Intervenor is a complex term. Often it means working alongside a class teacher, 1:1 with a child who is both deaf and blind. However, the severity of either condition, and the degree and type of assistance needed, can vary greatly. Broadly, intervenors provide the eyes and ears to enable the deafblind child (or adult) to understand their environment and make decisions.
Since deafblind children have been included in mainstream education the need for trained intervenors has increased. At present they may be helping children and young people between three and 18 years old, in nurseries, special schools, or mainstream schools. As they usually work in isolation from their colleagues, the charity Sense (the National Deafblind and Rubella Association) has set up a register and an annual conference as a means of sharing information.
Sue Powell is an intervenor at Blackmarston school in Hereford for children with severe learning difficulties, working 1:1 with Richard, who is now 10 years old. She has done so since he was three. Her initial residential training week has been supplemented with many extra courses. "You can only teach children like Richard when they are no longer tactile-defensive. For the first couple of years I was carrying him around on my hip. After a few months he became more able and I built him a safe area in a corner, where he could start to do more structured activity."
Now, with auditory training and two hearing aids, Richard can get information and locate children in his classroom. He has a linked timetable and only goes away for special teaching. He has healthy relationships with staff, and friends among the children. Early doubts about independent walking were put to rest. Headteacher Frank Percy says: "Many of the techniques used for this one child are applicable to other pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties."
* Sense, 11-13 Clifton Terrace, London N4 3SR. Tel: 0171 272 7774. Copies of the Register of Intervenors are available. Initial training costs pound;260 non-residential, pound;320 residential