The Teaching Research
In This Issue
Breaking Through the Barriers with
Usher Family Weekend at Camp Berachah
Recreational Activities for Children and
Youth Who Are Deafblind
Teacher Preparation for the Education of
Students who are Deafblind: A Retrospective and Prospective View
For Your Library
Conferences and Events
Breaking Through the Barriers with Leadership
Suzanne V. Ressa
Helen Keller National
In June 2006 at its national
conference in Towson, Maryland, the American Association of the Deaf-Blind
(AADB) offered a unique opportunity to twelve young adults between the ages of
16 and 20 who are deaf-blind. In the past, AADB has welcomed youth at its
national conferences, but the number of attendees under the age of 20 has been
low and the general focus of the workshops and social activities has been on an
older generation. A small group of individuals who work closely with the state
deaf-blind projects and various programs for deaf-blind youth recognized the
interest young adults have in becoming involved with AADB. They met to
brainstorm ways that these younger members could be included in the conference
and obtain valuable skills that might lead to personal insight and growth as
future leaders in their home communities and schools. The result was that
Suzanne Ressa, Sister Bernie Wynne, and Susan Lascek (Helen Keller National
Center); Emily Taylor-Snell (Florida Deaf-Blind Outreach Project); Mike Fagbemi
(National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness); Debbie Parkman (Georgia Sensory
Assistance Project); and Paul Malloy (New York Deaf-Blind Project) met in early
2006 to lay the foundation for what would become the first workshop to focus on
leadership training for youth who are deaf-blind.
Comprised of the aforementioned individuals, AADBs newest
committee, the AADB Young Adult Leadership Challenge (YALC), began planning for
this exciting training by meeting regularly to discuss the programs
vision and mission. Leadership training opportunities for youth with
disabilities have long been limited, and leadership workshops for youth who are
deaf-blind were nonexistent. The committees first challenge was to
develop a leadership training model that was instructional, engaging, and fun,
but at the same time relevant and appropriate for young adults who are
deaf-blind. To do this, the committee needed input from various sources, most
importantly, from young adults. Fortunately, a wonderful opportunity presented
itself at a teen retreat for blind and deaf-blind youth in Georgia in February
2006. The committee members attended the retreat to assist with the program and
to discuss the future AADB leadership training.
This retreat proved to be an ideal setting to assess the key
elements of a successful youth program. Many noteworthy insights were gleaned
from the committees participation in this retreat, including the
following: young people will open up more when the number of adults present is
limited (particularly when parents are not involved); they enjoy action or
movement activities that get them out of their seats; they are not afraid to
discuss the challenges they face (in fact, they seem to welcome opportunities
to share this information); and lastly, the right combination of interpreting
and support service provider (SSP) assistance, utilizing individuals who
understand the unique communication needs of the participants, is paramount to
the success of the program.
At the conclusion of the teen retreat, the committee had
formulated a vision for the AADB Young Adult Leadership Challenge. The mission
of the week-long training would be to empower young adults to become confident
and effective leaders using a small group forum with fun, interactive
discussions and activities. The committee planned to keep in touch with the
young participants after the training to learn whether or not it resulted in
their becoming more effective leaders in their schools and communities.
Application forms for YALC were sent to state deaf-blind project
coordinators and HKNC regional offices throughout the country with a request
for help to identify potential candidates. The application outlined
requirements for participation and sought the following information from
applicants: (a) examples of leadership skills and experiences; (b) clubs and
service organizations in which they have been involved; (c) awards, honors, or
special recognitions they have received; and (d) ways in which applicants have
promoted deaf-blind awareness within their schools or communities. Finally, the
applicants were asked to submit two letters of recommendation. Completed
applications were reviewed by a group of volunteer professionals from the field
of deaf-blindness and individuals who are deaf-blind. Applicants who
demonstrated a strong interest in leadership received the strongest
The twelve young adults who were accepted came from eight states
in five regions of the country. Their ages ranged from 16 to 20 years; nine
were female and three male. They all demonstrated previous experience as
leaders. A young man from Wisconsin was valedictorian of his class; a young
woman from Florida had presented at a Rehabilitation Services Administration
national conference in Washington, DC; another student from Georgia was elected
treasurer of the local chapter of the Junior National Association of the Deaf;
and a student from New York had participated in Mock Trial at his high school.
In addition, the young adults had a strong desire to improve their leadership
skills, as noted in their application statements. One young man from California
wrote, At my school Im the only deaf-blind student and there are no
others like me. I want to show the students and staff that deaf-blind people
can do things like them. Another young woman from Georgia wrote, By
attending the Young Adult Challenge, I hope to increase my leadership skills so
I can impact the quality of life for children and adults with
deaf-blindness. A third student wrote, I recently found out that I
have Usher Syndrome. Only a few of my friends know about it. I want to show
them a positive attitude and tell them about Usher Syndrome.
Prior to the conference, the young adults were invited to
participate in an on-line chat via e-mail to get to know each other and to
provide information that might help the curriculum committee develop a
meaningful training module. The first group e-mail went out, and the recipients
were asked to send a hello message to the others telling a little
about themselves. The return messages started flying through cyberspace. For
some, this group e-mail was the first encounter with other people who are
deaf-blind, and their excitement over meeting each other was evident in the
messages. As one youth commented, I havent met a deaf-blind person.
It would be a great experience for me to meet someone who has the same
condition and they would finally understand what I am going through.
Another young adult shared that she is excited about learning sign language,
I have retinitis pigmentosa and have a hearing impairment. I am learning
sign language and hopefully Ill learn more when I hang out with all of
you! The messages continued to flow back and forth, and it soon became
evident that this forum would provide useful information for the development of
a successful leadership program.
With this in mind, a later e-mail posed another question to the
group: When you think of strong leaders, who do you think of?
