Planning for Adult Life with Blind Children’s Discovery and Development Program’s (BCP) DeafBlind Services

Authors: Sarah Karmacharya, Policy and Program Development Manager, TX Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development Program

Keywords: Blind Children’s Discovery and Development Program, BCP, DeafBlind, adult life, transition, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, TSBVI, Arc of Texas

Abstract: Parents of a child who is DeafBlind talk about how they and their daughter are planning and preparing her for adult life with the help of the Blind Children’s Discovery and Development Program, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and other community resources.

Planning for their daughter’s adult life has been a long and constantly evolving process for parents Tish Smith and Cari Anderson. Their seventeen-year-old daughter, Yesdy, is DeafBlind and is in her junior year of high school at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in Austin, Texas.

Tish and Cari, along with their BCP team that includes a DeafBlind Specialist and a Blind Children’s Specialist, are creating a plan with Yesdy for her transition out of the public school system. Ms. Smith explains:

Yesdy loves people so her goal and ours is to maintain regular contact with the people she enjoys and to have opportunities to meet new people as well. We want her to have access to her community and the activities she enjoys, such as shopping, art projects, swimming, and being outdoors. Initially she will live with us, but the long-term goal is to establish a Companion Care Home with a roommate or two where she would have the support of DeafBlind Interveners. We’re interested in exploring existing programs and are open to connecting to other families in our area for informal meetups and mutual support. A volunteer job or small business might give her a social connection, a sense of accomplishment, and a creative outlet.

Over the last year and half that Yesdy has been enrolled in the Blind Children’s Discovery and Development Program (BCP), the family has accessed a variety of program services that have helped them support Yesdy’s independence and plan for the future. Both parents attended the Future Planning series that the Blind Children’s Program developed with The Arc of Texas for BCP families. For the family, this series was “extremely helpful in educating us about the multitude of considerations when preparing for adult life. We took the course on financial management twice because there was so much to learn. We also got a different perspective on how to think about the transition and how to make the best use of her remaining years of public education”. BCP DeafBlind Specialists also connected the family with The Arc of Texas Master Pooled Trust to locate a special needs planning attorney in their community. The Arc of Texas Master Pooled Trust was established in 1997 and is the first and only Texas-based Special Needs Trust designed to improve the quality of life for all individuals with disabilities while providing resources for their ongoing supplemental needs. Yesdy, her family, and intervener also attended the BCP DeafBlind Family Weekend retreat in Spring 2022, hosted by the Children’s Association for Maximum Potential (CAMP Camp) in Center Point, TX. Ms. Smith said, “We were able to attend with Yesdy’s DeafBlind Intervener and had a wonderful weekend and met other families.”

A student touches powder in a measuring cup held by her intervener.

Yesdy’s mom, Cari, smiles in the background as Yesdy and Avery, her intervener, prepare the materials to make the stepping stone.

Over the course of the weekend, BCP DeafBlind Specialists helped the family understand options for Yesdy’s future, including the logistics of a companion care home. During this weekend, BCP staff also worked with CAMP staff to understand what support Yesdy would need to return for a weeklong summer camp session. CAMP had the opportunity to see how an intervener helps a DeafBlind individual access their environment and connect to other people.

An intervener offers their hands to a student as they prepare to mix materials in a bowl for a class project.

Yesdy and Avery, her intervener, prepare to make a stepping stone.

After the family weekend experience, Yesdy was able to return for a weeklong summer camp session with her DeafBlind Intervener through the Deafblind with Multiple Disabilities Medicaid Waiver program (DBMD). Ms. Smith reflected on the summer camp experience: “Yesdy had a great week and gained confidence and new skills in a setting outside of the home and school”.

An adolescent wears a life jacket and sunglasses while riding in a canoe on the river.

Yesdy enjoys a boating activity at camp.

Currently, the family continues preparations for Yesdy’s transition. Ms. Smith and Ms. Anderson are pursuing guardianship of the person that will take effect when Yesdy turns eighteen. They are also working with her team at TSBVI to “increase her communication skills, independence, and explore new interests.” Additionally, DeafBlind interveners and Behavior Support Services through the DeafBlind with Multiple Disabilities (DBMD) Medicaid waiver program have assisted Yesdy and her family move towards their goals for the future and will continue to be important in her adult life. They look forward to future BCP opportunities to meet other families of individuals who are DeafBlind and continue to increase Yesdy’s independence. 

BCP provides training and services for children ages birth to 22 years with visual impairments, including specific offerings for children with combined vision and hearing loss. If you’re interested in applying for BCP services, please contact [email protected].

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