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Open Hands, Open Access (OHOA): Deaf-Blind Intervener Learning Modules

The Open Hands, Open Access (OHOA): Deaf-Blind Intervener Learning Modules are a national resource designed to increase awareness, knowledge, and skills related to intervention for students (ages 3 through 21) who are deaf-blind and being served in educational settings.

To access any of these modules, click on a title below. 

Impact of Deaf-Blindness on Learning

An Overview of Deaf-Blindness and Instructional Strategies badge image

An Overview of Deaf-Blindness and Instructional Strategies

  • Identify important facts that can be learned from the National Child Count of Children and Youth Who Are Deaf-Blind.
  • Understand the importance of gathering information about a student's etiology to guide the development of an effective educational plan.
  • Recognize that deaf-blindness is a disability of access to information that results in significant challenges in interactions and learning.
  • Describe key instructional principles and strategies that are effective in educating and interacting with these learners.
  • Provide examples of the array of supports and resources on deaf-blindness that are available for families and school districts.
The Sensory System, the Brain, and Learning badge image

The Sensory System, the Brain, and Learning

  • Understand the importance of each of the seven senses.
  • Understand the brain-senses connection and its impact on learning.
  • Understand some general strategies for supporting a student's learning.
  • Understand basic information about all seven senses.
  • Know how to identify additional resources to learn more.
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Building Trusted Relationships and Positive Self-Image

  • Understand that trusted relationships and a positive self-image are the foundation for well-being and development.
  • Describe key strategies to create reciprocal interactions from a deaf-blind perspective.
  • Apply a consistent approach using turn-exchanges for starting, maintaining, and ending interactions.
  • Apply affirmation of a student’s initiative or response.
  • Analyze indicators of a student’s processing time.
  • Learn to match observations of a student with strategies to share emotions with him or her.
  • Describe specific strategies for establishing joint attention.
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Availability for Learning

  • Recognize the internal and external factors that influence a student’s availability to learn.
  • Be able to identify a student’s state of arousal and how to influence it so the student is available to communicate and learn.
  • Be able to identify a student’s likes and dislikes and know how to use those preferences to support the student‘s availability to learn.
  • Be able to identify the strongest sensory channels for a student and know how to adapt activities and actions in ways that take advantage of those channels.
  • Be able to identify a student’s stress level and identify strategies that can support the student’s availability for communicating and learning.
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Concept Development and Responsive Environments

  • Recognize the impact of deaf-blindness on an individual’s development of concepts and incidental learning.
  • Compare and contrast skill development and concept development.
  • Recognize that trusting relationships are essential for the development of concepts about the self (and concepts about the self are essential for learning).
  • Recognize the role of touch and exploration in the development of concepts and active learning.
  • Identify the role of language and communication in the development of concepts.
  • Describe methods for incorporating experiential learning and functional tasks.
  • Apply deaf-blind strategies in the development of routines that support active learning and concept development.
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Touch for Connecting and Learning

  • Reflect on your own experiences with touch and learn about the varying cultural, personal, and physical boundaries that influence how human beings relate to one another with touch.
  • Be able to explain the importance of touch as an access point for students who are deaf-blind and how to use touch in a variety of environments.
  • Discover the spectrum of touch support needs and how to provide the appropriate amount of touch support to students on an individual basis.
Introduction to Orientation and Mobility for Interveners badge image

Introduction to Orientation and Mobility for Interveners

  • Describe the role of the intervener in supporting a student's orientation and mobility.
  • Describe the role of the orientation and mobility specialist.
  • Identify basic roles and principles of occupational therapy and physical therapy.
  • Identify basic O&M tools and techniques.
  • Describe the five levels of the "Spatiotemporal Development Framework" as it relates to students who are deaf-blind.
  • Identify ways to support students who are deaf-blind within the five levels of development.