Surprisingly, the traditional names one would expect to hear, such as Martin
Luther King and those of United States presidents, were not mentioned. Instead,
the group offered the names of leaders with whom they could personally
identify. Among those mentioned were Thomas Gallaudet, Helen Keller, and Ray
Charles. Also revealed in the e-mail messages was the fact that the young
adults had very little knowledge about the leadership of AADB. This information
resulted in the YALC committees suggestion that AADB board members be
invited to meet the young adults during the week-long training. With the help
of this on-line chat forum, the curriculum committee had a lot of information
and insight to work with and a training module was finalized. The next step was
the AADB national conference in Towson, Maryland!
At the Conference
Shaking pom-poms and spraying silly string in the air, the twelve
young adults shouted their excitement at being recognized by the conference
attendees during the opening ceremonies. This vibrant display of youthful
enthusiasm clearly indicated that AADBs younger members are eager to be
involved in the deaf-blind community. Throughout the week, the young adults
made their presence known to the larger (and older) membership by participating
in some of the traditional events that AADB offers. One such event, the
Meet the Board session, tied in nicely with the theme of leadership
and offered the young adults a wonderful opportunity to hear how AADBs
leaders became involved and what their goals are for the organization. The
young adults also joined a workshop on communication and learned about the
importance of using interpreting support to become effective communicators and
presenters. But the highlight of their AADB experience, by all accounts, was
the daily workshops where they met together as a small group and shared their
feelings and thoughts on various topics related to leadership.
With enjoyment as the underlying criteria for every teachable
moment, the YALC committee kept the young adults busy. The leadership training
sessions included engaging group activities followed by time for discussion and
reflection. The first day began with a bumper sticker activity. Names of famous
leaders were printed and Brailled on large stickers and adhered to the back of
each young adult. As they mingled and interacted with each other, they tried to
determine whose name was on their back. The rules were that they could only ask
questions that resulted in yes or no answers. Following
this activity, the young adults discussed the characteristics of strong
leaders, revealing those qualities they would personally like to embrace.
Another session focused on public speaking skills. After learning fundamental
presentation skills, the participants were asked to tell a funny story in front
of the group. Not surprisingly, many of them were nervous and hesitant to do
this, but with encouragement each one presented their story to the delight of
the others. Fun activities like these were instrumental in teaching leadership
skills; however, the group discussions were equally powerful. The young adults
shared some of their negative experiences with public speaking. One young woman
told how she was teased by a group of girls in high school for having a vision
and hearing loss. In a misguided attempt to stop the teasing, the principal
forced her to stand in front of the entire school and explain her disability.
Another student revealed that he has difficulty presenting in front of people
because he is blind and doesnt know how to position his eyes so he will
be looking at the audience. As the students shared their
experiences, they sometimes learned that others in the group faced similar
challenges. The realization that one is not alone can be instrumental in
breaking through feelings of isolation. One young adult captured this best when
she wrote AADB changed my life because I now realize that there are
people just like me out there and they share some of the same experiences as
In addition to the workshop sessions, the participants enjoyed
many team-building activities and social events, including an afternoon of rock
climbing. The highlight of the week was when they met Cody Colchado. Cody is a
15-time World Champion Power Lifter for the Blind. He talked about his struggle
with anger and depression over having a vision and hearing loss and how
power-lifting helped him overcome these challenges. At the conclusion of his
talk, Cody asked the students to write down their fears, frustrations, and
challenges on a block of wood. One student wrote, I am afraid to go
blind; another wrote, My teachers dont believe in me;
and another one wrote, I hate being teased for being deaf-blind.
Cody then karate-chopped through each block of wood, demonstrating that
barriers can be broken with a positive attitude and strong determination.
As the week came to an end, the young adults were asked to reflect
on what they had learned and what they think their communities could do to help
them become leaders. They developed a list of supports that would contribute to
their success. The following suggestions were made:
- Schools should offer public-speaking classes to students who
- Support service provider (SSP) programs should assist young
adults who wish to join school clubs and community organizations.
- Deaf-blind sensitivity training should be offered in the school
setting to all students and school personnel.
- Individualized education plans (IEPs) should include leadership
objectives and goals for students who are deaf-blind.
- Students who are deaf-blind should serve as the team leader at
their IEP meetings.
- The presence of note-takers would facilitate deaf-blind
students involvement in school, club, and community organization
- Mentorship programs should be offered.
- Internship opportunities should be made available.
- Schools and vocational rehabilitation agencies should support
the purchase of essential adaptive technology.
- Leadership training should be offered in the school
- AADB should offer young adults opportunities to become involved
with the organization.
- AADB should offer young adult workshops at every national
A common concern shared by all the participants was the lack of
role models and mentors in their schools and communities. At AADB they met many
adults who are successfully attending college, working, raising families, and
more importantly, serving as leaders in various ways within the deaf-blind
community and the community at-large. The impact of these connections is
significant. Currently there are very few mentoring programs available to youth
who are deaf-blind, and the need continues to grow. In addition, there are very
few opportunities for deaf-blind youth to serve as mentors to others in their
peer group. With these thoughts in mind, several of the YALC participants made
a pledge to get more involved as mentors and mentees in the deaf-blind
Nearly one year later, the young adults remain committed to their
pledge. Three of them have expressed interest in becoming mentors at the next
AADB conference or at a deaf-blind retreat for youth. All of them have
expressed interest in assisting with the next Young Adult Leadership Challenge.
The YALC planning committee has remained in contact with the young adults
through e-mail and is pleased to report that many of them are already serving
as leaders in their schools and communities. One young adult is president of
the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Club at his high school. Another reports that she
is a member of the Deaf-Blind Advisory Council in her state and is working on a
youth mentoring program for teenagers who are deaf-blind. One of the young men
writes that he is involved in several leadership roles at his college. He is a
residence hall associate, he has helped to train some of the resident
assistants, and he is a member of the Student Access Society.
