Assessing Needs and Identifying Outcomes

The activities in this section are closely linked. They involve identifying a child's needs, determining the team's current capacity to meet those needs, and figuring out solutions to build the knowledge and skills team members must have to implement effective practices for the child.

A thorough needs assessment provides the foundation for identifying appropriate goals and outcomes.1, 4, 12, 20 It should be conducted with the team (including family members) to gain a comprehensive understanding of the scope of the need and model collaboration.12 Specific activities include:

  • Collecting and analyzing child-specific information (e.g., medical reports, IEP, assessment data)
  • In-depth discussions with team members:12
    • Create a “space for mutual learning” to clarify, adapt, and improve the TA request 
    • Keep in mind that team members may not always be able to easily articulate their needs (what they actually want and need may be different from their initial request)
  • Use of specific instruments to define and quantify the needs of the child and characteristics of the classroom and school that impact the child
  • Assessment of team member knowledge and skills

The tools and resources below link to a number of items that can be used to assess characteristics of students, programs, classrooms, and personnel, including various examples from state deaf-blind projects. There are also links to other resources that may be helpful during this phase. For example, the CEC intervener and teacher standards are not needs assessments but outline knowledge and skills recognized as important for working with children who are deaf-blind.

Advice from Colleagues

Needs assessment is not a singular event that occurs at the beginning of TA. It’s ongoing in nature. This is especially true during long-term TA relationships where new issues and areas of need crop up as others are resolved.

Although state deaf-blind projects don't typically conduct in-depth developmental or educational evaluations of children, they often recommend tools for teams to complete and provide advice about appropriate evaluation methods. Links to several common assessments as well as information pages on the NCDB website are provided below.

Needs assessment findings are used to determine specific goals and outcomes,1, 4 which are typically related to:

  • Increased team member knowledge and skills
  • Child change
  • Classroom change

Discussions with a team should result in very specific goals and outcomes (for the child and the adults) that can be realistically achieved given the resources of the team and the state deaf-blind project. For example, if the goal is for a student to use an object calendar, conversations might include the following questions:

  • Will the administration release staff for the time needed to train, plan, and problem solve?
  • Will parents be able to share information and help the team select objects?
  • Can the state project provide support and training at the times the team has available?

Advice from Colleagues

Usually the team talks about child outcomes, while our project thinks in terms of adult learning objectives and sets up TA accordingly (i.e., a series of activities or objectives for the adults to accomplish).
I like to ask teams, “What is it that you would like to be different at the end of our time together?”
The IEP can be a great planning tool. You can use it to discuss the student’s goals and his needs related to those goals. Then you create a plan, schedule, and list of what the team needs to do.
I like to share with the team what I’ve observed about the child and his or her program and then work with them to determine targets for TA. There are always so many needs . . . you could do a million things, so together we identify what is most important and pick a few needs to address first. Ultimately, to get buy-in, you have to let them determine what they will work on.

Tools & Resources