Communication

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Understanding Communication Principles

  • Understand the meaning of the terms “communication form,” “sensory mode,” “communication function,” “expressive and receptive communication.”
  • Understand the role of the intervener as a competent communication partner for students who are deaf-blind and be able to identify strategies that encourage communication.
  • Discover that students with deaf-blindness always express themselves in meaningful, concrete, and purposeful ways from their deaf-blind perspective and that this expression is the starting point for communication development.
  • Discover that the presence of an intervener alters the intent of a student’s behavior.
  • Use video analysis forms to gather information about a student’s communication, develop insight into a student’s communication, and assist other educational team members with communication assessment and IEP development.
Emergent Communication badge image

Emergent Communication

  • Understand the role of the intervener as a competent communication partner for students who are deaf-blind and be able to identify strategies that encourage communication.
  • Discover that students with deaf-blindness always express themselves in meaningful, concrete, purposeful ways from their deaf-blind perspective and that this is the starting point for communication development.
  • Develop knowledge about "movements," "sounds," and "touching objects," and recognize them as meaningful, concrete, purposeful behaviors.
  • Know how to establish "shared experiences" with a student.
  • Gain insight into how experiences leave bodily-emotional traces in the memory and how students express these memory traces in their behavior.
  • Understand strategies that can be used to co-create shared meaning of a student’s expressions and develop gestures, meaningful sounds, and objects of reference (object cues).
  • Understand strategies that can be used to develop gestures, meaningful sounds, and objects of reference (object cues) based on the intervener's forms of communication.
  • Understand the steps that need to be taken to expand concrete communication forms before moving on to abstract communication forms.
Progressing From Non-Symbolic to Symbolic Communication and Complex Language badge image

Progressing From Non-Symbolic to Symbolic Communication and Complex Language

  • Understand the value of observation in determining where a person who is deaf-blind is on the communication continuum.
  • Describe communication modes used by students who are deaf-blind.
  • Describe strategies to support a student to become a more proficient communicator.
  • Describe strategies to support a student to develop complex language skills.
  • Understand the role of the intervener and other team members in communication development, instruction, and assessment.
Touch for Connection and Communication badge image

Touch for Connection and Communication

  • Observe how a student who is deaf-blind can use touch to gain access to the world in a way that will lead to communication and learning.
  • Understand how mutual tactile attention, tactile modeling, and joint tactile attention lead to communication and language development.
  • Evaluate the variety of ways touch can be used for communicating and learning.
  • Learn about techniques for supporting language, communication, and mutual attention to reduce isolation and promote access to environmental information.
  • Understand why, when, and how to use tactile symbols with students who are deaf-blind.
An Introduction to Sign Language and Braille badge image

An Introduction to Sign Language and Braille

  • Understand that language development exists along a hierarchical continuum.
  • Understand the intervener's role in supporting sign language and braille development.
  • Know that consistent use of strategies and modalities across communication partners and environments is essential for learners who are deaf-blind.
  • Understand that students who are deaf-blind are multimodal communicators.
  • Understand the role of touch (e.g., for communication, information, and expression of emotions), and how it is re-prioritized as an access point by students who are deaf-blind, regardless of their use of functional vision.

Promoting Learning

Routines for Participation and Learning badge image

Routines for Participation and Learning

  • Describe routines as a foundation for early learning, concept development, and interactions.
  • Describe how routines support and organize learning for students who are deaf-blind by compensating for sensory gaps.
  • Explain the importance of collaboration with family members and the use of routines in both home and school environments.
  • Identify how routines support the student, the intervener, the teacher, and the family.
  • Identify how routines are a framework for assessment and intervention.
  • Describe the intervener’s role in the development of routines.
  • List the prerequisites and considerations for designing and using routines.
  • Identify the steps for reviewing routine materials with a student and the process for developing a dialogue for communication.
  • Create and evaluate an effective routine for a case-study student.
  • Describe ways to expand on routines to help a student make progress.
  • Summarize the importance of routines for learning all types of skills.
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Calendars