For the twelve young adults, the AADB Youth Leadership Challenge
was a life-changing experience. They have shared comments such as:
- "The friendships that I developed over the short week changed
- Being involved with AADB made me realize that there are a
lot of great opportunities out there for people like me;
- YALC was the best experience Ive ever had in my
life other than the joy of passing a 4th grade reading level!
These vibrant individuals have been empowered with the skills to
accomplish many goals. It is now our responsibility to provide the resources
and supports they need to fulfill them.
Usher Family Weekend at Camp Berachah
Nancy Hatfield and Kathee Scoggin
State Services for Children with Deaf-Blindness
On September 15-17, 2006, nine
families with eleven children and young adults with Usher Syndrome converged on
Camp Berachah, near Seattle, from the states of Washington, Oregon, and Arizona
for a weekend learning experience. Several of these families had attended
previous family weekend events and the kids could not wait to reconnect with
The event was unique in that a group of adults with Usher Syndrome
(Types I, II, and III), led by Jelica Nuccio, director of the Deaf-Blind
Service Center in Seattle, played a key role in planning and leading the entire
weekend. This group of six talented peopleBruce Visser (Seattle), his
sister, Debra Kahn (Yakima), Aniko Samu Kuschatka (Walla Walla), Robert Taylor
(Bremerton), and aj Granda (Seattle)helped to ensure that the agenda and
activities were more deaf-blind friendly than ever.
Their goal was to function as mentors and provide emotional
support to the children and young adults with Usher Syndrome, as well as to
just have fun. They planned an icebreaker for Friday night and Saturday night
activitieswith emphasis on activethat required very little shared
language. Regardless of whether a person was Deaf or hard of hearing and used
sign language or not, everyone was able to become acquainted and enjoy each
others company. A fantastic corps of 15 Seattle-area interpreters,
coordinated by Ellie Savidge and Jeff Wildenstein, ensured communication access
for everyone; an awesome feat to observe.
family weekend participants
Dorothy Walt, regional representative for the Helen Keller
National Center, gave a brief overview of HKNC services, chatted with families,
and answered their questions throughout the day on Saturday. Dr. Gerald Chader
(just Jerry, please) of the Doheny Retina Institute at the
University of Southern California Keck Medical School, gave a warm, accessible
presentation of up-to-date research and treatments for retinitis pigmentosa.
Jerry spent the weekend answering our individual questions, not to mention
giving a memorable Saturday evening performance as owner of the Crabby
Shoe Store in an improvisational skit led by aj Granda and Bruce
A highlight for the parents and grandparents who attended was the
opportunity to gain support from other parents. Facilitated by our family
consultant, Tracy Jess, a group of experienced parents shared their stories and
lessons learned. Pat Clothier of Mt. Vernon, Luko Bruer (Jelica Nuccios
father) from Georgia, and Don and Vicki Taylor of Bremerton, deserve a huge
thank you for their openness and grace.
What did the children, teens, and twenties enjoy most about the
weekend? The answer to that question varied with age. Marissa, age 8, fell in
love with the horses, her child-care team, and leaders Jelica, Bruce, and
ajnot necessarily in that order. Jonathan, age 11, informed us that he
wanted to come to camp 365 days of the year and planned to spend a
good deal of that time in the swimming pool. Teenager Tim spent hours at the
go-kart track, and most of the teens braved the climb up a tree to experience
the thrill of a 250-foot zip-line ride, starting from a platform 30 feet up in
Marissa and Friend
The kids, the adults with Usher Syndrome, parents, and staff all
wrote evaluations of the weekend. Common comments were, Wish it could
have been longer, and Whens the next one? One
suggestion offered was a follow-up Play Day for people who attended
the Camp Berachah weekend, as well as for other interested families and
community members. Even the families from Oregon and Arizona said they would
make every effort to come.
This kind of support, education, and networking is critical for
families of children with Usher Syndrome to help them locate resources and
figure out what services their kids need to prepare for the future. By the end
of our September weekend, all of the children and young folks had connected in
special ways with their adult mentors; parents and grandparents connected with
and learned from each other; and all of us other adults learned from
The Usher Family Weekend was jointly sponsored by the state
deaf-blind projects of Washington, Arizona, and Oregon, and by grants from
Helen Keller National Center, the Oregon Commission of the Blind, and a private
foundation in Arizona. To learn more about Usher Syndrome, go to
http://www.dblink.org. If you would like to receive a paper copy of Dr. Gerald
Chaders PowerPoint presentation, check out our weekend agenda, or read
evaluation summaries with outcome measures, contact us at 800-572-7000
(Washington only) or 425-917-7827, or e-mail us at
This article was reprinted with
permission from Update: Washington State Services for Children with
Deaf-Blindness, Fall/Winter 2006.
Recreational Activities for Children and Youth Who
Department of Physical
Education and Sport, SUNY Brockport
Every individual has the right to
participate in recreational activities that meet their needs. Recreational
endeavors give us a break from work and the activities of daily living and are
a constructive and enjoyable way to spend free time. Recreation provides
opportunities to participate in normal activities and feel part of the larger
community, and it is a wonderful way to socialize with family and peers.
The suggested activities and modifications described in this
article are intended for children who are deafblind and may have additional
disabilities, and who range in age from preschool to high school. This article
complements one published in the Fall 2006 issue of Deaf-Blind
Perspectives about physical activities at home for children who are
deafblind (Lieberman & Pecorella, 2006).
There are a number of factors to consider when providing
successful and enjoyable recreational activities. The following are some
general rules of thumb.
Take time to learn an activity
Allow plenty of time to introduce an activity to a child and help
him or her to explore the playing area, become familiar with equipment, and
learn game rules. A child who kicks a ball during a kick ball game and is led
around the bases will not understand the concept of the game or have any idea
why he or she is running in a circle. The child needs time to feel the ball and
the bases, practice kicking and running, and learn the concept of the game in
order to clearly comprehend what is happening once play begins. This type of
orientation takes time.
