Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pepnet has a new face, same mission

At the AHEAD in Texas conference, I attended a breakout session about
The Postsecondary Education Programs Network. I was already familiar with the organization providing resources for services to the deaf and hard of hearing through my recent position, but learned a good bit more about it here.

There are now state clusters being served by the regional centers. Most clusters have three or four states, but because of Texas’ size, we are in a cluster with only one other state, Louisiana.

The breakout session was hosted by previous coordinator Beth Case, and turned over to Jenny, the new coordinator of our bluster. Jenny is the coordinator of the deaf and hard of hearing program at Louisiana State University. They emphasized that this is a new grant cycle and Jenny wants to hear from DSS coordinators on what concerns you have and also what you need to have in order to do your job more effectively. They want to hear from you.

She said one of the changes in Pepnet is that they are eyeing more cost effective methods of delivering outreach programs. This will include video conferencing instead of physical visits to campuses, which would also let Pepnet reach several campuses simultaneously instead of just one. She said other means they are considering to achieve more cost effective delivery are on-line chats, webcasts, and conferencing

Jenny stressed that while she is a new face in this position, the goals of Pepnet remain the same. These include providing technical assistance to postsecondary schools, doing independent living, doing career guidance with high school students, and working on a technical assistance network. She said she does a lot of tech assistance by IM, email, and phone. If she does not know the answer, she has five other coordinators to call upon. If the request is for local resources, she said she will go to people like Beth to help give her guidance.

There was good audience participation in discussing topics related to services to the deaf, including comparison of VRS and VRI, and balancing the use of CART and interpreters to best meet the needs of the student as well as the school. One of the points that the discussion highlighted was the shortage and need for qualified interpreters.

Much of the presentation hammered home the need to treat students as individuals. The student may read at a 5th grade level, which is above that required for CART services, but what if the student reads slowly? The student may do well with CART in one class and be better served in another class by an interpreter. Beth summed up that point by encouraging coordinators to not get locked in in offering only one service, but find what works best for the student in each setting. Jenny added that doing this helps manage the precious interpreter resources.

If you provide services to deaf students, it would serve you well to check out the Pepnet website. While there, sign up for the Pepnet Perspectives newsletter for the latest information from the group.

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