Nationwide, barriers to education, employment and independent living still exist for individuals who have dual sensory loss. Thus, with significant statewide and national support and through a U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Award, the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) will implement the Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind,formerly the Alabama Deafblind Project administered by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
Boasting statewide distance learning capabilities and building upon the successes of the Alabama Centre for Deaf-Blind/Multi-Challenged Services; the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) iCanConnect initiative; and the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) Alabama Telecommunications Administration Program (ATAP) which now includes equipment for individuals who are deaf-blind along with its infrastructure of eight statewide Regional Centers which also administer Alabama’s Early Intervention Services – the Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind’s Goal is to build capacity of state/local agencies, parents and professionals to improve services and outcomes for children and young adults who are deafblind and their families by providing innovative Technical Assistance (TA), information and training.
As children and youth, ages birth to 22 are identified (Download Alabama’s Deaf-Blind Census Form Here), targeted individual and group technical assistance to caregivers and school systems will be provided through AIDB’s Talladega-based campuses (Alabama School for the Blind, Alabama School for the Deaf, Helen Keller School of Alabama and E.H. Gentry Facility) and eight Regional Centers across the state.
“AIDB administered Alabama’s deaf-blind initiatives under USDE direction from 1969 to 1998, now, AIDB is poised yet again to lead Alabama in the effort to serve youth and their families who are deaf-blind along with individuals in educational, healthcare and community fields. Yet, to achieve the extraordinary, collaboration is paramount with AIDB aligning with several state and national agencies – including UAB – who formerly administered the program. Our statewide partners and internal staff are passionate about serving this distinct population, their caregivers and instructors and we cannot wait to see this passion, dedication and commitment translate into expanded outreach and outcomes for children and youth who are deaf-blind.” ~ AIDB President Dr. John Mascia
Each year, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), requires Alabama to conduct an Annual Deaf-Blind Census (Download Alabama’s Deaf-Blind Census Form Here). Formerly housed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), AIDB –in partnership with UAB and several state agencies –now conducts the required annual statewide Census for Alabama and reports per OSEP requirements.
The Census collects information about individuals from birth to 21 years of age who have a combination of vision and hearing losses. This data collection is for all infants, toddlers, and children (birth through age 21) who are: Deaf-Blind or at risk for dual sensory loss; Enrolled in Early Intervention or special education programs and/or Receive services as of December 1, 2013, Child Count.
This information is used to study trends of etiology, to obtain information about classroom placement, ages and school districts where children are located, and to plan training and individualized services and technical assistance for teachers, parents and service providers. Examples include, but are not limited to Early Intervention Services and Coordination; Individualized Education Plan, Individualized Plans for Employment, and Personal Futures Planning development; Transition Services; Assistive Technology Assessments, Professional Development and Training; Caregiver Support Groups and Parent Conference Calls; Information Sharing and Dissemination; Braille and Large Print/Interpreting Service Coordination; Vision and Hearing Assessments and much more!
Reported students do not have to be completely deaf or completely blind to be included in this Census. Individuals included should have a mild, moderate or severe hearing loss AND a mild, moderate, or severe vision loss. Students should benefit from instruction specific to the presence of dual vision and hearing loss. If there are questions or to join our listserv, contact Jessica L. Edmiston at 256.493.3360, 205.328.3989 or email@example.com.
“Continued agency collaboration and leveraging of resources and expertise will expand services and outcomes to individuals with deaf-blindness and their families while eliciting systemic change, capacity-building and sustainability statewide. We are excited about this opportunity but most importantly, we are excited about what this opportunity can mean to increased independent living, education and employment outcomes for a traditionally underserved population right here in Alabama. The possibilities are endless.” ~ AIDB President Dr. John Mascia
Technical Assistance (TA) is a collaborative process between the Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind, professionals, child and family including early identification and intervention; needs assessments, goal negotiations and service decision-making. Services may include resource and information sharing, networking with parents or professionals, on-site/distance learning coaching and modeling and/or professional development to facilitate improved self-advocacy, academic achievement and transition services for children and youth who are deaf-blind.
“AIDB serves individuals of all ages with hearing and vision loss – from early to senior intervention through our statewide network of Regional Centers and campus programs uniquely designed to meet the outreach needs of all students, families, local education agencies and other professionals. Children, who have hearing and vision loss, as well as other concomitant disabilities of varied severities, will be involved from schools and agencies in rural, urban and suburban Alabama. Activities will impact all 145 individuals currently on the state’s Deaf-Blind Registry in all 67 Alabama counties and countless numbers of professionals, paraprofessionals and families in 132 school districts. Our sincere hope is to reach out to those individuals who may not associate with the term ‘deaf-blind’ whether a child or adult losing both their sight and hearing, a caregiver or a teacher. Through this distinct initiative and with extraordinary state and national partnerships, we want to be your resource. We want to make a difference.” ~ Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Project Director; AIDB Field Services Director; and AIDB Huntsville Regional Center Director Karla Smith
Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Assistive Technology support and assessments are provided for academic settings. Assistive Technology Assessments for all ages can be provided within the E.H. Gentry Facility or your nearest Regional Center with specific Projects available to meet your classroom, home, work and leisure needs including the Alabama Telecommunications Administration Program (ATAP) and iCanConnect project. Check back regularly for statewide training opportunities!
