What is Deaf-Blindness?
The federal definition of Deaf-Blindness states:
"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 in special education programs solely for children and youth with hearing impairments, visual impairments, or severe disabilities, without supplementary assistance to address their educational needs due to these dual, concurrent disabilities." 34 CFR 300.5 (b) (2)
Over the past twelve years, the North Dakota Deaf-Blind Annual Child Count census data from the National Consortium for Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) has documented a relatively stable population of children who are Deaf-Blind (30-40 students). However, according to the population studies by NCDB, there is an expected ratio of 1-2 children who are Deaf-Blind per 1000 students, which would be equal to about 87 students based upon our state population of over 87,000 students enrolled in North Dakota schools. This clearly demonstrates a discrepancy in the numbers of identified children who are Deaf-Blind in North Dakota.
Nationally, over 90% of the children and youth on the census who are Deaf-Blind have additional disabilities (Killoran, 2007), resulting in a population with complex, diverse needs. This places this group of students among the most vulnerable, at-risk students because they have varying degrees of hearing and vision losses, in addition to disabilities and health issues.
Most children learn incidentally through observation, interaction with others, and overhearing. The delivery of appropriate services and intervention for individuals who are Deaf-Blind requires not only knowledge and training of the impact of Deaf-Blindness on the development of the child, but also the unique needs and learning styles addresses through effective instruction, accommodations, and the use of assistive technology.
Six critical factors can affect the severity of Deaf-Blindness:
- Age of onset
- Degree of hearing and vision loss
- Stability or progression of the sensory losses
- Educational intervention
- Additional disabilities
Who qualifies for North Dakota Deaf-Blind services?
Children and youth (ages birth through 21 years) who have documented vision and hearing losses are eligible for services from the North Dakota Dual Sensory Project. Individuals qualify if they:
- Have documented hearing loss (mild to profound degree) and vision losses (low vision – legal blindness)
- Have a diagnosed syndrome or pathology that impacts hearing and vision
- Have multiple disabilities that impact central processing abilities as demonstrated by inconclusive vision and hearing responses during evaluations or in their natural environment
Very few children identified as Deaf-Blind are profoundly deaf and legally blind. Parents, early interventionists, school professionals, daycare providers, social service or medical staff can make referrals to the North Dakota Dual Sensory Project. Services are provided at no cost to parents and families, caregivers, educational personnel, private and public agencies providing services to children and youth who are Deaf-Blind. You can contact the Outreach staff from the North Dakota School for the Deaf/Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing or North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind, or the Project Director for services offered in your home, local community, or across the state.