DeafBlind Definition and Examples
Deafblindness is when a person experiences loss in BOTH hearing and vision. The level in which hearing and vision are affected varies greatly. Only 1% of children identified as deafblind are completely deaf and completely blind. The other 99% have different levels of combined hearing and vision loss. Even when children have the same syndrome, they may be impacted differently. Each person is unique.
Child and Youth Examples
Tara has no vision or hearing on her right side and has normal hearing and low vision on her left side. She is working on grade level academics in her high school general education classes. Is she considered deafblind for services? Yes, because she has combined hearing and vision loss.
Alex is in fourth grade. He has CHARGE Syndrome which includes colobomas (blind spots) that are not clearly identified, but present. He wears glasses and has hearing aids but recently has stopped using them because his hearing levels fluctuate. Alex also has a g-tube and still is working on toilet training. He uses spoken English and some sign language to communicate. Most of his time is spent in a special education room where he works on grade-level academics. He is mainstreamed for specialist electives (music, art and gym), math and science. Is he considered deafblind for services? Yes, because he has combined hearing and vision loss.
Marilyn is in sixth grade. She has many medical and health needs, wears a bone-anchored hearing aid and has cortical visual impairment. She also is an emergent communicator which means she does not yet use spoken or sign language to communicate expressively and is identified as having severe multiple impairments including severe-to-profound cognitive delays. An eye-gaze device is also being tried. Is she considered deafblind for services? Yes, because she has combined hearing and vision loss.
Peter wears hearing aids and has a moderate-to-severe hearing loss. He also has optic atrophy. He communicates with spoken English and sign language. He has an interpreter in all of his general education classes. He also reads Braille and travels with a cane. Is he considered deafblind for services? Yes, because he has combined hearing and vision loss.
Steven is profoundly deaf and is fluent in American Sign Language. He is now in high school and was just identified with Usher Syndrome because his teachers noticed he couldn’t see people when the lights were out. He also struggles with balance. Although Steven’s field of vision has narrowed, and he cannot see his friends waving at him for attention, he says he can see fine. Is he considered deafblind for services? Yes, because he is deaf and now has verified vision loss.
Deafblindness is the smallest percentage of all low incidence disabilities. According to the most recent child count, children identified as deafblind make up approximately 0.06% of the total special education population in Minnesota. Although this number might be higher since not all students with combined hearing and vision loss are identified and deafblindness is uncommon, its impact is very significant on the individual.
Together we will help children and youth with combined hearing and vision loss get the support and services they need to achieve their potential and to live a connected life.