Scioto County DD News Article

SCDD staff connect with students through intervener program


Scioto County Developmental Disabilities Classroom Aides Penny Wheeler and Tracy Smith have recently completed their Intervener Certificate programs to help them better serve students and families at the SCDD.

An intervener is a support role in which certified interveners work directly one-on-one with students with sensory impairment, such as deaf or blind, to help them achieve their goals. The certificate program is a two-year online program offered by Shawnee State University, in Portsmouth, Ohio. The credit hours can also be transferred to count toward completing an associates degree in teaching.

“If a teacher is working with a student and needs help communicating in a way the student communicates, I will come in and I will sign for them or I will help them use their device to understand what the teacher is saying. We will go on field trips and everywhere with the child,” said Wheeler, who has been a Pre-K through 3rd grade teacher’s aide with the Vern Riffe School program at SCDD for four years.

She said she was excited at the opportunities the program would create for her to help students.

“I want to do teaching, but I kind of want to gear myself toward being an interpreter because I really like sign language. I like how it’s a whole different language and community, and there’s not enough of us out there,” Wheeler said.

Smith has been a teacher’s aide with SCDD since 2012, first working at the Carousel Center before moving to the Vern Riffe School in 2016.

“I’ve always had a fascination with sign language because I had several kids at the Carousel Center who spoke primarily in sign language, and so many non-verbal kids with autism that sign language kind of became a second nature to me after a while. But I’ve never had a good background in braille, which is another thing that has fascinated me. So when this program became available I jumped at the chance,” she said.

Smith said she does not currently have any deaf or blind students in her classroom, but many of the techniques she learned during the Intervener Certificate program can also be applied to working with children with autism.

“I was amazed at how well I was able to throw something in once in a while to see how it worked, and they responded. It makes learning so much easier for the kids,” she said.

For more information about the programs and services at Scioto County Developmental Disabilities, call 740-353-0636 or visit online at, and like and follow them on Facebook and TikTok.

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