Georgia Sensory Assistance Project
The Georgia Sensory Assistance Project (GSAP) is a discretionary federal grant-funded through the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to increase the capacity of education teams and families to educate children who are deaf-blind. GSAP is housed within the UGA Mary Frances Early College of Education, Department of Communication Sciences and Special Education. GSAP provides consultation, training, and resources for educators, service providers, and families of children and youth with combined vision and hearing loss, from birth through 21 years of age, across the state of Georgia.
Children and youth with combined vision and hearing loss experience challenges in getting information from the people and objects around them; often need support in order to learn, communicate, and interact with the world; and often have additional disabilities or health concerns.
- Students do NOT need to be totally blind and/or totally deaf to be registered.
- Vision loss can range from low vision (20/70 in the best eye with correction) to blindness, or a documented progressive or functional loss, including Cortical Visual Impairment.
- Hearing loss can be permanent or fluctuating, unilateral or bilateral, range from mild (26-40dB) to profound, or a documented progressive or functional loss.
- A combination of these losses that impacts communication, development, and educational needs qualifies children and youth to be registered.
- Many students have additional disabilities or complex health care needs.
- Students do NOT have to have deaf-blindness listed as an eligibility category on their IEP.
- School districts do not need to obtain parental permission to register students with GSAP. Read this explanation of FERPA (PDF) .
- Students may be added as “Needs Further Testing” under the vision and/or hearing categories if there is a strong suspicion of sensory impairment without documentation, but this documentation must be provided within a year or the student is removed.
- Anyone can register a student with GSAP.
Contact Carol Darrah to discuss referrals.
Deaf-Blind Child Count
GSAP is required to complete an annual child count of children and youth with combined vision and hearing loss. This expanded Special Education Child Count is federally required by OSEP and is used to identify national and state technical assistance needs for children and youth who are deaf-blind, their families, services providers, and the systems which serve them. The Office of Special Education Programs encourages state and local districts to support the collection of this Child Count data.
Please read the OSEP Dear Colleague letter 2018 (PDF) .
Educators are required to review and update students’ records every year in December; however, you are encouraged to update records any time there is a change for the student.
GSAP will contact the designated educator via email with detailed instructions for logging into the secure database and updating records.
GSAP child count summary (PDF)
Contact Carol Darrah for information about the deaf-blind child count.
Trainings and Workshops
GSAP offers multiple training options for individuals, teams, and groups who are interested in learning more about topics related to combined vision and hearing loss. Training opportunities can include:
- One-time, face-to-face or virtual, presentations by GSAP staff on a variety of topics related to learners with vision and hearing loss, such as the impact of vision and hearing loss on learning, communication strategies, early literacy for students who are deaf-blind, and transition.
- Training with ongoing collaboration and coaching for teams working with students on the GSAP Child Count registry. Specific in-depth training can be requested for Communication Matrix, CVI, Total Life Learning Transition Assessment & Curriculum, and Paraprofessional/New Team DB 101; but training on other topics important to your team can be arranged.
- Communities of Practice that meet throughout the school year to focus on specific topics including Assessment, Strategies, and Instruction for Complex Learners; Tactile Communication Methods; Paraprofessional support; and Transition to Life beyond High School.
- GSAP-sponsored sessions at the Georgia Vision Educators Statewide Training (GVEST).
- Summer “Boot Camp” sessions to focus on specific topics in depth.
Contact Heather Boyle for information about training.
Requesting Support from GSAP
GSAP provides technical assistance to educational teams, including families, of children and youth with deaf-blindness from birth through 21 years of age. Technical assistance may include school consultation, in-home consultation, support for the educational team through coaching and training, in-services, Summer institutes, referrals to other agencies, and resources. Services may be requested by families of children and youth with deaf-blindness, early intervention and school personnel, and agencies providing services to children and youth with deaf-blindness.
School-based assistance requires administrator approval and involves setting up a technical assistance plan to address specific topics such as: communicating with the child, transition, best practice instructional strategies for students with dual sensory loss, and understanding what the child sees and hears.
Families and/or school teams can invite GSAP to participate in IEP meetings. Please read GSAP’s IEP Policy (PDF) for more information.
There is no charge for any services from GSAP. To request services from GSAP:
- Print this release form (PDF) , ask the parent/guardian to sign it, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org .
- Complete this online request form
- GSAP staff will contact you soon to discuss your specific needs.
Contact Heather Boyle for information about GSAP supports.
GSAP offers a variety of supports to families, including:
- Individualized support as your child transitions from early intervention to school, to a new classroom, or from school to adult life.
- Online sign language classes for GSAP family members at any level of signing ability.
- Family 2 Family Communities, which connects families of children with deaf-blindness in small groups using distance technology.
- Person-Centered Planning using tools to meet the needs of your child and family.
- Consultation on topics important to your child and family via phone, email, distance technology, or in-person.
- Connecting families to state and national resources and service agencies.
Contact Diane Foster or Carol Darrah for information about family supports.
Resources for Educators and Families
Children and young adults who have combined vision and hearing loss have unique needs for communication, developing social skills, and engaging with the world around them. There are great sites to get information and organizations that can provide support in many ways. Click on the GSAP Resources document for information and links to some of our favorite websites, articles.
Access GSAP Resources
Meet the GSAP Team
GSAP Team (left to right): Carol Darrah, Martha Veto (retired), Cindy Vail, Diane Foster, & Heather Boyle
Cindy Vail earned her doctorate degree from Florida State University and has expertise in early childhood special education, early intervention, positive behavior supports, teacher preparation, and collaborating with families. She is a professor of special education, department head of communication sciences and special education in the college of education at the University of Georgia, and project director for GSAP. Contact Cindy for questions related to state partnerships and collaborations.
Carol Darrah earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in child and family development from the University of Georgia. She worked in the field of early intervention for 15 years before joining GSAP. Contact Carol for questions regarding the Georgia child count of students with combined vision and hearing loss, early identification and referral, transition from early intervention to preschool, family engagement activities, and general questions.
Heather Boyle earned her M. Ed. from Texas Tech University. She has worked in special education for ten years serving students with a variety of low incidence disabilities including orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, and most recently hearing loss. Contact Heather for questions about GSAP supports to education teams for implementing best practice instructional strategies for students with dual sensory loss.
Diane Foster earned an associate’s degree and worked in the insurance industry for 20 years. In 2003 her son Alex was born prematurely, and her deafblind journey began. She earned a deafblind certification from East Carolina University in 2012. Diane participated in the creation of the OHOA modules with NCDB. Contact Diane to talk about family calls, transition, and topics related to Prematurity.