In 2017, seven projects affiliated with the National Center on Deaf-Blindness partnered to create the Midwest Deafblind Transition Institute. The purpose of the institute is to provide access to college campus experiences, available services, and activities for students who are deafblind as they transition into adulthood.
This year, the Wisconsin Deafblind Technical Assistance Project hosted the Midwest Deafblind Transition Institute on the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater campus. A new video from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction illustrates the experiences made available for students during the institute, including some that pushed boundaries of what students were willing to try, like water skiing!
Students, mentors, and deafblind project staff share their perspectives on what the institute accomplishes for students between the ages of 16-21 who are deafblind.
The theme of this year’s institute was ‘Mooving Forward,’ reflecting the state of Wisconsin and the larger theme of students moving ahead with the next steps of their lives. Jolene Gruber, the Wisconsin Deafblind Technical Assistance Project Grand Coordinator, worked with the National Center on Deaf-Blindness, along with leaders from six other states to coordinate, plan, and execute the institute, ensuring all students had access to the communications they needed. “We had 12 deafblind students attending and eight deafblind mentors paired with students,” she said. “We had over 50 Wisconsin interpreters to provide access for all of our deafblind students.”
Students met with mentors to set goals and make plans to work toward a successful transition from school into their adult lives. They also participated in a vendor fair for adult services to establish awareness of typical vendors students may work with in college.
Heidi Hollenberger, the Deafblind Coordinator for the Wisconsin Educational Services Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WESP-DHH), emphasized the importance of challenging students to try things independently. “We did not allow parents and kids to go to the vendor fair together. The kids had to be the ones asking questions as a way for students to take their own leadership,” she said.
There were separate workshops for parents and students to learn about tools to prepare them for their futures. Parents sat at the tables while students developed transition plans with their mentors, which, according to Hollenberger, gave them a lot to think about. “We asked questions like, do you know how to fill a prescription? Get money from an ATM machine? In one case, we talked about how a deafblind student could still go through driver's ed even if they don’t get a driver’s license,” she said.
Leaders from participating states are already planning the 2019 institute, which will be held in the Twin Cities. They look forward to continued collaboration and growth in order to provide support for deafblind students in the Midwest.
For more information, visit the Wisconsin Deafblind Technical Assistance Project website.