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Marina McCormick, M.Ed., Region 4 Regional Day School Program for the Deaf Coordinator

Originally published in the Spring 2015 edition of TX SenseAbilities.

Abstract: The author discusses ways local school districts can serve students with deafblindness. She emphasizes collaboration, putting the student first, rewarding outstanding staff, and including the student as part of the local community.

Keywords: deafblindness, administrators, collaboration, inclusion.

When most people encounter the word deafblindness, the first image that comes to mind is one of Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Thanks in large part to Keller’s articulate and thoughtful nature, the groundbreaking duo challenged public perceptions regarding what was possible for people with multiple disabilities.

Although Keller’s life is an inspiration to many, the reality of deafblindness is more variable than originally understood by those outside the education arena. This variability within deafblindness comes from many factors. For example, children experience variations in their hearing and vision losses. One child with deafblindness may exhibit excellent use of his residual hearing and struggle with nearsighted vision while another may have better visual acuity but have profound hearing loss. Other factors that lend themselves to the diversity within deafblindness include the child’s cognition, sociological factors, communication modalities, social-emotional development, and technology skills. Children with deafblindness, through the very nature of their disability, require individualization to meet their needs.

It is the full realization of individualization, though, that many public school instructional teams struggle with when serving a student with deafblindness. An instructional team may encounter an individual with deafblindness for the first time and may grapple with how to provide that individual with access to the curriculum. From these tremendous efforts emerges a false belief that the student with deafblindness cannot be successful in the public school setting and should be sent elsewhere for his or her instructional needs. This notion can be countered, however, with a strong education administrator leading the team.

The following are five tips for administrators as they lead their teams to greatness for students with deafblindness.

1. Develop a deep understanding of the student’s needs.

In order to effectively lead the team that will provide services for the student with deafblindness, the administrator first must become highly knowledgeable regarding the student and the student’s academic and functional needs. Deafblindness is a disability that relates to access. How will the student access the curriculum, the environment, or the social network of the campus? Familiarize yourself with the student’s audiological and vision reports. Learn about how the student communicates and what accommodations and modifications the student requires. Become knowledgeable about the student’s daily living needs. The student’s multidisciplinary team (which could include teachers for the visually impaired and/or deaf, an orientation and mobility specialist, general education teachers, and others) or other campus personnel will, in most cases, contact the administrator first when questions arise related to the student’s services. Without possessing a thorough knowledge of the student’s disability and programming, an education administrator cannot sufficiently answer the question that underlies all other questions: Why are we doing this?

2. Know the team. Be the team. Lead the team.

Ronald Reagan once said: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things” (Goodreads, 2015). Individualizing services for a student with deafblindness undoubtedly is one of the greatest things an education administrator will ever ask his or her team to do. Therefore, it is critical to identify the team that will serve the student. List every service and support the student requires and align the student’s needs with your current staff, categorizing staff members as core team members (frequent interaction with the student) or extended core team members (infrequent interaction with the student). Form a strong relationship with the student’s parents or guardians; they, too, are a part of the student’s core team. Identify the strengths of your team and those areas in which your team will need additional training. Establish regular meeting times for both the core team and the extended team. Be actively engaged in meeting and learning with the team.

3. Be student centered.

In the era of high-stakes testing, educators too often want quick solutions to their instructional problems. Effectively serving students with deafblindness is a marathon, not a sprint. The instruction for a student with deafblindness requires coordinated attention between the student and the teacher, both coexisting in the here and now. What this translates into for teachers is that lessons are not traditional and do not lend themselves to typical concepts of school time such as 45 minute class periods. For teachers who are unfamiliar with deafblindness, this can be a cause for concern because they may be unfamiliar with techniques related to differentiated instruction.

When considering programming, all team members will be involved with many e-mails, phone calls, and meetings. IEP meetings may be extremely long due to the number of services and service providers a student may need. The preparation and instruction for the student will be intensive for staff. Ongoing professional development will be needed. With all of this happening, it is essential to champion the purpose behind why the team is working so hard.

4. Reward outstanding staff contributions.

As your staff rises to your high expectations for high quality instructional services and support for the student with deafblindness, recognize and reward their achievements. These achievements do not need to be momentous occasions. Small wins such as collaborative efforts, instructional strategies, or consistency in providing excellent service and support are just as important. Have you noticed that your intervener and interpreter are working together to provide linguistic and conceptual support for a complex biology lesson? Did you observe the adaptive physical education teacher providing a superb accommodation for the student to walk around the track? Reward success often to encourage your team.

5. Remember the community’s trust in your school and in your district.

Often it is tempting for a team to want to focus on what it cannot provide, rather than what it can provide, for the student with deafblindness. Keep in mind this essential truth: The student and the student’s family are valued members of your community, and they have placed a great time-honored trust in you and your school’s abilities not only to meet, but to exceed, their expectations. According to Jay Gense, former director of the National Center on Deaf-Blindness, 95% of students with deafblindness nationwide are living at home with their families and attending school in their communities (Gense, 2015). Your team, in most cases, can fulfill the needs of a student with deafblindness through creative problem-solving and open lines of communication. It is up to you as the administrator to foster the belief of “Yes, we can!” rather than “No, we can’t.”

Concluding Thoughts

It is not often that a student with deafblindness crosses a school’s path, but when he or she does, the possibilities for learning for the student and the student’s team are endless. Students with deafblindness have an uncanny ability to stretch our professional understanding of what is educationally possible within the public school setting. They desire to achieve their goals and dreams as much as any other students, and even though we may not necessarily have a direct line in some cases as to what those aspirations are, these hopes exist nonetheless.

As Helen Keller said in The Story of My Life, “One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar” (Keller, 2002).

Educational professionals are aware of the requirements under IDEA that each child in special education will have “a full and individual initial evaluation, in accordance with §§300.532 and 300.533, before the initial provision of special education and related services to a child with a disability under Part B of the Act.” 

IDEA notes:

(b) A variety of assessment tools and strategies are used to gather relevant functional and developmental information about the child, including information provided by the parent, and information related to enabling the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum (or for a preschool child, to participate in appropriate activities), that may assist in determining—

(1) Whether the child is a child with a disability under §300.7; and

(2) The content of the child’s IEP.


(g) The child is assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability, including, if appropriate, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, and motor abilities.

(h) In evaluating each child with a disability under §§300.531-300.536, the evaluation is sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child's special education and related services needs, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category in which the child has been classified.

It is important that we be sure about how both vision and hearing function in children who we know are deaf or hard of hearing or who are visually impaired or blind, if we want them to be successful in their educational settings.  Children with multiple disabilities certainly need the best possible functioning of their vision and hearing to help them overcome their physical and/or cognitive challenges.  We need to always be asking ourselves as educational professionals, how is this child using his/her vision?  How is he/she using his/her hearing? 

Sometimes we think that a child may have problems with hearing and vision, but for some reason we are not sure.  Perhaps the child has other additional disabilities that make it hard to test for vision and hearing loss, or maybe the child has been getting by okay and is suddenly starting to fall behind.  Whenever we suspect there is something wrong with either of these senses, we MUST follow-up and try to learn more.  Not only because the law requires that we do, but as caring professionals, we want to make sure the child has as few obstacles as possible to learning.  If he or she needs some special accommodations, modifications or instructional strategies, we want to make sure he/she receives them.

This manual was developed to help guide an educational team, especially the Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Teacher of the Visually Impaired, through a process of checking on the student’s ability to use both of his distance senses so critical in classroom instruction.  These materials are intended as tools.  There is no requirement to use these forms or this process.  There may be other tools that work equally well or better than these.  Please feel free to copy these forms and use them as you like.  Let us know what was helpful and what needs changing. 

