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A primary role of the intervener is to be a bridge (not a barrier) to the world for the child who is deafblind.  This means, in part, building independence and curiosity about things, facilitating social interactions (especially with peers), and expanding communication interactions with others. 

Some Typical Barriers

  • The child is unaware of people and things in his/her environment.
  • Because the intervener is always there, others think they can’t communicate directly with the student. 
  • The intervener does things the student is capable of doing either because it saves time or because they feel sorry for the student. 
  • Interveners step in too quickly and deny the student the opportunity to find his own solution or to receive support from a peer or the teacher.

Possible Bridges

  • Make the student aware of his/her environment and the people in it. This includes letting the student know who comes and goes from an area, key events that take place, and where important people are located relative to the student.  Be the student’s eyes and ears and help him/her know what is going on.
  • Teach others to interact directly with your student even if you must be the “interpreter” for much of the interaction.
  • Don’t do for the student what they are capable of doing on his/her own.  Look for ways that the student can at least participate partially in the activity.
  • Encourage the student to try to find solutions and wait for him/her to ask for your help whenever possible.  This teaches important self-advocacy skills.

Gretchen Jackson and Jackie Yingling from The Advocacy Center in Rochester, NY pose five questions to help paraprofessionals determine the level of support they need to provide a student at any given time.

  1. Is this something the child can do independently?
  2. Can this be modified so that the child can do it independently?
  3. Is this something the child can do with a peer partner?
  4. Is adult support the only way the child can do this activity?
  5. If yes, how can the adult support be made “invisible”?

Your challenge:

  • Take several activities you currently do with your student (e.g., eating lunch, participating in a reading group, playing on the swings).
  • Ask your team to help you think about these five questions related to these activities. 
  • Try to find several new strategies for completing these activities that would give your student more opportunities to participate directly with others or be more independent. 
  • Utilize these strategies for a week or so and see if the student needs more or less support than you had given previously.

A Difficult Part of Your Job

Finding the exact amount of support to provide to your student in any given situation is not easy.  In fact, it is probably the most challenging part of your job.  Without enough support the student may become too frustrated or fearful to experience all the learning opportunities the world has to offer.  With too much support, the student may think that without you, he/she can do nothing. 

Here are some other suggestions you might consider:

  • Wait a minute before offering help, see what the student will do on his/her own.  Learning to ask for help is an important self-advocacy skill.
  • Time the student to see how long it actually takes to do the activity or step on his/her own.  What may seem like a very long time may actually only be a minute or two.
  • Encourage the student to seek help from peers or directly from a teacher, facilitate the interaction only as much as is absolutely necessary. 
  • Don’t offer more prompts and cues than the student needs.  Give him/her time to remember or figure out what he should do.
  • Let you student have the pleasure of making a mistake and dealing with the consequences.  We all learn from our mistakes.

Always remember, your goal is to be a bridge not a barrier!