Over the last 33 years, the Nevada Dual Sensory Impairment Project (NDSIP) has provided support to families and service providers of children, birth through 21 years of age, who have impairments in both vision and hearing. The current grant, a substantial $617,150 over five years through the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, promises to bring about new initiatives and goals that will further enrich the lives of children with dual sensory impairments.
Interventions that transform Llves
The NDSIP goes beyond traditional support to provide coaching, training and consultation, aiming to build the skills of families and service providers. These interventions are instrumental in nurturing children, who face the unique challenge of impairments in both vision and hearing. Many of these children also have additional disabilities, including complex health care needs, intellectual disabilities, motor impairments and communication or speech and language impairments.
The project collaborates with various stakeholders, including families, teachers, service providers, early intervention agencies, and other organizations providing services to children with dual sensory impairments. Its reach extends across multiple school districts in Nevada, including Carson City, Clark County, Douglas County, Elko County, Humboldt County, Lyon County, Mineral County, Nye County and Washoe County.
The NDSIP is led by MaryAnn Demchak, Ph.D., BCBA-D, professor of special education, and Chevonne Sutter, Ph.D., BCBA-D, project coordinator, Nevada Dual Sensory Impairment Project, both in the College of Education & Human Development.
“Coaching and consultation, in-person or virtually, in the natural environments (homes or educational settings) is essential to provide meaningful suggestions to families and educational teams,” Sutter said.
New initiatives for the next five years
The NDSIP will place increased emphasis on developing transition plans for secondary-aged students with multiple disabilities that include vision and hearing impairments. This initiative will involve providing training to both teachers and parents while offering student-specific assistance as needed. These efforts will be grounded in legal requirements and backed by research-based strategies.
Another crucial goal is to provide increased training for parents in strategies to enhance the communicative behaviors of children with complex communication needs. Some children may communicate using nontraditional methods such as motor movements, vocalizations, eye gaze, or even "problem behaviors." The project's child-specific training will help parents understand and build on these existing behaviors, emphasizing research-based strategies.
The NDSIP also will offer training for paraprofessionals, who work closely with children having severe, multiple disabilities encompassing both vision and hearing impairments. These dedicated individuals play a vital role in helping children gather information, develop communication skills and establish relationships. The project will collaborate with IEP teams to provide virtual and/or in-person training support, tailored to the unique needs of each child.
“Vision and hearing are our primary senses for learning and when children have impairments in both areas, specialized instructional strategies are needed to meet the unique educational needs of these children,” Demchak said.
Continued collaborations for a brighter future
The project's success has been deeply rooted in its collaborations with the Nevada Department of Education Office of Inclusive Education, school districts, early intervention agencies like Nevada Early Intervention Services, and community agencies such as NV Hands and Voices and Nevada PEP. These existing partnerships will persist, ensuring that the project continues to thrive and make a meaningful impact on the lives of children with dual sensory impairments.
The grant will undoubtedly empower the project to expand its horizons and reach even more children in need. With a strong commitment to research-based strategies and collaboration with dedicated stakeholders, the future holds promise for brighter, more inclusive opportunities for children with dual sensory impairments in Nevada.
“Our planned extensive collaborative activities are essential to the success of the project and improved outcomes for children with multiple disabilities that include dual sensory impairments,” Demchak said.