Deaf-Blind Project and Training Bring About Student Success

Deaf-blind student working in the classroom.
  • Larry J. Macaluso Elementary School

    IU12 - Lincoln Intermediate Unit
    Red Lion Area SD
    1195 Windsor Road
    Red Lion, PA 17356

  • Success Story Contact

    Valerie DiTommaso
    Phone: 717-624-6487
    School Website:

  • BSE/PaTTAN’s Role in Success:

    PaTTAN provided consultation from the Deaf-Blind Project and the initial and ongoing training of the intervener.

When Nicholas, who is deafblind, first started receiving services through the Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 (IU12) six years ago, he was not able to sit or stand on his own, and he received his nutrition from a bottle only. He was extremely tactile defensive (overly sensitive to touch); he did not want to touch anything except his mother and himself. A program was developed through IU 12 in Red Lion Area School District for Nicholas’ kindergarten year. He now works daily one-on-one with an intervener, who serves as his access to the world around him, a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing who focuses on the language and communication aspects and a teacher of the blind/visually impaired who focuses on orientation and mobility and pre-Braille skills. Weekly, he works with an occupational therapist, physical therapist, and speech therapist. He has been working with the same intervener since age three and a half. The intervener developed her skills through trainings offered by PaTTAN and other resources. She has been able to build a trusting relationship that allowed Nicholas to feel secure and overcome his tactile defensiveness. Through multiple therapies, he is now able to stand with minimal assistance and use a hemi-walker, scoop his own food, put on and take off his coat, and he has many independent and emerging signs. Nicholas’ program started as a self-contained classroom and in kindergarten he was integrated for occasional group play activities. Progress was noted at the end of the first year, and the capacity for success was built each year thereafter. In first grade, he attended classes with peers for specials (art, music), reading, and sometimes a special activity such as a craft or a class party. In second grade, a morning routine, a weekly reading workshop, lunch in the cafeteria with peers, and some assemblies were added to his schedule. In third grade, he is integrated for morning and dismissal routines, specials (art, music, book exchange), special class activities, and sometimes science (when activity is appropriate), writing, and math.Many students who are deafblind need to be taught in a unique way because of their lack of incidental learning and longer processing time. Often times, their progress is slow which results in many being taught in self-contained classrooms or residential schools. In a deliberate attempt to include Nicholas, he was gradually integrated into his mainstream environment resulting in the successes seen thus far.

Now, he is interacting with peers and adults. His peers take turns helping him walk to and get ready for lunch (wash and dry hands, placemat on the table). He plays math games with a peer during math class and composes sentences with a peer during writing (using Braille, print, sign language, and object cues). He has even developed his own turn taking game that he enjoys playing with teachers and peers. Many people have benefited:- The entire team who works with him had little to no experience working with people who are deafblind when the program started. They have all learned together and have been able to see success in his learning and the positive results of inclusive practices. – The general education teachers who have worked with Nicholas have experienced a whole new way of thinking. They now think of creative ways to include him in each activity they are planning.- The entire school’s teachers and staff have benefited through a beginning of the year inservice and seeing Nicholas interact with others. The lunch ladies have learned some signs and sign “thank you” when he buys lunch. – Through exposure and a series of discussions on deafblindness, the students in his class have become very accepting. They cheer for him when he learns something new and are enthusiastic about learning sign language and Braille. They are always jumping at the chance to help or just sit next to Nicholas. Some have expressed interest in pursuing a career in the field of deafblindness. – The entire student body has benefited from the teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing teaching and signing the Pledge of Allegiance and teaching a “sign of the day” via video morning announcements. One student saw the intervener signing with Nicholas and came over very excitedly to tell the intervener that he knows some sign language. It has created an awareness of sign language within the school.