assistance. The competencies, like any collection of accepted knowledge and skills, need to be supported and revised over time as our research and practice base is refined. DVIDB participates within the larger CEC operations and is involved in the standards committee. The Division also participates in making national policy recommendations within the larger CEC structure. Though we are low incidence, we are represented and have influence within this larger field of special education. As we look at ways to grow and sustain our field, both now and in the future, participating in the dialogue within the CEC provides a way to learn from our more numerous colleagues. It also allows us to bring the experiences we have within our smaller community to enrich and diversify the field of special education. 

The Division maintains a portal on the CEC website, focused solely on deafblindness.  Visit it to find additional news and resources.  

Comments (6)

Great article Amy. Thanks for sharing :-)

Nicole  Johnson

Posted May 13, 2015 by Nicole Johnson

Sheri, your partnership and that of family organizations, is vital. We were so pleased that CHARGE Foundation and NFADB were able to co-create an action plan for the year! It will take all of us to reach our goals!

Amy Parker

Posted May 13, 2015 by Amy Parker

Thank you for this wonderful update, Amy. It emphasizes the need for continued and purposeful collaboration within our own db community AND the greater special needs/disability community. There is much to be shared and learned by all.

Sheri Stanger

Posted May 13, 2015 by Sheri Stanger

Nice to "see" you again Barbara! So glad you are helping educate policymakers too- it is exactly what we need. Will connect you with American Foundation for the Blind who is working on the Cogswell-Macy Act, which includes recognition for the need for teachers of deafblind and interveners. Right up your alley!

Amy Parker

Posted May 13, 2015 by Amy Parker

PS - I have been a fan of the CEC since my son was a baby. I presented there twice. I'm glad NVIDB had presence there...individually we find opportunities - that I don't believe are coincidental - and, collectively, we can all make a difference! Thank you, Amy...and everybody...for all you do!

Barbara Martin

Posted May 13, 2015 by Barbara Martin

HI everybody - Well...I opened and closed my commencement speech last with quotes from Helen Keller. :) I was sitting on the to an Indiana State Representative who is on the Board for Indiana School for the Deaf (what are the chances of THAT?), AND 3 other can bet I took the opportunity to talk to them about legislative changes needed. My speech included general, but powerful information about our work with the Deaf and DeafBlind. Those of you who have access to my YouTube Channel can see the video my husband took of the entire speech. Stay tuned!

Barbara Martin

Posted May 13, 2015 by Barbara Martin

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