Growing Community Interveners

A Family's Touch: Growing Community Interveners for Orion (and Beyond)

Heather L. Withrow, Mom, COMS
March 11, 2024

Intervener Nanette and Orion's hands touch in the sunlight at home. Nanette was Orion's first DBMD waiver intervener when he was 5, she has known him since he was 2 years old.

Our family has been blessed to witness, learn from, teach and grow with interveners throughout Orion's life. Orion was assigned his first school intervener when he was 3 years old at Texas School for the Deaf. In December of 2014, when Orion was almost 4 1/2 years old, his name came to the top of the Deaf Blind with Multiple Disabilities (DBMD) Medicaid Waiver Interest List. Texas' DBMD Waiver is the only Medicaid waiver that specifically covers home/community intervener services.  Orion's name was added onto the Interest list in October 2012. His relatively exponential rise up the Interest List in 2014 came after 100 new slots were added for eligible Texans to access the DBMD Waiver. After some interesting complexities that came up, Orion finally could start services in the fall of 2015.

Interveners work one-on-one with individuals who are DeafBlind, using their DeafBlind-specific training.

In our house, intervener knowledge and skills include:
  • Using hand-under-hand technique consistently and appropriately
  • Facilitating/creating space AND time for detection, exploring, learning and connecting
  • Supporting communication development
  • Supporting emotional and social concepts
  • Being present, available and discoverable
  • Fading/increasing support as appropriate
  • Coaching others how to greet and interact with the DeafBlind individual.
DeafBlind children and available interveners are very small in numbers! Our family knows that if a passionate person comes along, that when we hire them, we will be teaching them on the job about Orion's abilities, activities and interest and basic intervener skills. This is them learning about ONE DeafBlind child and they will (and have) also happen to learn about other DeafBlind children and adults. In addition to the intervener skills needed, each intervener brought their own amazing skill set to Orion's life (thus our life)! 

Here are pictures of some of, not all, Orion's DBMD Waiver interveners in action, past and present!

Intervener Lisa supports Orion in an upright position as he dips his left foot into the water of a plastic kiddie pool in the family backyard.

Orion lays on top of intervener Nanette's legs, his feet on top of her feet.
A great example of FUF! (Feet Under Feet, LOL.)

Intervener Micaela brings to Orions' attention to some interesting plants in a neighbor's front yard during Halloween. Well, no, that was a plastic skeleton that was "planted". 

Intervener Marisa supported Orion at a community pool and ensured his safe water exploration. The "beach entry" feature of pools rock, just as seen in these photos. (Summer 2019)

Orion feels the grips and ledge, with the support of his intervener, Nanette, in the kiddie climbing area of a local Austin rock climbing destination.

Intervener Lisa worked with Orion on hygiene during the summer when he was younger.
Note the two-slot calendar box on the table behind Orion. After Orion finishes brushing his teeth (now), (then) the lycra swing is next on the schedule!

Intervener Daniel and Orion share a backyard slide experience in September 2020. Daniel was the first intervener back at our home, 6 months after COVID shut down the world we knew.

Intervener Nanette supported Orion in getting off his school bus. (Orion has two unofficial bus deboarding categories: the butt bump-down and stepping down via foot.)

Intervener Nanette supports Orion in walking away from the bus toward the family home.

Intervener Nanette supports Orion in trailing and checking out the family truck in the driveway.

Intervener Nanette works the front door handleset as Orion observes with both of his hands on top of Nanette's hand and the hardware. (Orion would also pound the door and kick it with his feet!)

Intervener Nanette supports a slightly older Orion as he steps away from his school bus. Both Orion and Nanette are smiling.

Intervener Nanette supported Orion in his desire to climb onto and explore the hood of the family van. I remember Orion put his fingers in the grille, too.

Intervener Daniel and Orion work hard to share chocolate mush pieces when the family and Grandpa went out to celebrate big brother Skyler's graduation from high school.

Birthday boy and interveners.
Daniel, Orion (newly 13), Mary Jane and Nanette.

Intervener Nanette and Orion try on costumes during DBCTX's inaugural Family Weekend at Camp For All (Fall 2023).

Interveners do come and go. (*cry emoji* and *happy emoji*) I want to say in between the 'come' and 'go', they GREW!

I'm happy to say a number have gone on to different service/teaching roles for individuals in our local DeafBlind Community.  Two interveners applied for and received intervener scholarships via DBMAT.  One intervener completed their NICE portfolio and now has national intervener credentials

(This DeafBlind Intervener Specific Training document has more leads to opportunities for learning.)

For the school side of things, the same appreciation goes for interveners serving DeafBlind kids in schools. I must stomp my feet and drum tabletops in celebration of teachers of students who are DeafBlind, including Orion's earlier teachers. Heck, all the members of IFSP and IEP teams who pursued learning and getting training on what they could about intervener skills, teaching and communicating with DeafBlind babies, children and youth!