What is Deafblindness?
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% has different levels of combined hearing and vision loss. Each person is unique.
Children are considered to be deafblind when the combination of their hearing and vision loss causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they require significant and unique adaptations in their educational programs.
Who is Deafblind?
According to 2018 child count data collected by the National Center on Deaf-Blindness, children who are deafblind are as varied as the number reported, and the nature and extent of deaf-blindness in children is often misunderstood (Malloy & Killoran, 2007; McCormick, 2015; Schalock, 2018). These children represent one of the lowest incidence yet most diverse group of learners receiving early intervention and special education services (Muller, 2006). They are an extremely heterogeneous group whose sensory losses are often accompanied by additional physical or cognitive disabilities, complex medical needs, and/or behavior challenges.
Tara has no vision or hearing on her right side, but has normal hearing and low vision on her left side. She communicates in spoken English and is working on grade level in her high school general education classes. Is she considered deafblind for services? Yes, because she has combined hearing and vision loss.
Alex 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. Alex also has a g-tube and still is working on toilet training. He uses speech and some sign language to communicate. Most of his time is spent in a special education room where he works on grade-level academics, but he is mainstreamed for specialists, math and reading. Is he considered deafblind for services? Yes, because he has combined hearing and vision loss.
Marilyn has many medical and health needs, wears a bone-anchored hearing aid and has cortical visual impairment. She also is an emergent communicator in sixth grade which means she does not yet use spoken or sign language to communicate and is identified as having severe multiple impairments including severe-to-profound cognitive delays. 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 speech 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 deaflbind for services? Yes, because he has combined hearing and vision loss.
Steven is profoundly deaf and has Deaf parents. He communicates using American Sign Language and attends the school for the deaf. He is now in high school and was just identified with Usher Syndrome and has developed night blindness, so he struggles to see when the lights are off in the classroom, and a smaller field of vision, but 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, it’s 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.