The word “deaf-blindness” may seem as if a person cannot hear or see at all. The term actually describes a person who has some degree of loss in both vision and hearing. The amount of loss in either vision or hearing will vary from person to person.
Our nation’s special education law, the IDEA, defines “deaf-blindness” as:
…concomitant [simultaneous] hearing and visual 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. [§300.8(c)(2)]
The National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness observes that the “key feature of deaf-blindness is that the combination of losses limits access to auditory and visual information.” This can severely limit an individual’s natural opportunities to learn and communicate with others.
Finding Help for Children with Deaf-Blindness
Children birth to age 3 | Very young children (birth up to age 3) who are deaf-blind are typically eligible for early intervention services under the Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities program of IDEA (also called Part C). These services are extremely important to children with deaf-blindness and their families, for the services are designed to address the child’s developmental and learning needs. Parents are involved in deciding what services their child and family need to address the challenges of deaf-blindness. Services are either provided free of charge to families or on a sliding cost scale based on the family’s income.
To find the early intervention program in your area, ask your pediatrician or get in touch with the pediatric unit of a nearby hospital. Say that you’re looking for a referral to early intervention or Child Find for a baby or toddler. You can also contact the ECI division of the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) at 1.800.628.5115.
School-age children, including preschoolers | When children with deaf-blindness reach the age of 3, they transition into special education services under Part B of IDEA. Special education services are provided free through the public school system. Even if a child with deaf-blindness is not in school yet (for example, a four-year-old), the school system is still responsible for making sure that special education and related services are available to the child.
Because deaf-blindness causes severe communication and other developmental and educational needs, it’s very important for children with deaf-blindness to receive special education and related services to address their individual needs. You can find out more about these services and how to access them by contacting the local elementary school in your area.
Resources for Deaf-Blindness
Finding Services in Your State
The Experts on Deaf-Blindness
Transition to Adulthood for Students Who Are Deaf-Blind
Check out our Children & Young Adults (3 to 26 years)
section for more information on Special Education and Related Services, Parental Rights under IDEA, Evaluations, IEPs, Placement, Discipline and more.