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RIITTA LAHTINEN - PROFILE

I qualified, as a nurse over a 2 year period from 1983 to 1985 and during this time, worked in a Psychiatrical Criminal Hospital for a year on Challenging behaviour and treatment of mental diseases. I then worked for 6 months as a Rehabilitation Officer for the Finnish Deaf Association. This was followed by 4 years of study from 1985 to 1989 at the University of Oulu, in Finland, I Qualified as a Teacher, which is equal to a Masters Degree. During this time I also qualified as a Sign Language Interpreter for Deaf and Deafblind.

During 1989 to 1991 I was appointed USHER SYNDROME PROJECT LEADER for the Finnish Deafblind Association, to identify early diagnosis of Ushers in children, working with professionals from the medical, teaching and social fields for the whole of Finland. A report working with a Psychologist was produced for the Finnish Deafblind Association. As a result of the above, a book was published in Swedish by NUD (Nordic Staff Training Centre) in Denmark. Whilst with the Finnish Deafblind Association I studied Part-time further education in Special Teaching skills for Special Groups at the University of Helsinki, Finland. The following year I worked as a Teacher in a Deaf school with 6 Deaf multiple handicapped children, one with challenging behaviour, I also worked as a Free-lance Interpreter for Deafblind and a National Deafblind Theatre Group, then as a Teacher of Health and daily living skills to deaf multiple handicapped adults at the Deaf High School in Helsinki.

I then worked as a Deafblind and Usher syndrome advisor at HJEMMET FOR DOVE, Andebu, Norway, giving training courses to staff in Deafblind Awareness and Communication. I then spent a year in the U.K. at SENSE - MIDLANDS at Birmingham, as a Part-time House Tutor with Deafblind Adults, then as a Special Teacher in Communication.

I returned to Finland in 1994 and worked for the Finnish Deaf Association as the Co-ordinator of the development and production of teaching materials like Sign Language Videos, CD-ROM and educational books for deaf schools. In 1998 I received EU funding to carry out a joint project between Italy, Finland and the UK, to produce a book, sign language video and CD-ROM educational package titled 'Basic English for Deaf Learners'. This project finished 1999. I started to study one year course to be qualified Mobility and Low Vision Teacher. In 1999 there was an opportunity to produce with Russ Palmer a half-module Distance Learning Course Material for Manchester University titled "Holistic & Interactive Communication Methods with Acquired Deafblind People and Families (A Practical Approach)". Since 1994 I continued my Special Education studies planning for my Phd research work on ACQUIRED DEAFBLIND, USHER & FAMILY COMMUNICATION. Additional research work included setting up and running International Workshops on Communication for deafblind people, couples, interpreters and professionals in Scandinavia.

PERSONAL STATEMENT

I would like to share my experiences as a Teacher Consultant and to enlarge on my Phd. research work on Deafblind Family Communication.

I believe my experience will be very useful to share as follows

a)  I have been motivated to do my research work and plan these new communication methods in family and interpreting environments for deafblind people. I see this as an opportunity for co-operation between universities in Finland and the UK.

b)  My Scandinavian experience through giving presentations and workshops has expanded my knowledge of rehabilitation and interpreter school education.

c)  Attending different deafblind conferences and giving workshops has expanded my international contacts in this field.

d)  My involvement as an interpreter at the European Deafblind meetings has given me the appreciation of Deafblind "Culture" around Europe and Scandinavia.

e)  The results of my research work has given me the motivation to produce new materials for deafblind people, family members and professionals.

f) Working with deafblind people for the last twenty years has given me a positive belief to examine new techniques and ideas on how to improve your communication methods. I am very fortunate to know a group of deafblind people in Europe who are prepared to try out these new communication methods and give feedback.

I have also been very lucky in meeting my English partner, Russ Palmer, who has inspired me to expand my research work and shares in my work giving workshops & presentations in Europe & Scandinavia. This has also included writing various articles in Journal Publications.


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