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Order of items on this page:

Headline News
Featured News
News from NCDB
Other News
Older (but Relevant) News

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Want to see photos from CBSS activities and families
and newsbriefs and links to other events and
information (and inspiration) relevant to
children, families, and providers
in the deaf blind community?

Then check out our Facebook page

The page is updated several times a week!!!

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Headline News

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2017-2018 CBSS
Mini-Grant Demonstration Project
Recipients Announced…
Project presentations to take place
during Spring 2018 AC Meeting
xx promo AC meeting mini grant Lisa Gastelle and Erin Click here for information…

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2017-2018 Message from the Team

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Dear Friends,

We hope this letter finds each of you well and off to a blissful start of the 2017-2018 school year!

As we enter Year 5 of our current 5-year grant cycle, we have much to be thankful for when look back at our first 4 years, and as we look forward to the final year in this cycle, and prepare to apply for a renewed grant so that we can continue this important work.

We also welcome a new staff member to the CBSS Team — Jennifer Willis, who will serve as our Project Coordinator. Jen is a familiar face to many families and providers in the area — having worked at the Maryland School for the Blind for 5 years, then at the Maryland School for the Deaf for the past 9 years. She has participated in numerous CBSS training and outreach activities across time. Visit our “Who We Are — Our Staff” page (click here) to learn more about Jen and her new role, and about our other team members.

As always, we invite families and providers to share resources and ideas and experiences and photos with us. We love to add what matters to you to the website, so that it can matter to others as well. Please visit our “Contact Us” page (click here) to stay in touch.

Best wishes from your CBSS team
for an amazing 2017-2018 year,

Donna Riccobono, MEd — Project Director
Jennifer Willis, MS — Project Coordinator
Sandra Newcomb, PhD — Education & TA Specialist
Jeni Stepanek, PhD — Education & TA Specialist

2017 2018 CBSS Team b

Donna, Sandy, Jeni, and Jen —
your 2017-2018 CBSS Staff Team

Read the complete Message, 
including a glance back at Year 4
and a glance 
forward at Year 5
activities and events here…

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IMG_9322Go Baby Go!
Families Adapting Cars
and Having Fun…

“Wow! We are mobile!”

Learn more about the November 2017
family activity hosted by CBSS here… 

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  • OHOA logoIntervener Training
    Open Hands, Open Access:
    Deaf-blind Learning Modules
    All 27 Modules Now Posted & Available
  • What & Why: The Open Hands Open Access (OHOA) Intervener Learning Modules are a  free, online, national resource designed to increase awareness, knowledge, and skills related to intervention for students who have both a vision loss and a hearing loss and are being served in educational settings (ages 3 through 21).  The 27 modules were developed by the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) — created by a team of more than 72 people!) and are available for free online.
  • Who:  OHOA is a great resource and it’s not just for interveners. Administrators, Parents, Classroom Teachers, Teachers of the Blind & Visually Impaired, Teachers of the Deaf &Hard of Hearing, Related Service Personnel, SLP’s, Interpreters, Paraprofessionals, and other members of the team would also love OHOA!
  • — > Welcome Module 
    –> 1: Overview of Deaf-blindness and Instructional Strategies
    —> 2: The Sensory System, The Brain, and Learning 
    —> 3: The Role of Interveners in Educational Settings
    —> 4: Building Trusted Relationships and Positive Self-Image 

    —> 5: Availability for Learning
    —> 6: Understanding Communication Principles 
    —> 7: Emergent Communication 
    —> 8: Non-symbolic to Symbolic Communication
    —> 9: Routines for Participation and Learning
    —> 10: Concept Development and. Active Learning
    —> 11: Intervener Strategies
    —> 12: Maximizing Vision and Hearing
    —> 13: Calendars
    —> 14: Introduction to Orientation and Mobility for Interveners
    —> 15: Orientation and Mobility in Everyday Routines (
    —> 16: Self-Determination
     17: Social Skills
    —> 18: Collaborative Training and Family Partnerships
    —> 19: Accessing the curriculum and Environment
    —> 20: Values, Ethics, and Professionalism
    —> 21: Sexuality
    —> 22: An Introduction to Sign Language and Braille
    —> 23: Behavior and Environmental Supports
    —> 24: Transition to Adulthood and Community Living
    —> 25: Touch for Connecting and Learning
    —> 26: Touch for Connection and Communication
    —> 27: Putting It all Together 

  • To view the videos and learn from these modules,
    please visit the NCDB website “MOODLE” link HERE… 

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The Parents’ Place of Maryland
Welcomes New Executive Director

PPMD Rene Averitt-Sazone

PPMD New Executive Director, Rene Averitt-Sazone

The Parents’ Place of Maryland is pleased to announce that Rene Averitt-Sazone has been named as Executive Director.

Rene started June 1, replacing Josie Thomas, who retired as Executive Director on June 30 after two decades of service to PPMD.

