Instruction for Students With Deaf-Blindness
Staff Training and Interveners
Our students who are registered with the NJ Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NJCDB) receive ongoing support provided through the state of New Jersey through in-services and consultation services. First Children uses an intervener for our deaf-blind students. Twelve First Children School staff members have completed intervener training which enables them to support access to instruction/intervention for students who have deaf-blindness. We also have two staff members currently pursuing national certification as interveners. Our speech pathologists have initiated a school-wide core vocabulary that includes words, pictures and tactile symbols and is promoted throughout the school to all staff and students. A universal set of tactile symbols is utilized to provide consistency for student, staff, and daily activity recognition. Staff who work with these children wear bracelets that the children can feel and identify who is with him.
The curriculum focus for the child with deaf-blindness differs from that of the child with only a single sensory impairment. The deaf education focus may be primarily on using language to code existing concepts. The curriculum focus for a child with a visual impairment may be more oriented toward building concepts and experiences which can provide a firm cognitive foundation for language. The curriculum focus for a child with deaf-blindness should be on bonding and developing interactions and routines for expanding the frequency and functions of communication. This child will not learn about objects or actions incidentally. He or she cannot tie together the fragmented input he receives without interpretation and instruction from others. The child must be taught to use and accept this instruction.
Children with deaf-blindness require considerable modifications to teaching content and different teaching strategies. These children cannot learn from they see like the deaf child or from listening like a child who is blind, instead, they learn only by what they do. Since no learning is taking place for them while waiting for others to take their turn, small group or individual instruction becomes critical.
These children may have problems experiencing new things. Encountering the world without benefit of vision and hearing requires a great deal of trust. Bonding with each child is critical for the instructor, therefore it is important to evaluate the child’s response to an individual when determining who will be the primary provider of instruction. These children may be withdrawn or passive, content to stay in one place and let the world come to them.
Safety is also of critical importance to children with deaf-blindness. Not only must the environment be made safe for them, but they must feel safe in order to move around on their own. If this does not occur, the child with deaf-blindness is more likely to stay in one spot resisting interaction with his or her environment and the people in it. Instruction and support from an orientation and mobility specialist are very important. That person may help staff evaluate the environment for hazards and develop travel routes for the child to use. He or she may work directly with him to orient him to that environment and provide training on travel techniques and travel equipment.