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Friday, February 22, 2019

8:00-8:30 AM

Continental Breakfast

Participants are provided a light continental breakfast in the Marriott Great Room.

8:30-9:00 AM


What Do We Mean by Resonance?

Emily Coleman, Outreach Director, David Wiley, Outreach Transition Specialist and Heather Withrow, Parent

Emily Coleman, the Director of Outreach, welcomes us to the 2019 Symposium.  David Wiley and Heather Withrow will share why we chose “resonance” as the theme for the2019 Texas Symposium on DeafBlindness, and reflect on the work of Dr. Jan van Dijk.

9:00-9:30 AM


General Session

Introduction to the DeafBlind Community

Heather Withrow, Parent, Andrew Cohen, Representative on the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, and Kim Powers, Texas DeafBlind Association

Leaders within the DeafBlind Community will share cultural and communication considerations.

9:30-9:40 AM


General Session

State of the State

Vicki DePountis, Texas DeafBlind Grant Project Director for Texas Education Agency

Vicki DuPountis shares an update on “services and issues in DeafBlind education in Texas.

9:40-9:50 AM


General Session

State of the Nation in DeafBlindness

Sam Morgan, Co-Director of the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB)

NCDB  Co-Director, Sam Morgan, will share updates on national issues and resources in DeafBlind education.

9:50-10:00 AM


General Session

State of the World from DeafBlind International

Carolyn Monaco, Strategic Plan Officer for DeafBlind International

DeafBlind International representative Carolyn Monaco shares the world-view on DeafBlindness.

10:00-10:15 AM


10:15-10:45 AM


Excellence in DeafBlindness Awards

Recipients of the Marty Murrell Education Award and the Trail Blazer awards for 2019 will be honored.

10:45 - 11:15


From Resonance to Resilience: A Family's Journey

Djenne-amal Morris, Family Leader & Consultant

In every relationship, there exists the science of connection and interaction. What is the formula that families use to make this happen and sustainable when raising a child who is DeafBlind? This session will explore Dr. Jan van Dijk's ideology of resonance in developing family structure and quality of life. It will unpack challenging issues and offer strategies of resilience and empowerment for the child and family as a whole.

11:15-12:00 PM


Happiness and My Search for the Essence of Success

Maurice Belote, Director of California DeafBlind Services

Every child should have the opportunity to experience success and the keen anticipation and excitement that school can offer. This session will focus on happiness as the core for healthy, satisfying lives for all people and, particularly for students, as the basis for building trusted relationships and supporting self-determination. The presentation will include various theories of happiness and their relationships to raising and teaching children and young adults who are deafblind.

12:00-1:30 PM

Lunch on your own

1:30-3:00 PM


The Power of Acceptance and Positivity

Chris Ulmer, Founder and CEO of Special Books by Special Kids

Chris has made it his life’s mission to normalize the diversity of the human condition by showcasing how understanding, positivity, and acceptance can make a better world for all. Together, we will explore these concepts and more through his experiences with the worldwide acceptance movement, SBSK (Special Books by Special Kids).

3:00-3:30 PM


3:30 – 4:15 PM

Moderated Panel Discussion

Bringing Resonance to Our Interactions

David Brown, Djenne-amal Morris, Chris Ulmer, Bernadette van Den Tillaart, and David Wiley

Our panel of DeafBlindness experts reflect and discuss the ways we can support a more inclusive atmosphere in the lives of individuals with DeafBlindness.

4:15 – 5:00 PM


An Inclusive Life

George Stern, Vice-President of DeafBlind Citizens in Action

George discusses the importance of an inclusive life and how he has achieved it.

6:00 - 8:00 PM

Family Social

Hosted by DBMAT, Texas Chargers,Texas Hands and Voices, and NFADB

Family members are invited to a come and go social where they can network with other family members and special guests before heading out for dinner.

All day

Exhibit Hall

Throughout the Symposium family organizations and others will have exhibits set up in the Marriott Greatroom.  Please take time to visit each of them!


Saturday, February 23

8:00-8:30 AM

Continental Breakfast

Participants are provided a light continental breakfast in the Marriott Great Room.

8:30-10:00 AM

First Breakout Sessions

Participants will pick a single session from the options listed below.


Session 1:

Science of Young Brains: It is never too late to become an effective communicator

Maurice Belote, Director, California DeafBlind Services

The Science of Young Adult Brains: Debunking the Myth That It Is Ever Too Late to Become an Effective Communicator

Maurice Belote, Director, California DeafBlind Services

The critical period hypothesis is being used to deny speech and language services to younger and younger students because they are deemed to be too old to benefit from communication and language instruction. Brain research suggests that neuroplasticity and brain maturation allow for the learning of all skills well beyond childhood, including those skills specific to communication. It is critical that every young adult leaves school with an effective expressive and receptive communication system.

Session 2:

Positive Touch Access: Increasing Access for Young Learners who are DeafBlind

Susanne Morgan Morrow, New York Deaf-Blind Collaborative, Project Director

Research in the field of DeafBlind education has indicated for decades the critical aspect of touch in early cognitive and communication development, however, while current advances are happening in the adult DeafBlind community, this movement has gone on without much consideration for the way in which congenitally DeafBlind children have been educated. The presenter proposes a marrying of these practices and communication paradigms, shifting away from the often tension-laden political discourse and suggests an overarching approach, “Positive Touch Access” and will address the need for parent education.