With more than a 20-year career serving in programs for children with disabilities, operations, program management and more than a decade of parent center technical assistance experience, Averitt-Sanzone is sure to provide PPMD with remarkable guidance and success. She also brings personal experience to the position at PPMD as she is the parent of two adult daughters with deafness.

PPMD is a partner organization, working closely with the CBSS team and families.


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Two New Resources Available
for Parents of Children Who Are
Deaf or Hard of Hearing

hear to learn

Hear to Learn is a program of the Utah State University Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education and the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM). With the goal of advancing understanding of spoken language for young children who are deaf or hard of hearing, the website offers user-friendly materials for parents, caregivers, and teachers, for parents and other professionals -in English and Spanish.

Learn more about


sign it

SignIt is an online beginning American Sign Language (ASL) course with 10 units that teach beginning conversational ASL (vocabulary, sentences, grammar and syntax) and Deaf culture. The self-paced curriculum is estimated to take 25–30 hours to complete. The curriculum is free to parents of birth to 36-month-old children who are deaf or hard hearing ages birth to 3 years.

Visit the NCHAM website to complete and submit a form.


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Looking for ways to
stay healthy this summer?

Check out these factsheets describing various exercise and fitness techniques, modes, methods, adaptations, programming and related exercise equipment that can be used by, for, and in working with individuals with a variety of disabilities and health conditions.


2017 0609 Sandy CVI receive2017 0609 cvi awardCBSS TA & Education Specialist
Dr. Sandra Newcomb
recognized with
honorable service award for work as
P-CVIS Scientific Committee Chair
during 2015 through 2017


Since 2015, CBSS Team Member, Dr. Sandy Newcomb, has served as the Scientific Committee Chair for the newly formed Pediatric CVI Society (PCVIS). During the annual PCVIS Conference held in Nebraska during June, 2017, Dr. Newcomb was recognized with an “honorable service” award for her dedication and effort.


2017 0609 Sandy CVI conf awardDr. Newcomb is an expert on CVI. After serving as on the Advisory Committee for CBSS since 1993, she began working as a part of the Connections staff during 2005 as an Education and TA Specialist. While she is a certified vision specialist and special educator, she specific interest and skills related to working with youth who have Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI). In addition to direct services, assessment, and training with youth and families and providers, she has conducted research to determine the reliability and validity of Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy’s CVI Range assessment tool.

The PCVIS motto is simple: “We care about kids with CVI.” So does Dr. Newcomb. She has been involved with the creation and development of the PCVIS organization since its inception several years ago, working with other experts and family members to advance care and research for children impacted by this leading cause of visual impairment in the western world.

2017 0609 Sandy cvi awardThe mission of the Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment Society is to advocate for improvement in the quality of life of children with vision loss due to brain disorder, disease or injury.  The mission is restricted to matters concerning the sense of vision.


The goals of PCVIS are: 

1.          Advance interdisciplinary education and research.

2.          Enhance dissemination of information and its communication among and between professionals, parents, government and educational institutions, and other groups whom impact children with cortical visual impairment.

3.          Advocate for the appropriate allocation of resources to allow for improved vision services for children with cortical visual impairment.

4.          Improve public and professional awareness of cortical visual impairment in children.

5.          Advocate for governmental policy that improves quality and quantity of vision services available to children with cortical visual impairment.

6.          Engage in fundraising activities that will allow for advancement of the Mission and the Goals of the Society.

Learn more about PCVIS
and become a member HERE… 


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Informal Functional Hearing Evaluation (IFHE)
New Resource Released March, 2017

A  new resource has been developed at the Texas Deafblind Project of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) called the Informal Functional Hearing Evaluation (IFHE).

The IFHE is a tool created to guide the teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing (TDHH), the teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), and the teacher of students with DeafBlindness (TDB) in determining the impact of a potential hearing loss on educational functioning for students with visual impairments and multiple disabilities.z

The IFHE can serve as a guide for determining what accommodations are needed in the classroom, home, and community environments to promote student access to information. Because of the difficulty that a loss in both distance senses presents, a child who is deafblind may demonstrate a delay in identifying, understanding, and interpreting sounds and their sources. This delay can be pronounced, even if formal testing indicates a minimal loss of vision and hearing.

This evaluation tool was developed by Adam Graves, DeafBlind Consultant and Chris Montgomery, DeafBlind Consultant, with the Texas DeafBlind Project at Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired Outreach Programs in collaboration with the National Center on Deaf-Blindness.

Learn more and view/download
the IFHE tool here… 

Review of IFHE by local audiologist & IFHE co-creator:
Click on the link to view slides prepared by
Alexia Papanicolas, Au.D., CCC-A, District of Columbia Public Schools,
with Chris Montgomery, M.Ed., TVI,  TSBVI Outreach Programs
— a review of the IFHE — here… 




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Audio Describe the World!

from Megan Conway
via the Hawaii & Pacific DB
Project Newsletter

Blind, visually impaired and deafblind people can now access audio described (and text-only) versions of National Park Brochures thanks to CDS faculty members Megan Conway and Thomas Conway, who have been collaborating with Brett Oppegaard from the UH Department of Communications, and the American Council of the Blind, to provide access to NPS brochures via a mobile App. Audio Description has been used to describe visual content of movies, theater productions, and museum displays. But through funding from the NPS and Google, the Hawaii team has developed a way for National Parks to easily describe their brochures and exhibits using a simple web tool. Users can then download an App, MP3 file, or text file of the audio description. Now blind, visually impaired and deafblind people can have equal access to information

about our beautiful National Parks, and this is just the beginning! To learn more about the project go to https:// (or CLICK HERE...)


