Menomonie — Lindsey Hegg, a 2009 University of Wisconsin-Stout graduate in special education, has been recognized as a prestigious Helen Keller Fellow for 2010.
Hegg, from Woodbury, Minn., is a graduate student in special education-severe and multiple disabilities at University of Arizona, Tucson. Her emphasis is working with individuals who are deaf and blind.
“The field of deaf-blindness is so small but so important,” Hegg said.
The Extending a Legacy: Helen Keller Fellows program is a collaborative agreement awarded to the Teaching Research Institute at Western Oregon University and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The overall goal is to improve the quality and increase the number of people who are fully credentialed to meet the needs of children with the most severe disabilities.
Helen Keller Fellow candidates are selected from collaborating universities. Each fellow receives a $10,000 stipend for one year to assist with his or her graduate education.
Hegg is in her first year of teaching and working as an inclusion specialist at an elementary school in Tucson. She also is a trained intervener, serving as the eyes and ears for the deaf and blind.
Hegg received her intervener training from the Minnesota DeafBlind Project, in St. Anthony, Minn. In the future, she hopes to work for a state deaf-blind project and, within that role, start an intervener training program. She also dreams of a transition program for deaf-blind adults, ages 18-22, focusing on building vocational skills through volunteering and integrating in a local community.
“I am passionate about the impact intervener training makes in the lives of students with deaf-blindness,” she said.
According to Hegg, many people are unaware of the field and don’t realize that students with deaf-blindness need specialized educational strategies and interventions. The combination of vision and hearing loss creates both a low incidence and unique information gathering disability.
“Students with deaf-blindness need interveners, service providers, teachers and paraprofessionals that are trained in deaf-blindness,” Hegg said.
Hegg grew up in a home that provided much exposure to the field of deaf-blindness and deaf-blind individuals. Three members of her family are signers, and her mother and aunt teach the deaf and blind.
She started learning sign language when she was 12, when her family provided foster care for deaf-blind children. She communicated with them through Tactile American Sign Language, which is signed into the receiver’s hands.
As a high school student, Hegg worked as a personal care attendant for two deaf-blind children, an experience that led her to UW-Stout and her career path.
Hegg has worked in the deaf-blind unit at the Perkins School for the Blind, where Helen Keller and her sign language teacher Anne Sullivan were educated; the Minnesota DeafBlind Project; and Deaf Blind Services of Minneapolis.
Keller, who was born in Alabama in 1880, lost her eyesight and hearing as an infant because of an illness. With the help of Sullivan, Keller went on to earn a college degree and lecture around the world, inspiring millions of people.
Special education is one of eight undergraduate teaching degrees offered by the UW-Stout School of Education. For more information, go to www.uwstout.edu/soe.