Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Interveners Connect Children Who Are Deaf-Blind to the World

Did you know for a typical child with the ability to see and hear, the largest part of their learning process occurs naturally from the flow of sensory information?   Next they learn from listening to another person teach or watching an individual present information.  The smallest part of their learning comes from hands-on experiences. 

For a child who is deaf-blind, the process is completely inverted.  The major part of their learning is from direct hands-on experiences.  Being unable to hear and see eliminates a major source of sensory information.  Since most educational settings are not designed to provide intensive direct, hands-on learning this poses a unique challenge. 
At Blind Children’s Learning Center, we are able to provide this distinctive environment for children who are deaf-blind because of the talent and expertise of staff member, Tricia Houlihan.  Tricia is one of the first individuals in the state of California to have the role of an intervener for children who are deaf-blind.  She has created a program at the Center that has become a model across the state. 
Tricia has had the opportunity to share her knowledge at the California Transcribers and Educators for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CTEBVI) conferences and to train many teachers, specialists and Para educators who were referred to her by California Deaf-Blind Services. 

However, Tricia will tell you that her greatest fulfillment has been working with the children directly.  The following is a story Tricia shared.
“One of my most memorable students was a little boy whom I had worked with from ages two to six.  His mother brought him from Korea to the United States for an eye surgery that was unsuccessful.  They were referred to Blind Children’s Learning Center where we discovered his hearing loss. 
Immediately, we incorporated a total communication system into his day.  I was diligent in facilitating his system for him and was fortunate to witness the incredible change.  He went from a very frightened little boy who wanted to rock and have his mother hold him constantly, to a very sociable child eager to explore and get to know his world.  At the age of five, we discovered that he was eligible for a cochlear implant which would enable him to hear for the first time.  He became the first five-year-old deaf-blind child to receive an implant at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

I had the amazing opportunity to witness him hear his mother’s voice for the first time. It was a humbling experience I’ll never forget.
Three years ago, he came by to visit the Center.  He was still going through auditory verbal training, so he was not quite speaking yet.  But it was obvious that he remembered his time at the Center and I knew he remembered me by the enormous smile and hug I received.   

Wonderful experiences like this have caused me to focus my efforts to continue improving my skills as an intervener so I can continue to help children who are deaf-blind connect with their environment.”