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Fee Reduced for
NICE Process for Interveners

NCDB, in collaboration with the Par2a Center, is pleased to announce that during the first year of implementation of the National Intervener Certification E-Portfolio (NICE) process, the originally announced portfolio assessment fee of $350 will be waived. Instead, once an intervener is ready to seek certification using the e-Portfolio process administered by the Par2a Center, he/she will be charged an administrative fee of $40 by the Par2a Center.  This decision was made in collaboration with OSEP under Grant #H326T130013 to encourage intervener participation in NICE. The fee structure may change in subsequent years based on cost and expense analyses of the process during this first year, October 2016 – September 2017, of the operation of NICE.

Read more about NICE here… 


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Nifty New Year & Winter
Lesson & Activity Tips:
Crafts and Learning Tools 

    • Monthly Tactile Calendar — click here… 
    • Creating a Calendar with Students with Multiple Disabilities — click here… 
    • Story Boxes: Literacy Adaptations for Students Who Are Deafblind (Paths to Literacy) — click here… 
    • Easy to Create Story Boxes — Ten Ideas for Ten Months — click here… 
    • Fun Activities for Blind and Visually Impaired Children (Pinterest page) — click here… 
    • Themes and Holiday Ideas (Pinterest page) — click here… 
    • Party Planning & Sensory Play for children with visual impairments — click here… 
  • WINTER & January:
    • Snowman Soup (1st activity, top of page) — click here… 
    • Hot Chocolate Cones (2nd activity, lower on page) — click here… 
    • Adaptive PE and the book The Mittenclick here… 
    • Story Box for All You Need for a Snowman book — click here… 
    • Just a Snowy Day book — click here… 
    • Winter-themed Activities in a Preschool Classroom – Hot & Cold (1st activity on page) — click here… 
    • Winter-themed Activities in a Preschool Classroom – Making Ice Cubes (2nd activity on page) — click here… 
    • Winter-themed Activities in a Preschool Classroom – Mittens (3rd activity on page) — click here… 
    • Winter-themed Activities in a Preschool Classroom – Hibernation (4th activity on page) — click here… 


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CBSS Families & Staff
Travel to the North Pole

for the Annual Fantasy Flight!

Story and photos here… 


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Maryland Access

Maryland Accessible Telecommunications (MAT)
“Free Tablet Program” 


The MAT program is designed to benefit Maryland residents who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, or are living with limited speech, mobility, or cognitive abilities.

Personalized solutions range from TTYs and captioned phones to tablets and iPads. Training is provided in addition to the technology solution.

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Working Together for Families
— Celebrating Collaboration, from NCDB —

Many state deaf-blind projects partner with parent centers to better serve families in their states. A new product from NCDB, Working Together for Families, highlights the practical strategies projects and centers use to be more effective in their work with families.

The strategies are organized using a collaboration framework, making it easy to understand the possibilities for sharing knowledge, resources, and expertise in order to strengthen services. There are great examples of state stories included in this resource.

CBSS is proud to be featured in this new resource! 
Learn more here…

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New or Revised Websites
—- & New Intervener Modules 

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Newsbrief Links


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Featured News

Governor's Office of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Logo

Governor Larry Hogan Signs Bill
Recognizing Biliterate High School Graduates
American Sign Language Recognized as Eligible Language
for New Maryland Seal of Biliteracy
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today signed into law Senate Bill 781, which grants bilingual students graduating from Maryland public high schools the opportunity to receive a seal on their high school diploma signifying their biliteracy skills. American Sign Language (ASL) was specifically recognized in this bill as one of the eligible languages. Members of the Class of 2017 will be the first graduates eligible to receive the seal.
“By recognizing the biliteracy of high school graduates, Governor Larry Hogan has shown that he understands the importance of biliteracy in today’s workforce, and the world at large,” said Kelby Brick, director of the Governor’s Office of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing. “It also shows his commitment to recognizing the linguistic diversity of Maryland citizens, and eradicating the scourge of language deprivation among Deaf and hard of hearing individuals.”
American Sign Language (ASL) is one of the fastest-growing foreign languages taught in high schools and higher education institutions across the country. Data has consistently shown that, compared to their hearing peers exposed to only English, Deaf and hard of hearing children’s early exposure to American Sign Language (ASL) results in strong English speech skills and better vocabulary and reading skills.
About the Governor’s Office of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing
The Governor’s Office of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing advocates for and promotes the general welfare of Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in Maryland by addressing policy gaps, providing expertise related to Deaf and hard of hearing issues, and facilitating access to resources and services.
video photo link
Information from Press Release issued by:
Maryland Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing 
217 E. Redwood Street, Suite 910
Baltimore, Maryland 21202