For example, Darron had ridden a horse on several occasions, but
he had always been placed on the horse and never had the opportunity to feel
one from head to foot in order to gain an understanding of its size or physical
features. This past summer when attending camp, he spent an hour just feeling
the horse he was going to ride. He felt its tail, face, nose, back, and
underside. It helped him to understand what horseback riding really was and
made the experience more meaningful.
Juanita had been bowling many times, but she had never felt a
bowling pin and didnt know how the pins were configured or the distance
from the player to the pins. Because of this, she did not understand the need
to make an effort to roll the ball hard. When the game was explained to her
using a single pin and a model of all 10 pins, and she was able to walk the
distance of the balls travel, she began to comprehend the concept of the
game. This motivated her to increase her effort and participation and resulted
in more enjoyment.
Plan communication breaks
Ensure that there is clear communication before, during, and after
an activity. Plan communication breaks to provide feedback and respond to a
childs questions and needs. Planned receptive and expressive
communication breaks are especially important for continuous activities
such as rock climbing, biking, running, or swimming. Let the child know when
communication breaks will occur. For example, it may be necessary to stop after
running half of the length of a track or swimming one width of a pool in order
to check in with the child. Discrete activities such as bowling, shot put, or
archery have naturally occurring opportunities for communication (Arndt,
Lieberman, & Pucci, 2004).
In addition to planned communication breaks, establish ways to
communicate important information about a specific activity while its
occurring. These could include signs or cues to indicate finished
in rock climbing, biking, or swimming; signaling a right turn while bicycling;
signaling that a rock is on the right at 3 oclock for rock climbing; or
letting the child know that there are five more strokes until the end of the
pool when swimming. Using pre-established ways of communicating will help
children to feel comfortable and safe (Arndt, Lieberman, & Pucci,
One of the great benefits of recreational activity is that it
provides opportunities for socialization. For example, Irish dancing helped one
girl who is deafblind to develop balance, endurance, and agility, but it also
helped her stay in touch with her heritage and gave her something to do with
her sister and something to talk about at school with her peers. She made
several lasting friendships through the program and even performed in a talent
show at school. Dancing was a normal activity that helped her feel a part of
the larger community.
Activities should be modified to meet each childs abilities
and needs, but not all recreational activities require adaptation. Canoeing,
horseback riding, and riding a tandem bike, for example, can all be done with
relatively few modifications. Many activities, however, do require
modifications to equipment, playing areas, and game rules to suit each
childs preferences and abilities.
Visual, auditory, and tactile modifications
Visual modifications make equipment and play areas more visible.
Examples include using brightly colored tape to mark a playing area, such as
the beginning of a bowling lane, and brightly colored balls for any type of
Auditory modifications like the following make an activitys
objective more apparent to children with usable hearing: positioning a sound
source behind a goal (for example, behind a basketball hoop or horseshoe stake)
that helps the child to know where to aim, affixing balloons on an archery
target that make a popping sound when struck, and using a radio playing at one
end of a running track to help a child keep track of the number of laps he or
she has completed.
Children who rely on tactile cues may benefit from the use of
tactile markers in activities. For example, a guide rail may mark the start of
a bowling lane, or a small floor mat may identify an area for jump rope or
One very useful physical modification is to perform an activity
while seated. Most activities can be done while sitting or standing, but some
children may only be able to sit during an activity and others may find that an
activity is easier when seated. This is particularly helpful when first
learning a new skill. For example, archery involves a variety of skills. A
seated position provides balance and allows the child to focus on other skills,
such as holding the bow and aiming. Other activities that can be done while
seated or in a wheelchair include volleyball, horseshoes, shot put, tennis, and
Altering distances is another great way to match activities to
childrens physical abilities. For example, if a child does not have the
strength to hit a golf ball to the first hole of a golf course, intermediate
holes can be created using hula hoops or bright rope.
Closed-skill activities versus open-skill activities
Individuals who are deafblind often find it easier to participate
in closed-skill activities than in open-skill activities. Open-skill activities
have characteristics that change often, such as the speed or trajectory of a
ball, or the use of both offensive and defensive strategies. Activities that
involve open skills include volleyball, basketball, tennis, football, and
soccer. Closed-skill activities have characteristics that do not vary and
include running on a track, archery, bowling, shot put, ice skating, and
biking. Although closed-skill activities are often easier, many open-skill
activities can be modified. For example, basketball rules can be adapted to
allow a child to shoot from the foul line and get 1 point for hitting the
backboard, 2 points for hitting the rim, and 3 points for a basket. Modifying
open-skill activities increases the variety of sports and activities that
children can enjoy (Lieberman, 2005).
Competitive activities can be modified to become cooperative
activities. This is especially helpful when a child is learning a new skill.
For many, activities are more enjoyable if there are no winners or losers. For
example, in archery, horseshoes, or bowling, one can add up a team score
instead of individual scores. In running, biking, or swimming, one can total
the number of laps or distances for all the children collectively to see the
accomplishments of the group.
Following are suggestions for modifying several games using the
principles described above.
Ping-pong can be played while standing or sitting. Regular
ping-pong rules can be used, or the objective of the game can be changed to be
cooperative rather than competitive. For example, a goal for the players might
be to see how many times they can hit the ball over the net without making a
mistake. A child can even play ping-pong alone by folding half of the table up
and hitting the ball against the upturned section. Adaptations to the table and
ball can be tailored to each individuals needs. Table modifications
include adding 2- to 4-inch boards to the sides, so that the ball does not fall
off the table, and removing the net so the ball can go back and forth easily. A
large bright ball or balloon can be used instead of a typical ping-pong ball.
Children with hearing may be able to track a ball that has a bell or noisemaker
inside. Children with hearing may also enjoy a similar sport played by blind
athletes called Showdown (http://www.ibsa.es/eng/deportes/showdown/
In the game of horseshoes, two metal stakes are placed in the
ground about 30 feet apart. Each side is given two horseshoes, made of metal or
plastic, to throw at the stakes. The object of the game is to get the
horseshoes around a stake, and points are awarded for the number of horseshoes
that go around a stake, lean against a stake, or that are closest to a stake
for each round. Adaptations include using brighter stakes, additional stakes
(e.g., five to ten), lighter horseshoes, and varying distances between stakes.