About the Development of This Document

This document was developed by a group of individuals over a period of two years between in 2000 and later field tested throughout Texas.  We would like to thank the individuals who gave their time to participate in this process:

Core Group

  • Robbie Blaha, Teacher Trainer, Texas DeafBlind Project
  • Leigh Crawshaw, Deaf Education Teacher/ Private Consultant
  • Tina Herzberg, Education Specialist, Education Service Center Region 12
  • Ann Johnson, Deaf Education Consultant for the Northeast Texas Cluster
  • Kate Moss, Teacher Trainer, Texas DeafBlind Project
  • Shelia Mosser, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Killeen ISD

Other Contributors

  • Ann Adkins, Teacher Trainer, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Visually Impaired Outreach
  • Gigi Brown, Early Childhood Specialist, Texas Deafblind Project
  • Janet Chlapek, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Temple ISD
  • Ramona Egly, Deaf Education Teacher, Killeen ISD
  • hris Krasusky, Special Education Coordinator for AI/VI, Killeen ISD
  • Jenny Lace, Teacher Trainer, Texas Deafblind Project
  • Stacy Shafer, Early Childhood Specialist,
  • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Visually Impaired Outreach
  • Heather Sullivan, Deaf Education Supervisor, Temple ISD
  • Amy Tange, COMS, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD
  • David Wiley, Transition Specialist, Texas Deafblind Project


Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing at Risk for Vision Loss

Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired at Risk for Hearing Loss

Hearing Quick Check

Vision Quick Check

This document is designed to help educational teams develop appropriate IEPs for students with DeafBlindness.  Indicators not present may indicate a training need for the team.  The presence of these indicators demonstrates a well-designed IEP in areas related specifically to the impact of DeafbBindness.  Other factors indicating a quality IEP in general are not covered here.

There seems to be some confusion around the topic of determining a student’s educational eligibility for DeafBlindness. It is a fascinating subject and one that we love to talk about here at the Texas DeafBlind Project. We have tried to assemble some common (and not so common) questions to help alleviate confusion and allow everyone a better night’s sleep.

Question 1: What is the eligibility definition for DeafBlindness* in the Commissioner’s/SBOE Rules Eligibility Criteria?

§89.1040. Eligibility Criteria.

 2)  DeafBlindness. A student with DeafBlindness is one who has been determined to meet the criteria for DeafBlindness as stated in 34 CFR, §300.8(c)(2). In meeting the criteria stated in 34 CFR, §300.8(c)(2), a student with DeafBlindness is one who, based on the evaluations specified in subsections (c)(3) and (c)(12) of this section:

(A) meets the eligibility criteria for auditory impairment specified in subsection (c)(3) of this section and visual impairment specified in subsection (c)(12) of this section;

(B)  meets the eligibility criteria for a student with a visual impairment and has a suspected hearing loss that cannot be demonstrated conclusively, but a speech/language therapist, a certified speech and language therapist, or a licensed speech language pathologist indicates there is no speech at an age when speech would normally be expected;

(C)  has documented hearing and visual losses that, if considered individually, may not meet the requirements for auditory impairment or visual impairment, but the combination of such losses adversely affects the student's educational performance; or

(D)  has a documented medical diagnosis progressive medical condition that will result in concomitant hearing and visual losses that, without special education intervention, will adversely affect the student's educational performance.

Question 2: What is the benefit for the IEP committee to assign a DeafBlind label to a student?


  • A student with dual sensory impairment (i.e. DeafBlindness) can have very different educational needs than those with a single sensory impairment (AI or VI). It will be important for her team to think about questions of access from a combined sensory loss, or DeafBlind, perspective. Staff who are trained in a single sensory area may need additional support specific to DeafBlind educational assessment and programming strategies in order to develop an appropriate IEP.

Typical educational approaches for students with AI labels involve the use of vision as a compensatory strategy. For those students with a VI label, compensatory approaches involve the use of hearing.  Emphasizing the DeafBlind label can help to more clearly define the uniqueness of the disability.

  • There are specific resources and unique services for students with DeafBlindness and their families. Without the DeafBlind label, teams and families may not be made aware of information about the Texas DeafBlind Outreach Project, DeafBlind services through HHSC and the TWC, the National Center on DeafBlindness, the DBMD Waiver, Helen Keller National Center, or iCanConnect. – See PDF Download Resource Guide for Parents of Students with DeafBlindness or download it as a Word file.
  • Some families or students may identify as Deaf/hard of hearing and not as a person with DeafBlindness. For example, a person with Usher syndrome may identify strongly with the Deaf community and culture. They may lack important information about their visual impairment and its implications.  While it is very important to be sensitive to these issues, the DeafBlind label can help the education team identify resources and strategies around counseling, braille instruction, tactile sign, Orientation and Mobility, and other supports that may be beneficial to the student and family.
  • While either DB or AI/VI are acceptable, it is recommended that DeafBlind (DB) be selected and then ranked in the primary positionsee question 5.

Question 3: Does the DeafBlind label qualify a student for additional services that the AI/VI label does not?

  • Generally speaking, a student qualifies for the same services, regardless of whether they have an AI/VI label or a DB label. All students with both VI and AI eligibility will be counted on the DeafBlind Child Count and can access the support of the TX Deafblind Project.

Question 4:  Why is the student with mild dual sensory impairments considered DeafBlind?

*A student with DeafBlindness is one who:

(C) “has documented hearing and visual losses that, if considered individually, may not meet the requirements for auditory impairment or visual impairment, but the combination of such losses adversely affects the student's educational performance;"


  • We affectionately call this “The third way”.  The question to consider is whether the combined effects of the mild vision and hearing losses impact educational performance.  Do these combined sensory deficits affect the student's ability to gather information and participate in the instructional environment? If so, to address this problem, the child may need accommodations, special technology, or unique strategies that require professionals with a background in dual sensory loss to participate in assessment and program development.
  • If a student qualifies as DeafBlind under the eligibility criteria section C, a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI), as well as a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDHH), will participate in the student's ARD.  This means the professionals with training in these types of sensory losses will be involved in programming for this student. Among other things, they are needed to address optical and amplification devices, accommodations that assure appropriate access to information, and the development of IEP objectives, which address self-advocacy and effective use of sensory devices.  They will need to consider the combined impact of the mild sensory losses when designing programming.

Question 5: Why is it recommended that DB always be ranked as the primary disability?


There are two separate counts that students with DeafBlindness should be reported on each year.

The first is the US Department of Education, IDEA count. The second is the DeafBlind Child Count that is collected by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

IDEA Count:

  • The US Department of Education (ED) is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to report to Congress annually on the number of children receiving special education, by disability category, for ages 3-21 years. The count must be unduplicated - that is, children can only be counted in one category, regardless of the number of disabilities they experience.

For this count, the primary ranking is the only one reported to the federal government for IDEA data collection. Therefore, unless the Deafblind label is stated as the primary disability it will not be recorded on this count. This information is used in policy development. Since DeafBlindness is the rarest of the low incidence groups, it is important to be sure they are not missed. Policy makers may not see the separate DeafBlind Child Count that OSEP collects from the state DeafBlind Projects. 

DeafBlind Child Count:

  • The Texas Education Agency (TEA), Division of Special Education, is required to report annually on individuals, 0-21 years of age, who are DeafBlind in Texas. This information, collected by state DeafBlind Projects, informs the National DeafBlind Child Count recorded by OSEP.
  • The DeafBlind Child Count collects different information than the IDEA count, and provides information that is used for regional and statewide planning to develop funding and appropriate services for infants, children, and youth who are DeafBlind.