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News from NCDB

(the entries below are updates from the 
 National Center on Deaf-Blindness)


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National Intervener Certification Launches

—– National Intervener Certification E-Portfolio (NICE)

In partnership with the Paraprofessional Resource and Research Center (PAR2A) at the University of Colorado in Denver, we are launching the National Intervener Certification E-portfolio (NICE). NCDB has partnered closely with state deaf-blind projects, practicing interveners, and university experts to design an online e-portfolio system to support the demonstration of practicing interveners’ knowledge and skill sets in meeting the needs of students or clients who are deaf-blind.

NCDB’s role in this partnership will be to provide technical assistance to interested state and university collaborators who wish to host groups of interveners to use two NICE modules. These modules will support trained interveners in using the online portfolio platform and in creating and describing artifacts from their practice to build a complete portfolio to submit for evaluation.

National Invervener Certification E-Portfolio Certification logo

The PAR2A Center will manage the NICE Review Board, a group of trained experts and advisers from the field of deaf-blindness, who will assist in scoring portfolios. Ultimately, the PAR2A Center will determine if e-portfolios have passing scores and award national certificates to interveners.

NICE creates a path for recognizing and honoring the role of the intervener in the United States, as well as championing the access and communication needs of individuals who are deaf-blind. Very exciting!

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OHOA Modules Ready for Release

—– Open Hands Open Access Modules

Since 2012, NCDB has partnered closely with more than 180 diverse partners in the national deaf-blind network to create, field test, and revise the Open Hands, Open Access (OHOA) Deaf-Blind Intervener Learning Modules.

On October 1, 2016, we launch the final nine modules that constitute this open access resource, bringing to 27 the total number of modules, all of which are aligned with the Council for Exceptional Children’s (CEC) Knowledge and Skills Competencies for Interveners.

Currently, there are 4,546 registered users in the OHOA modules that represent adult learners from all 50 states. Both state and university partners are hosting cohort groups in OHOA to provide enriched learning experiences and to accomplish specific personnel development goals based on state and community needs.

On the NCDB website you will find a complete description of the OHOA modules and a downloadable brochure to share with interested users.

NCDB wants to acknowledge the contributions of state projects, university partners, families, educators, interveners and service providers in developing both NICE and OHOA. This work could not have been accomplished without their effort, time and expertise. This work celebrates an entire community!


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New “State Portal” on the NCDB Website! 

From the National Center on Deaf-Blindness:

NCDB has developed a new area on the NCDB website for use exclusively by state deaf-blind projects. The State Portal will launch later in January. Here are some answers to questions that you might have.

What is the State Portal?

The State Portal is a private section of the NCDB website that is only open to state projects. Projects can use this space to collaborate, communicate and share ideas with each other.

What is the purpose of the State Portal and why should I participate?

One of OSEP’s goals for the federally funded deaf-blind program is to operate as a more efficient and effective network. The State Portal will help to increase our communication and knowledge about each other’s needs, activities, and expertise, deepening our engagement and sustaining our collaborative relationships and shared work.

Do I need to sign up?

If you are receiving this message, you will automatically be placed into the portal. You will be able to access it via the NCDB website.

How do I get to the portal?

You can access the portal from the State Projects tab in the main navigation bar of the NCDB website, or from your Profile page, or from the pull down menu of your groups located in the upper right corner of the page next to your name. All are options, but you must be logged into the site to access the portal.

What can I do here?

The portal has six main areas:

  1. Group Forum where project staff can post questions, get answers and share discussions in a more organized fashion than on the LISTSERV list.
  2. The State Activity Database where projects can view each other’s activities, goals, and areas of expertise.
  3. News and Events where projects can post specific information they want to share with other projects.
  4. An area to share Resources with each other, such as trainings or other project materials. For starters, this area will be pre-populated with the TA tools from the TA Guide currently in development.
  5. Find a Mentor. This section will allow people to request or offer to be a mentor on specific topics and areas where new project staff have voiced various needs.
  6. The TA Reference Guide will be housed here to provide a place for discussion and feedback as it is improved and revised over the coming months.

Where did the information come from that is included in the State Activity Database?

The database was created in response to a network suggestion to gather information about state project efforts so that we would all better understand the knowledge and experience that exists across the network. The information was generated from a survey sent out to state projects in the spring of 2015. To date, 32 states have responded. We hope all states will contribute to the shared information in the near future.

How is this different from the LISTSERV email list?

The portal has significant advantages over the LISTSERV list in that it organizes and builds on the communications and interactions. Tools in the portal allow you to share resources, have threaded conversations, and follow ongoing news and events. All information posted to the portal remains within the portal. The LISTSERV does not offer these features.

How many people per project can be a part of the portal?

The portal is open to all project staff.

I changed my password on the NCDB website; will I still be able to access the portal?

