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Home > Clerc Center > Collaborating to Enhance Services for Children with Complex Needs

Collaborating to Enhance Services for Children with Complex Needs

Image: During a training session, Clerc Center teachers and staff wear eye masks to simulate loss of sight.

During a training session, Clerc Center teachers and staff wear eye masks to simulate loss of sight.

Image: Sandra Newcomb (on right, in brown jacket) from Connections of Beyond Sight and Sound leads a workshop for PIP and Clerc Center support staff.

Sandra Newcomb (on right, in brown jacket) from Connections of Beyond Sight and Sound leads a workshop for PIP and Clerc Center support staff.

Approximately 40% of deaf and hard of hearing children have additional disabilities. Clerc Center Parent-Infant Program (PIP) teachers Debra Cushner and Brenda Perrodin gave a presentation on enhancing the services for these children at the 10th Annual Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EDHI) Conference. Their topic addressed how the PIP at the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center collaborates with other agencies and programs in providing services to young children with complex needs.

PIP is located in Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES), one of the two demonstration schools connected with the Clerc Center in Washington, D.C. The program is for children from birth to two years of age. The teachers and staff work with the children and family members two days a week for half a day each, and offer parent support and parent meetings on-site.

Currently, the PIP program provides services for 17 families, out of which seven children have complex needs. "We reached a tipping point with the increase in number and complexity of children in our program," said Cushner. "We realized we needed to enhance our on-site supports. We also wanted to expand and make better use of our local and national partnerships."

The PIP staff sought ways to set up collaborative assessments and treatment models. They accomplished this by using a KDES on-site interdisciplinary team and teaming with outside specialists and agencies for co-assessment and co-treatment, consultation, and professional training.

As part of setting up a collaborative program for co-treatment, the Clerc Center supports PIP in allowing the use of KDES facilities for a number of interagency service providers. PIP staff members participate in home visits with other providers, and invite outside service providers to join classroom activities. The Clerc Center also offers American Sign Language classes for outside service providers and the community.

One example of a successful collaboration is between PIP and Connections Beyond Sight and Sound (CBBS), a project dedicated to enhancing the lives of children who are deaf-blind and their families. "The experience of working with the team at PIP has been fabulous," said Sandra Newcomb, Ph.D. from Connections Beyond Sight and Sound. "Effective teaming requires that we be willing to learn from each other, from the child, and from the family. No one has all the answers."

Cushner and Perrodin shared with their audience at the EDHI conference that collaboration brings many benefits. "A collective and collaborative service delivery plan helps keep everyone on the same page," said Perrodin. "There is less stress and confusion for the families. And it helps prevent duplication of services." The PIP teachers and staff continue to look for new ways to collaborate and enhance the services for children with complex needs.