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Increasing Recognition and Use of Interveners: West Virginia

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West Virginia SenseAbilities, the state's deaf-blind project, succeeded in adding "interveners" as a related service in state education regulations. This document describes how they achieved this by understanding their state's educational system and aligning their efforts with existing educational structures and culture.

Advocacy

Advocacy for intervener services was led by the state deaf-blind project, which is located at the West Virginia Department of Education. The location of the project and the long-term tenure of the project’s staff provided access to internal processes for proposing changes to education regulations.

Regulations

The effort by the deaf-blind project to include interveners in state education regulations began in 2011. Consideration of a number of state-specific factors informed the decision to pursue a regulatory process instead of legislation. These included:

  • The presence of strong unions in West Virginia with considerable influence over job classifications that are added to WV Code by the legislature.
  • An external audit of the WV Department of Education, mandated by the state legislature, underscored the state’s legislative complexities and control over education.

The regulatory change process involved the following steps:

  1. Meeting with state education legal counsel to craft language to include interveners as a related service.
  2. Meeting with the state education certification director to determine certification requirements.
  3. Seeking approval from the state special education executive director.

Step 1: Addressing Legal Requirements

A critical first step was to meet with legal counsel and policy committees within the state’s department of education to present regulatory changes that would include interveners as a related service. This determined where interveners would fit best within the existing regulatory structure and addressed potential legal issues and concerns.

Step 2: Addressing Certification Requirements

Discussions with the director of certification covered where interveners fit within the state’s existing certification and position description system. In examining existing structures, they realized there was no single certification that would cover interveners, so a job description was created that linked to five existing categories (see “Job Classification” below). A video demonstrating the strength of interveners helped the director understand their role.

Step 3: Special Education Director Approval

The first two steps were taken to address potential questions and concerns and thus increased the likelihood that the state’s special education executive director would support the use of interveners and the proposed regulatory changes. This was a key factor in obtaining buy-in.

Other Advocacy Activities

Additional advocacy activities by the state deaf-blind project included:

  • Presentations at statewide special education director meetings about the benefits of interveners. They used national efforts and achievements as justification for the role.
  • Provision of information on deaf-blindness and intervener practices to state special education monitors to use in their work with school districts.
  • Training for families on deaf-blindness and intervener practices to bolster family advocacy efforts.
  • Provision of child-specific technical assistance related to intervener services within school districts, typically targeting administrators and service providers. An NCDB webinar on the Recommendations for Improving Intervener Services was an effective tool in highlighting this unique need for children with deaf-blindness.

Adoption

Intervener Services

The request was approved and added to the West Virginia Department of Education regulations. The following sections describe specific changes. For more information see Interveners in West Virginia.

Definition

A glossary of terms in the state’s education regulations now includes the following definition:

An intervener is a specially trained person who works consistently one-to-one with a student who is deafblind. The intervener facilitates access to the environmental information that is usually gained through vision and hearing but which is incomplete to the child who is deafblind. The intervener helps the student gather information, learn concepts and skills, and develop communication and language.

Language Recognizing Interveners

Policy 2419: Regulations for the Education of Students with Exceptionalities
Chapter 9: General Supervision
B. Paraprofessionals, Assistants, and Aides

The district may employ paraprofessionals, interveners, assistants, and aides who are appropriately trained and supervised to assist in the provision of special education and related services to students with disabilities if they meet standards established by the WVDE.

Job Classification

Instead of developing a separate classification for interveners (which would require legislative action), the role was combined with existing one-to-one support classifications shown in the following table. This was done to adhere to strong union work rules and address resistance to added regulatory burdens on schools.

Classification Training / Competency Requirements
Aide Basic health and safety
Braille Support Display of braille competency
Sign Support Display of sign language competency
Paraprofessional 36 college credit hours from an approved university (intervener training credits can be applied toward this requirement)
Interpreter Must be certified or tested and demonstrate competence

The WV Online IEP now includes an option to combine any of these positions with “Intervener”:

  • Aide/Intervener
  • Braille Specialist/Intervener
  • Sign Support Specialist/Intervener
  • Paraprofessional/Intervener
  • Sign Language Interpreter/Intervener

See Interveners in West Virginia for descriptions of each of these positions.

The following screenshot shows the entry screen for adding a related service. Interveners are identified as Braille Support Services, Interpreting Services, Sign Language Support Services, or Personal Care Services (for the Paraprofessional and Aide classifications).



The deaf-blind project encourages school districts to assign intervener positions to their districts, rather than individual schools, so the position follows a child as he or she ages and switches schools.


Training

West Virginia has no specific regulatory requirements for intervener training to date, but is making efforts to provide and promote training opportunities:

  • The deaf-blind project offers intervener training to districts that adopt the intervener position for a student. The need for training can be included on a student’s IEP.
  • As noted above, intervener training credits count toward paraprofessional training requirements.
  • Certified interpreters are required to have a professional development plan in place. Intervener training may be applied towards fulfillment of this plan.
  • Braille and sign support positions do not have requirements for university-level training, but individuals in these positions can use training in deaf-blindness to fulfill competency requirements.

Other existing low-incidence structures that contribute to strengthening the intervener position in West Virginia include:

  • A low-incidence coordinator at the state department of education who oversees the following areas: blind/visually impaired, deaf/hard of hearing, and deaf-blind services, and directs the state deaf-blind project.
  • All instructional services (e.g., TVI, DHH) are supplied through local school districts.
  • Existing schools for the deaf and the blind.

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