Imagine the challenge of having an impairment of both your sight and hearing. This is the reality for nearly 10,000 children and young adults across the nation with deafblindness. In Michigan, there are more than 300 residents under 21 who are deafblind.
As one of only two programs of its kind in the U.S., Central Michigan University's new
online Deafblind Intervener Certificate Program will train students and professionals to improve educational outcomes for those who are deafblind.
"Deafblindness is a disability of access," said Beth Kennedy, director of DeafBlind Central. "An intervener works one-on-one with a child who is deafblind to provide access and support. They foster growth within the student, assist them in making social connections and help them access the curriculum. They are a bridge between the student and teacher."
Students completing the certificate can submit their final portfolio to the
National Resource Center for Paraeducators to obtain the national intervener credential. Only about 100 people in the U.S. have this credential.
Potential nationwide impact
The program — relevant to those who study or work in special education, communication disorders, physical therapy and therapeutic recreation — is expected to launch this fall.
"What I am most excited about is that it's an online program. There could be interveners from anywhere in the U.S. and the world taking classes," she said.
Some states are passing special education policies that require interveners for students who are deafblind, Kennedy said.
"Local districts in various places across the country are recognizing that interveners make a valuable difference for students who are deafblind and have hired them even in the absence of laws or policies mandating the service."
Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act passes, the need for intervener training and and credentialed interveners will increase, Kennedy said. This bill, which was introduced last September in the House of Representatives, is intended to improve educational, employment and independence outcomes for students who are deafblind, blind, visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing — ensuring they receive qualified instruction and educational access.
“When I see that a student is achieving more and communicating more because of an intervener, it inspires me,” Kennedy said. “Right now there is no law mandating interveners. School districts are doing it because it’s the right thing.”
To learn more about the program, click here.
CMU leads the way for Michigan’s deafblind resources
Beth Kennedy is the director of DeafBlind Central, the state deafblind project that provides free services for families, school districts and others who work with children who are deafblind. It is housed within CMU’s College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences. “I meet with teams and observe the students across a few activities and environments and then I make recommendations on how things can be tweaked to provide better access, to foster communication growth, and to help that student reach their potential,” Kennedy said. The project is supported by a federal grant. Each state has a deafblind project to help serve children who have both vision and hearing loss or difficulty in processing auditory and visual information.