Students with both the DeafbBind and the combined AI/VI eligibility labels are reported on the DeafBlind Child Count. Using either the AI/VI as primary/secondary (i.e. first and second) or DeafBlind as primary is best practice. There is no impact on funding or services either way.

Question 6:  What information on community and state service resources for DeafBlindness is provided for the parents and student?

Due to the low incidence of DeafBlindness, information is often not included in the typical resource packets distributed by school professionals regarding vision loss and deafness.

  • It should be noted that there are specific resources and unique services for students with DeafBlindness and their families. For instance, information about the Texas DeafBlind Outreach Project, DeafBlind services through HHSC and TWC, the National Center on DeafBlindness, the DBMD Waiver, Helen Keller National Center, or iCanConnect. The Texas DeafBlind Project has assembled a resource guide for parents and students with DeafBlindness – See Resource Guide for Parents of Students with DeafBlindness.

Question 7: If the Texas DeafBlind Child Count is due before the FIE process of assessing vision and hearing is complete, should the child be reported?

  • Yes!  Students for whom vision and hearing loss are suspected, but who have not been tested, may be reported on the DeafBlind Child Count and remain there for one year. During that year, evaluation of their sensory functioning should be completed. Technical assistance related to appropriate assessment techniques is available from the Texas DeafBlind Project at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired”.

Instructions for completing the DeafBlind Child Count

(Originally published in the July 1993 edition of P.S. NEWS!!!)

Summer 99 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Kate Moss (Hurst), Family Support Specialist and Robbie Blaha, Teacher Trainer, TSBVI, Texas Deafblind Outreach

Leisure time, the time free from work or duties, is important to all human beings. Leisure time is the time for doing something that will relax us or energize us so that we can renew ourselves to face the demands of our lives. It is something we require as much as food or sleep to stay healthy and sane.

We all have different ways of spending our leisure time. What might be a leisure activity for me, e.g. reading a mystery novel, might not be leisure for you. We know and accept this about each other. When considering "leisure skills" for children with deafblindness, however, we often focus on activities that do not relax or positively energize them. We spend their time getting them to participate in "play work" as one young man with deafblindness terms it. Learning to play games, participate in arts and sports activities, or other pursuits as a part of their educational programming may be beneficial for children in many ways, but these activities don't necessarily meet their needs for "leisure."

The type of activities that often do provide relaxation or amusement for these individuals includes behaviors that we find unacceptable: flicking your hand in front of your eyes, pulling threads out of your clothes, making repetitive sounds, etc. These behaviors are considered self-stimulation, and as such are often perceived negatively because they do not look "normal," may interfere with learning and can often become self-injurious. Yet these behaviors serve a positive purpose for these individuals as well.

Changing our perception of these self-stimulation behaviors may be the most reasonable course to take in addressing this issue. This is especially true if a change of perception also helps us find ways to give more information to the child who is deafblind and consequently reduce his need to find stimulation on his own. These behaviors may also hold the key to information about his/her personal preferences which we may tap into to select more appropriate choices for typical leisure options.

Stimulating Experiences

Most of our "leisure activities" are nothing more than self-stimulation behaviors that have become highly ritualized over time and made socially acceptable. There is nothing intrinsically valuable or reasonable about leisure pursuits such as bungee jumping, playing cards, dancing, playing video games, listening to music, smoking, etc.

People participate in different activities because they find them to be pleasurable and because the activities alter their physical state. Each of these activities provides us with a particular type of sensory input; see chart below. There is not necessarily a great difference in so-called self-stimulation behaviors and some of these activities beyond the fact that some are more socially acceptable and "normal" in appearance than others. For example, what is really so different about banging a table and banging a drum, rocking to music and rocking to silence, making repetitive sounds and imitating bird calls, spinning for no apparent reason and spinning in a ride at the amusement park?

Each day a good portion of our energies is spent in self-stimulation. Just look at the people around you. You are in a room with your family watching television or at a meeting with a group of co-workers. Although you are seemingly engaged in the same activity, your daughter or colleague is playing with her hair. Your son or your office-mate is shaking his leg and tapping out rhythms on the arm of the chair. Your husband is flipping channels with the remote or your boss is flipping papers. If you ask them what they were doing, they will likely reply that they are watching television or having an important meeting. They will be less likely to say they were channel surfing, twirling their hair, practicing the drum part for "Wipe Out," or fanning their papers.

Chart: Our brain seeks out stimulation through the channels of our senses. Each of us seeks out this stimulation in a variety of ways. Society accepts some of these behaviors without question, yet feels very differently about others. In some cases acceptance seems to be arbitrary. This chart shows examples of how individuals typically fulfill the craving for stimulation and how some self-stimulation behaviors of children with deafblindness parallel these behaviors.

Sensory ChannelMiss Manners Guide to Appropriate Self-StimulationCreative Variations Which May Plug You Into a Written Behavior Plan 
Tactile: information received by touch (throughout the body surface) includes sensitivity to light touch, pressure, pain, and temperature Twirling hair, drumming fingers, playing with condensation on a drinking glass, fingering fabrics, rubbing eyes, pulling on beard Pulling hair, lying in front of the air vent, slapping face/ear, playing with spit, rubbing your head
Proprioceptive: information about the relative positions of parts of the body; information comes through sensations arising in the muscles, joints, ligaments, and receptors associated with the bones Snuggling in quilts, cracking knuckles, jiggling/crossing legs, sitting on your leg Burrowing into furniture, wrapping arms inside tee-shirts, wrist flapping
Visual: information received through the eyes/seeing Gazing at your fingernails/hands/rings, watching television without the sound, window shopping, flipping through magazines, eye pressing Flicking hand in front of eyes, flipping pages of books, light- gazing, playing with transparent or shiny objects, eye poking
Auditory: information received through the ear/hearing Humming/whistling, tapping a pencil on a surface, playing background music Vocalizing or making sounds, banging on objects, tapping objects together next to ear
Olfactory: information received through the nose/smelling Wearing perfume, sniffing magic markers/scratch and sniff stickers, burning incense Rubbing feces on the body and smelling, smelling other peoples' hands or shoes
Gustatory: information received through the tongue & lips/tasting; closely tied to the sense of smell Chewing flavored toothpicks, sucking on mints/hard candy, smoking, chewing on hair, sucking on pens/jewelry Mouthing objects, chewing on hair, sucking on fingers, licking objects
Vestibular: information received through receptors in the inner ear that enables us to detect motion, especially acceleration and deceleration; closely tied to the visual system that provides information to the vestibule located in the inner ear Rocking in chairs or rocking body, riding on amusement park rides, dancing; twisting on bar stools, skating; sliding Rocking body, spinning body, twirling in swings, head rocking

Each of us, even those of us with more intact central nervous systems, also tolerate differing degrees of stimulation. Look at the difference in the preferred musical tastes (and intensity levels) between the teenager and the forty-year-old. Although most teenagers enjoy megawatt rock concerts with all the trimmings, most adults are more inclined to seek out softer music or silence in a dimly lit room. In the same way, children with deafblindness need varying amounts and intensities of stimulation.

Questions to ask about self-stimulation

If we come to accept that self-stimulation is an important and valid activity for individuals without disabilities, then we must begin to revise our thinking about addressing self-stimulatory behaviors in individuals with deafblindness.

Can this behavior be stopped?

