Deaf-blindness refers to a child with both hearing and visual disabilities. The Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) officially defines the term 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.”
Deaf-blindness under federal law means concomitant 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 (IDEA 2004).
A child who is deaf or hard of hearing learns through vision. A child who is blind or visually impaired learns through hearing. A child who is DeafBlind learns through touch Think about this:
**Major Causes of Deaf-blindness:*
The American Association of the Deaf-Blind notes that about half of individuals with deaf-blindness in the United States have a genetic condition called Usher Syndrome. In these cases a child may be born deaf, hard of hearing or with normal hearing; eventually, however, he or she loses both vision and hearing. Aside from genetic conditions, causes for deaf-blindness include the following: birth trauma, illness and injury, fetal alcohol syndrome, hydrocephaly, maternal drug abuse, microcephaly prematurity congenital prenatal dysfunction, AIDS, herpes, rubella, syphilis, toxoplasmosis post-natal causes. Possible illnesses and injuries which may lead to deaf-blindness include stroke, meningitis and head trauma.
Impact on Learning:
Of the five senses, vision and hearing are the primary senses through which we collect information:
As much as 80% of what we learn is learned visually.
Hearing is the basis of the communication/language system that most people use.
When these two major channels for receiving information are impaired or not functioning, it has far reaching effects on a child's development in several areas, including:
Movement and motor development
Cognitive development and the ability to learn
Body image and self-concept
The educational challenges related to deaf-blindness vary based upon a student’s individual needs. Two main areas of education affected by deaf-blindness are reading and communicating, creating the following potential issues:
Understanding classroom lectures
Participating in class discussions
Presenting oral reports
Fulfilling reading assignments
Educators who work with individuals who are deafblind have a unique challenge to ensure that the person has access to the world beyond the limitations of their reach. The most important challenge for teachers (as well as parents and caregivers) is to meaningfully communicate. Some basic guidelines for communication include:
Individuals who are deafblind will often need touch in order for them to be sure that their partner shares their focus of attention. Exploring objects should be done in a "nondirective" way, allowing the individual who is deafblind to have control. The individual may have very slow response times. Therefore, the teacher should allow time for the student to respond.
Symbolic communication can be utilized by individuals who are deafblind. The principal communication systems include:
American Sign Language
Pidgin Signed English
Tadoma method of speech reading
Many of the teaching strategies for individuals with visual impairments and hearing impairments can be used with individuals who are deafblind with modifications made for the communications needs of the individual.
Assistive Technology: Modern technology has provided opportunities for students who are deafblind to access the general curriculum. Assistive technology devices that were created for individuals with visual impairments (especially those with braille output) can be utilized by students who are deafblind. These include:
Braille translation software: converts print into Braille and Braille into print
Braille printer: connects to a computer and embosses Braille on paper
Screen reader: converts text on a computer screen to audible speech
Screen enlargement software: increases the size of text and images on a computer screen
Refreshable Braille display: converts text on computer to Braille by an output device connect to the computer
Adaptive devices: Braille notetakers: lightweight electronic note-taking device that can be connected to a printer or a Braille embosser to produce a printed copy. Optical character reader: converts printed text into files that can be translated into audible speech or Braille. Electronic braillewriter: produces Braille, translates Braille into text or synthetic speech
Telecommunication Devices: In order for individuals who are deafblind to communicate using the telephone, they may use a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD) that includes braille output. A TDD is a small keyboard with a display and modem. To use the TDD the individual must relay information to an operator. Text messaging has recently become a very useful avenue for individuals with hearing impairments to relay messages without using the TDD.