EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL CHILDREN - TRI on the cutting edge of inclusion


Research to Practice • Practice to Research

EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL CHILDREN - TRI on the cutting edge of inclusion

Posted on August 21, 2014

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This past July (2014), TRI faculty and staff were invited to present at national education conferences across the country to share their research-based, cutting edge approaches to inclusive education -- assuring that all children have an equal opportunity to succeed. Freshly back from the OSEP Project Directors Meeting (the Office of Special Education Programs), and the 2014 Deaf-Blind Summit, they share their thoughts, observations and reflections.

Just as at the time of its inception,TRI continues to add to the body of research and innovation in the field of education. We are moved by the quality, dedication, and passion of our faculty and staff, and proud of their contributions to the larger conversation about education.

Below, you will find insiders' views from Patricia Blasco, Amy Parker, Jay Gense, and John Reiman. They share about the direction of inclusive education and what is needed to offer all students a chance to create a successful and fulfilling future.



Patricia Blasco, Ph.D.

Dr. Patti BlascoPatricia Blasco is a Senior Fellow at the Teaching Research Institute at Western Oregon University in the Center for Educator Preparation and Effectiveness and the Center on Early Learning. She is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), serves as the 2015-16 Conference Chair for the Division for Early Childhood - Council for Exceptional Children (DEC), and is on the advisory board for the Early Childhood Professional Development (ECPC) regional center of the national ECPC.

Notes from the OSEP Project Directors' Meeting. Some things that struck me as important.

Priorities expressed at this year's meeting included: addressing equity in education; students continuing education post high school; and universal preschool for 4 year olds. 

From a public poll just released - 85% of voters rank "ensuring children get a strong start" as an important national priority.

Based on research that spans 20 years, regular education teachers today continue to be enthusiastic about having children with disabilities in their classrooms, but feel they do not have the supports and resources needed. We need to reflect on how we are providing, or NOT providing, consultation, coaching and the necessary supports for teachers in order for them to feel successful working with all children.  

Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary - US Department of Education, noted that children of color are disproportionally underrepresented in early intervention which, of course, is the opposite of the same population in special education - where children of color are overrepresented. So a compendium of screening tools will be coming out on the "Watch Me Thrive!" website:

"The U.S. Departments of Education and of Health and Human Services (HHS) have launched Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! to encourage developmental and behavioral screening for children to support the families and providers who care for them.

"Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! will help families look for and celebrate milestones; promote universal screenings; identify delays as early as possible; and improve the support available to help children succeed in school and thrive alongside their peers." -- From the Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! website

Teacher prep programs must be more accountable - research demonstrates that student race and family income predict student access to great teachers.  This is exactly what Project PIECE is addressing with our cohort of scholars.  Project PIECE will place great teachers from underrepresented backgrounds in schools where they are needed with high risk student populations!

Other presentations addressed sustainability once funding is gone.  We also looked at a diagram that students could complete describing the teacher of the future.  I thought this was a fun way to get new scholars thinking about what they want to be doing in five years and I will use it in our project.

In our presentation, we discussed ways to recruit and retain students from underrepresented backgrounds. (You can download our handout here.)  The best part, of course, was networking. I met a professor from Arizona State University who is working with the high schools to get students into a college and career path. She told us the graduation rate is 25% for ESL students in Arizona!!  We discussed how states had to work on systems change and create career ladders for all students. 

We met with the Oregon Early Childhood Personnel Center Director, as well as the organization's national Director.  They are doing some interesting work looking at gaps in higher education, including the fact that there is little assessment of personnel standards within higher education programs. Here's the website for Early Childhood Personnel Center:  http://www.ecpcta.org/

The mission of the Early Childhood Personnel Center "is to facilitate the implementation of integrated and comprehensive early childhood systems of personnel development (CSPD) for all disciplines serving infants and young children with disabilities."

My favorite take-away quote was from Barbara Smith (University of Colorado Denver): Collaboration is a process put into place for an intended outcome. Collaboration is NOT the end, it's the means.


Amy Parker, Ed.D.

Amy Parker is the Coordinator of Professional Development and Products for the National Center on Deaf-Blindness at TRI. She completed her doctorate at Texas Tech University through the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) fellowship program in 2009. She has been working with individuals who have sensory impairments since 1994. Her emphasis of study at TTU was on evidence-based practices in teaching and rehabilitation for people who are deafblind.

OSEP's Project Directors conference is a way for the agency to showcase work and to spread ideas across a diverse network. As I reflected upon the themes that were presented regarding data visualization, the integration of technology into all aspect of our work, and authentic involvement of stakeholders for improving programs, I realized that our work to create and test the Open Hands, Open Access (OHOA): Deaf-Blind Intervener Learning Modules is completely in alignment of the larger forces that are shaping change in education. Both within the DB Summit and within the OSEP conference itself, the work that NCDB is leading through the OHOA modules was presented as a model for collaborating to solve big problems.