As long as you are able to log into the NCDB website, you will be able to access the portal.

Will I receive notifications related to the portal?

Notifications for activity within the portal will show up in your profile, in the drop down notifications panel in the upper right hand corner of the site, and in your email.

I don’t use the tools on the NCDB website. Can I still participate in the portal?

Yes. We will offer some drop-in training sessions to answer questions and show people around.

For additional questions, contact Gail Leslie or Sam Morgan


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See news item above —
This bill now re-introduced as H.R. 1120

Cogswell-Macy Bill Introduced!
Comprehensive Special Education Legislation for
Blind/Visually Impaired, Deaf/Hard of Hearing,
and Deafblind Students

H.R. 3535: The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act
“Our students will thrive – with Thirty-five Thirty-five!”

Follow this link to read this latest edition of DirectConnect online: newsletter/cogswell-macy-bill-introduced/1235
For further information, contact: 
Mark Richert, Esq.
Director, Public Policy, AFB
(202) 469-6833
Dear colleagues, friends and fellow advocates for students with disabilities:
Yesterday, following impressive, dedicated advocacy across the sensory impairments communities, the most comprehensive legislation to enhance and reform America’s special education system for students with vision/hearing disabilities and deafblindness has been introduced. H.R. 3535, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, once enacted, will ensure that: every child who is deaf, every child who is blind, and every child who is deafblind, regardless of whether they have additional disabilities, will be properly counted and
served; each of a child’s unique learning needs will be properly evaluated; states will engage in strategic planning to be sure that they can in fact meet each child’s specialized needs;
the U.S. Department of Education will do its part to hold states and schools accountable; students with sensory disabilities will be served by qualified personnel; and students who are blind will receive state-of-the-art services and skills supported through a new major national collaborative initiative addressing their unique learning needs.
Introduced by Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and David McKinley (R-WV), H.R. 3535 is named for Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s beloved teacher; and Alice Cogswell, the first deaf girl to be educated in a school for the deaf in the United States. Originally introduced in the previous Congress as H.R. 4040, this updated version of the Cogswell-Macy Act includes additional language to support students who are deafblind. Advocates for students who are blind/visually impaired, deaf/hard-of-hearing, and deafblind have worked tirelessly with legislators to compose three strong, parallel titles within the Act, addressing the needs of students in these three sensory- disability areas.
Read below for the press release from Rep. Cartwright’s office, and read the complete text of the
Cogswell-Macy Act on the AFB Policy Center website at the following link:
Advocates are urged to contact your member of the U.S. House of Representatives to ask him/her to cosponsor H.R. 3535 today!
Tell your Representative that by cosponsoring, he/she will be helping to make history by ensuring that America’s special education system is worthy of the enormous potential of every child who is blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf blind
This year, 2015, is the 40th anniversary of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Tell your Representative that by joining in this campaign, they will help us transform a forty-year-old system from one that has broken down barriers into a system that finally ensures that kids with sensory disabilities will be receiving the education and supports they need to thrive in our nation’s classrooms!
Advocates should stay tuned to at:
for more information and regular updates
as the Cogswell-Macy Act progresses.
Thank you for your advocacy for 
children and youth with sensory disabilities!

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Families Matter

Stories are a wonderful way to share information and experiences. Beginning in January 2016, the Family Engagement Initiative will regularly publish web-based stories about children who are deaf-blind and their families. These stories —told mostly through video by the families— will highlight key subjects: communication, literacy, movement, transition, empowerment, and teaming. The stories will be a focus for online discussion and engagement. We plan to publish four to six stories per year.


NCDB is very excited about the continued production of our Families Matter stories. In early July, the second of these stories was posted to the for Families section of the NCDB website.  Meet Soliz and Camila Magdelano is the story of two young children from Arizona, ages 7 and 8, who each have combined vision and hearing loss due to Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. Along with their loving parents and the family dog, they embark on a road trip from Arizona to California to camp out with their extended family. The videos capture their adventures and demonstrate sensory experiences, communication, and movement in the context of everyday family life. This beautiful story is a must see. Click on the photos of Soliz and Camila to go to their story.

Initiative Expands Focus
Over the past year, through partnerships with state projects serving children who are deaf-blind, national parent organizations, personnel preparation programs, and the Council for Exceptional Children, we have been working to promote awareness around interveners and other qualified personnel working with children. At our Summit gathering in July in Salt Lake City, NCDB hosted a group of faculty members and state partners who are connected to preparing teachers and interveners around the nation. With the establishment of this group, we have new opportunities to talk about the need for teachers of the deaf-blind and other qualified personnel who may support interveners. Building the capacity of teachers to better serve students who are deaf-blind and to support the intervener role has always been a part of the national recommendations. Now, as a part of celebrating the progress of implementation of the recommendations with our community, NCDB is changing the name of the Intervener Services Initiative to Interveners and Qualified Personnel, to reflect this expanded focus.

