MN DeafBlind



The technical assistance T.A. team has been recognized nationally as a truly unique staff consisting of a parent, an educator, and pediatrician. This combination allows for a holistic look at each child, their family and education team. Project staff are available for on-site visits to homes or schools to provide technical assistance as needed. This may include consultation with parents, teachers, related staff members, and school administrators. We help families and educators understand the impact of combined vision and hearing loss on development and learning.

We can help staff with individualized programs for children based on student need. We refer teams to other resources in the community and provide networking opportunities for teachers, workshops, and training opportunities. We help with program development regionally and statewide. To request a visit, call 612 638-1531.

Who do we serve?

The MN DeafBlind Technical Assistance Project provides FREE technical assistance to families, education teams and service providers of children birth through the year of their 21st birthday if the children:

  • have a combined vision and hearing loss, or
  • are highly suspect of having both vision and hearing loss.

The combination of these sensory impairments, even if both are mild, may qualify the child for Minnesota DeafBlind Project services. These services are in addition to those provided by schools, and other state and local agencies. Help may include:

  • personalized on-site consultation
  • inservice training
  • workshops
  • program development
  • and family support services

Services may be requested by families of children and youth who are DeafBlind, school personnel, and agencies providing services to children and youth who are DeafBlind.

Funding for this site is made possible with a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education. The source of the funds is from federal award – Project Title: Projects for children and young adults who are deaf-blind, CFDA 84.32bc of P.L. 105-17 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Our office is located at the Metro ECSU office on 2 Pine Tree Dr, Suite 101, Arden Hills, MN 55112. For map and directions, click here (pdf file format).

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Project Director

The Project Director (PD), Joan Breslin-Larson (651 582-1599, is supervisor for the Low Incidence and Workforce Development Unit in the division of Special Education. Joan has responsibilities related to services for students with low incidence disabilities. Joan brings over 30 years of experience in providing services to individuals with a wide range of disabilities. She has specifically worked in the area of assistive technology for over 20 years, as a consultant to a largely rural area in Minnesota, and more recently as the assistive technology specialist for the MDE.

Project Coordinator and Family Specialist

The Project Coordinator and Family Specialist (PC/FS), Deanna Rothbauer (612.638-1531, has been a member of the Project for the past six years. As the Project Coordinator Deanna will coordinate the day-to-day functions of the Project, continue to manage the budget and census, collaborate with other local, state and national partners, and be responsible for Project reporting and information requirements. Deanna has presented nationally on the topic of CHARGE syndrome with an emphasis on behavior intervention.

Deanna is the parent to a 17 year-old son who has CHARGE Syndrome. Deanna has extensive experience with family involvement at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. She has served as a family to family volunteer for 15 years, served on the Family Advisory Council for seven years, and is a past member of the Ethics Committee. She is currently a member of the Department of Human Services Deaf/Hard of Hearing Services Advisory Council and is a member of the Minnesota Hands & Voices' Advisory Committee.

Education Specialist

The Education Specialist (ES), Cathy Lyle (612.638.1526, has been a member of the Project for the past 14 years. She has been a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing for over 35 years, and has multiple licenses including blind/visual impairments, early childhood special education and elementary education. She also holds a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Special Education and a certificate of sign language interpreting. She has worked in the area of deafblindness for more than 20 years, in both education and community settings. Her efforts with the Project are focused on staff development, on-site technical assistance, and collaborative efforts with the other state specialists in low incidence disabilities to address such common issues as teacher competencies and mentoring. She has been instrumental in developing and implementing the Minnesota Model of intervener training.

Cathy is currently the Statewide DeafBlind specialist for the Minnesota Low Incidence Projects. She is a member of the Advisory Board of caption Max Production which currently holds the OSERS grant for audio description and a member of Minnesota State Services for the Blind (DEED) committee on Transition for students who are DeafBlind.

Sensory Genetics Consultant

Sandra L.H. Davenport, M.D. (952.831.5522, is a Pediatric Geneticist with a special interest in children who have a combined vision and hearing loss. She has written and published articles on deafblindness for 30 years. Dr. Davenport is an internationally recognized expert on Usher Syndrome and CHARGE syndrome. She speaks nationally and internationally on the topic of deafblindness.

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Inservice Training, Workshops and Conferences

A variety of training opportunities are available. Onsite inservices are the most commonly offered training designed specifically to the needs of each child. A number of workshops are offered annually on a variety of topics. Past workshops include:

  • Literacy for Students with significant Disabilities by Dr. Gretchen Hanser
  • Intervener Training by a variety of national experts in the field of Deafblindness
  • Focus on DeafBlindness by Dr. Jan van Dijk
  • INSITE Training by Susan DeCaluwe
  • Implications of Stress on Individuals who are DeafBlind by Dr. Jan van Dijk
  • CHARGE Syndrome workshops with Pam Ryan, Dr. Veronica Bernstein and Laurie Denno
  • Psychological Assessment by Dr. Harvey Mar
  • Advanced Intervener Training by a variety of national experts in the field of deafblindness

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Family Involvement

We recognize that families are the most important advocates for their children. Families need to be involved for their child to have a successful education. We feel that families are an integral part of the IEP and IFSP teams. In order for parents to be successful advocates for their children, information and training must be available to them. Family workshops and training are held throughout the year on a variety of topics. To learn more, go to the Families section.

Annual Register of Students Who are DeafBlind

Every year, the federal government asks each state DeafBlind Project to take a count of students who fit the federal definition of deafblindness: "Children and youth having auditory and visual impairments, the combination of which creates such severe communication and other developmental and learning needs that they cannot be appropriately educated without special education and related services, beyond those that would be provided solely for children with hearing impairments, visual impairments, or severe disabilities, to address their educational needs due to these concurrent disabilities. This term includes infants and toddlers with deafblindness."

Collection of census data takes place during the year and is the main instrument used to track children and youth who are DeafBlind in Minnesota for the federal government. It is mailed to all teachers of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Blind/Visually Impaired. We need your help completing the census when it is mailed to you after the new year.

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