The Montana School for the Deaf & Blind offers its students a comprehensive range of support services, provided by highly qualified, trained professionals.
The School uses an integrated service delivery model for related services. A team of teachers, therapists, and specialists works with each child and his or her family to create an Individual Education Program (IEP) specifically for that child. Team members reinforce each student's program.
Speech and Language Therapy
A full-time Speech and Language Pathologist and a full-time Communications Technician work with students to improve their speech and other communication skills. Whether a student is deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, and/or physically disabled, these specialists collaborate with teachers and other specialists to meet his or her specific needs.
Assistive technology is utilized when appropriate to enhance a student’s communication abilities.
Physical and Occupational Therapy
MSDB has a full-time Physical Therapist on staff, as well as a full-time Occupational Therapist. Each student’s IEP team determines how much and what type of school therapy a child needs in order to succeed in his or her individual education program. Some children will need additional physical or occupational therapy, beyond what the school provides.
As needed, the Physical Therapist works with students with physical disabilities to improve developmental skills, strength, endurance, balance, coordination, flexibility and mobility. The Occupational Therapist addresses functional needs that are necessary for students to participate in the educational environment. This may include working with students to improve motor skills, perceptual skills, sensory skills, or self help skills to perform required tasks. Students may also receive therapy services that are integrated into their school day.
The Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist often work in collaboration with other support service providers, as well as other school and residential staff members, to develop therapeutic interventions and routines for the classroom or cottage and to train those who will assist with these programs.
MSDB provides audiological services to all children enrolled at the school, as well as to children from the surrounding areas on a referral basis. The audiologist’s services include diagnostic hearing testing, hearing aid/amplification evaluation, hearing conservation issues and monitoring, and consultation services for children from infancy to 21 years old. These consultation services help families and schools address the impact of hearing loss on a child’s development and education.
Orientation and Mobility
Being able to move independently and safely is one of the most important issues facing people who have lost most or all of their sight. The school’s Orientation and Mobility Specialist helps blind or visually impaired students to reach their potential in traveling safely, efficiently, and gracefully through all environments.
MSDB provides training in the use of mobility aids, such as the long white cane, which is a tool to assist people to move about safely and confidently. Training focuses on orientation and safe travel techniques such as negotiating steps, stairs and curbs; getting around home, school, the cottage residences, and work sites; crossing streets, planning routes and using public transportation.
A highly trained staff of interpreter/tutors serves MSDB students attending local public schools. The interpreters facilitate communication between a deaf or hard of hearing student and the teachers, classmates, or other school staff, and provide access to the course material. Interpreters prepare for classes by learning specific vocabulary, reviewing lesson plans provided by the teacher, pre-reading material, and by previewing audio or non-captioned videotapes that will be used in the classroom. They also interpret extracurricular activities and participate in the student's IEP.
All MSDB interpreters have completed the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA), and most have completed a training program such as the Educational Interpreting Certificate Program (EICP). Several hold national educational and generalist certifications through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). They all maintain their skills by participating in professional development activities and continued education.
Several of the interpreters have been trained as voice-to-text captioners. Captioners use a laptop with voice recognition software and repeat what the teacher is saying into a microphone. The software converts the spoken word into text, which is communicated wirelessly to the student's laptop. The student can read the instructor's lesson in real time. This captioning system is best used for students with specific needs in certain types of lecture classes.
MSDB has a full-time School Psychologist on staff, as well as a Behavior Specialist and a Guidance Counselor. These professionals work with students (as well as with teachers and parents, when necessary) to address social and academic issues and behavior problems. If a child’s counseling needs go beyond school-related issues, they make referrals and act as liaisons between the school and community-based therapy services.
In addition to providing school counseling services, the School Psychologist coordinates the intake services for all students referred to the School. The Psychologist also conducts assessments of individual academic skills, cognitive functioning, and social and emotional development for students attending MSDB, as well as for students served by our Outreach Program. She coordinates with other MSDB specialists to provide any other assessment services a student may need. Click here for a complete list of assessment services.
The Guidance Counselor and Behavior Specialist also teach classes on socio-emotional topics. The Guidance Counselor teaches career awareness and exploration.