The game can be played by individuals or teams.
Bocce is played with one small white ball, approximately 3 inches
in diameter, and eight larger colored balls, approximately 8 inches in
diameter. The white ball is thrown in the grass 6 to 20 feet from the
participants. Two to four people can play at a time, and the object of the game
is to score points by rolling the larger balls as close as possible to the
small white ball. Players are also allowed to hit other players balls
away from the white ball. Bocce can be adapted by using even larger balls, by
varying the distance the white ball is thrown, and by giving the players verbal
or signed feedback to let them know where a previous players ball landed.
Points can be calculated, or the game can be played just for fun.
A volleyball net can be set up in a backyard, garage, or basement.
Volleyball can be played standing up or sitting down, with a regulation
volleyball, trainer volleyball, beach ball, or balloon. Volleyball provides an
excellent example of how rules can be modified to make a game more inclusive.
The rules can be changed to allow players to serve closer to the net, hit the
ball more than once, or catch the ball in their hands. Players may even walk
with the ball and throw it over the net or be given physical assistance. The
game can be played competitively, or it can be played by adding points for the
number of times the ball goes over the net or for how many people get to touch
the ball in a point.
These are just a few examples of recreational activities, games,
and sports that can be adapted for children who are deafblind. There are a wide
variety of additional games that, with modification, can be fun and engaging
for children who are deafblind. Each child has the right to be self-determined
and experience a variety of recreational activities. It is worth the time and
energy spent to modify the activities to meet the needs of each unique child.
See the Fall 2006 issue of
Deaf-Blind Perspectives for additional resources and suggestions.
Arndt, K. L., Lieberman, L. J., & Pucci, G. (2004).
Communication during physical activity for youth who are deafblind. In
Teaching Exceptional Children Plus, 1(2). Available at
(Browse issue Vol. 1, Iss. 1 and download).
Lieberman, L. J. (2005). Visual impairments. In J. P. Winnick
(Ed.). Adapted physical education and sport (4th ed., pp. 206218).
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Lieberman, L. J., & Pecorella, M. (2006). Activity at home
for children and youth who are deafblind. Deaf-Blind Perspectives,
Lieberman, L. J., & Cowart, J. F. (1996).
Games for people with sensory impairments: Strategies for including
individuals of all ages. Champagne, IL: Human Kinetics.
American Printing House for the Blind Physical
Education Web site: http://www.aph.org/pe.
DB-LINK Web site: http://www.dblink.org (See Play and
Recreation in the Selected Topics section).
Teacher Preparation for the Education of Students
who are Deafblind: A Retrospective and Prospective View
Susan M. Bruce, Boston College
Nearly 15 years ago, Barbara
McLetchie, my respected colleague and friend, wrote about the status and
projected future of teacher preparation in the education of learners who are
deafblind (McLetchie, 1993). McLetchie focused her discussion on (a) an ongoing
need for federal funding of teacher preparation, (b) the expanding roles of
teachers caused by increasing diversity of the population and more frequent
inclusion of children who are deafblind, (c) the need for national standards
for teachers, and (d) the need for meaningful links to adult services. In this
article, I reexamine teacher preparation in these areas over the past 15 years,
and address additional current challenges.
The Need for Federal Funding and Program
The need for federal funding of teacher preparation is as
important today as it was 15 years ago. The Office of Special Education
Programs (OSEP) within the U.S. Department of Education currently funds the
following university programs that provide a focus on deafblindness: Boston
College; California State University, Northridge; Hunter College; Texas Tech
University; University of New Orleans; University of Southern Mississippi; and
Utah State University. The following universities also offer preparation in
deafblind education: University of Alabama, University of Arizona, North
Carolina Central University, and San Diego State University (Association for
the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, n.d.;
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, n.d.). While on the surface,
the number of programs may seem adequate to meet the need, the programs that
existed in the 20032004 school year collectively reported 32 graduates
(National Center on Low Incidence Disabilities, 2005), falling short of
McLetchies (1993) estimated need for 80 to 100 new teachers each
The field of deafblindness faces an ongoing problem with
instability of teacher preparation as evidenced by the closure of programs when
funding wanes and when faculty leave or retire. Only 5 of the 10 programs
identified by McLetchie and MacFarland in 1995 exist today, although new
programs have been developed. OSEP has consistently provided grants for the
preparation of teachers to work in the area of low-incidence disabilities, but
it has reduced annual awards by one-third over the past several years. Of note,
there has been a trend to fund personnel-preparation programs for longer time
periods (5 years instead of 3). This has reduced the amount of time that
faculty must invest in writing grants, freeing them to engage in other work
such as research that is vital to the identification of evidence-based
Programs in the area of low-incidence disabilities are not
typically a funding priority for university administrators. If programs in
deafblindness (and other low-incidence areas) are to be valued equally with
other programs, universities must be given incentives to develop and support
them. One option that has been used in other fields is for states to include
dedicated funds in their budgets so that program costs are shared with
universities. The resulting program stability would be vital to attracting
talented young teacher educators.
The Impact of Student Diversity and Inclusion on
Teacher preparation programs must prepare candidates to be
culturally responsive. McLetchie recognized the influence of student diversity
on teacher roles. According to Villegas and Lucas (2002), students of minority
status will be a statistical majority by 2035. Thirty-six percent of the
children on the 2004 National Deaf-Blind Child Count Summary (NTAC,
Teaching Research Institute, n.d.) are children of minority populations. Some
of these students experience a mismatch between their familys language
and the language used in schools. Quality teacher preparation programs are
founded on research, yet there has been very little research on how to teach
bilingual learners who are deafblind. In addition, children who are deaf-blind
have highly diverse needs in the areas of vision, hearing, physical
development, cognitive development, and health. No other disability group is so
diverse, and this challenges university faculty to prepare educators who can
teach to the many needs and strengths these children bring to the
As McLetchie articulated 15 years ago, inclusion has changed the
roles of teachers. Teachers who work in inclusive settings must have the
knowledge and skills to support co-teaching models, and they must be
comfortable as supervisors of paraprofessionals (French and Pickett, 1997).
