2023 Symposium Agenda

Two young children who are deafblind connect with each other through touch.
Two young children who are deafblind connect with each other through touch.

The 2023 Texas Symposium on Deafblind Education agenda includes the pre-conference day (February 23rd) and the main conference that runs two days (February 24th-25th).

Pre-conference Agenda - Thursday, February 23, 2023

7:30 AM – 8:30 AM


8:00 AM – 8:30 AM

Housekeeping & Welcome

8:30 AM – 11:30 AM

How Children Grow Language: Lessons from Global and Domestic Communities
Presenters: Haley Broadway, M.Ed., Deafblind Educator; Deanna Gagne, Ph.D., Child Psychologist

This session covers three topics: the history of invented languages, examples of recent, naturally-occurring languages (Nicaraguan Sign Language in Central America and protactile in the U.S.), and a discussion of the (likely) trilingual experience of deafblind individuals in the U.S., comparing and contrasting structures across American Sign Language, English, and protactile. Discussions about reciprocity in language, navigating modalities and linguistic foundations of cognitive development will be included.

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM

Lunch Break

Participants have plenty of time to enjoy a lunch at the hotel or find eateries nearby for a nice lunch on their own.

1:00 PM – 4:15 PM

Participants choose one session that best meet there needs from these two sessions. 

Deafblind 101: Exploring Interaction in Instruction
Presenters: Adam Graves, Edgenie Bellah, Rachel Collins

In this session consultants from the Texas Deafblind Project will discuss the basic components of quality interactions between individuals ranging from infancy to adulthood. We will then discuss how to apply our understanding of quality human interaction when developing routines and goals for students who are deafblind.

Advanced Practitioner: Tactile Working Memory Scale
Presenters: Kaycee Bennett and Robbie Blaha

n this session for advanced practitioners, consultants from the Texas Deafblind Project will provide an overview of the Tactile Working Memory Scale (TWMS) manual from the Nordic Network on Cognition in Relation to Deafblindness. The TWMS manual gives a theoretical overview and a scale that can be used by professionals to identify and assess tactile working memory in persons who are congenitally deafblind. It contains strategies to ensure that these persons can develop and make use of all their potentials, both cognitively and linguistically.

Main Conference Day 1 - Friday, February 24, 2023

7:30 AM-4:00 PM

Registration and Exhibits

The registration center and exhibits will be open throughout the day. Be sure to sign in to the conference each morning to receive credit for your attendance. 

8:45 AM-9:15 AM

Welcome & Housekeeping
State of the State
Kate Borg, Director, TSBVI Outreach; Nicholas Trotter, Visual Impairment Program Administrator, Division of Special Education, Texas Education Agency will share updates on issues and services in Deafblind education in Texas.

State of the Nation 

Sam Morgan with National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) and Patti McGowan with National Family Association for Deaf-Blind  (NFADB) will share updates on national issues and resources in Deafblind education.

9:15 AM – 10:15 AM General Session

Friendship and Adventures at Camp
Presenters: Patsy Izaguirre and Amanda Huston, Camper from DBCTX

Come listen to two deafblind friends share their experiences at DeafBlind Camp of Texas. Hear their story of friendship, independence, self-determination, and adventure!

At the Heart of it All: Family Life with Our Children
Presenters: Diana Kareny Martinez Oviedo & Jorge Reyes

Join us as the Reyes family give us a glimpse of life with three children, including Oliver who is deafblind.

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM General Session

Rompiendo barreras y mitos lo logro: Me comunico con mi familia, amigos y la sociedad
Presenters: Natalie Janeth Avila Mireles, Jose Avila & Sandra Veronica Mireles Ramirez, educators from Mexico, and other family and friends

Join our panel conversation about Natalie, a young lady who is deafblind, inspiring our family to bridge distances and communication differences. Our journey began with her learning Spanish so she could talk with other deaf people from Mexico. Her interest soon became the catalyst for connecting with her grandparents and relatives. Through her journey and our family taking Lenguaje de Señas Mexicana together, we discover others in the community who benefit from learning alongside us.

