George Brown College Offers Only Training in Province, Leaving Families with Little Aid Scott Wheeler
The Toronto Star , June 17, 2017
When Serena Reynolds became an intervener for the deaf-blind a decade ago, she stumbled into her career by accident.
Like many, Reynolds didn’t know that thousands of children and adults in Ontario live with the dual disability, made famous by Helen Keller and recognized since 2015 in June, during National Deafblind Awareness Month.
Reynolds went to school to become a child needs worker and struggled to find a job until she came across a listing for interveners.
“Everybody that I talk to has no idea what the job is and my husband’s favourite line is ‘she’s an interpreter. She’s a cheerleader. She’s a cook. She’s a coach. She’s a tool box of everything for them,'” Reynolds said. “The job is so versatile. I’m so glad I fell into it. I can’t imagine anything better.”
Now she works with three deaf-blind ‘consumers.’
Few people fall into a career as a deaf-blind intervener as she did though. George Brown College’s two-year program is the only in Ontario that teaches intervention.
While the province provides for special needs care in schools, many parents can’t find interveners for before- and after-school programs, or the summer months.
Elizabeth Fennelly, whose son Shawn turns 11 in September, is lucky that her daycare program provides an intervener. But that ends when he turns 12 and the province expects children to be able to care for themselves after school.
Agencies such as the Canadian Deafblind Association Ontario Chapter (CDBA) try to fill George Brown’s void by offering their own patchwork intervention training, but the cost associated with hiring an intervenor for swimming lessons can even be too costly for families.
The CDBA needs 300 interveners, but George Brown only graduates roughly 15 students a year and programs such as it aren’t profitable.
Deafblind Ontario Services has another 250 staff. The agency’s director of development, Susan Manahan, says George Brown can’t satisfy their needs, let alone the other agencies’.
Agencies are looking into ways to find and train more intervenors.
“It’s one of the most rewarding careers I think that you can probably have,” Fennelly said.