When we hear the term deafblind, we often imagine a person who is unable to hear or see anything. This is typically not the case. A range of vision and hearing loss can occur in combination. Functional levels may vary from hard-of-hearing and partially sighted to profoundly deaf and totally blind. This may allow some individuals with deafblindness to have enough vision to move about their environments, see sign language at close distances, recognize loud familiar sounds, and recognize familiar objects.
Individuals included in the definition of deafblindness solely may have the condition of deafblindness, may be at risk of becoming deafblind, or may have deafblindness with additional disabilities. For example, one student with deafblindness may have Usher's Syndrome in which he was born deaf and will be losing his vision as he gets older. Another student may have been born with a congenital infection (e.g., Cytomegalovirus) and have profound mental retardation, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, severe sensorineural hearing loss and a visual impairment. Both students would meet the definition of deafblind and be eligible to receive services from the Georgia Sensory Assistance Project, even though the school system may count each student in a different category. (The first student may be counted as deaf, since he has no vision loss as yet, and the second student may be placed in the profound intellectual disabilities category, since that is the primary condition.)
A combined vision and hearing loss can cause developmental delays and deficits in areas such as communication, concept development, social skills, and mobility, but they do not always limit the individual's learning potential. The combined auditory and visual impairment causes unique educational needs requiring specialized instructional techniques and modified curricula beyond those generally provided in the field of visual impairments, hearing impairments or multiple disabilities. Technical assistance is provided by the Georgia Sensory Assistance Project to parents, teachers and related services staff to address the child's unique needs.
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