Academic journal article The Volta Review

Telepractice: Creating a Statewide Network of Support in Rural Maine

Academic journal article The Volta Review

Telepractice: Creating a Statewide Network of Support in Rural Maine

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing's POINT (Providing Opportunities for Integrating New Technologies) project is implementing a telepractice, distance learning collaborative in Maine with eight hub sites and 18 end points using Tandberg videoconferencing technology. This network is planned to be a national model enabling students who are deaf and hard of hearing and their families to overcome geographic, language, and cultural barriers to access rich and diverse early intervention and educational programs.

The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MECDHH) is located on a small island off the coast of rural Maine. MECDHH provides statewide services to children birth through age 21 who are deaf and hard of hearing. For over 25 years, outreach programs have provided support to children with hearing loss in their homes, daycare centers, public schools, community libraries, and hospitals. There are challenges inherent in serving children in a state like Maine that has large rural areas. Limited opportunities for collaborative training with other professionals, winter travel, and distances to rural communities often prohibit delivery of ongoing and in-depth support to parents and professionals in local school districts.

In recent years, MECDHH has been a leading force in Maine's distancelearning initiatives. MECDHH utilizes distance learning technology to provide statewide access to information, support, and programming throughout this geographically large state. For instance, when a family travels out of state to receive a comprehensive evaluation, the use of telecommunication equipment allows MECDHH to set up meetings with the evaluators to discuss their findings. Having the parent in Maine surrounded by their home support team makes the implementation of recommendations a smoother process for all.

MECDHH also utilizes distance learning technology to foster collaboration. For example, MECDHH and the New England Consortium of Deafblind Projects and Services for the Blind joined forces to provide a full day clinic to assess cortical visual impairment (CV1) of young children. Using Tandberg's MOVI, a mobile device for personal computers, experts located in Pennsylvania evaluated students while teachers of the visually impaired in Maine observed. It was a very successful use of technology to assess children and provide needed training for professionals in Maine. MECDHH expects that opportunities like this will increase the use of professionals in hub sites as well as experts in other states through access to compatible technology to enhance knowledge and skill sharing. MECDHH continues to look for ways to enhance the services they offer by utilizing new technology.

POINT Project

MECDHH is engaged in a 2-year distance learning project funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Utility Service (RUS) grant. The project, called POINT, will transmit resources from eight hub sites using Tandberg videoconferencing technology to targeted rural areas throughout Maine (Figure 1). In 2012, staff developed training modules and designed delivery systems. In 2013, staff will begin program delivery and evaluation.

MECDHH recognizes the importance of collaborating with other organizations to offer families and professionals access to experts in the field of hearing loss. Through this grant, MECDHH, which is one hub site, collaborates with four additional hub sites: Children's Hospital Boston, Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, Hear Me Now!, and Rochester Institute of Technology. Experts from each of these sites represent many different professional disciplines, including: teachers of the deaf, educational audiologists, speechlanguage pathologists, Listening and Spoken Language Specialists (LSLS(TM)), mentors who are deaf and hard of hearing, and psychologists. POINT has four program goals:

1. Educate professionals who work with students who are deaf and hard of hearing. …

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