Number 56 • January 2016

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Country news


Deafblindness and Mental Health

By Alana Roy – Mental Health Social Worker/Provisional Psychologist, Able Australia

An important part of my role as a Provisional Psychologist at Able Australia is1 to facilitate a therapeutic and psycho-educational mental health support group for Deafblind people. The aim of the group is to provide a safe place for participants to share their thoughts, feelings and struggles. In addition, the group aims to inspire a culture of Deafblind advocates and role models who can offer support and share information with Deafblind people who may be experiencing mental health issues.

The group convenes once a month for two hours, allowing participants to access individual counseling, email, and phone support. Participants are encouraged to pick their own topics for discussion and share the role of group facilitation.

It draws upon a range of therapies and theories from social work and psychology. For example, cognitive behavioral interventions, emotion focused therapy, mindfulness, and acceptance and commitment therapy, grief, and loss and trauma models. Participants are encouraged to be authentic and open about any issues they may be facing.

What do we cover?
• Self-esteem and assertive skills

• What is empowerment?

• Grief and loss associated with Deafblindness

• Understanding anxiety and depression

• Self-care and relaxation skills

• Breaking down the stigma and shame associated with mental health issues

• Deafblind culture (the benefits and challenges of belonging to a unique community)

• Haptics workshop brainstorming mindfulness and meditation techniques

• Mindfulness tactile sensory workshop (specifically aimed at reducing stress)

• Sharing of skills, resources and information related to coping with Deafblindness

What our group members have said
“It taught me that every issue we have is something we need to talk about and share so that we can learn what is the best alternative to cope, manage an issue or even how to face the barrier we had.”
“I did like discussing topics and hearing others point of view.”
”I loved many topics but the main thing I have learnt from this session is that all the negatives or disadvantages are transformed to positives and advantages.”
“It has also helped me to develop new goals that I have dreamed about for many years. The best part was when everyone had their say and came up with some new words such as empower, inspiration, assumption and many more.”
For more information, contact Alana Roy at email:
1 Able Australia is a large corporate member of DbI.


The education of Betty

The education of deafblind students at the Prof. Dr. Ivan Shishmanov School for Visually Impaired Children1 in Varna, Bulgaria began in 1989.

This article describes a particular case of our practice in training Sebatina (or Betty), a deafblind student, to become a more independent person and able to realize her full place in society. Her education is organized around three stages.
• During the first stage of educational training, Sebatina acquired basic mathematical knowledge, learned how to communicate with others through using sign language and the tactile alphabet, and learned how to act appropriately in public places.
In the second stage, also referred to as the “functional” stage, focus was placed on encouraging Sebatina to use the skills she acquired during the first stage in real environment situations, such as during visits to various public places such as shops, the pharmacy, the train and bus station, etc.
• Sebatina’s third training stage involved developing her occupational skills to work with ceramics, knitting, and in the school greenhouse.
For more information about the program, contact Lyudmila Petrova (Betty’s teacher) at:


The Senate of Canada declares June as National Deafblind Awareness Month

On June 26, 2015, the Senate of Canada1 passed a motion to recognize June as Deafblind Awareness Month across Canada. This motion will help “to promote public awareness of deafblind issues and to recognize the contribution of Canadians who are deafblind.” It will additionally “recognize the strength, courage and dedication that deafblind people show every day in living their lives and facing their daily challenges.” June is the birth month of Helen Keller, an internationally recognized person who lived with deafblindness.

A planning committee with representatives from four organizations (Canadian Helen Keller Centre2, Canadian Deafblind Association (Ontario Chapter)3, DeafBlind Ontario Services4, and Rotary Cheshire Homes Inc5.) are working together to create a national campaign to publicize this significant event. Their efforts include capturing attention from national media outlets and designing a distinct logo and tagline to help publicize an annual event celebrated coast to coast.

This committee has already drafted a Terms of Reference document and is encouraging organizations across the country to join their efforts, focused on celebrating persons who are deafblind in Canada and promoting an understanding about this dual disability. Forming effective partnerships, including relationships with government and key supporters is also of importance as well as ensuring a presence and inclusion for consumers who are deafblind.

Working collectively, we hope to provide consistent messages in order to increase awareness of the dual disability of deafblindness across Canada.
Karen Madho

Senior Coordinator of Government Relations and Communications DeafBlind Ontario Services (


3 The Canadian Deafblind Association (Ontario Chapter) is a large corporate member of DbI.

4 DeafBlind Ontario Services is a large corporate member of DbI.

5 Rotary Cheshire Homes Inc is a small corporate member of DbI.

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