Paraprofessionals in inclusive settings usually have the most day-to-day
responsibility for the instruction of the child because the supervising special
educator is seldom present with them in the general education setting
(Giangreco and Doyle, 2002).
The Need for National Standards
Recommended competencies for teachers and paraprofessionals were
developed in 1997 by the Perkins National Deafblind Training Project. The
publication, entitled Competencies for Teachers of Learners Who Are
Deafblind (McLetchie & Riggio, 1997), articulates teacher competencies
in the following areas: the impact of deafblindness; personal identity,
relationships, and self esteem; concept development; communication; hearing and
vision (structures, function, assessment, augmentative devices); orientation
and mobility; environment and materials; and professional issues (including
collaboration and advocacy). This document was developed for use by
universities in curriculum planning as well as by school districts to better
understand the many competencies that must be mastered by teachers working with
deafblind students. A companion document, Competencies for Paraprofessionals
Working with Learners Who Are Deafblind in Early Intervention and Educational
Settings, was published in 2001 (McLetchie & Riggio). In 2004, the
SKI-HI Institute and the National Technical Assistance Consortium for Children
and Young Adults Who Are Deaf-Blind (NTAC) created a community of
practice to focus on the competencies required of interveners and
paraprofessionals serving children who are deafblind. This group produced
Recommendations on the Training of Interveners for Students Who Are
Deafblind (Alsop et al., 2004), a document that built on the earlier work
of McLetchie and Riggio.
Giangreco, Edelman, Luiselli, and MacFarland (1997) clearly
described the effects of the increased use of paraeducators to serve children
with special needs and noted that the proliferation of instructional
assistants in public schools often has outpaced conceptualization of team roles
and responsibilities, as well as the training and supervision needs of
instructional assistants (p. 7). This issue is still relevant today, but
significant progress has been made in the development of competencies and of
preparation programs for paraeducators. Teachers must be familiar with the
standards of practice for paraprofessionals because they have responsibility
for preparing and supervising them.
The Need for Links to Adult Services
The Helen Keller National CenterTechnical Assistance Center
(HKNCTAC) developed a model for transition to adulthood planning and for
implementation that called on states to form interagency teams at the local and
state levels. This model proliferated in various forms across the nation
throughout the 1990s, improving transition outcomes through a collaborative
approach that included the child, family, consumer advocates, local school
districts, adult service agencies, state deafblind projects, and universities
(Rachal, 1995). In my experience, this collaborative effort influenced
curriculum in university programs as professors became more knowledgeable about
the realities of providing services to adults and about the transition services
available within their local and state communities. These service linkages are
of equal importance today.
Additional Challenges to Teacher Preparation
In addition to the issues identified by Barbara McLetchie 15 years
ago, which are still relevant today, teacher preparation in deafblindness faces
additional challenges. These include pressure to increase the amount of course
content offered in the general education curriculum, a need for advanced study
and research in deafblind education, and an increased need for collaboration
Program course content. Teacher preparation programs
specializing in deafblindness struggle to balance fulfillment of university and
state licensure requirements for a specific number of credit hours in both
general education subject areas (e.g., math, science) and in the general
teacher-education curriculum, with time required for the extensive and unique
preparation of teachers of children who are deafblind. Programs cannot simply
increase the total number of required credit hours because students are
reluctant to enroll in lengthy and expensive programs that do not yield
professional salaries commensurate with the investment of time and tuition
costs. This problem creates the need for collaboration between universities and
organizations in the field of deafblindness to promote continued development of
competencies in deafblindness through postgraduate professional
Need for advanced-level study in deafblind education. The
field of visual impairment has already studied and sought to address its need
for professionals with advanced university degrees by creating a collaborative
doctoral program, the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment
(http://www.pco.edu/nclvi.htm). The field of deafblindness must make a similar
effort to ensure that there are educational opportunities for students in the
areas of visual impairment, deafness, and severe disabilities to specialize in
deafblindness at the doctoral level. The stability of teacher preparation in
deafblindness is, in part, dependent on the ability to produce a sufficient
number of faculty for the future. The field of deafblindness also has a need
for advanced-level students to be prepared to conduct research in the
Increased need for collaboration. University programs are
responsible for preparing teachers who can successfully collaborate with
parents, other teachers, paraeducators, related service providers, educational
interpreters, language translators, and interveners to educate deafblind youth
(Silberman, Bruce, & Nelson, 2004; Turnbull et al., 2004). Teacher
candidates must also learn about the roles and services of organizations that
serve deafblind children so they will know to whom they can turn for support
and ongoing professional development.
The field of deafblindness has made important gains in the past 15
years. We have defined the knowledge and skills that competent teachers and
paraeducators of children who are deafblind must have. Continued support from
OSEP has been essential to teacher preparation in deafblindness and to the
organizations that provide ongoing professional development opportunities to
program graduates. More is being demanded of teacher preparation programs than
ever before. It is only through thoughtful collaboration among universities,
families, schools, the newly formed National Consortium of Deaf-Blindness
(formerly NTAC and DB-LINK), the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind
Youths and Adults (HKNC), and organizations in blindness and deafness that we
can meet the professional development needs of teachers and the educational
needs of children who are deafblind.
Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and
Visually Impaired (AER). (n.d.). University directory of programs in visual
impairments. [On-line]. Accessed November 10, 2006, at
Alsop, L., Killoran, J., Robinson, C., Durkel, J., & Prouty,
S. (2004). Recommendations on the training of interveners for students who
are deafblind. [On-line]. Accessed November 12, 2006, at
French, N. K., & Pickett, A.L. (1997). Paraprofessionals in
special education: Issues for teacher educators. Teacher Education and
Special Education, 20(1), 6173.
