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)
The majority of individuals who are Deaf-Blind have some residual use of hearing and vision. Some may have no usable hearing or vision and some may have additional challenges such as cognitive or physical disabilities. A combination of hearing and vision losses may cause deficits in communication, orientation and mobility, social skills, and developmental delays.
Individuals who are Deaf-Blind have the same basic needs as all children, but they also have complex and unique challenges and must be taught what other children learn incidentally through observing, naturally interacting with others, and overhearing. Educational needs may require modified curricula and specialized instructional techniques beyond that of hearing impairment, visual impairment, or multiple disabilities.
There are six critical factors that affect the severity of Deaf-Blindness:
- The age of onset
- The degree of hearing and vision loss
- If the sensory loss is stable or progressive; and
- Educational intervention
- Presence of additional disabilities
Who qualifies for Deaf-Blind services?
Children and youth (ages birth through 21 years) who are Deaf-Blind and on the North Dakota Deaf-Blind Census are eligible for services from the North Dakota Dual Sensory Project. Individuals qualify if they:
- Are both deaf and blind as demonstrated by accurate vision and hearing tests
- Have hearing and visual impairments of a mild to severe degree and additional disabilities
- Have been diagnosed as having a degenerative pathology or disease which will affect hearing and/or vision acuity; and
- Have multiple disabilities due to central processing dysfunction who may demonstrate inconclusive vision and/or hearing responses during evaluations or in the natural environment.
Very few children identified as Deaf-Blind are profoundly deaf and legally blind. Parents as well as education, social service, or medical agencies may make referrals. Services are provided at no cost to parents, families, care providers, educational personnel, and agencies providing services to children and youth who are Deaf-Blind. You may contact the Coordinator for services or for appropriate services offered in the local community, throughout the state, and nationally.