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Lunch Break

Participants have plenty of time to enjoy a lunch at the hotel or find eateries nearby for a nice lunch on their own.

1:30 PM – 3:00 PM General Session

Considering Mental Health for Children and Young Adults Who are Deafblind
Presenter: Rebecca Alexander

This mental health session will cover the basic overview of important developmental milestones for children and specifically children who are DB. Cognitive, behavioral, adult education will be provided to better identify and address mental health issues that may arise among DB children, adolescents, and teens.

3:30 PM – 4:45 PM Breakout Session  

Participants will select one of the following breakout sessions.

Identification and Support: Strategies for the Young Children with Deaf-Blindness
Presenter: Tanni Anthony, Consultant

Early identification of deafblindness results in early supports for children and their families. The session will address key strategies for identification of early onset hearing and vision loss, as well as broad impact of deafblindness on the developing child, and overarching support strategies.

Deafblind Camp of Texas: A DeafBlind Adventure
Presenter: Jacqueline Izaguirre, President, DBCTX

DeafBlind Camp of Texas will share methods used to offer a barrier free camp experience for teenagers who are deafblind. We will share camp experiences from past campers. We will share some of the methods used to train our new CoNavigators. We hope you join us so you too can see the potential in all teens who are deafblind when they are given the proper supports!

Real-World Application of the Tactile Working Memory Scale
Presenters: Sarah Mossberger, TSVI & TDB; Kaycee Bennett, DB Education Consultant, Robbie Blaha, DB Consultant

This session will examine one district’s implementation of strategies based on the results of the Tactile Working Memory Scale for a student who is deafblind. We will look at the implications of using the scale, and the associated strategies, along with changes to the student’s

5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Family Social

Day 1 of the main conference ends with a family-only networking opportunity. Family members please join us for a come-and-go social in the atrium before heading up to your room or out for dinner. Beverages and hors d’oeuvres will be served. This is always a special time to socialize and meet other families at the symposium!

Main Conference Day 2 – Saturday, February 25, 2023

7:30 AM-12:900 PM

Registration and exhibits

The registration center and exhibits will be open throughout the day. Be sure to sign in to the conference each morning to receive credit for your attendance. 

8:30 AM – 9:45 AM Breakout Session 

Participants select from one of three sessions.

Touch Base Center for the Deafblind: Tips on How to Create a Day Program for People Who Are Deafblind in Your Area

Presenters: Vivecca Hartman and Rubina Khan, Co-Founders; MiiLeah Morrison, Program Director, Touch Base Center,  Houston, TX

Join us in learning about Touch Base Center for the Deafblind, an innovative day activity center for deafblind people in the Houston area. Together, we’ll explore how to replicate this model in other communities.

Promising Practices: Considerations for the Accessibility of Sign Language for Individuals with CVI
Presenters: Marguerite Tibaudo, Assistant Director of CVI Assessment and Interventions; Mary Zatta, Director of Professional Development; Perkins School for the Blind

CVI results in a diverse presentation of visual behaviors consistent with ventral and dorsal stream dysfunction, causing difficulty with object recognition and impaired visuospatial processing respectively. The presenters will review these implications and share considerations and discussion points for the visual accessibility of sign language alongside methodologies to support ongoing evaluation.

Touch Base Center for the Deafblind: Tips on How to Create a Day Program for People Who Are Deafblind in Your Area
Presenters: Vivecca Hartman, Rubina Khan, and MiiLeah Morrison, Co-Founders and Program Director

This session will share information about what we have created in Houston for people who are deafblind and out of the school system. We hope this session helps encourage others to replicate something in their area!

Essential Tools of the Trade for Teachers of Students who are Deafblind: A How-To Guide for Completing Evaluations
Presenters: Kaycee Bennett, DB Education Consultant, TSBVI Outreach; Shanna Hamilton, Curriculum Lead Teacher, TSBVI Curriculum and Publications

This session will provide an overview of the recent TSBVI publication of Essential Tools of the Trade: A How-To Guide for Completing Functional Vision, Communication, Functional Tactile-Bodily Language, and Learning Media Evaluations for Students who are Deafblind.

