Deafblindness is defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 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."

Simply put, if a child has a teacher of deaf/hard of hearing and a teacher of blind/visually impaired on his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, then members should consider the Minnesota Rule for Deaf-Blind. Deafblindness does not only mean a child is fully deaf and fully blind; it includes a wide range of hearing and sight levels that occur at the same time and have a unique impact. If a student meets criteria for deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired, then the student meets eligibility for deafblindness. IEP teams should also consider evaluating hearing and vision levels when a student has at-risk potential, such as an identified condition or syndrome, including extreme prematurity, CHARGE Syndrome, or Usher Syndrome. See the list of syndromes on the Minnesota DeafBlind Project webpage for more information.

Deafblindness impacts access to people, language and communication as well as the environment in school, home and community. "Deafblindness is a unique disability and not the sum total of vision and hearing loss." (Miles, D. and Riggio, M. (1999)) To address the need to provide access to students who are deafblind, the Minnesota Low Incidence Project: Deafblind and the Minnesota DeafBlind Project share funding to train interveners to work with students. This training includes specialized knowledge and skills related to deafblindness.

To increase understanding and skills for teachers, the Minnesota Low Incidence Project: DeafBlind also provides workshops for its Community of Practice.

Early identification is critical for providing interventions and support to children and families with combined hearing and vision loss. For Part C (birth through age two), it is important that early childhood special education teams have access to information to collaborate for children who are Deafblind. See Part C Intervention Services for Infants and Toddlers (Birth to Age 3) with Sensory Loss: Recommended Collaborative Practices for further information.

In addition, the Deafblind Mailing List is available to distribute information. Any professional who is working with students who are deafblind is encouraged to subscribe. This includes teachers of blind/visually impaired (B/VI), teachers of deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH), teachers of developmental and cognitive disabilities (DCD), occupational therapists (OTs), physical therapists (PTs), speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and teachers of students with other health disabilities (OHD). Approximately 90% of students who are deafblind also have additional disabilities that impact multiple areas of development; thus, IEP teams may include large numbers of professionals who teach and serve them.

Statewide Resource Contact:

Ann L. Mayes, M.A.
Statewide DeafBlind Specialist
Minnesota Low Incidence Projects
Metro ECSU
2 Pine Tree Drive
Suite 101
Arden HIlls, MN 55112
612-638-1527 Videophone
612-314-9130 Text Only