New OHOA Intervener
—- Learning Modules to be Released

NCDB is pleased to announce the release of the Open Hands, Open Access (OHOA) Deaf-Blind Intervener Learning Modules numbers 9 thru 18 on September 30. If you have an OHOA Moodle account, please visit: to log in and see the new modules. If you are interested in registering to review the modules, please complete the online registration form and we will manually add you to the system. The following are the recent additions to the module library:

  • Module 9: Routines for Assessment and Learning
  • Module 10: Concept Development and Responsive Environments
  • Module 11: Intervention Strategies
  • Module 12: Maximizing Vision and Hearing
  • Module 13: Calendar Systems
  • Module 14: Introduction to Orientation and Mobility for the Intervener
  • Module 15: Orientation and Mobility in Everyday Routines
  • Module 16: Self-Determination
  • Module 17: Social Skills
  • Module 18: Collaborative Teaming and Family Partnerships

 ====OHOA Production Nears Completion

For the past four years, NCDB has been working closely with nearly 180 partners in the national deaf-blind network to create, field test, and revise the Open Hands, Open Access (OHOA) Deaf-Blind Intervener Learning Modules. On October 1, 2016, we anticipate the release of the final nine modules (numbers 19 – 27) that constitute this national resource which is aligned with the Council for Exceptional Children’s (CEC) Knowledge and Skills Competencies for Interveners. This is indeed a celebration! At the time of this post, there are 4,546 registered users in the OHOA modules representing adult learners from all 50 states. Both state and university partners are hosting learning groups in OHOA to provide enriched learning experiences and to accomplish specific personnel development goals based on state and community needs. A description of each of the modules and an informational flyer have been created and are available to share.

NOTE: For information & registration links
2for the 2016-2017 OHOA On-line Modules


Learn more about NCDB and visit their
website by clicking here…


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Other News

(the entries below are updates from the 
 local & national agencies and organizations)


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Older News (but still relevant)


Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act

2017-2018 (115th Congress UPDATE)
Bill Re-introduced as H.R.1120

Originally known as H.R.4040, then H.R.3535, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act has been re-introduced to the 115th Congress as H.R.1120. The purpose of the bill is:

“To promote and ensure delivery of high quality special education and related services to students with visual disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing or deaf-blind through instructional methodologies meeting their unique learning needs; to enhance accountability for the provision of such services, and for other purposes.”

What is needed to advance this bill? More congressional House members to  sign on to the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Matt Cartwright along with 15 other original co-sponsors. Once enough representatives sign on, the bill then needs to go to the Senate.

(Additional information about this bill is offered
in a previous article lower on this page)

Please follow this link to contact your state’s representatives to show your support for this bill, which will positively impact individuals with deafblindess:
–> National Coalition on Deaf-Blindness: Cogswell-Macy Act

Read the full text of H.R.1120
by clicking here… 

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us court imageEndrew F. Case Decided:
Supreme Court Rules on
How Much Benefit IEPs Must Provide

In the News blog post by Andrew M I Lee
Mar 22, 2017

The Supreme Court ruled today that Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) must give kids with disabilities more than a de minimis, or minimal, educational benefit. The ruling could have a big effect on school services for kids with learning and attention issues.

The case—Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District—involved “Drew,” a boy with autism who made almost no progress on his IEP goals. His parents said he was entitled to more under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the nation’s special education law. They asked the Court to rule that the boy should have had an “equal opportunity” to achieve success like other kids. The school district, however, argued that the boy only had the right to a de minimis, or minimal, benefit from the IEP. And that’s what he received, the school district said.

In a 16-page decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, writing for a unanimous court, rejected the school district’s de minimis standard. He wrote that IDEA aims for “grade level advancement for children with disabilities who can be educated in the regular classroom.” Therefore, a de minimis standard makes no sense:

When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing “merely more than de minimis” progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all. For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to “sitting idly … awaiting the time when they were old enough to ‘drop out.’”

But Roberts also didn’t accept the “equal opportunity” standard that Drew’s parents wanted. Instead, he crafted a more flexible standard:

The IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.

This would apply, Roberts wrote, even to kids like Drew who aren’t integrated into general education classrooms:

If that is not a reasonable prospect for a child, his IEP need not aim for grade-level advancement. But his educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom. The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.

He acknowledged that this was a “general standard, not a formula.” A lot will depend, he wrote, on each child’s unique needs:

We will not attempt to elaborate on what “appropriate” progress will look like from case to case. It is in the nature of the [special education law] and the standard we adopt to resist such an effort: The adequacy of a given IEP turns on the unique circumstances of the child for whom it was created.

Importantly, Roberts noted, IDEA requires IEPs to be developed with expertise from schools and input from parents. And schools must give “cogent and responsive explanation[s]” for their decisions on services.

Disability advocates applauded the Endrew F. decision. “This is a good day for children with disabilities,” said Mimi Corcoran, President and CEO of Understood founding partner the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). “The Court affirmed that the vision and intent of IDEA is that children with disabilities will make meaningful progress in our education system and achieve ‘appropriately ambitious’ objectives. It soundly rejected the belief that just some small benefit is enough. NCLD applauds this decision and will work with parents and educators to make it a reality.”

