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.
In the 2003-2004 school year, 1,667 students were served under the category of multiple disabilities in the United States, representing 0.03% of all special education students.
The causes of deaf-blindness are many. Below is a list of many of the possible etiologies of deaf-blindness.
Major Causes of Deaf-blindness
- Trisomy 13
Multiple Congenital Anomalies
- CHARGE Syndrome (coloboma, heart anomalies, choanal atresia, retardation of growth and development, and genital and ear anomalies)
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Maternal drug abuse
Congenital Prenatal Dysfunction
- Head injury/trauma
Some people are deafblind from birth. Others may be born deaf or hard-of-hearing and become blind or visually impaired later in life; or the reverse may be the case.
Still others may be adventitiously deaf-blind - that is, they are born with both sight and hearing but lose some or all of these senses as a result of accident or illness.
Deaf-blindness is often accompanied by additional disabilities. Causes such as maternal rubella can also affect the heart and the brain. Some genetic syndromes or brain injuries that cause deaf-blindness may also cause cognitive disabilities and/or physical disabilities.
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:
- Communication/language development
- Movement and motor development
- Cognitive development and the ability to learn
- Emotional/social development
- Body image and self-concept