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Implementing Evidence-Based Practices for Children Who Are Deaf-Blind: A TA Reference Guide

Getting Started

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Overview

Typically, state deaf-blind projects begin work in the Exploration Phase by carrying out long-distance fact finding with potential TA recipients who have contacted a project for assistance. The strategies in this section outline activities that can be helpful during these initial interactions and highlight the importance of beginning to build good relationships from the earliest point of contact. 

Engage in informal conversations with potential TA recipients

In response to TA requests, state deaf-blind project staff typically have one or more informal conversations via phone or Internet (e.g., Skype) with family members, teachers, or other school or agency contacts before making a face-to-face visit. 

Note: The "Tools & Resources" section below includes several examples of forms created by state deaf-blind projects. Throughout the guide, items contributed by state projects are indicated by the state abbreviation after the item name.

Advice from Colleagues

Often TA means going out on a visit, but it can also take other forms—written information, a phone call, a webinar, or a video meeting.
Over the years I have begun to think about how to maximize the efficiency of my TA, so I do some digging before I go out to visit a team. It is not possible to treat TA in the same way as being an itinerant. A lot of my initial time is spent over email or on the phone, prodding a bit to see what may be helpful and building a relationship. What they identify at first, though, may not truly be what they need, so don't hesitate to go out with one idea and then once you're there, shift or adjust your approach as you get to know them better.
Provide information

As part of initial connections with individuals, schools, or agencies who request TA, share brochures or other information about your project as well as basic information about deaf-blindness.

Advice from Colleagues

Giving people webinars, resources, videos, etc. to watch before you visit is a good strategy, so they have a foundation for what you are going to discuss.
Ask for reports about the child to be sent to you in advance

It can be helpful to have information about a child sent to you before a visit, if possible. This might include:

  • Audiological and ophthalmological reports
  • A description of the child in writing (e.g., basic information about communication)
  • IEPs/IFSPs

In some cases, a state project may ask a school team or parent to complete an assessment in advance, such as the Communication Matrix, HomeTalk, or functional vision and hearing assessments.

Advice from Colleagues

We require a description of the child in writing (e.g., basic information about communication), but it isn't always realistic to insist on certain types of documentation. Many students haven't had good assessments and the documentation doesn't exist. Sometimes the only reliable information you have about a child is what educators and parents tell you.
It's always good if the team provides you with information in advance, but if you have too many hoops for people to go through, it can interfere with establishing a relationship.

Tools & Resources

Identify team members

Clarify who is on the team that will be receiving TA and help them determine if additional people should be involved.1, 20 Potential team members may include:

  • Teachers
  • Other professionals (e.g., orientation and mobility instructor, speech therapist, occupational therapist)
  • Interveners or other paraprofessionals
  • Administrators
  • Parents or other family members
  • The student, if appropriate

Advice from Colleagues

Students who can advocate for themselves are important team members. If they are capable of participating, they should be included.
It is essential to work with educators to help them ensure that families are actively involved in decisions that are made for their child.

Tools & Resources

Foster relationships

Begin to build a positive, collaborative relationship between yourself and the team:12

  • Establish trust and confidentiality
  • Show empathy for recipients’ struggles and challenges
  • Promote positive, open communication

A strong partnership supports open communication and is an important driver of success when outcomes involve behavior change.

Advice from Colleagues

It’s important to notice what people are doing well, praise them, and build from there (“What I’m thinking is that down the road we want…”).
With intensive TA, I want to build a friendly, long-term relationship, so it’s important not to move too fast. I try to be very positive in initial interactions and follow the adage of nine positive comments for every suggestion. No one is required to let me in the door. You have to support the student, but do it in a way that ensures everyone is willing to work together.
The relationship piece is really important. If you help the team solve a problem, then you get buy-in.

Tools & Resources