Beth Kennedy, Michigan's Training and Resource Project Director (DB Central), working with a team to develop module content



For our network of deaf-blind technical assistance projects, a central challenge in bringing about systemic change in states has been how to support and proliferate the best intervention practices for students who are deaf-blind across a geographically widespread, culturally diverse and administratively independent set of states.  Beyond these challenges, the population of students who are deaf-blind is also heterogeneous. Students who are deaf-blind experience big challenges in accessing information, communication and in keeping up in increasingly fast paced learning environments. Interveners, who are highly trained paraprofessionals for students who are deaf-blind, help students who are deaf-blind bridge these gaps, supporting students by helping make sense of environmental information, communication, and by developing a trusting relationship to bolster the student's learning.  While some states have been successful in supporting the intervener practice through high quality training and support, the majority of states have not been able to develop or recognize this essential role for students.

On Sunday, July 20th, Leslie Buchannan, from Utah State University, and I led a discussion at the DB Summit on what state partners are discovering in hosting the modules with cohorts of adult learners. From a technical assistance perspective, some state partners have been using the modules as a type of technical assistance across the distance.  Within this model, teams, which often include parents of students who are deaf-blind, are learning new ways to talk about the intervener role in supporting students at the local level.


Amy Parker interviewing a parent


On Wednesday, July 23rd, Dr. Ritu Chopra from the university of Colorado at Denver, Ms. Beth Kennedy, Director of Deaf-Blind Central in Michigan, and I presented the OHOA modules within one of the small breakout sessions which was available to all conference attendees. Because we have developed the OHOA modules using a highly participatory method in working with parents, teachers, interveners and technical assistance partners who have "walked the path" with students who are deaf-blind, we were able to reflect how authentic engagement can create a relevant resource that begins to solve complex challenges.  Some of our most positive responses were to the videos, learning graphic and data summaries that we shared. 

Here is a video that summarizes how state partners are beginning to use the resource to address complex challenges: 





Jay Gense, Ed.S.

Jay Gense is Director of the National Center on Deaf-Blindness at TRI. He has 30+ years of experience as an administrator and teacher in special education, with specific focus on low incidence disabilities at state and national levels.

Jay Genze

Honestly, this Program Directors Meeting (PDM) was one of the best, from my perspective. I was on OSEP's planning committee this year, so I was able to experience development of the agenda from the beginning. I was part of a group of external advisors that began planning PDM last February. I also was able to have some influence on the agenda, which helped to ensure that a perspective of low incidence disabilities was, in fact, present. . . and indeed it was! 


In particular, deaf-blindness was well represented throughout the agenda, including

  • a poster presentation that Peggy Malloy and I hosted, describing our work in building awareness of and support for intervener services 
  • a Large Group Panel session that I facilitated, bringing together a panel that discussed inclusion of students with complex support needs, including those with low incidence disabilities, into local, state, and national efforts to implement College and Career Ready Standards (Common Core Standards)
  • small breakout that Amy Parker, Beth Kennedy (Michigan) and Ritu Chopra (CO) hosted in which they presented information about our development of the Intervener Learning Modules

Peggy Malloy satnding with poster
























John Reiman, Ph.D.

John Reiman


John Reiman is an Associate Professor at TRI. He has administered programs in the field of deafness and deaf-blindness and served as Director of DB-LINK since its beginning in 1992. He has also directed degree programs at Gallaudet University and Western Oregon University, and served as Principal Investigator and Director of multiple OSEP-funded research projects.

Here are John's reflections on the 2014 DB Summit:

The national conversation about education took a laser-like focus on deaf-blindness last month when a network of leaders drawn from state deaf-blind projects, national organizations of families, and the federal government convened on July 20 in Washington, D.C. for the 2014 Deaf-Blind Summit. Facilitated by TRI’s National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB), at the direction of OSEP and in collaboration partners The Helen Keller National Center and Perkins School for the Blind, the Summit was dedicated to advancing network collaboration in service of children who are deaf-blind, their families and the professionals that serve them.

The Summit was conceptually developed and structured in response to input from a national planning Committee and guidance from OSEP. NCDB’s charge was to design a meeting, with preparatory and follow-up activities, that was: (a) dialogue-based; (b) grounded in an outcome of tangible collaborative planning; and (c) built to substantively advance the deaf-blind network’s already rapid evolution into productive partnerships.

The Summit began on July 20 with short (one minute) self-introductions (including where assistance would be appreciated) from the more than 20% of attendees who were newcomers to the network or who (2-3 individuals) had recently moved into leadership.

The day’s predominant activity (facilitated concurrent sessions) provided an unprecedented and well-used opportunity (according to overwhelmingly positive attendee evaluations) to advance key relationships and communication, and most importantly, to leverage the network’s vast resources (featuring passionate and committed experts) into focused collaborative partnerships across the 12 target areas. (You can see the 12 target areas spread out among three concurrent sessions in the Summit's agenda.)

At present, data recorded from each of the concurrent sessions is being reviewed by NCDB to identify key themes, prioritize recommendations, and move information to locales within the NCDB website that support dialogue and expanded collaboration.


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