About NEC

What is Deafblindness?

The Federal Government through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004) defines deafblindness as “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” (Section 300.8 (c) (2)).

The New England Consortium on Deafblindness (NEC) uses a more functional definition and defines deafblindness as: combined vision and hearing loss, which may challenge a person’s ability to communicate, interact with others, access information, and move about safely.

Incidental information that most children acquire naturally must be introduced deliberately and systematically for children who are deafblind. Infants and children with this disability require early intervention and specialized services to facilitate and support learning and development.

Most individuals who are deafblind have some useful vision and/or hearing. There is a wide range of cognitive and developmental ability among individuals who are deafblind. Estimates indicate that there are approximately 40,000 people in the United States who are deafblind, approximately 11,000 children and youth (ages birth to 22) are deafblind (NCDB, 2013).

Several factors that may contribute to the overall impact of deafblindness on an individual’s learning and development include:

  • Age of onset
  • Degree and type of vision and hearing loss
  • Type of interventions provided and educational history.
  • Presence of additional disabilities

Impact of Deafblindness

Vision is our key to exploration and mobility, to building concepts, and to developing social relationships. Hearing is the basis of the language and communication system that most people use. The development of communication skills, mobility skills, and social relationships are the three areas most impacted by deafblindness.

When both vision and hearing are compromised, a child’s development may be impacted in several areas:

  • Communication and language development
  • Movement and motor development
  • Cognitive development
  • Emotional and social development
  • ​Body image and self-concept

What’s available from NEC?

Consultation and training is provided in the home, classroom, work and community, and includes video conferencing. Support to early childhood and educational teams focus on collaboration, assessment, and program development. Key topics targeted in consultation and training includes:

  • Communication/Language Development
  • Vision and Hearing Skills and Related Environmental Arrangements
  • Strategies to Support Successful Early and Later Transitions
  • Parent Training and Networking Opportunities

Birth to Age 6 (Early Intervention and Early Childhood):

Combined vision and hearing loss often results in delays in communication and overall development. Early identification of combined vision and hearing loss is critical to ensure children and families receive specialized services. Recognizing the importance of early identification and referral, NEC offers consultation and training to early intervention/early childhood providers regarding:

  • Conditions Associated with Deafblindness
  • Evidenced-Based Practices Related to Early Assessment, Intervention, and Curriculum
  • Parent Self/Advocacy in the IFSP/IEP Process

Age 6 to 21 (School-Age into Young Adulthood):

NEC consultants and affiliated agencies provide School-Based Consultations (onsite or via video conferencing) focused on assessment, instruction, and curriculum. Additional Topics Include:

  • Common Core Curriculum and Expanded Core Curriculum
  • Person-Centered Planning and Strategies to Promote Transition to Adult Services
  • Parent Self-Advocacy in the IEP and Transition Process
  • Paraprofessional Training/The Use of Interveners in the Classroom
  • National Center on Deafblindness – Online Learning Modules

State and Regional Trainings:

State and regional trainings highlight “evidence-based practices” in deafblind education with an emphasis on development of leadership skills for service providers and families. State and regional leadership trainings target:

  • Communication/Language Development Strategies
  • Impact of Combined Vision and Hearing Loss
  • Assessment, Intervention, and Curriculum
  • Strategies for Successful Transitions
  • Family Training and Networking Opportunities
  • Supporting Parent Participation in the Educational Planning Process
  • Development of Leadership and Consultation Skills

Dissemination of materials and resources includes information about “evidence-based practices” in deafblind education and related fields, training opportunities, community resources, newsletters, and informational packets for families, service providers, and community agencies.