In looking for the answer to this question, first take a look at yourself. Try this little exercise. Identify one of your own deeply cherished self-stimulatory behaviors such as cracking your knuckles, humming, sliding a charm on your necklace, etc. Try to keep track of how many times during the course of a 24-hour period your engage in this behavior. Then spend the next 24 hours refraining from this behavior. If you succeed, then try to extinguish that particular behavior for a year. Stop this behavior under all kinds of circumstances: times of stress, times of idleness, etc. Once you have completed this exercise, answer the question for yourself. Your answer will either be a resounding "no" or a "maybe, if" depending on your particular success in completing the exercise.

Children with deafblindness (just like you and me) participate in self-stimulatory behavior to self-regulate, calm, to energize, to get feedback, etc. Most of the time you can't completely extinguish the behavior, nor should you, because it does serve a purpose.

Can this behavior be redirected?

Most parents find that their child is more likely to participate in self-stimulatory behaviors when he/she is idle or stressed. Interacting with your child in some way may break up the self-stimulation. If the behavior appears in response to stress, finding ways to help him/her relax, e.g. massage, being wrapped up in a quilt, etc., may reduce the amount of time spent in this behavior that you find inappropriate or harmful. If your child is left alone, however, it is likely he/she will re-engage in this activity as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Can this behavior be "contained" by allowing it in certain locations or at certain times?

Some behaviors may present problems because they are considered socially inappropriate. Those of us who are smokers have learned to refrain from our favorite self-stimulation behavior on flights, but we all know exactly where to go in the airport to have that last cigarette before the flight leaves.

With some effort many children can learn to remove themselves to their bedroom or a private place when engaging in self-stimulation that is not considered socially acceptable. Using calendar symbols to represent this favored activity and scheduling the activity as part of the child's day may help the child refrain from this particular self-stimulation behavior for increasingly longer periods of time and stay involved in other kinds of activities.

Can this behavior be modified or expanded into more "socially acceptable" self-stimulatory behaviors?

The value of a self-stimulatory behavior is what the behavior tells you about how your child takes in information. If your child likes to burrow down inside the cushions of the couch, be held or hugged a lot, or enjoys massage, you can assume that he is motivated by information he receives proprioceptively. If your child likes to vocalize, listen to music, or bang things together next to his ear, you can assume he is motivated by information he receives auditorially.

These behaviors can be used as a way to explore the individual's preferred sensory channels for receiving information from the world. With this information we may find preferred sensory experiences around which we can develop more "mainstream" leisure activities for children that they will also come to view as "leisure." For example, if a child enjoys the visual sensation of lights we can find age-appropriate toys that might be motivating to him. In addition to familiar toys such as Lite-Brite, consider lava lamps, continuous wave machines, lighted drafting tables for drawing, and even some Nintendo-type games. You might also consider extracurricular events such as visiting arcades, decorating with lights for appropriate holidays, and/or lying in a hammock under a tree watching the play of light through the leaves.

Take time to observe the types of self-stimulation that your child participates in and when this behavior occurs. Watch him/her and make notes about what you see and when you see it. Then try to see if there is any pattern to these behaviors that will give you insight to the type or types of stimulation he/she prefers and the purpose it serves. At the same time note what types of activities he/she finds aversive.

When you have a good understanding about his/her preferences, begin to brainstorm ways that you can offer other stimulatory activities or perhaps modify or expand on the preferred self-stimulation. Ask for help from your child's teacher, physical therapist, occupational therapist, and others. Look at children of the same age and try to find toys or activities that may make the self-stimulatory behavior appear more "normal."

Sometimes your child's favorite self-stimulation activity can be modified or expanded in a way that will make it more socially acceptable. For example, everyone knows the "nail-biters," but do you recognize them when they become "the manicurists." Several of my friends substitute the more acceptable behavior of nail care for their favorite activity of nail biting. They carry a complete manicure set with them at all times and can often be seen in meetings quietly filing or clipping a nail. They buff, cream, and polish. They examine their nails for chipping, snags, splits. They are rewarded by others who admire their efforts instead of being held in low esteem as one of those nervous nail-biter types.

You should realize, however, that generally your child will need support from you to seek out these more acceptable behaviors. Their first preference will generally be for the behavior they have developed on their own.

Can the environment be engineered to make this behavior safer if the behavior is detrimental to the child or those around him/her?

People who like to jump off things are great examples of engineering the environment to make a dangerous self-stimulation behavior safer. These folks, e.g. skate-boarders, skydivers, skiers, etc., have developed elaborate ways of placing themselves in extremely dangerous activities and surviving. We have industries based on protective clothing and equipment that will allow them to hurl themselves through space and make a safe landing.

Frequently, with children who put themselves in danger of bodily harm by participating in self-stimulation activities that are excessive to the point of creating physical danger to themselves or others, the best you can do is to provide protection. Splints, helmets and other devices sometimes must be used temporarily to protect the child and others around him/her.

Could there be physical or emotional factors provoking these behaviors?

In addition to providing protection from the effects of the behavior, it is important to look at the cause of the behavior. Often times these behaviors erupt in response to real physical problems that the child is not capable of communicating to you. Emergence of these behaviors or increase in these behaviors, might indicate pain or decrease of sensation as in the case of retina detachment or ear infections. Seeking out appropriate medical examinations when this type of behavior emerges or escalates is very important to the health and safety of the child.

Emotional and environmental conditions may also provoke increases in these self-injurious behaviors. One individual I knew exhibited a dramatic increase in self-stimulatory behavior after the death of her father. The amount and intensity of the behavior posed concerns for her safety and the safety of others. Since there was no physiological basis for her behavior, the family spent a lot of time with her looking at pictures of her dad, going to the cemetery with her, and trying to participate with her in activities that were associated with her father. After a period of time, the behaviors decreased to levels that were in line with the period before her father's death.

Changes in schedules, changes in routines, or moves to new environments can also bring about increases in self-stimulation behavior. Helping the child to anticipate these changes and providing as much consistency as possible through routines during times of change, are strategies that may help to reduce the amount of this type of behavior.


Like you and me, children with deafblindness have a need to participate in self-stimulatory activities. Because their behaviors appear very different from our own and can interfere with learning or become dangerous, they are viewed negatively by many people. Changing our perception about these behaviors may help us deal with them in a better way.

There are a number of ways to deal with self-stimulatory behaviors. Plan ways to keep the child more involved with others during the course of the day. Work to help him/her contain the behavior, or engineer the environment to make the behavior safer. Schedule time into the day to allow your child time for this preferred activity. Look at ways to adapt the behavior so that it will appear more "normal." Learn to use the information these behaviors offer about your child's preferred channels of sensory input to develop recreational and social pursuits that may be enjoyable for him/her even if these activities will not entirely meet his/her "leisure" needs. Finally, accept that you will probably never completely extinguish the behavior without having it replaced by another self-stimulatory behavior. Self-stimulation is common to all humans and serves an important purpose.

Resources and Additional Reading:

Levack, Nancy et al. Low Vision: A Resource Guide with Adaptations for Students with Visual Impairments, TSBVI, 1991.

Kotulak, Ronald. Unlocking the mysteries of the brain. Austin American Statesman, Sunday, June 6, 1993, p G1 and G4-6.

Restak, Richard, M.D. The Brain, Bantam Books, 1984.

Romanczyk, R. G., Kistner, J. A., and Plienis, A. Self-stimulatory and self-injurious behavior: etiology and treatment, pps. 189-254 in Autism and Severe Psychopathology, Advances in Child Behavioral Analysis and Therapy, Vol. 2.

Rojahn, J. and Sisson, L. A. Stereotyped behavior, pps. 181-223 in Handbook of Behavior Modification with the Mentally Retarded, 2nd Ed., 1990.

