Blumberg Center for
Interdisciplinary Studies in Special Education

indiana deafblind services project

training module:
introduction to learners with deafblindness

Joan Houghton, Ed.D.


Module Description - Instructional Outcomes - Instructional Events
Instructional Evaluation - Discussion List


MODULE DESCRIPTION:

This module is an introduction about learners who have both vision and hearing losses. Learners who have both vision and hearing losses often are referred to as "learners who are deafblind or learners with deafblindness." Learners who are deafblind have unique learning styles because they can not completely use their primary distance learning senses; vision and hearing. Learners with deafblindness often have to rely on their secondary near senses along with their primary learning senses to gather a clear picture about their environments.

Primary or Distance Senses: Vision and Hearing

It has been reported that the majority of what individuals learn is through their sense of vision which is one of the two primary distance senses. Distance senses are used to acquire information about events, objects, or activities that occur in the environment that do not require direct contact with the event, object, or activity in order to accurately interpret information that is being gathered from watching or listening. For example, you are using your vision to watch the nightly news on your favorite broadcasting station.

It also has been reported that the majority of what individuals learn is through their sense of hearing which also is one of the primary distance senses. For example you using your hearing to listen to music that you downloaded on your iPod®. Based on the definitions of primary distance senses and information from the literature, vision and hearing play a large role in how learners communicate, interact with others, and develop knowledge about the events in their immediate environments.

Clear Input and Clear Output

When learners can not completely use their vision and hearing senses, they are not able to clearly receive input about events, people, and activities that occur in their environments. The information that they receive often is distorted (depending on the degree of their vision and hearing losses) or absent (if they are totally deafblind). When learners do not have clear input from their environments through their primary learning senses, they often have difficulty producing clear output, or responding to events, people, and activities that occur in their environments in a way that others understand. The lack of clear input and the difficulty in producing clear output affects how learners with deafblindness gather information about their world, communicate with others, and develop social relationships.

Secondary or Near Senses: Touch, Movement, and Smell

Unlike other learners, with and without disabilities, learners with deafblindness often have to rely heavily on their secondary or near senses (e.g., touch, smell, body movement, etc.) to gather additional information about people, objects, activities, and events. Secondary or near senses are used to acquire information about events, or activities that occur in the environment that do require direct contact with the event, object, or activity in order to accurately interpret information that is being gathered by touching, moving, or smelling. For example, you use your secondary near sense of movement when you sit in a chair to see if it will recline.

Learners with Additional Disabilities

Learners who are deafblind often have additional disabilities which create unique challenges for gathering information. Some learners have medical health care needs which may impact their vision and hearing systems. Others may have motor involvement which limits their ability to communicate using manual or tactile sign language. Yet others, may have cognitive involvement that may affect the rate and level at which they learn. Learners with deafblindness including those with multiple disabilities may need to have additional modifications, adaptations, or accommodations in which to receive instruction that meets their unique learning needs.

Factors that Impact Gathering Information

There often are additional factors that impact learners' abilities to learn about their world. Some of these factors are: (a) the time in the learner's life when the vision and hearing loss first occurred (i.e., birth or later in life); (b) the varying degrees of their vision and hearing losses; and/or, (c) the etiologies or conditions associated with the learners' vision and hearing losses. It is important to understand these conditions about learners with deafblindness in order to design appropriate instructional strategies, provide communicative opportunities or to assist them in gaining access to information about their worlds. But, what is most important is to know and understand the learner for whom he or she is, the contributions that he or she makes, and the dreams that he or she has for the future. One of the best ways to gain insight on what learners' with deafblindness experience, value, and live is to reflect about personal testimonies of their lives through autobiographical accounts, or through the eyes of their family members, friends, and/or educators.

Key Elements of Module 1

The key elements of this module include: (1) federal and state definitions of deafblindness, (2) the National Deaf-Blind Census, (3) the impact that deafblindness has on learning, (4) descriptions of learners with deafblindness, and (4) state and national resources for learners who are deafblind. These key elements correspond with selected IPSB Instructional Proficiencies and Objectives from the Competencies for Teachers of Learners Who Are Deafblind that were developed by members from the Perkins National Deafblind Training Project published in 1997. (Refer to IPSB Instructional Proficiencies and Objectives one, two, three, and eight from the Competencies for Teachers of Learners Who Are Deafblind listed below.)

Module Requirements

While it is encouraged that you complete all of the Tasks for Completion in this module, persons who would just like to have a basic understanding of learners with deafblindness only need to read or look through the information and resources included in Module One. Individuals who are planning on teaching others about learners with deafblindness or who may want to receive CRU's or Points for their Professional Development Plans need to complete all of the tasks and activities included in Module One.

IDOE Division of Professional Standards Instructional Proficiencies
and Competencies for Teachers of Learners who are Deafblind

bullet item Standard 11A: Performances #1, #14
bullet item Standard 11B: Performance #1
bullet item Standard 11C: Performance #21
bullet item Competency Objective 1 - Knowledge: The critical roles of vision and hearing in all learning (e.g., communication, concept development, motor development, and/or movement).
bullet item Competency Objective 2 - Knowledge: The complex and unique effects of combined vision and hearing losses upon all learners who are deafblind (e.g., communication, challenges in accessing information, and/or orientation and mobility).
bullet item Competency Objective 3 - Knowledge: The diversity within the population of learners who are deafblind (e.g., differing etiologies, varying ages of onset of deafblindness, varying degrees of vision and hearing losses, and/or additional disabilities).
bullet item Competency Objective 8 - Knowledge: The potential and complex effects of additional disabilities upon learners who are deafblind (e.g., physical disabilities, medical conditions, and/or cognitive challenges).


INSTRUCTIONAL OUTCOMES:

After completion of this module, Introduction to Learners with Deafblindness, you will have:
bullet item gained knowledge about legal definitions of students with deafblindness.
bullet item gained knowledge about the diversity of learners with deafblindness.
bullet item understood the impact that both vision and hearing losses have on learners with deafblindness, including those learners with additional disabilities.
bullet item identified national and state resources for students, their families, and/or professionals who provide services to students with deafblindness.
bullet item reflected on personal testimonies of individuals who are deafblind.
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