Session 3:

Building a DeafBlind Village: Panel on Training Qualified Interveners and Teachers of Students with DeafBlindness (TDB) to Work with Students in the Classroom

Debbie Sanders, DeafBlind Teacher Specialist, Utah; Johanna Borg, TDB, Texas; Vivecca Hartman, President, DBMAT, Texas; Kristi Probst, Initiative Lead, Interveners & Qualified Personnel, NCDB; Carolyn Monaco, Strategic Plan Officer for DeafBlind International

“How can Texas get more trained interveners into classrooms to work with students who are DeafBlind? And who will be there to support them when they arrive? Where can we look for examples of Intervener/TDB partnerships that work? We ask a panel of parents, teachers and interveners to share their experiences in creating educational models for students who are DeafBlind from local, state, national and international perspectives.”

Session 4:

Kersten’s Story: Relationship-based Programming From Theory to Practice

Matt Schultz, Education Consultant, Texas DeafBlind Outreach

This session explores the journey of one student who, as a result of her instructional team’s use of of a relationship-based and child-led educational approach, experienced a breakthrough in her growth as a learner, a communicator and most importantly, as a person.

Session 5:

Communication and Connection to Emerging Language from the Perspective of DeafBlindness

Deanna Peterson, Early Childhood Consultant and Chris Montgomery, Education Consultant, Texas DeafBlind Outreach

Have you ever considered how a person with DeafBlindness,establishes the concepts that you and I (as sighted hearing people) learn incidentally, through our distance senses…. From observation?  We will investigate how to initiate conversation and in-turn develop meaningful shared experiences.

Session 6:

Sound Travels

Kaycee Bennett, Auditory Impairment Specialist and Teacher for Students with DeafBlindness and Chris Tabb, Orientation and Mobility Consultant, Texas DeafBlind Outreach

This session presents a collection of tools and strategies that Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) can use in the evaluation and development of their student’s auditory skills. We’ll examine ways to build strong working relationships with the student's audiologist, specialist for the auditory impaired and the speech and language pathologist (SLP) as we work to better understand the environmental hearing needs of our students and clients with a dual sensory loss.

10:00-10:15 AM


Time to grab some coffee or tea before heading to your next session.

10:15-11:45 AM

Second Breakout Sessions

Participants will pick a single session from the options listed below.


Session 1:

Early Emergent Literacy Skills for Infants and Toddlers with DeafBlindness

Marina McCormick, Region 4 RDSPD Coordinator

Literacy begins with the first bedtime story for most children. Marina McCormick discusses issues in developing early literacy skills for infants and toddlers with Deaf-Blindness.


Session 2:

DeafBlind Camp of Texas

The DeafBlind Camp of Texas Board

DeafBlind Camp of Texas began in September 2016 with a retreat for adults who are DeafBlind. DeafBlind Camp of Texas shares their experience of feeling empowered through the use of Support Service Providers (SSPs). DeafBlind Camp of Texas also empowers teens preparing to transition to adult life.

Session 3:

Encouraging Learning Through Play with the Young Child with Deaf-Blindness

Tanni Anthony, Director, Colorado Services for Children and Youth with Combined Vision and Hearing Loss Project

Play is a primary avenue for learning with all children.  Play development impacts every developmental domain. The stages of play involve a child’s self-discovery of the use of objects, taking turns, requesting continuation of an activity, social interaction, and expanding motor skills. Play scenarios that reflect an understanding of the child’s sensory abilities, preferences, and needs, active learning, volitional movement, and time for exploration are critical for early learning of a child with combined vision and hearing loss.  The session will review the stages of play and 8 key strategies for families and early childhood professionals to support early play development.

Session 4:

Preparing for Life after School

David Wiley, DeafBlind Transition Consultant, Texas DeafBlind Outreach

David Wiley shares information and ideas to help individuals with DeafBlindess make successful transition to life after school is completed.

Session 5:

CHARGE Syndrome after 36 Years

David Brown, DeafBlind Consultant, California

CHARGE syndrome is the most complex and medically involved of all the conditions which cause congenital DeafBlindness, and is also becoming statistically more important.  This session will consider current thinking about factors influencing the development and behavior of children with the syndrome, and will also focus on the assessment and teaching approaches that have been found most successful. The main focus will be on developmental, educational, and behavioral aspects of the syndrome, but there will also be some updates on current ideas from the medical field in areas like ENT/Audiology, immunology, and endocrinology.

Session 5:  

Using Sign Language and Touch Signals with Children and Teens who are DeafBlind

Tara Brown-Ogilvie, Ph.D student, University of Northern Colorado

Tara Brown-Ogilvie, a certified orientation and mobility specialist and former sign language interpreter, will discuss using sign language and touch signals to promote travel skills for children and teens who are deafblind. This presentation will cover simple signs and touch signals to promote choice making, environmental awareness, and safe travel techniques. Hands-on practice will be included along with a Q&A session open to parents, teachers, specialists, and anyone else interested in learning more about incorporating sign language and touch signals with children and teens who are deafblind.

11:45-12:30 PM

Sponsor and Partner Exhibits

While the Ballroom is being reset for the luncheon visit our sponsor and partner exhibits in the Marriott Great Room.

12:30-1:15 PM


Please join us for luncheon in the Ballroom.

12:45-1:15 PM

Awards for Excellence in DeafBlindness

Recipients or the 2019 Robbie Blaha Intervener Award and Anne Silverrain Award will be honored.

1:45-3:00 PM

Closing Keynote

Being a Perceptive Reflective Detective: the art and science of assessment

David Brown, DeafBlind Consultant, California

This session will look back at the symposium and reflect common threads relating to assessment which have emerged. Consideration will be given to many aspects involved in this topic, such as looking for the right questions in order to get to the right answers, understanding why to assess, what to assess, how to assess, when to assess, and where to assess, and most importantly knowing how to interpret what you discover. The main emphasis will be on observational assessment and the ways that approach can be reconciled and melded with information from more structured or clinical approaches. Jan Van Dijk’s “Follow the Child” will be the guiding principle.