Stone, Gretchen. Self-stimulation and learning behavior, 1987.

Silverrain, Ann. An informal paper: teaching the profoundly handicapped child, 1991.

van Dijk, Jan. Movement and communication with rubella children, 1968.

Wiley, David. It's more than a game: acquiring skills for leisure time, VISIONS, TSBVI, Outreach Department, May 1993.

By Edgenie Bellah, Family Support, Texas Deafblind Project

Abstract: This article provides a brief overview of person-centered planning and shares three parents' stories about how they are using the tool to plan for their child's future.

When children have disabilities such as deafblindness, sometimes it is hard to envision their long-term future. Having information and connections to individuals who can serve as role models is helpful, but ultimately each family must create a personal dream for the future that is based on their loved-one's interests, talents and available community supports. There are a number of tools that have been developed to help families and significant people influencing the individual's life create a positive vision for the future. One such tool is person-centered planning as process often referred to as mapping because it creates visual images to reflect the person's life experience and path.

On September 18-20, 2003, I joined three other parents from Texas in Tampa, Florida for the annual parent workshop sponsored by The National Technical Assistance Consortium for Children and Young Adults who are Deaf-Blind (NTAC) and National Family Association for Deaf-Blind (NFADB). This year's training focused on person-centered planning as a tool to help parents plan for all the transitions their child with deaf-blindness might experience from birth through adulthood. Person-centered planning is not new. As Keith Fansler, one of the parents from Texas, pointed out to me in a later conversation, parents create maps for all of their children's futures.

According to Dr. Beth Mount (1991), person-centered planning:

  • Works to support the contribution of each person in local community life
  • Finds and develops the gifts, strengths and talents of each person
  • Develops a vision that expresses these gifts
  • Builds a support group to make these ideals happen
  • Builds a community network of acceptance
  • Changes services to be more responsive to the interests of people

While there is much written about the benefits of person-centered planning, the most meaningful way to gain a true picture is through the words of parents who have already experienced this process. The first story below is written by Corry Hill, who is the Family Specialist for the Utah Deafblind Project and NFADB Region 8 Regional Director. Corry shared her story, written in 1994 after her family's initial experience, at the kickoff of the training. Her story inspired me to ask the parents from Texas who went through the training to share their experiences. Two of these parents are Keith Fansler of Amarillo and Melanie Knapp of Missouri City.

Corry's Story

I am the mother of an adorable six-year-old daughter, Laurie Lynn Hill, who just so happens to have a dual sensory impairment and is multiply handicapped. Before I had experiences with mapping, I would introduce Laurie as someone who couldn't talk, walk, eat and who couldn't hear or see very well. Futures Planning helped everyone who works with Laurie and myself view her as a whole person with strengths as well as weaknesses.

Those people who have worked with Laurie have always been good, but prior to Personal Futures Planning (Maps), it felt like a disjointed effort. Each person was concentrating on what Laurie couldn't do or what she needed to learn in their own specific fields. For example, the OT's goals were written before she had met Laurie, written directly from a text book, not changed for two years, and not incorporated with anything else in Laurie's school day.

We were first introduced to futures planning at a deaf-blind conference in 1992. Our family attended a session learning about Maps and then the conference broke into small groups to actually make some maps. We had the privilege of using Laurie as the example. In attendance at that group were several people who worked with Laurie, both directly and indirectly, including her teacher, intervener and several service providers. We began by creating a Background Map. Laurie's intervener, her father and I were the major contributors because we had known her all her life. By the time that map was finished I felt the group begin to have some cohesiveness. We were at a common starting point. Everyone in the room knew of Laurie's struggle to live and we all looked at her with the "same eyes." While creating the Relationship Map we were all pleased to discover the many people who worked with and cared for Laurie. I was especially pleased while the Preferences Map was being created to see everyone giving input. They knew Laurie better than I thought they did, and we came up with even more "things that work" than "things that don't." Service providers wrote down specific ideas to try that they didn't know about before, things that someone else had success with. The Dream for the Future Map was the hardest for me to work on. It is difficult for me to dream for an uncertain future. Everyone in the room was very encouraging and urged us to dream high. We were very proud of our accomplishments as a group. Three years later a speech therapist commented that mapping session helped her greatly and was the best thing she had ever seen. Even though Laurie's maps have been updated many times, I still have those original maps and cherish them.

After the mapping session, I noticed a change in all those who had been part of the process. Fences were down - it was no longer us against them, but a team with everybody an equal partner. The attitude toward Laurie was positive. That is, everyone treating her as a whole person and sharing ideas about how to achieve goals together.

Keith's story

The Fansler family has been in the deafblind business going on sixteen years now. My wife, Leslie, and I have been together for a little more than seventeen years. We have two sons. Our oldest son, Chance, is a junior in high school. Chance is a ranked fencer and on the varsity wrestling team. Preston, our youngest son, was born blind and is now carrying the deafblind label. Labels — you've got to love them. Preston loves the water and is a gold medalist bowler in the Special Olympics. He has several jobs, one of which requires him to swim for his paycheck. We are longtime members of Deafblind Multihandicapped Association of Texas (DBMAT) and NFADB. For several years, I served as Member-At-Large and Vice-President of DBMAT. I also have attended the NTAC-NFADB parent trainings since one of the earliest trainings in St. Louis.

This NTAC-NFADB parent training was a little different than the ones I attended in the past. They had me moderate our group's mapping process. I had been to a session on mapping before, but we have never done it for our son, Preston. It was amazing to see how much information our group came up with for the lady who was picked to have her child be the focus of our mapping training. This was the first time our group had met. We were total strangers. I loved the experience I had with moderating. It let me see how easy it really is to build a program on a child's strengths and not his/her weaknesses. Our group built a program for a total stranger based on her likes and dislikes. Just think of what you can do for your family member or even somebody you know. Being the moderator gave me the confidence I need to do a mapping on my son. If you think about it, we all do person-centered planning for ourselves. Leslie and I have done person-centered planning with our oldest son, Chance. To an extent, we have done it with Preston. We try to find jobs and activities that coincide with what he likes, not with things he does not like.

The only problem I see with mapping is getting everybody together at the same time, so it might take two or maybe more sessions. You might want to break it down into groups, like family and friends, professionals, church and community. Getting your person-centered planning ideas into the IEP can be a challenge, but it is a must. I hope to be starting a mapping process on Preston soon because I learned it is never too early or too late to do mapping. My advice to all parents is to map throughout your child's life so you will know where you have been and where you are going.

Melanie's Story

Christian was born in July of 1980, the second son to Gary and myself. We were told we might have a premature birth, but never in my wildest nightmares were we prepared for what was to come. After his birth at 28 weeks gestation, Christian spent his first two years in the hospital. I can't even remember how many surgeries he had or how many times we almost lost him. As a result of his prematurity and long hospitalization, Christian had numerous medical difficulties. He is now 23 years old. He is deafblind. He is incredibly strong, and has a great sense of humor (Knapp humor). He also is a really good-looking guy. Christian has a wonderful big brother, Landon...and now a sister-in-law, Christi. Christian thinks Christi is HIS girlfriend. I am the Momma, and Gary is Dad. We have had tremendous family support over the years. Christian is in his last year of school. He has made AMAZING progress over the last three years. He understands a lot of sign language. We have had many years of incredible support from his educational team.

A few years ago, David Wiley and Craig Axelrod came to our home. We went through the person-centered planning process for Christian then. It was just the four of us that night. So many events have taken place in our lives and Christian's life since then.