Within the Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind, AIDB also partners with the National Center on Deaf-Blindness; Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services; University of Alabama Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation; and Sight Savers of Alabama – all of which can assist with Assistive Technology needs for all ages.
Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Never has a statement held more weight when one takes stock of the significant agency collaboration, combined resources and expertise within the Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind including the: University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), School of Education, Educational Leadership, Special Education and Foundations – former Project lead agency – along with the UAB School of Optometry; EyeSight Foundation of Alabama; Alabama Deaf-Blind Coalition; Alabama Deaf-Blind Multi-Challenged Association (ADBMA); Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS); Alabama Early Intervention Services (EIS); Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE); Alabama Governor’s Office On Disabilities (GOOD); Helen Keller National Center (HKNC); National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB); Sight Savers of Alabama and United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Greater Birmingham.
If you and/or your agency would like to learn more on how we can collaborate, please contact Project Coordinator Jessica L. Edmiston at 256.493.3360, 205.328.3989 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Chelsae Miner
I first discovered AIDB’s magic as a prospective student in 2009. The moment I stepped into Johnson Hall on the Alabama School for the Deaf (ASD) campus, I felt an intensity unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was surrounded by other people who were just like me. I enrolled as a sophomore and began my unforgettable adventure in education. It was also an adventure that gave me the confidence and competence to chart my own course and be successful in a world that was changing faster and more drastically than ever before –especially for me. Here’s my story…
I was born in Ohio in 1993, an only child and deaf. I had what you could say is the average childhood. Although I never knew my father, I had a mother who loved me and wanted the best for me. I attended public school and made good grades.
Everything changed in 2007 at the age of 14. At what was to be a simple eye appointment, the course of my life would be altered forever.
“She has Usher Syndrome,” the doctor told my mother. Since there was no interpreter present, I didn’t understand what was going on. After researching, we found that Usher Syndrome is a condition characterized by hearing impairment and progressive vision loss. The vision loss is due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative condition of the retina and usually appears during adolescence or early adulthood. In other words, I was going blind.
Being a typical teenager, this was hard for me to grasp. I ignored it for a while hoping it would just go away –no such luck. At school, I began working with an Orientation and Mobility Specialist who was teaching me different techniques, one being the use of a cane.
“I don’t need this,” I thought to myself. “I’m not going to use a cane. Everyone will stare at me.”
The next year, Mom decided to move us closer to her brother. We made the 12-hour drive from our home in Ohio to a small town in Alabama where I attended public school as a freshman. As luck would have it, I was the only deaf person in the school. And to make things worse, I did not have an interpreter everyday to assist me in my classes. I began to feel isolated and depressed. I heard of the Alabama School for the Deaf and begged my mother to allow me to attend. She gave in and I enrolled as a Sophomore in 2009. As I said earlier, it was magic and I finally felt that I was where I belonged.
At ASD, I was learning so much and having fun. I began participating in extracurricular activities and even tried out for cheerleading. Things were going great until my Mom began to get sick. She was eventually diagnosed with lung cancer and lost her battle to the disease my senior year of high school. I could have given up but I remember how hard my mom pushed me and how much she wanted me to succeed.
Thanks to the great teachers and staff at ASD, I finished my senior year but I still needed to pass two portions of the Alabama High School Graduation Exit Exam. For this, I transferred to Gentry, AIDB’s adult rehabilitation facility. There, I studied and passed the language and math portions of the exam and received my academic high school diploma.
“But, what now?”
I decided to enroll in Gentry’s Deaf-Blind Program. It was time to finally embrace my future and make the most of it. I learned independent living skills. Computer skills, money management and more. I also discovered that technology does and will continue to play a very important role in my life. Soon after enrolling, I was approached by the Deaf-Blind Coordinator and Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Transition Coordinator, Bethany Miller. She explained there were additional programs such as iCanConnect that could help me receive loaned telecommunications devices –devices that can help me with both the deaf and hearing world and will eventually be able to assist me as my eyesight worsens. Now, my iPhone and my iPad are my new best friends! I use them in my everyday life to communicate and most recently, I am using them at my new job at Walgreens, where my manager thinks I might just be management material!
On November 21, 2013, I was the first graduate of Gentry’s Deaf-Blind Program. I am sure my future is bright! I have embraced my situation and feel stronger because of it. No longer am I afraid or embarrassed; instead, I am confident and independent thanks to the programs and staff at Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.
Karla Smith, M.Ed.
Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Project Director
AIDB Field Services Director
Jessica L. Edmiston, M.Ed.
Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Project Coordinator
Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Parent Coach
Bethany Wade Miller
Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Transition Coordinator
Alabama Centre for Deaf-Blind, Multi-Challenged Services Coordinator
Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Census Specialist
Alabama Instructional Resource Center for the Blind Processing Clerk
Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Goal: To build capacity of state/local agencies, parents and professionals to improve services and outcomes for children and young adults who are deafblind and their families by providing innovative Technical Assistance (TA), information and training.