Giangreco, M. F., & Doyle, M. B. (2002). Students with
disabilities and paraprofessional supports: Benefits, balance, and band-aids.
Focus on Exceptional Children, 34(7), 112.
Giangreco, M. F., Edelman, S. W., Luiselli, T. E., &
MacFarland, S. Z. C. (1997). Helping or hovering? Effects of instructional
assistant proximity on students with disabilities. Exceptional Children,
McLetchie, B. A. B, & MacFarland, S. Z. C. (1995). The need
for qualified teachers of students who are deaf-blind. Journal of Visual
Impairment and Blindness, 89(3), 244248.
McLetchie, B. A. B. (1993). Personnel preparation: Presentation.
In J. W. Reiman and P. A. Johnson (Eds.), Proceedings of the National
Symposium on Children and Youth Who Are Deaf-Blind, December 57,
1992, McLean, VA, pp. 145158. Monmouth, OR: Teaching Research
McLetchie, B. A. B., & Riggio, M. (2001). Competencies for
paraprofessionals working with learners who are deafblind in early intervention
and educational settings. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind.
McLetchie, B.A.B., & Riggio, M. (1997). Competencies for
teachers of learners who are deafblind. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for
National Center on Low Incidence Disabilities (2005, April 24).
New personnel produced by programs, 20032004. [On-line]. Accessed
November 2, 2006, at
NTAC, Teaching Research Institute, Western Oregon University.
(n.d.) National deaf-blind child count summary, December 1, 2004.
[On-line]. Accessed November 2, 2006, at
Rachal, P. (1995). Interagency approaches to transition services
for young adults who are deaf-blind. In J. M. Everson (Ed.), Supporting
young adults who are deaf-blind in their communities: A transition planning
guide for service providers, families, and friends (pp. 301324).
Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Silberman, R. K., Bruce, S. M., & Nelson, C. (2004). Children
with sensory impairments. In F. P. Orelove, D. Sobsey, & R. K. Silberman
(Eds.), Educating children with multiple disabilities: A collaborative
approach (4th ed. pp. 425528). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. (n.d.).
Courses and distant learning on deafblindness through institutes of higher
education. [On-line]. Accessed January 14, 2007, at
Turnbull, R., Turnbull, A., Shank, M., & Smith, S. (2004).
Exceptional lives: Special education in todays schools (4th ed.).
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.
Villegas, A. M., & Lucas, T. (2002). Educating culturally
responsive teachers: A coherent approach. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Research on Literacy for Students Who Are
Amy R. McKenzie, Ed.D.
Florida State University
I am currently conducting research in two areas related to
students who are deaf-blind. The first is emergent literacy supports, and the
second is the selection of literacy media.
Emergent Literacy Supports
Emergent literacy is the phase of literacy development that begins
at birth and continues until a child has achieved functional or conventional
literacy (Sulzby & Teale, 1991). As a philosophy, it replaces earlier
pre-reading philosophies. Emergent literacy is based on the idea
that all children are developing readers and all behaviors and skills are
integral components of literacy development. Research indicates that the
environment, teaching strategies and activities, and teacher philosophies
regarding literacy are all significant factors in the development of emergent
In the area of emergent literacy, there is a void in the research
about children who are deaf-blind. This is particularly alarming given the
focus of the federal government on the development of literacy skills in all
children, as specified in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and its
Reading First subpart, and on the need for research-based
I am currently collecting data concerning support for emergent
literacy of children who are deaf-blind through the use of case study research.
Information about learning environments, teaching strategies and activities,
and teacher philosophies is being gathered through direct observations,
interviews, and document reviews. This research is a follow-up to an initial
study of the emergent literacy supports of three preschool students with
deaf-blindness (McKenzie, 2005). The goal of the current study is to expand the
age range and educational placements of the children under study. Additionally,
I am conducting a parallel study of the emergent literacy supports of students
who have visual and multiple impairments. I expect to analyze and publish
results in fall 2007. For more information, contact me at
Selecting Literacy Media
In summer and fall 2006, I conducted a study of the
decision-making process used by teachers of students with visual impairments in
the selection of literacy media for students who are deaf-blind. Using an
on-line survey, 30 responses were collected from teachers nationwide. The data
has been analyzed and submitted for publication. Overall results indicated that
a majority of these teachers did not use Koenig and Holbrooks Learning
Media Assessment (1995) for students who are deaf-blind.
As a follow-up study, I would like to interview teachers of
students with visual impairments who work with students who are deaf-blind
about perceived barriers to using the Learning Media Assessment with students
who are deaf-blind. Additionally, I would like to collect current assessment
reports on the selection of learning and literacy media for this group of
students. The goal of this data collection is to aid in the design of future
professional development training activities for teachers of students with
visual impairments. Teachers in this category who are currently working with
students who are deaf-blind, and who are willing to participate in a short
phone interview and/or share assessment reports are invited to contact me at
Koenig, A. J., & Holbrook, M. C. (1995). Learning media
assessment of students with visual impairments: A resource guide for
teachers (2nd ed). Austin, TX: Texas School for the Blind and Visually
McKenzie, A. R. (2005). A case study of the emergent literacy
supports in a center-based education program for students who are
deafblind. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Texas Tech University,
Sulzby, E., & Teale, W. (1991). Emergent literacy. In R. Barr,
M. L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, & P. D. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading
research, Vol. II (pp. 727757). New York, NY: Longman.
New Doctoral Dissertation
Effie Laman graduated from Texas Tech University in December 2006
with a doctorate in special education. Her dissertation was entitled
Multiple Case Study Examining Perceptions of Four Adult Siblings
Participation in the Individual Education Plan Transition Meeting of a Brother
or Sister Who Is Congenitally Deafblind. Her dissertation chair was Dr.