What did I learn from my training in Tampa? Well, I volunteered Christian to be the focus person. While I was quite proud of myself, I realized during the process that since I was the only one that knew Christian, it was a very subjective mapping. The training did give me the tools to take on a better, less subjective mapping, and it was up to me to make it happen for real.

Upon my return home, I was determined to have a person-centered planning party. Gary and I were happy with how many people were able to make it. I invited the family that was in town: Landon and Christi, Mimi, Aunt Cheryl. A few members of my family were unable to come for the first meeting, but hopefully will jump on the wagon next time. Chantel Simon (Christian's caregiver) was there as was Ann Bielert (his intervener), Mrs. Parker (his classroom teacher), and Gloria Vaughn (his vision teacher through the years). I was ecstatic that Craig Axelrod, David Wiley, and Edgenie Bellah from Texas Deafblind Outreach at TSBVI wanted to help.

I think the mapping process went great. We had so much input from everyone, not just from me. The process was also therapeutic. There were a few tears and a lot of laughs. I definitely feel like the mapping was a success.

What came out of our first meeting is a plan. We have looked at what Christian would want, what he would want to do as work, where he would want to spend his time, and who he would like to spend it with. We have determined as a team what will work for him and what won't work. We have already put our plan into action. Christian now owns a small vending machine and has started training with it at school to learn how to stock it. When he graduates, we will move this one to his Dad's office. Who knows? He may become quite the vending machine entrepreneur!

Other Resources

These stories are far from ending. Families will continue to build upon their initial dream through ongoing mapping. Just like you and I, the dream is ever evolving in response to our actual experiences and changing needs and interests. I want to thank each of the parents for sharing their personal stories about their recent learning experiences and for allowing me to tag along for the wonderful journey they are on with their families.For a more detailed description of planning for adult life for individuals with multiple disabilities such as deafblindness, be sure to read the article, When Planning for Adult Life, How is a "Life-style" Different than a "Program"? by David Wiley on page 29. Families are also welcome to call the Texas Outreach program for assistance in developing a person-centered plan. Kate Moss and David Wiley have written A Brief Guide to Personal Futures Planning, Organizing Your Community to Envision and Build a Desirable Future With You: a paper that provides an overview and step-by-step directions for the process. The Outreach Program is also available to help with individual plans.


Originally published in See/Hear Winter 2004. 

A baby plays with toys on a tray.“According to some researchers, vision is usually involved in 90% of the learning that takes place in early development” (Ferrell, 1996, p 89).

Do you know an infant or a child who appears to have difficulty seeing the world around him?  Have you noticed any unusual visual behaviors or difficulty in one of your students or patients?  Take a minute and find out how you can help put them in touch with agencies that may be of service.  Let’s help children maximize their education by maximizing their VISION!

The Statewide Leadership Services for Blind and Visually Impaired has created these brochures to share with parents, teachers, doctors, day care providers and others to make them more aware of the signs associated with vision impairment and where to go for resources and support related to intervention.

Download the Eye Find Brochure in English - PDF  DOCX

Warning Signs 

Atypical Visual Behaviors that might indicate the need for an examination and or assessment:

  • Moving closer to an object for viewing
  • Tilting of the head to view objects or face
  • Squinting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Excessive rubbing of eyes
  • Excessive tearing
  • Consistent eye turn (amblyopia)
  • Rapid eye movements (Nystagmus)

Vision is not just in the structure of the eye.  These medical conditions might indicate the need for an assessment by a teacher of     students with visual impairments.

  • Prematurity (i.e. ROP)
  • Syndromes: (i.e. Down, Charge)
  • Stroke
  • Anoxia (oxygen deprivation)
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Albinism
  • Optic Nerve Hypoplasia
  • Cerebral Palsy 

Typical Visual Behaviors:


  • Focus on objects 8-10 inches away
  • Eyes have difficulty working together

3 months

  • Tracks moving objects
  • Eyes are beginning to work together
  • Beginning of a directed reach

6 months

  • Turns head to see objects
  • Accurate reach (depth perception)
  • Good color vision/favorite color
  • Sees at greater distances
  • Picks up dropped toys

12 months

  •  Shows interest in pictures
  • Points and gestures
  • Places shapes in board
  •  Judges distances
  •  Recognizes own face in mirror.

18 months

  • Recognizes familiar objects
  • Scribbles with crayons or pens
  • Shows interest in exploring


Below are a list of website resources related to various types of progressive vision loss or progressive eye conditions.

Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD)

Batten Disease

Best Disease


Cone Dystrophy

Cone-Rod Dystrophy


Leber's Congenital Amaurosis

Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy

Retinitis Pigmentosa



Stargardt Syndrome

Usher Syndrome


Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD)

United Leukodystrophy Association

ALD Database


Batten Disease Support and Research Association

Beyond Batten Disease Foundation

Noah’s Hope

U.S. National Library of Medicine

Batten Disease: The Story of Jake (YouTube)

Best Disease

Fighting Blindness

Royal National Institute of Blind People

Macular Disease Foundation Australia




Choroidermia Research Foundation

Fighting Blindness

Cone Dystrophy

The cone dysfunction syndromes

The National Center for Biotechnical Information

National Organization of Rare Diseases (NORD)

Cone-Rod Dystrophy

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Fighting Blindness

Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases

Cone rod dystrophies


American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus


American Academy of Ophthalmology

Glaucoma: Definitions and Classification

Glaucoma Research Center

Childhood Glaucoma: Parents are the First Line of Defense

Digital Journal of Ophthalmology

Congenital Glaucoma (childhood)

Bright Focus Foundation

Childhood Glaucoma

Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis

Fighting Blindness

Scottish Sensory Centre

Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy

Fighting Blindness 

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)


NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine

Retinitis Pigmentosa

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)


Retinitis Pigmentosa - CRASH! Medical Review Series

National Eye Institute

National Organization for Rare Disorders


Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)

American Cancer Society

New York Eye Cancer Center


Fighting Blindness

NORD National Organization for Rare Diseases

U.S. National Library of Science

Stargardt Disease

Fighting Blindness

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF)

Facebook Pages for Stargardt

Contact a Family website

Usher Syndrome

American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association

Boys’ Town National Research Hospital

Usher Syndrome Coalition

Medicine Net



See Videos explaining The Tactile Symbols Directory

Click here to view and/or download an updated Tactile Symbol Directory that includes items not available online.

Meaning Category

For additional information please contact TSBVI's Speech Language Pathology Department at .

Meaning Category: TIME (Background Shape: Pentagon)

Days of the week

Background Texture: Netting

Day of the WeekSymbolPicture
Monday brad Monday.jpg
Tuesday fat rubber band Tuesday.jpg
Wednesday button Wednesday.jpg
Thursday lego Thursday.jpg
Friday horizontal popsicle stick Friday.jpg
Saturday horizontal pipe cleaner Saturday.jpg
Sunday coiled rope Sunday.jpg


Background Texture: Foil with shiny side showing

January "J" made from pipe cleaner January.jpg
February heart made from pipe cleaner February.jpg
March clover shape made from pipe cleaner March.jpg
April "A" made from pipe cleaner April.jpg
May four brads in square configuration May.jpg
June circle made from pipe cleaner June.jpg
July square made from pipe cleaner July.jpg
August vertical piece of popsicle stick August.jpg
September 1 horizontal paper clip September.jpg
October "X" made from pipe cleaner October.jpg
November triangle made from pipe cleaner November.jpg
December sequins, face down, in a circle December.jpg

Miscellaneous time

Background Texture: Plain poster board

Afternoon nickel-sized circle made from 1/8" thick foam afternoon.jpg
Morning rectangle made from 1/8" thick foam  
Payday penny to left of two crossed paper clips  

