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Impact of Deaf-Blindness on Learning

Typically, learning and development occur as children use their vision and hearing to interact with their surroundings.

These distance senses increase engagement with a world that exists beyond the boundaries of their physical bodies. Children learn from watching others, observing objects and actions, and listening to voices and other sounds. Deaf-blindness, however, depending on its severity, impacts a child’s attraction to and subsequent interest in and interaction with the environment.

The world of a child with deaf-blindness is limited to what can be gathered from other senses, particularly touch, and any available vision or hearing. Without appropriate intervention, this limited access leads to isolation that affects a child’s development and learning. The more severe a child’s deaf-blindness, the narrower the world from which they can learn and the more important the sense of touch becomes. Understanding the severity of a child’s deaf-blindness is the first step in helping the child expand their learning to the world beyond their reach.

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Robbie Blaha explains how the combination of vision and hearing loss impact learning.

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Module 1: The Impact of Deafblindness on Learning and Development
Need-to-know, practical information that teachers and early intervention providers can put to use right away in their classrooms and other settings.

Prickett, J. G., & Welch, T. R. (1995). Deaf-Blindness: Implications for Learning. In K. M. Huebner, J. G. Prickett, T. R. Welch, & E. Joffee, (Eds.), Hand in hand: Essentials of communication and orientation and mobility for your students who are deaf-blind (pp. 411-441). AFB Press. Reproduced by permission of AFB Press, American Foundation for the Blind. (Accessible Word Version)

When both vision and hearing are compromised, the combined effects create a barrier that blocks or distorts significant amounts of information. This creates a chronic problem with gathering information throughout an individual’s lifetime. Students cannot learn what they do not detect, and they may be unaware of what they are missing. (Texas Deafblind Outreach, 2003, p. 4)


Texas Deafblind Outreach. (2003). IEP quality indicators for students with deafblindness


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