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Teacher of the Deafblind

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Teacher of the Deafblind

Interveners and Qualified Personnel

This page was last updated on Jan 12, 2017 at 4:33 pm


Students with deaf-blindness are considered a low incidence population nationally. Partners in this community are developing strategies to ensure that this group of students have teachers with knowledge and skills to meet their needs.  The effort to promote the establishment of a Teacher of the Deafblind has been percolating within the field and across the community of practitioners for a number of years.  CEC has established competencies for this position.  The information presented on this page captures the current state of resource and planning.  Currently a group of practitioners is forming to further conversation.  If you have questions about these efforts, please feel free to post to the Forum that is part of the Interveners and Qualified Personnel Initiative Group or contact Initiative Lead, Linda McDowell

       Poster image described below

Amy Parker, Ed.D., Cathy Nelson, Ph.D., Susan Patten, Cyral Miller and Debbie Sanders

The Evolving Role of TDB

The Need (Blaha, Cooper, Irby, Montgomery & Parker)

 “Teachers of deafblind are needed both direct and consultative services. Direct instruction may include activities incorporating the following:

  • vision awareness or vision efficiency activities;
  • auditory awareness or training;
  • activity routines which facilitate use of object symbols, tactile symbols, spoken, signed or picture symbols;
  • tactile awareness training leading to tactile symbol or pre-braille activities;
  • spatial awareness and exploration;
  • literacy awareness including pre-braille or print activities; and
  • assistive technology devices and applications.”

“Consultative services include supporting and participating in planning with the entire educational team, particularly the classroom teacher and intervener. Areas in which the teacher of students with deafblindness will have particular expertise are:

  • assessment and evaluation of sensory and communication skills;
  • creating, providing and supporting the use of materials appropriate for the student's sensory needs; 
  • information and support of communication systems;
  • supporting the use of assistive technology;
  • collaborating on accommodations and modifications of instructional materials and activities to meet the students sensory needs; and developing meaningful educational activities.”

Image: Five rectangular text boxes arranged in a circular design around a circular text box. Between each rectangular text box is an arrow going to the right, towards the next text box. From the top read: Standards of Practice, Pre-service Training, In-service Training, Leadership Development, Expanded Research. The circular text box in the center reads: Planning, Coordination, Evaluation. ** Can we email Amy for Figure 1 from poster?

 Underneath this arrangement reads: Figure 1. Comprehensive system of personnel development for children and youth who are deafblind. Adapted with permission from the Early Childhood Personnel Center and the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center: Personnel/Workforce Component of the Early Childhood System Framework.

(Parker & Nelson, American Annals of the Deaf, 2016)

Current Teacher Preparation Programs With an Emphasis in Deafblindness

"With guidance from OSEP, the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) has taken on the task of coordinating efforts among the various programs that offer at least some coursework in deafblindness. Currently, the project is attempting to identify the programs and describe how each of the program’s coursework is offered and funded. As of early 2016, approximately 19 programs have been identified as having at least some deafblind themes or emphases within existing coursework. Of these, seven programs offer a specialization or graduate certificate in deafblindness:

  • Boston College
  • East Carolina University
  • Hunter College
  • San Francisco State University
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of Utah
  • Utah State University

 The other identified programs have deafblind content embedded into visual impairment, severe disability, or deaf/hard of hearing programs. Some of the programs deliver courses on-campus and some are delivered through various models of distance technology 

(NCDB Personnel Preparation Sub-Committee, 2016)."  (Parker & Nelson, 2016)

CEC Knowledge and Skills Competencies for Teachers of the Deafblind

The Council for Exceptional Children recognizes special standards for interveners and teachers with specific training in deafblindness.

  • Specialization Knowledge and Skill Set for Paraeducators who are Interveners.
  • Initial Special Educators serving students with deafblindness.

These two points represent the overlap in knowledge and skills required to have a complete educational model with qualified Teacher of Deafblind for assessment, planning coordination and instruction.

State Examples of Building the Role Through Partnerships in Practice and Preparation


“The task force created a state plan for children and youth who are deafblind and task force members, particularly parents, successfully lobbied the state legislature for funding.  According to the state plan, statewide services for children and youth who are deafblind consisting of interveners and deafblind specialists were to be housed at USDB along with the federal technical assistance project which became the Utah Deaf-Blind Project”

(Nelson & Sanders, 2014).


  • In an effort to develop and enhance educational services to students, TSBVI launched a mentor program in 2009. Five teachers from 3 regions were selected because of their background and training in DB. They were also chosen because of their experiences in DB. They received intensive technical assistance and support. The pilot teachers engaged in rich discussion about the role of teachers.
  • Partnership happened with local districts (Houston) where there was recognition of this unique instructional need.
  • From June 2011 through May 2013, 7 TDBs and their administrators met with project staff to define unique practices for serving students.
  • Over the course of the collaboration, student, teacher and systems outcomes were measured as case studies.
  • The model continues to grow with administrative support for additional training at Texas Tech University and intensive partnership with Texas Deaf-Blind Outreach Staff.

(Montgomery, 2014 & Montgomery, 2015)

National Next Steps

  • Working systematically to define the role in a partnership with practitioners and personnel prep.
  • Examining evidences and outcomes from practice.
  • Examining opportunities to partner with low incidence models to support existing networks of teachers.
  • Partner with administrators to look at cost sharing around itinerant models.

Image: A student and two communication partners sit together in front of a tactile schedule for the month of March. One communication partner sits facing away from the camera and is tactile signing with the student. The other communication partner and student are smiling. 

National Center on Deaf-Blindness logo.

Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind logo.

Texas School for the Blind logo.

College of Education at the University of Utah logo.

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