Background Texture: Netting

Today ½" piece of Pencil grip glued in center today.jpg
Tomorrow ½" piece of Pencil grip, puff Paint arrow on right side --> tomorrow.jpg
Yesterday ½" piece of Pencil grip, puff Paint arrow on left side <-- yesterday.jpg

Background texture: Contact Paper

Second 1 small Bead glued in center second.jpg
Minute 2 small Beads glued in center  
Hour 3 small Beads glued in center in a vertical row hour.jpg

Meaning Category:  EVENTS (Background Shape: Rectangle)

Background Texture: Acetate (satin)

Astroworld star-shaped plastic bead with pipe cleaner circle around astroworld.jpg
Beach trip small scallop shell beach.jpg
Birthday birthday candle birthday.jpg
Camping trip tent made with braille paper camping.jpg
Carnival star-shaped plastic bead carnival.jpg
Christmas small Christmas light (old fashioned type) glued horizontally christmas.jpg
Cinco de Mayo balloon with tinsel pipe cleaner in zig-zag on it with a bean underneath cincodemayo.jpg
Community Outing rectangle piece of Lawn chair webbing with rectangle piece of Vinyl grid glued below webbing  
Concert Bell  
Easter a bunch of Easter grass with wood Bead in center  
Field Day laminated cardboard circle with 3 ribbons around it (size of a quarter, get from food blanks) fieldday.jpg
Graduation scroll of paper (use any scrap of paper) graduation.jpg
Halloween 1/8" Foam cut in jack0o-lantern shape with Stick stem, Dental Floss coming out eyes, mouth, to give feel of stringy stuff  
Mother's Day crossed ribbons (like on a present) with mini bow at intersection and "home foam" (foam peanut) to right mothersday.jpg
Music Mania 3 little Balloons glued on top of one another and a Bell glued to the left of the balloons  
Party balloon party.jpg
Period piece of sanitary napkin period.jpg
Picnic textured piece of Styrofoam plate picnic.jpg
Schlitterbahn chamois "W" with star-shaped bead in middle of it schlitterbahn.jpg
Special Olympics 5 interlocking circles from puff paint specialolympics.jpg
Thanksgiving Feather with Balloon stapled in center  
Vacation 2 Sequins with Pipe cleaner "V" below sequins  

Meaning Category: PLACES (Background: Square Needlepoint backing (vinyl grid))

School-Based Locations

Auditorium square of textured Milk jug plastic, 1 side curled under auditorium.jpg
Bathroom blank square with hole punched in top middle with yarn loop through hole bathroom.jpg
Bedroom piece of bedspread or fabric swatch bedroom.jpg
Bowling Alley Felt square with Cork circle on top  
Cafeteria X made from popsicle sticks cafeteria.jpg
Classroom rubber bands strung across square in a cross (with each teacher's name symbol) classroom.jpg
Computer Room felt square with cork circle on top computerroom.jpg
Dorm 2 3/4" ceramic tiles, one in upper left and one in lower right corner dorm.jpg
Game Room round tinker toy Game Room.jpg
Group Home straws in house top shape grouphome.jpg
Gym piece of wrist band/sock or ponytail holder gym.jpg
Health Center cotton ball health center.jpg
Kitchen piece of crinkly pie pan kitchen.jpg
LRC round spool from cassette tape lrc.jpg
Laundry Room 2 ¾" Buttons glued side by side laundryroom.jpg
Music Room jingle bell music room.jpg
Outside 2 Leaves glued diagonally with Stick in center outside.jpg
Office row of thumbtacks with point cut off office.jpg
Playground pebbles playground.jpg
Pool piece of tool pool.jpg
Recreation Building circle made from acrylic paint recreation building.jpg
School 3 1/2" vertical sandpaper strips school.jpg
Sensory Room 3 Light Brite lights in "Y" shape sensoryroom.jpg
Track shoe string track.jpg
TV Room Brad spread out into a "V" shape t.v.jpg
VATC pen cartridge Vact.jpg
Weight Room ponytail holder and nut and bolt weight room.jpg
Whirlpool smooth part of bottom of pie plate whirlpool.jpg
Work Skills Room nail and screw glued horizontally; nail on top, screw 1/2" below workskills room.jpg

Off-Campus Locations

Bakery restaurant straw glued horizontally with mini cupcake cup underneath bakery.jpg
Bank 3 pennies in glue lined rectangle bank.jpg
Beach shell beach.jpg
Bowling Alley felt strip bowling alley.jpg
Brackenridge Hospital glass medicine vial brackenridge hospital.jpg
Car Wash sponge with penny glued on top car wash.jpg
Cave pebbles in circle cave.jpg
Church church shaped building made from cedar craft shingles with a cross made of toothpicks on rooftop church.jpg
Clifton Center piece of towel with paper clips in cross on top clifton center.jpg
Ecology Action piece of plastic from liter coke bottle ecology action.jpg
Farmers Market woven Straw shape of bushel basket ½ oval with Rickrack glued across the straw farmersmarket.jpg
Fire Station match stick fire station.jpg
Garden sand in square  
Group Home Straw with bend part bent over in house top shape grouphome.jpg
HEB small, laminated, oval HEB written in Braille below Braille, Printed word in black marker heb.jpg
Highland Park Mall Mall symbol with small Pom-pom in center highland park mall.jpg
Home styrofoam pellets home.jpg
Hospital + from pipe cleaner hospital.jpg
Lake plastic bag in circle lake.jpg
Laundromat piece of towel and penny laundromat.jpg
Leander "L" made of pipe cleaner leander.jpg
Mall ric-rac in square mall.jpg
Marriott foam sponge with paper clips in cross on top marriot.jpg
Movie wrapper from Reese's cup movie.jpg
Museum doll's eye museum.jpg
Park stick park.jpg
Post Office piece of string post office.jpg
Pro. Counselor X made from acrylic paint pro.jpg
Recording for the Blind tape from inside of cassette with 2 crossed paper clips on top recording for the blind.jpg
Skating Rink 2 Pom-poms side by side skating rink.jpg
Restaurant piece of straw, horizontal restaurant.jpg
Bakery piece of straw with cookie paper underneath it bakery.jpg
Central Market plastic sample Spoon diagonally across tinsel Pipe Cleaner bordering other 2 corners centralmarket.jpg
Chicken restaurant rest. piece of straw with Q-tip underneath it chicken rest.jpg
Chinese restaurant piece of Straw with Chopstick piece underneath it  
Italian restaurant piece of Straw with Spaghetti underneath it  
McDonald's piece of straw with "M" made from foam underneath it mcdonald's.jpg
Taco restaurant piece of straw with shiny pipe cleaner in a circle underneath it taco rest.jpg
Roffler's small plastic hair curler  
Store plastic grocery bag store.jpg
Book store miniature Book with Garbage bag glued below it bookstore.jpg
Drug store plastic grocery bag + toothpaste cap below it drugstore.jpg
Fish store plastic grocery bag + fish made from puff paint below fishstore.jpg
Grocery store plastic grocery bag + piece of bread bag with twistie wrapped around it under it grocerystore.jpg
Music store plastic grocery bag with bell inside musicstore.jpg
Pet store plastic grocery bag + rawhide animal treat below it petstore.jpg
Plant store plastic grocery bag + seed below it plantstore.jpg
Toy store plastic grocery bag + lego below it toystore.jpg
Texas Dept. of Health Foam in shape of Texas with cotton on top  
Texas State Library microcassette TXstatelibrary.jpg
U.T. Track piece of shoestring glued on top of chair webbing UTtrack.jpg
Video Arcade diagonal ric-rac (top left to bottom right) with penny in middle videoarcade.jpg
Zilker Park pipe cleaner "Z" over stick zilkerpark.jpg
Zoo plastic animal zoo.jpg

