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Why do we need Teachers of Students with Deafblindness?

There are approximately 750 children in the state of Texas with deafblindness.This is a unique disability in that there is a combined sensory loss. Texas has certified teachers of students who are deaf and hard of hearing (TDHHs) and certified teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs), each with a community of practice. However, members of these two teaching disciplines do not necessarily have training specific to deafblindness. The unique and varied educational needs of students with deafblindness must be met by teachers who have specialized training and knowledge in the combined effects of hearing and vision loss.  Although at least two other states formally recognize the role of teachers of students with deafblindness (Utah and Illinois), at this time there is no certification for a teacher of students with deafblindness (TDB) in the state of Texas (Montgomery, C., CEC- DVI-DB Quarterly 2015).

Below are some questions to help guide the discussion on teachers of students with deafblindness (TDB), the differences between an intervener and the TDB, and why both of these positions are needed.

I have an intervener who is trained in deafblindness, works with my child every day, and knows her better than anyone else on the team. Why do I need a teacher of students with deafblindness?

  • Teachers receive coursework in instructional design and educationalevaluation that interveners do not. Teachers of students with deafblindness have a broader knowledge of educational theory, practice, and law.  They can clarify questions concerning eligibility for services and programming for the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team.
  • Teachers of students with deafblindness collaborate with the IEP team to determine the student’s need for specially designed instruction.  Interveners, while considered a critical component of the educational team for some students’ with deafblindness, are not required to attend IEP committee meetings and are not legally accountable for evaluation/assessment, ensuring IEP progress, or mastery of content.

But the consultants from my state deafblind project are knowledgable and have provided assistance.  Why can’t we just call them when we need help?

  • The state deafblind projects are funded by a 5-year federal technicalassistance grant. Support from state projects is contingent upon this grant funding. A decrease or loss of funding from this grant would mean that many of the projects would no longer be able to provide their current level of support. Because of the nature of a technical assistance grant, state projects are not part of a student’s IEP committee and cannot determine programming, perform evaluations/assessments, or recommend placement.
  • A university-based program for teachers of students with deafblindness would provide a common core of knowledge and a professional community of practice. A teacher of students with deafblindness certification would allow educators who are interested in deafblindness to obtain credentialing in the field and provide services locally as part of the IEP team.

We have a teacher of students who are deaf and hard of hearing to addresshearing issues and a teacher of students with visual impairments who addresses vision issues on our IEP team. Why do we need a teacher of students with deafblindness?

  • Deafblindness is a unique disability that requires training specific to theoutcomes of the dual sensory loss. While a teacher of students with visual impairments and a teacher of students who are deaf and hard of hearing have training specific to vision and hearing impairment, they may not have experience or training specific to the uniqueness of deafblindness.
  • Teachers of students with deafblindness are trained in how to identify a child as a student who meets eligibility as deafblind, provide appropriate evaluation/assessment, develop appropriate communication strategies, and work as part of the educational team to develop an IEP to address deafblindness.

My district has limited funds and can’t afford to hire another teacher. Besides, we only have one student who qualifies as deafblind in the district. How are we going to justify a teacher of students with deafblindness?

  • In Texas, students with deafblindness must be served by both a TVI andTDHH. Going forward, it is prudent to attach any additional certification in sensory impairments to one that already exists (i.e., TVI or TDHH).
  • Because of the low incidence nature of deafblindness, districts may have very few students with deafblindness. In most cases we see the TDB working in an itinerant model, with some districts using a co-op model to share the services of a single TDB. This model does not preclude the idea of a self-contained or center-based model for districts wishing to form a co-op, sharing resources and/or students, or for larger districts that may have a large student population to form a deafblind-specific classroom.

What if I have to choose between an intervener and a teacher of students with deafblindness? Which one should I ask for?

  • Teachers of students with deafblindness cannot replace the individual,one-to-one work that interveners perform in the classroom for students with deafblindness who can benefit. Likewise, interveners cannot perform the roles of the TDB as a member of the IEP team, designing individualized instruction, performing evaluations/assessments, and identification of students with deafblindness.
  • The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has outlined the knowledge and skills for both intervener and teacher of students with deafblindness. Best practice indicates that  determining the need for an intervener, as a related service, is made through the IEP process.  Having a teacher of students with deafblindness as part of the IEP team for a student with deafblindness would mean more informed committee decisions to meet the unique needs of this student.

CEC DVI Knowledge and Skills for Initial Special Educators Serving Students with Deafblindness

CEC DVI Specialization Knowledge and Skill Set for Paraeducators who are Interveners for Individuals with Deaf-Blindness

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