March 28, 2011
By Marybeth Lauderdale
Farewell, Hearing and Vision Connections
March 31 marks the end of the Hearing and Vision Connections (HVC) program, as we currently know it. The contracts which have made up this program have been nullified by the Fletcher decision, and while we were able to keep the program going after its original end date of December 31, 2010, March 31 is the final day of this program’s existence. We have been working since July of 2010 to develop positions based in the ISD and ISVI Outreach programs to continue to provide these services. I want to take this opportunity to thank Gail Olson for her commitment and leadership of this most worthwhile program. She and her staff have grown HVC into a model for Early Intervention for babies with vision and hearing impairments and their families, for other states across the country.
In addition, the final issue of the HVC Newsletter is attached. It is a testimony to a wonderful program which has provided invaluable services to countless babies and their families, thanks to Gail Olson and her tireless staff. The following is taken from a letter from Marcia Breese, ISD Outreach Coordinator, to various collaborating organizations across the state. This letter gleaned much support for the program, and we are in the final stages of filling the positions created as a result of the Fletcher decision. While we wish the transition would be seamless, apparently there will be a lapse in services. We hope this will not be a very long hiatus.
“As you may know, the Illinois School for the Deaf has served as the fiscal agent for the Early Intervention training and technical assistance program, Hearing and Vision Connections (HVC), since July of 1999. HVC has been funded by the DHS Bureau of Early Intervention since that time as a result of a proposal the Illinois School for the Deaf made to DHS in September of 1998. At this time, we feel that the program has accomplished a great many things that it set out to do. What remains to be done, we feel can be folded into the Outreach departments of the Illinois School for the Deaf and the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired. Although not all current services of the Hearing and Vision Connections program would be duplicated through the schools, we feel that the schools are appropriate entities to provide training and information related to vision and hearing and to provide direct service and technical assistance to families and providers along with other outreach activities. The schools hope to expand both direct and outreach services as a central statewide resource in hearing and vision and this includes the birth to three populations.
Here is a brief review of the HVC programs major accomplishments:
- The addition of Developmental Therapists/Vision, Developmental Therapists /Orientation and Mobility, Developmental Therapists/Hearing, and Deaf Mentors to the Illinois System of Early Intervention.
- The recruitment of hearing and vision providers into the system, the provision of assistance and consultation in obtaining credentialing status of providers and the ongoing provision of training and technical assistance of those providers.
- The development of Illinois Functional Screening tools for both vision and hearing with training on the tools on a regular basis to Early Intervention, Head Start and Parents as Teachers providers.
- Establishment of statewide working relationships with other entities related to hearing and/or vision loss through training and conference collaborations and service on multiple boards and councils related to vision and/or hearing loss.
- The development of Service Guidelines for the Young Child Who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing and Service Guidelines for the Young Child Who is Visually or Dually Sensory Impaired, which later became the Illinois Early Intervention Vision and Hearing Service Guidelines.
- The establishment of Designated Service Coordinators with specialized training in serving families of children with vision or hearing loss in all 25 Child and Family Connections Offices throughout the state.
- The initiation of six free annual statewide Conferences for Parents of Children with Vision or Hearing Loss in collaboration with multiple statewide conference committees.
- The provision of networking opportunities for Early Intervention hearing and vision providers through professional conference preconferences, network meetings, webinars and summer mini camps.
- The ongoing publication and distribution of free quarterly informational newsletters on hearing and vision to statewide and national data base.
None of the above would have been possible without the close collaboration of the program with the two schools, the DHS Bureau of Early Intervention, and the passion and commitment shown by the HVC staff. I am writing to you today with an urgent request for your letter of support for the establishment of positions that will enable the schools to expand Outreach services to babies with vision or hearing loss which will provide training, information, direct service and technical assistance to families and providers. I am sure you will agree that without these positions, valuable knowledge and expertise specific to early intervention for this population will be lost and the services will suffer.”
Change is always difficult, but often great growth comes from a period of adversity. The letter quoted above generated wonderful support, and consequently, we look forward to a new era with the ISD/ISVI EI Outreach program!