How Does Touch Make You Feel?
Presenters: Adam Graves, DB Education Consultant, Texas DB Project; Sara Kitchen, VI Education Consultant, TSBVI Outreach

In this session, we will describe how different types of touch receptors on the skin activate different regions of the brain and how this can affect students’ emotional reactions to touch as well as their focus for learning. We will also discuss how forms of controlling touch can perpetuate negative stigmas and stereotypes and lead to learned helplessness and inhibit self-determination in students who are blind, visually impaired and deafblind.

10:15 AM – 11:30 AM Breakout Session

Participants will choose one of these four sessions.

Stronger Together: One Family Voice
Presenters: Jacqueline Izaguirre and Melanie Knapp, Board Members of NFADB and Co-chairs of PIE Committee (Policy, Information, and Education)

Learn all about the exciting advocacy training for families with individuals who are Deaf-Blind being led by NFADB. Hear about the National Advocacy Agenda developed by the 11 family organizations during the pilot year (2021). We will share information about the newly formed Coalition, FACE for Deaf-Blind, and the plans for the first “Day on the Hill for Deaf-Blind”. Join us, we are stronger together!

Guidance for Planning Behavior Intervention for Children and Young Adults who are Deafblind or have Visual and Multiple Impairments
Presenters: Lynne McAlister, VI Education Consultant, TSBVI Outreach; Deanna Peterson, DB Education Consultant; Texas DB Project

During this training, we will explore ways to foster safety, success, independence, and connectedness by using proactive and responsive strategies. We will also address how meeting these needs can impact behavior and lay the foundation for all development and learning. TSBVI’s Guidance for Planning Behavior Intervention for Children and Young Adults who are Deafblind or have Visual and Multiple Impairments will provide the framework for this training.

Maximizing Orientation & Mobility for Students who are Deafblind
Panel Facilitators: Chris Tabb, Statewide O&M Specialist, TSBVI Outreach; Edgenie Bellah: Family Engagement Coordinator, Texas DB Project

This session will explore various teaching strategies and styles when working with students who are deafblind or who have dual sensory loss of vision and hearing. The panel is made up of COMS who have been working with students who are deafblind for multiple years. There are some prepared questions that panelists will be responding to, as well as being open to questions from participants at the session.

Working to Improve Balance Through Quality Movement Skills
Presenter: Dr. Beth Foster, CAPE

The combined impact of visual and hearing loss coupled with impact to their vestibular and proprioception systems, students with deafblindness may exhibit difficulties with balance and motor skills. As educators, gathering information about student’s preferences are essential to implementing quality movement opportunities. Increasing balance and motor confidence through meaningful movement activities can have positive outcomes on balance, movement skills, and independence. Attend and be prepared for movement and strategies you can implement tomorrow.

12:30 PM – 1:15 PM Luncheon and Awards Ceremony 

One of the Symposium highlights each year is the presentation of Awards for Excellence in Deafblind Education. Come join your colleagues at the Symposium Luncheon & Awards Ceremony! The meal is optional and is included in your registration fee so all you need to do is register for the lunch if you would like to attend.

 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM General Session

Ambiguity and Its Impact on Well-Being: What It Is, What It Does, and Why It Matters
Presenter: Maurice Belote, Adjunct Faculty, California Deafblind Services

Ambiguity is a key component in understanding the basic human need for closure. Ambiguity makes achieving closure difficult and it also plays a significant role in our ability to make choices, predict the future, and plan accordingly. What is the current brain science specific to ambiguity and how might it inform us as we teach and/or raise children and young adults who are deafblind? This session will cover the basic human need for closure, the ways in which ambiguity interferes with closure, how ambiguity contributes to stress and anxiety, and what we can do to combat the negative effects of ambiguity.