The North Dakota Dual Sensory Project
What is the Dual Sensory Project?
The Project is funded by the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education. The mission of the Project is to promote academic achievement and to improve the results for children with disabilities by providing technical assistance (TA), supporting model demonstration projects, disseminating useful information, and implementing activities that are supported by scientifically based research. This project is the sole statewide entity in ND that has been funded to build state and local capacity to serve children who are Deaf-Blind and their families. As a result of this project, professionals, individuals who are Deaf-Blind, and their parents, have collaborated to make progress in identifying research based practices for children, developed high quality training materials and resources, and established networks across ND to share information. The priority of this project is to create and strengthen these collaborative partnerships among the families, Local Education Associations (LEAs), and state and private agencies, to enhance these services and improve the outcomes for all children and youth who are Deaf-Blind.
The goals of this Project are to:
- Facilitate collaborative partnerships between family members of children who are Deaf-Blind, early interventionists, special and regular educators, related services personnel, LEAs, state and private agencies to develop and implement supports that improve children's outcomes and educational achievement,
- Provide information and technical assistance, including distance learning activities and ongoing professional development opportunities in combination with on-site coaching, to families of children who are Deaf-Blind, and all their staff,
- Communicate and collaborate with the National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) and other OSEP-funded projects that are sources of expertise on Deaf-Blindness,
- Work with the families, LEAs, state and private agencies, and other statewide agencies to develop a shared understanding among stakeholders groups of how to support children who are Deaf-Blind within local systems and communities,
- Employ the system of identification for children who are Deaf-Blind, and
- Communicate state-wide on an ongoing basis through the use of multi-media including the Project website, email, Ta meetings and events, Advisory Boards, workshops, webinars, as a way to support collaboration among key stakeholders throughout the state.
The Project maintains a lending library of materials on Deaf-Blindness including videos, books, and assessments, located at the North Dakota School for the Deaf in Devils Lake. All materials are provided at no cost to North Dakota families, teachers, and service providers of children and youth who are on the Deaf-Blind Census.
Currently, the ND Dual Sensory Project's staff include: Carmen Suminski, Director and Superintendent of NDVS/SB and NDSD, a Project Coordinator, and part-time Administrative staff. The fiscal agent for the Project is the ND School for the Deaf.
There are approximately 40,000 people in the United States who are Deaf-Blind. Although varied across individual states, national data indicate that the State and Multi/State Projects have consistently reported approximately 10,000 children and students with Deaf-Blindness since 1995. The number of children annually reported has doubled since the inception of the Deaf-Blind Census in 1985.
Hearing and vision are the primary senses through which we learn and collect data. Hearing is the basis of communication and 80% of what we learn is through our vision. For students to be eligible to receive services through the Project, they must meet the IDEA 2004 federal definition of Deaf-Blindness (Dual Sensory Impairment) published in the final Part B regulations which states:
"Deaf-blindness means concomitant hearing and vision impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness" (Section 300.8 © (2)).
For infants and toddlers receiving Part C early intervention services, Deaf-Blindness is defined as:
"Concomitant hearing and vision impairments, or delays, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and intervention needs that specialized early intervention services are needed" (Killoran, 2007).
Deaf-Blindness has a tremendous impact on a child's ability to understand and interact within their physical and social environments. Lack of access to auditory and visual information for children with Deaf-Blindness impacts all areas of development. In addition to Deaf-Blindness, over 90% of the children who are on the Census have one or more additional disabilities. Thus, the population of children who are Deaf-Blind is a diverse group with a broad continuum of needs and learning styles. Therefore, the delivery of appropriate services and intervention requires not only a knowledge of the impact of Deaf-Blindness on the child's development, unique needs and learning styles, but also the need for effective instruction, accommodations, and assistive technology that incorporates strategies in recognition of the child's Deaf-Blindness.
This project is supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the U.S. Department of Education.