  • Explain why a student with deaf-blindness might have difficulty learning time concepts and time vocabulary, and understanding traditional timepieces.
  • List the continuum of time frames in calendar systems and identify several student characteristics that are prerequisites for each.
  • Identify ways that calendar systems are individualized for students with deaf-blindness.
  • Describe strategies to depict and discuss the past events for each time frame.
  • Describe how calendars move from concrete to abstract across the time frames to teach vocabulary about the future.
  • List examples of how calendars support communication for students with deaf-blindness.
  • Understand the crucial role that calendars play in supporting and clarifying genuine conversational interactions.
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Social Skills and Peer Relationships

  • Understand the important role that social skills play in school and post-school success.
  • Understand how deaf-blindness and decreased opportunities for incidental learning can impact the development of social skills.
  • Describe how to support natural social interactions based on shared activities and interests within the framework of family culture and local norms.
  • Describe how an intervener can facilitate friendships and interactions between a student and others in the school and community.
  • Understand how the Circle of Friends process can be used to identify challenges and strategies to support social connections.
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Maximizing Vision and Hearing

  • Demonstrate understanding of instructional modifications and strategies that maximize vision and hearing.
  • Demonstrate understanding of medical and assistive devices used to maximize vision and hearing.
  • Understand when you need to adapt a vision or hearing device or strategy to accommodate both sensory needs.
  • Understand the role of the intervener during the assessment process.
  • Know how to use and maintain amplification, cochlear implants, and assistive listening devices as directed.
  • Know how to make adaptations for auditory needs as directed.
  • Know how to make adaptations for visual needs as directed.
Accessing the Curriculum and the Environment badge image

Accessing the Curriculum and the Environment

  • Understand the role of the intervener in the assessment and ongoing decision-making processes for assistive technology.
  • Know components of both the general education and expanded core curriculum.
  • Describe factors that challenge access to curricula for students with deaf-blindness.
  • Describe materials, equipment, and strategies that provide physical access for students with deaf-blindness and physical challenges.
  • Describe modifications and accommodations that support access for students with deaf-blindness and intellectual disabilities.
  • Understand the range of equipment used to provide communication access and the factors that influence the choice to use or not use specific equipment.
  • Describe how and why assistive communication provides access (e.g., communication. learning, socialization) at school and at home.
  • Describe the collaborative nature between family and school team members to ensure access to curriculum.
Behavior and Environmental Supports badge image

Behavior and Environmental Supports

  • Understand that all behavior has a purpose and how to identify that purpose.
  • Recognize that a child's behavior is a functional strategy to cope with a given situation.
  • Be able to describe how expectations, both high and low, impact behavior.
  • Be able to describe how the environment impacts behavior and can be modified.
Orientation and Mobility in Everyday Routines badge image

Orientation and Mobility in Everyday Routines

  • Understand how an effective travel routine can support a student's practice of O&M skills.
  • Understand the "10 Principles of Effective Travel Routines" and how to apply intervener strategies to support student learning related to each principle.
  • Understand how environmental features help a student learn about the concepts of space and distance.
  • Understand how environmental features can be sequenced to help a student know where he or she is in space (orientation).
  • Understand that the skills a student acquires in the context of travel routines have a direct, positive impact on his or her inclusion in family, school, and community life.
  • Understand that the skills acquired in the context of travel routines lead to higher levels of safe, efficient, and independent travel.

Professionalism

The Role of Interveners in Educational Settings badge image

The Role of Interveners in Educational Settings

  • Be able to explain the role of an intervener.
  • Understand the Principles of Intervention.
  • Be able to describe intervention as team process.
  • Be aware of basic team dynamics.
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Collaborative Teaming and Family Partnerships

  • Understand the importance of clear communication for the team dynamic.
  • Describe strategies to support good team communication.
  • Recognize the role and responsibilities of each member of the team, including the family.
  • Understand the importance of "role release."Understand the importance of managing conflict.

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