Amy T. Parker - Texas Tech University

Photo: Amy T. Parker, 2006 NCLVI Fellow

It is often the case that a set of experiences shapes a person’s professional choice. My first memory is of my sister and me sitting in highchairs, banging plastic hammers in tandem. Melody reached over and took my hammer and, in response, I took hers. There was nothing remarkable to me about this event at the time.  Melody was my first playmate, friend, and she has always been in my life.  Throughout our childhood years, Melody and I shared a bedroom, played together, ate together and had roles in family theater productions together. In school, however, I quickly noticed that Melody rode a separate bus and attended segregated classes. While I studied typical subjects, Melody often spent hours receiving therapy or just coloring worksheets. I played softball; Melody participated in softball throwing once a year at Special Olympics. Because Melody was given a label of mental retardation, her low vision needs were overlooked. She missed the opportunity to have an appropriate education, one that addressed her sensory needs as well as building upon her strengths.

Being Melody’s sister has influenced my entire life motivating me to pursue a career in serving children and adults with disabilities. After receiving my undergraduate degree in psychology, I began working as an employment specialist in Memphis and was selected to assist an individual who was deafblind in finding employment.  In my quest to support my client, I pursued training at the Helen Keller National Center and graduate training in rehabilitation and Deafness at the University of Tennessee.   While I helped this individual find employment and design a supported living situation in the community, she taught me sign language and influenced me to want to work with people who have sensory loss.

While in Tennessee, I went on to have professional roles as an independent living teacher and advocate. Both roles involved me supporting young and older adults, including people who are visually impaired and those who are deafblind, as they transitioned from institutional settings to community-based environments.  In each of the aforementioned roles, providing specific training on accommodating sensory loss and support to service providers was a part helping consumers have the access and support necessary to work in the community and be more independent.  While working, I studied to get a master’s degree in social work from the University of Tennessee, doing internship work in the school system as well as in the case management department at Helen Keller National Center.   After graduating and beginning employment with Helen Keller National Center, I had the opportunity to attend Northern Illinois University’s Deafblind Certificate program.

Two of my paid professional roles at Helen Keller National Center - Community Placement Specialist and Regional Representative - have involved supporting adult deafblind consumers and young adults in transition with navigating community services, developing advocacy skills, and being an effective part of local policy efforts.  Both of these roles also involve working within larger systemic frameworks to provide technical assistance for the unique needs of people with dual sensory loss, sometimes in the form of training or strategic planning.   In designing state plans and collaborative agreements with a variety of agencies, I have learned how to develop systemic partnerships that benefit multiple consumers.

In the areas of formal research, working at the National Technical Assistance Consortium gave me the opportunity to validate a classroom observation instrument for teachers who serve deafblind students.   Another role at NTAC involved my collaborating to design technical assistance activities that included measuring child outcomes across time.  It was a great pleasure to be able to formally document the progress that educational teams made with students across a school year based upon technical assistance and intervention.

Some of my most treasured experiences have been as a part-time Parent Advisor within the early intervention systems in Tennessee and Georgia.  Working with the families of infants and toddlers with vision loss and multiple disabilities has been life changing for me.  The differences that can be made when young children have access to appropriate support and collaborative team intervention are astounding.

I am honored to have been selected as one of the NCLVI scholars and look forward to collaborating with leaders at TTU and across the country to make positive life changes for children with vision loss and their families through research and policy development.   

Graduate Amy Parker, Ed.D.  Texas Tech University

Amy Parker, Ed.D and her childrenAmy T. Parker and children.

Amy T. Parker was a National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) Doctoral Fellow who recently completed her program of study at Texas Tech University. Her emphasis of research was on evidence-based practices in teaching and rehabilitation for people who are visually impaired or deafblind. The focus of her dissertation was an adapted form of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) for students with visual impairments and multiple disabilities. Advocacy and policy development are two of her passions in the field of visual impairment and deafblindness. She has over 15 years serving in the field of deafblindness working as a Community Placement Specialist, Technical Assistance Specialist, and Regional Representative for Helen Keller National Center. Dr. Parker is also a certified interpreter of American Sign Language in the state of Texas.  She is working as a Research Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University in the Virginia Murray Sowell Center. She is married to Trey and has two young children, James and Abby.

The title of  Dr. Parker's dissertation is:

Measuring an Adapted Form of Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS) for Young Children with Visual Impairments and Developmental Disabilities [Doctoral Dissertation] --Parker, Amy Tollerson. Texas Tech University. (2009)  This is the link to her dissertation is