What is Deaf-Blindness?
Deaf-blindness is a loss in both the vision and hearing senses. This condition affects over 8,000 children between birth and 21 years of age in the United States. Deaf-blindness has over 70 known causes; however, regardless of the cause, the challenges of Deaf-blindness are lifelong. Appropriate education must address both the hearing and vision impairments, as well as any other disabilities that may be present.
The impact of hearing and visual loss varies greatly across individuals. The sensory losses occur in varying degrees with each person and a child need not exhibit all of the symptomatic behaviors identified in this brochure to be considered Deaf-Blind. For example, a child may show only one of the behaviors that indicates a hearing impairment, but show several of the behaviors that indicate a vision impairment. The combined effects of both of these sensory losses, even if both are mild, may qualify him or her for Deaf-Blind services.
Parents and professionals, upon observing these behaviors, may need assistance in confirming the sensory loss. Contacting the Montana IDEA Services for Children and Youth with Deaf-Blindness is the first step to securing assistance.
The U.S. Department of Education defines children with Deaf-Blindness as "children and youth having auditory and visual impairments, the combination of which creates such severe communication and other developmental and learning needs that they cannot be appropriately educated without special education and related services, beyond those that would be provided solely for children with hearing impairments, visual impairments, or severe disabilities, to address their educational needs due to these concurrent disabilities. "
The services provided by the Montana Deaf-Blind Project are based upon the following Project Goals:
Public Awareness: Provide essential information through Project dissemination activities to families, family support organizations, child and family service providers, early intervention agencies, local education agencies, medical facilities, professional organizations, and state agencies concerning services and resources for children and young adults with deaf-blindness and their families.
Identification of Children who are Deaf-Blind: To synchronize the Project ’s child find activities with other state and private agencies in order to seek out, identify and refer children who are, or may be, at risk for being deaf-blind.
Family Services: Provide individual family oriented technical assistance and training designed to empower families on their involvement in the education of children who are deaf-blind.
Technical Assistance to Education and Service Provider Personnel: Provide technical assistance and training designed to make possible the implementation of best practices in the provision of education and related services for children with deaf-blindness.
Community Coordination and Collaboration: To promote interagency collaboration, coordination and development of resources devised to educate and support children with deaf-blindness and their families in their school and community environments.
Project Evaluation and Management: Evaluate the impact of Project services and activities on consumers and partners and methodically administer the Project based on suitable and practical evaluation information.
Behaviors that may indicate a Dual Sensory Impairment
The following questions are designed to help parents and professionals determine if there is a possibility of a vision and hearing loss. If you answer yes to questions in both of the following sections, the child may have a dual sensory loss (Deaf-Blindness) and should receive complete vision and hearing assessments. The Montana IDEA Services for Children and Youth with Deaf-Blindness can assist with referrals for assessments.
Behaviors that may indicate a visual impairment
Does the child or student…
- bump into objects?
- move hesitantly or walks close to the wall?
- search for objects or touches them in an uncertain way?
- tilt his/her head to see?
- request additional or different kinds of lighting?
- hold books or other visual material close to the face?
- drop objects or knocks them over?
- show difficulty making out faces or the numbers that designate rooms or floors?
- act confused or disoriented; for example, walks into the wrong room by mistake?
Behaviors that may indicate a hearing impairment
Does the child or student…
- give no response when spoken to?
- often give irrelevant or incorrect responses to questions?
- seem unable to follow spoken directions to carry out an activity?
- often say, "huh?" or "what?" and requires repetition?
- seem unaware that others are talking and interrupts conversations?
- seem to have a behavioral problem or is irritable?
- express confusion or uncertainty when unable to understand?
- hold head in an abnormal position to listen "better"; seems unable to locate the source of sound?
- watch a speaker's face intently?
- seem inattentive, but pays more attention to visual things?
- speak more loudly or softly than expected for a situation; have an unusual vocal tone, resonance, or pattern of speaking?
- use gestures and objects to get attention more than would be expected?
- seem to have language problems (structure, syntax, and vocabulary)?
- seem to withdraw from interaction in groups? have frequent colds, earaches or ear infections, and allergies?
- breathe through his/her mouth more than through his/her nose?
- complain or show signs of ear pain, fullness in the ear, dizziness, or balance problems?
Montana IDEA Services for Children and Young Adults with with Deaf-Blindness Project
- Assistance in identification
- Functional vision and/or hearing assessment
- On-site technical assistance (e.g., one-on-one consultation, group or staff consultation, program design and/or review, observation, etc.) for families, educators, and others based on individual needs, requests, and/or referrals.
- Information on Deaf-Blindness and educational implications
- Additional trainings, consultants, resources
- Interagency/Interdisciplinary collaboration
- In service workshops
- Lending Library based at PLUK
- Access to programs, professionals, and parents who are involved with individuals who are Deaf-Blind and their families
- Assistance and/or participation in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings/writing
- Assistance and/or participation in Child Study Team (CST) meetings/writing
Deaf-Blind Web sites
- A - Z to Deafblindness
James Gallagher, who is deaf blind, compiled information and links to useful information about deafness, blindness, and especially deaf blindness.
- American Association of the Deaf-Blind
American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB) is a national consumer advocacy organization for people who have combined hearing and vision impairments. AADB is open to all persons who are deaf-blind and individuals directly concerned with their well being, including spouses, children, friends, and health care professionals.
- Deaf-Blind Perspectives
Deaf Blind Perspectives is a free publication with articles, essays, and topics related to deaf-blind people. Published three times a year by Teaching Research Division of Western Oregon
- Helen Keller National Center (HKNC)
HKNC is a national program, with headquarters in New York, which provides diagnostic evaluation, short-term comprehensive rehabilitation and personal adjustment training, work experience, and placement to youths and adults, in the United States, who are deaf-blind. HKNC's role is to ensure that these youths and adults receive the skills, training, and support necessary to live and work in the community of their choice.
- National Consortium of Deaf-Blindness
A national technical assistance center funded by the federal Department of Education, NCDB works to improve the quality of life for children who are deaf-blind and their families by: creating visibility and direction for identified priorities through a range of practices, activities, supports and partnerships; identifying and encouraging new innovations in local, state, and national practice and policy; promoting opportunity for reflection, debate, and constructive dialogue around ideas and developing practice and; maintaining a rich repository of content, history, and knowledge, easily available and shared by all who are part of the community of deaf-blindness.
- NFADB: National Family Association for Deaf-Blind
- NTAC: The National Technical Assistance Consortium for Children and Young Adults Who Are Deaf-Blind
The National Technical Assistance Consortium for Children and Young Adults Who Are Deaf-Blind provides technical assistance to families and agencies serving children and young adults who are deaf-blind. The primary mission of NTAC is to assist states in improving the quality of services for individuals (birth to age 28) who are deaf-blind; and to increase the numbers of children, young adults, their families, and their service providers who will benefit from these services.