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Make the Deafblind Census Count

by Jenny Schooler, Education Specialist, Texas Deafblind Outreach

As I traveled around the state this past school year, I was excited to see collaboration among the teachers of the visually impaired (VI teachers), orientation and mobility specialists (O & M), and the teachers of the deaf and hearing impaired (AI teachers) as they work together to expand each other's understanding of the impact of deafblindness on students. They have participated in joint training, regional meetings, and conferences. The results of their efforts has no doubt contributed to the identification of the seven-hundred-and-seventy-five (775) students with deafblindness that have been listed on the Texas Deafblind Census by Project Access of Texas Tech University.

Now that the 1998 census has been compiled, O & M specialists and AI and VI professionals may request a computer printout of those students in their districts who are included on the census. This is done by contacting their Special Education Coordinator or Dr. Roseanna Davidson at Project Access. Dr. Davidson can be reached by phone at (806) 742-2334 or contacted by mail sent to Texas Tech University, P. O. Box 41071, Lubbock, TX 79409-1071. The type of information that may be obtained includes: the name of the student, the student's date of birth, the name of the school he/she attends, the student's gender, the etiology, the degree of vision loss, and the degree of hearing loss.

The census helps us look at issues for the students with deafblindness in this state. For example, several years ago we determined from census data that students with Usher Syndrome were being under-identified. That led us to focus more of our energies toward developing training programs on Usher Syndrome and including information on it in SEE/HEAR. Another issue identified by the information compiled on the census is that large numbers of students continue to be reported on the census as having vision and/or hearing losses that are listed as "nonconclusive" or "not tested."

Testing the hearing and vision of some children may be very difficult if the child does not respond in traditional ways to clinical assessment. To assist the ophthalmologist, optometrist, otologist or audiologist obtain good testing results on these children it is often helpful to conduct informal assessment prior to or in conjunction with their formal assessments. This type of informal assessment may be carried out by the educational staff and parents. Texas Deafblind Outreach has compiled a variety of assessment tools which we hope will help parents and educational staff gather functional information that may then be shared with these doctors to aid them in making a definitive determination of hearing or vision loss. These materials include those which will: guide observations and organize that information to share with medical staff; expand the range of questions to explore with the professionals to get good testing results; and help prepare the student for more formal testing procedures. Additionally, we have included materials which will aid the educational staff in determining modifications to improve programming for the child in the classroom.

These materials are in no way meant to supplant formal testing done by ophthalmologists, optometrists, audiologists or otologists. Law and common sense dictates that formal testing must be done. These materials are simply meant to aid in getting good testing results on hard to test children.

A list of these assessment resources will be sent to your local education service center VI consultant and to your Regional Day School Program for the Deaf cluster directors. If you have questions about this information call me, Jenny Schooler at (512) 206-9389. You may also contact Cyral Miller, Outreach Director, at (512) 206-9242 to request Outreach assistance in using these materials.

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from Summer 1998 issue