Legal experts caution that it will take time to understand the full implications of the decision for kids with learning and attention issues. But for Drew’s parents, the decision is a welcome sign that their son deserved more.

Read more about the right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Learn about your options when you disagree with a school about your child’s IEP. And find out how to tell if the goals in your child’s IEP are SMART.

About the Blogger

Portrait of Andrew Lee

Andrew M.I. Lee is an editor and former attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education and parenting issues.

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Josie Thomas to Retire as
Parents’ Place Executive Director

CLICK HERE to view the Press Release

Thomas to retire at the end of June 2017

josie-thomas-headshotGLEN BURNIE, MD – The Parents’ Place of Maryland (PPMD) Board of Directors and staff announce the upcoming retirement of its Executive Director, Josie Thomas.

Josie has served in this position for 20 years. She is one of the original founders of the organization which was established in 1990. Josie served as the first President of the Board of Directors and stepped down in 1997 to become the Executive Director. She will retire in June 2017.

“We have such deep gratitude for Josie, her leadership and especially her vision for children who have special needs and their families. Josie’s retirement will cap more than two decades of achievement and growth,” said Donna Riccobono, President of the Board of Directors. “She leaves us with a tremendous legacy that we are excited to capitalize on as we begin the search for a new executive director.”
Under Josie’s leadership, the Parents’ Place grew to serve more than 10,000 parents and families of children with special needs each year through individual assistance, training, and informational resources. During her tenure, she developed relationships with state and federal agencies, professional and community organizations, and parents of children with special needs.
Josie led the development of a variety of innovative parent and professional programs such as: the highly rated Parent Special Education LEADers Training program; the innovative Medical Home Parent Partner program; and the successful Maryland Consortium for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CoC). In 2014, Josie received the national Merle McPherson Leadership Award for exemplary contributions to further family and professional collaboration from the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs.
Josie led the Parent’s Place with determination, passion, skill, kindness, and humor. The lives of children in Maryland are forever changed due to her tireless efforts to raise the bar for education and health services, and most of all, ensuring that kids and families have the opportunity to live the fullest lives possible. Josie is looking forward to some rest, celebrating 50 years of marriage, and traveling with her husband.
The Parent’s Place will be conducting a search to identify the next executive director. Details of the search process, including the position announcement, will be posted on PPMD’s website at
About the Parents’ Place of Maryland
Our mission is to empower families as advocates and partners in improving education and health outcomes for their children with disabilities and special health care needs. The Parents’ Place serves as Maryland’s Parent Training and Information Center and Family-to-Family Health Information Center where we support thousands of Maryland families each year through our programs and services. We believe that experienced parents are a key source of knowledge and support to help other parents become effective voices for their own children.
Media Contact
Val Englert
Communications Coordinator

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National Endowment for the Arts
Gives $25,000 to Gallaudet
for Deaf-blind Theatre Initiative

Reposted from the Gallaudet’s website here…

Gallaudet Theatre Endowment

Photo by Zhee Chatmon: The deaf-blind theatre initiative, proposed by Dr. Jill Bradbury, professor, Department of English (above), takes on the challenge of developing models and practices to allow deaf-blind people to participate in theatre as both audience members and actors. This will be done primarily through ProTactile communication strategies. Bradbury will serve as project director of the initiative.

On December 13, 2016, Gallaudet was awarded a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support a deaf-blind theatre initiative in 2017.

This endowment is part of a $30 million grant effort by the NEA, awarded to nonprofit organizations and individuals across the country in the areas of Art Works, Art Works: Creativity Connects, Challenge America, and Creative Writing Fellowships. These grants span all artistic disciplines-reaching 48 states as well as Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands-and also support partnerships between the arts and non-arts sectors.

Theatre by deaf-blind people for deaf-blind people currently does not exist. What little access deaf-blind people have to theatre comes through tactile American Sign Language interpretations of productions designed for sighted patrons.

“Hearing blind people may derive pleasure from listening to the dialogue while receiving audio description,” said deaf-blind writer, John Lee Clark, in Scene4 Magazine’s April 2015 issue. “They’d hear the actor yell, “You stole my money!” and know from the description that a gun has now come into play. For deaf-blind people, there is no direct connection. It all comes through an interpreter, secondhand, in a jumble, and you’re lost.”

The deaf-blind theatre initiative, proposed by Dr. Jill Bradbury, professor, Department of English, takes on the challenge of developing models and practices to allow deaf-blind people to participate in theatre as both audience members and actors. This will be done primarily through ProTactile communication strategies.

ProTactile is a system developed to convey environmental information, nonverbal cues, and noises/facial expressions to deaf-blind people. ProTactile emphasizes direct interaction between deaf-blind individuals, rather than mediated via sighted interpreters.

As part of the initiative, participants at a two-week summer institute will analyze immersive theatre experiences and ProTactile communication strategies to identify dramatic techniques that best accommodate the needs of deaf-blind people.

