Increasing Recognition and Use of Interveners: Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Deafblind Technical Assistance Program has promoted recognition and use of interveners in the state by building a strong relationship with their Department of Public Instruction and establishing processes for intervener training, coaching, and support. This article provides details about each of these elements.
Prior to 2009, the Wisconsin Deafblind Technical Assistance Program (WDBTAP) was housed at Silver Lake College. Since then, it has been administered by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The change was agreed upon by both the college and the DPI in order to provide more opportunities for collaboration. WDBTAP is administered by the DPI, making it easier for staff to build strong relationships with administrators, consultants, and legal staff, who now advocate for issues related to deafblindness to be included in global special education conversations and the DPI agenda.
WDBTAP staff were excited when, in 2018, Linda McDowell, NCDB Director, sent a letter to the state deafblind projects from Ruth Ryder—then acting director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs—describing the use of interveners as a related service. WDBTAP forwarded the letter to the Wisconsin Director of Special Education who, in turn, shared it with the DPI Special Education Compliance Team.
After reviewing the letter, the team issued a statement indicating that interveners fall under the parameters and definition of "related service provider." A formal announcement, Letter to McDowell and Wisconsin Deafblind Technical Assistance Project (WDBTAP), in Fall 2018, was shared via email with all school districts, DPI staff, and the Regional Services Network. Following the email, the Director of Special Education gave a presentation about interveners and the letter to special education administrators at the annual Wisconsin Council of Administrators of Special Services meeting. This information has since been used by the DPI to support districts interested in training and hiring interveners.
WDBTAP staff are also working diligently to get deafblindness included as a disability category on the IEP form used by all school districts in the state.
Over the years, WDBTAP has provided intervener training to parents, teachers, interpreters, and paraeducators. As noted in the linked announcement above, the project is currently “accessing the Intervener Training Program through Utah State University” and offers reimbursement at the CEU/non-credit tuition level for individuals currently working with students identified as deafblind on the WDBTAP Deafblind Registry. Individuals who wish to take the training for credit are responsible for costs above the CEU/non-credit option (anything over $1800 for three semesters). Since using the rigorous USU program model, WDBTAP has trained approximately 20 individuals. Many have shared that they received a pay increase upon successful completion of their portfolio.
WDBTAP staff provide three onsite coaching experiences for students during the practicum portion of the USU program. Prior to each session, the coach contacts the participant to discuss focus areas for the session. During the session, the coach observes the participant for 30 minutes and makes notes. Following the observation, the coach and intervener candidate discuss and reflect on what took place and agree upon strategies to address competencies that need to be strengthened. Additional sessions are scheduled if an intervener needs more than three. WDBTAP’s goal is to train highly-qualified interveners who have strong knowledge and skills in all the Council for Exceptional Children intervener competencies and can work with any student with deafblindness.
Community of Practice
WDBTAP also provides a mailing list for interveners and an intervener community of practice (CoP). Historically, the CoP meets annually during already scheduled statewide trainings or conferences. Topics have included tactile communication, sensory systems, and calendar systems. A number of experts in the field (Linda Alsop, Millie Smith, Robbie Blaha, and Nancy Steele) have been invited to help facilitate.
The CoP provides an opportunity for interveners to network and collaborate and gives WDBTAP insight into their successes and challenges that can be used to write relevant grant goals and objectives. WDBTAP is conducting initial planning to determine if it would be feasible and beneficial to add frequent online conference meetings to further support these interveners.