Roseanna Davidson. The purpose of the dissertation research was to examine
perceptions held by adult siblings concerning their own participation in a
public school individual education plan transition meeting (ITP) of a brother
or sister who is congenitally deafblind. The study found that the four
participant siblings had:
- some fundamental knowledge of the ITP meetings,
- great variation in their knowledge of the future goals of their
- differing views on their involvement in the ITP process (for
instance, not all siblings wanted to be involved).
The study reflected a continuum in the quality of ITP processes,
ranging from effective to ineffective as a result of such factors as how the
meetings were conducted, family dynamics, and individualized education program
team dynamics. For more information contact:
Texas Tech University
Sowell Center for Research
and Education in Visual Impairment
Lubbock, TX 79409-1071
If you have information that you would like to include in
Research Update, contact:
Teaching Research Institute
Monmouth, OR 97361
For Your Library
Contact: Understanding of Specific Interaction Characteristics
to Build Up Reciprocal Interaction with Congenital Deafblind
Janssen, Marleen; van de Tillaart, Bernadette. (2006).
Sint-Michielsgestel, The Netherlands: Viataal.
Over the last several years, the authors have worked to develop
and refine the characteristics of quality interactions for persons who are
deafblind. This CD-ROM offers details and examples of their interaction model
by demonstrating concepts such as opening and maintaining contact, initiative
and confirmation, exchange of turns, proximity, attention, intensity, and
affective involvement. The model can be used regardless of the age or
communication level of the person who is deafblind. Implementation of the model
is usually accompanied by complementary training and support of the interaction
partners in a deafblind individuals life. Cost: $40.00. Available from:
Vision Associates. Phone: 407-352-1200. Fax: 386-752-7839. Web:
Hold Everything! Twenty Stay-Put Places for
Infants, Preschoolers, and Developmentally Young Children with Sensory
Impairments and Other Special Needs.
Clarke, Kay. (2004). Columbus,
OH: Ohio Center for Deafblind Education.
This booklet offers detailed instructions and illustrations for
building 20 play spaces for children with sensory impairments. Based on Lilli
Nielsens Active Learning approach, these play environments are
characterized by high interest, multi-sensory materials, easy adaptability, and
the capacity to facilitate repeated, self-initiated exploration. A quick
reference chart for skills targeted for each play environment is included.
Available on the web: http://www.ssco.org/ocdbe/PDFs/holdon.pdf.
Conferences and Events
Camp Abilities Tucson
Sports camp experience available for elementary-, middle-, and
high-school-aged children, who are blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind.
Provides an opportunity to participate in sports and recreational activities
uniquely designed to meet the needs of participants. Contact: Megan
OConnell. Phone: 520-770-3188. E-mail:
HKNC Summer Seminar for High School Students who
are Exploring Future Vocational and Educational Opportunities
Sands Point, New York
A two-week seminar for junior or senior high school students who
are deaf-blind and who are interested in learning about vocational
rehabilitation services and meeting new friends. Participants will also have
opportunities to learn ways to do some problem-solving and self-advocacy to
promote a positive college experience. Contact: Dora Carney. Phone:
516-944-8900, extension 258. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Olaf R. McLetchie Training Institute
The Dr. Olaf R. McLetchie Training Institute provides training to
address the critical shortage of teachers who have the necessary skills and
knowledge to work with learners who are deafblind. Contact: Marianne Riggio.
Phone: 617-972-7264. E-mail: email@example.com.
8th International CHARGE Syndrome
July 2729, 2007
Costa Mesa, California
For information contact the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation, Inc., 409
Vandiver Drive, Suite 5-104, Columbia, MO 65202. Phone: 800-442-7604. E-mail:
14th Deafblind International World
September 2530, 2007
International and national speakers will be part of the conference
based on the theme, Worldwide Connections: Breaking the Isolation.
An estimated 1000 delegates will attend from throughout the world. Contact:
Senses Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 14, Maylands WA 6931, Australia. Phone: 61 8
9473 5400. TTY: 61 8 9473 5488. E-mail:
Helen Keller National Center National Training
Sands Point, New York
The Helen Keller National Center National Training Team (NTT) was
established to increase knowledge and support the development of skills
specific to deaf-blindness. The 2007 schedule includes:
- "Same but Different: Orientation and Mobility Techniques
for Deaf-Blind Travelers May 2025, 2007.
- Interpreting Techniques for the Deaf-Blind Population: Touching
Lives August 610, 2007.
- Enhancing Services for Older Adults with Vision and Hearing
Loss: The Best is Yet to Come September 172,
- Transformation: Person Centered Approach to Habilitation
October 1519, 2007.
- Technology Seminar: The Magic of Technology - December 3-7,
Phone: 516-944-8900, extension
A Collaborative Conference on Autism with Low
July 30August 1, 2007
The Ohio Center for Deafblind Education, the Ohio School for the
Deaf, the Ohio State School for the Blind, and the Ohio Center for Autism and
Low Incidence are presenting this conference for parents and professionals.
Contact: Sue Fraley. Phone: 866-886-2254 or 614-410-0321, extension 0739.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web:
Overview of Deaf-Blindness with an Emphasis in
The Project for New Mexico Children and Youth who are Deaf-blind
is offering a web-based distance education course for families, individuals,
service providers, and educational teams. The class explores and defines the
causes and learning consequences of deaf-blindness. Phone: 877-614-4051 or
505-272-0321 (V/TTY). E-mail: email@example.com.
Online Courses on Early Communication
Health & Science University
Two new online courses are available from Oregon Health &
Science University. Both are offered as self-paced noncredit learning
opportunities. (1) Pre-symbolic Communication provides instruction on
helping an individual to learn or expand pre-symbolic methods of communication
and presents information on related research. (2) Tangible Symbol
Systems provides instruction on all aspects of teaching an individual to
use tangible symbols and also addresses the theoretical basis and research for
this approach. Register online at any time. The cost for each course is $165.
For complete information and online registration visit:
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