The summer institute will lay the groundwork for future productions of tactile and accessible theater. Clark will serve as lead facilitator of the summer institute, and his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet will serve as the focus text. Gallaudet Video Services will produce a short documentary on the project to broaden its impact beyond the D.C. metro area deaf-blind community.

Bradbury will serve as project director of the deaf-blind theatre initiative.

“I’m honored to receive the NEA ArtWorks grant,” said Bradbury. “It will bring together a wonderful team of people at Gallaudet and elsewhere to develop models of theatre by and for deaf-blind people.”

Ethan Sinnott, associate professor, Department of Arts, Communication and Theater, will serve as project artistic director. He will also assist in facilitating the summer institute and advise on the production, along with Rachel Grossman, artistic director of dog & pony dc.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more about NEA.

by Andrew Greenman, ’10 and Adham Talaat, ’14
Published December 19, 2016



Delrey School (a CBSS Partner)
is in the news! 

Check out this great article and video
from the Baltimore Sun here… 
Read more about the
Delrey Demonstration Project
and the school’s
Partnership with CBSS Partner here… 


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25 Years of the ADA


from the

Arc of Maryland HERE… 

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Updates on
New & Introduced Bills

  • New Bill  — HB1141
    Education – PARCC Testing – Exemption for Children with Disabilities
    Rules Committee, Introduced February 20
    This bill proposes to exempt a child with a disability from taking a Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment or its equivalent in a public school.
    –> Learn more here…
  • New Bill  — HB1060
    Special Education – Individualized Education Program Facilitated Meetings
    Hearing: Ways & Means, March 5 at 1pm
    Sponsored by Delegate Luedtke
    This bill proposes to require each local school system to offer the services of an independent facilitator to specified parents and school personnel and to authorize the parents to request the participation of an independent facilitator at IEP meetings.
    —> Learn more here… 
  • Senate Bill Cross-Filed & New Hearing — HB44/SB314
    Special Education – Translations of Individualized Education Programs or Individualized Family Service Plans – Native Language
    House Hearing: Ways & Means, February 12 at 1pm
    Senate Hearing: Education, February 25 at 1pm
    Sponsored by Delegate Luedtke
    This bill proposes to authorize the parents of a child with a disability to request the translation into their native language of a completed individualized education program or a completed individualized family service plan and to receive it within 30 days of the request.
    —> Learn More about the House Bill here…
    —> Learn More about the Senate Bill here…
  • New Hearing — HB342
    Special Education – Related Services Providers – Consortium
    Hearing: Ways & Means, February 26 at 1pm
    Sponsored by Delegate Luedtke
    This bill proposes to require the State Department of Education to establish an association of qualified substitute related services providers who may assist in delivering the services required by a child’s Individualized Education Program in the absence of the regular provider.
    —> Learn more here… 
  • New Hearing — HB344/SB390
    Education – Due Process Hearings for Children with Disabilities – Burden of Proof
    House Hearing: Ways & Means, March 5 at 1pm
    Senate Hearing: Education, February 25 at 1pm
    Sponsored by Delegate Washington, et al. in the House and Senator Montgomery in the Senate
    This bill proposes to require the specified public agencies to bear a specified burden of proof in due process hearings that are held to resolve a dispute relating to the provision of a free appropriate public education.
    —> Learn More about the House Bill here…
    —> Learn More about the Senate Bill here…
  • Education Bill — HB159
    Special Education – Standards and Workload Guidelines for Teachers and Related Services Providers
    Hearing: Ways & Means, February 12 at 1pm
    Sponsored by Delegate Luedtke
    This bill proposes to require the State Board of Education to adopt regulations that establish workload guidelines for special education teachers and related services providers, require the State Board to conduct a specified analysis of the administrative responsibilities of special education teachers, and make specified recommendations beginning with the 2016-2017 school year.
    —> Learn more here… 


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DSCN0637 use

CBSS ha creado
una nueva pagina
con recursos y enlaces

en español –> aquí…



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Sensory ParkAddditions Along New
All-Sensory Trail
Stir All Five Senses

Read the Baltimore Sun article HERE… 


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New ASL Video Series from HKNC:
The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-blind Youth and Adults has announced a new reference guide of ASL signs used to describe technology. A series of videos, organized by category and alphabetically, are presented in ASL, voice, text and with text transcripts of how to produce the signs.
CLICK HERE to learn more from HKNC….  

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Sarah flower IMG_4385Delrey Receives Approval for Programming
for Dual Sensory Impaired Students

Read the story here…

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2013 1200 Delrey School staff setting up model classrooms
Delrey Demonstration Project —

Evidence-based Practice in Action


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Smithdas RichardRobert Smithdas (1925-2014) — Advocate for the Deaf-blind —
(First person with deaf-blindness to earn a Master’s degree)

NCDB tribute to the late advocate for the deaf-blind
who was  honored by U.S. presidents and non-profits (click here…)


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The Next Five Years —

Exciting Goals, Growing Partnerships!


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To view Archived CBSS News & Events


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