Meaning Category:  PEOPLE (Background Shape: Circle)

Background Texture: Bumpy vinyl wallpaper-type covering

Residential Specialist individualized ri.jpg
School Doctor 1/2 of a Q-tip school doctor.jpg
School Nurse Medicine cup on its side school nurse.jpg
Support Staff individualized support_staff.jpg
Teacher individualized teacher.jpg
Teacher's Assistant individualized ta.jpg
Teacher (generic) Book glued in center – book made from tiny yellow sticky Pads  
Class "C" shape ring from plastic Chain  
Attendant Bull dog clip  
Audiologist glue coil audiologist.jpg
Boss blue "B" boss.jpg
Bus Driver steering wheel shape made of glue bus driver.jpg
Dentist Toothbrush  
Doctor piece of rubber glove doctor.jpg
Ear Doctor backwards question-mark made of glue ear doctor.jpg
Eye Doctor eye shape made of glue eye doctor.jpg
Farmer square of Jean fabric with metal Button cover on top  
Fire Fighter circular slice of hose (garden hose/rubber tubing) fire fighter.jpg
Job boss Shoestring piece in open loop (like apron)  
Mailman Foam square cut with pinking shears  
Office Worker circle made of thumbtacks with points cut off office worker.jpg
Plant Worker plastic leaf or plastic flowers plant worker.jpg
Police badge shape made of glue police.jpg
Store Worker glue "S" store worker.jpg
Trash Collector Plastic square (clear)  

Meaning Category:  EMOTIONS (Background Shape: Heart)

Background Texture: Plain poster board

Anxious "S' hook on its side anxious.jpg
Excited 4 pieces of ribbon curled with scissors excited.jpg
Frustrated knot made from nylon string/rope frustrated.jpg
Gentle feather with pom pom glued on top gentle.jpg
Happy smile made from nylon string happy.jpg
Hurt vertical matchstick hurt.jpg
Love heart made from nylon string love.jpg
Mad vertical row of knots made from nylon string mad.jpg
Patient flower bead or silk flower patient.jpg
Sad/Depressed frown made from nylon rope/string (upside down smile) saddepressed.jpg
Sick vertical piece of nylon rope/string with a glue dot on top sick.jpg
Tired arrow made from nylon rope pointing down tired.jpg

Meaning Category:  NON-FOOD OBJECTS (Background Shape: Oblong)

Background Texture: Plain poster board


Clothing ArticleSymbolPicture
Boots leather shoe string tied in a knot boots.jpg
Bra hook from a hook and eye bra.jpg
Coat rectangular piece of wool or felt, 1" x 2" piece Men's underwear piece of elastic coat.jpg
Pants hem piece from old blue jeans pants.jpg
Panties piece of old panties with elastic and nylon panties.jpg
Shirt 3 buttons glued in a vertical row on piece of fabric shirt.jpg
Shoes shoe string in a cross (let ends dangle to avoid confusion with cafeteria) shoes.jpg
Socks toe of sock socks.jpg
Sweater piece of sweater sweater.jpg

Cooking Appliances/Materials/Utensils

Cooking Appliances/
Blender 3 holes punched in a horizontal row blender.jpg
Bowl styrofoam half-circle bowl.jpg
Cup end of eraser cup.jpg
Fork plastic fork prongs fork.jpg
Grater screen glued on card grater.jpg
Juice machine holes punched around outside of oval juice.jpg
Knife piece of plastic knife knife.jpg
Microwave square of hard plastic with small fuzzy piece of velcro in middle microwave.jpg
Oven vertical stripes across oval made with acrylic paint oven.jpg
Pan pan made with acrylic paint pan.jpg
Pitcher top of film canister pitcher.jpg
Plate 1 1/4" circle cut from styrofoam plate plate.jpg
Refrigerator strips of strawberry basket glued in vertical stripes refrigerator.jpg
Spoon piece of plastic spoon spoon.jpg

Hygiene Supplies

Hygiene SuppliesSymbolPicture
Brush/Comb vertical strip of sandpaper with fringe cut on right side brush.jpg
Deodorant top of bottled deodorant deodorant.jpg
Hearing aid batteries batteries  
Shampoo bottle top shampoo.jpg
Soap piece of soap box soap.jpg
Toothbrush end of toothbrush toothbrush.jpg
Toothpaste top from container toothpaste.jpg


Bike jumbo paper clip bent like handle bars bicycle.jpg
Boat paper triangle boat.jpg
Bus bubble plastic bus.jpg
Plane miniature airplane plane.jpg
Tractor plastic wheel tractor.jpg
Van/Car piece of lawn chair webbing van_car.jpg

Recreational Objects

Recreational ObjectsSymbolPicture
Book/Journal miniature book or book made from tiny yellow sticky pad book.jpg
Computer cork disc glued on felt square computer.jpg
Game flat marble game.jpg
Connect 4 checker with marble glued on top of it connect_four.jpg
Movement game flat marble + piece of tinsel garland glued below it movement_game.jpg
Outdoor game flat marble + golf tee glued below marble outdoor_game.jpg
Table game flat marble + domino glued below marble table_game.jpg
Video game flat marble w/ cork disc glued on top of felt square below it video_game.jpg
Foot massage machine 3/4" bottle top from beer or coke bottle with serrated edges side up foot_massage.jpg
Hammock 1 inch piece of 3/4" thick rope hammock.jpg
Hamster food circle of hamster food hamster_food.jpg
Hamster litter circle of hamster litter hamster_litter.jpg
Headphones piece of phone cord with foam wedge on end headphones.jpg
Keyboard row of pieces of 1" pieces of popsicle sticks keyboard.jpg
Lotion top from milk jug with top side glued down lotion.jpg
Merry-go-round plastic monkey (from "Barrel of Monkeys") merrygoround.jpg
Moonwalk padded vinyl rectangle (from "Good Books") moonwalk.jpg
Pegboard peg pegboard.jpg
Piano metal fastener glued horizontally  
Plant pinto beans plant_gardening.jpg
Powder top from milk jug with hole punched in it powder.jpg
Skates circle of 1/2" pom-poms skate.jpg
Slide ladder made of toothpicks slide.jpg
Swing piece of chain swing.jpg
Tape Recorder 4 one inch pieces of pipe cleaner glued vertically tape recorder.jpg
Trampoline pen spring glued vertically trampoline.jpg
Treadmill piece of rubber from handgrip, cut in half horizontally treadmill.jpg
Vibrator fake fur cut in a "V" shape vibrator.jpg
Yo-yo string with flat marble on it yo-yo.jpg


Meaning Category:  FOOD

Backing Shape: Oval
Background Texture: Laminated


Chocolate milk lid from Nestle Quik powder chocolate milk.jpg
Coffee coffee grounds glued to cardboard coffee.jpg
Coke coke tab coke.jpg
Dr. Pepper 2 coke tabs dr. pepper.jpg
Root beer 3 coke tabs with the third glued horizontally between the other two root beer.jpg
Iced tea tea bag string with tag iced tea.jpg
Juice plastic strip from juice can juice.jpg
Kool-aid top strip of kool-aid package kool-aid.jpg
Milk top of milk carton like a tent milk.jpg
Water "W" cut from fake chamois cloth water.jpg


Candy foam pellet wrapped in candy wrapper candy.jpg
Cookies plastic end with metal tie of an instant cookie dough wrapper cookies.jpg
Cupcake 1 1/2" of cupcake holder cupcake.jpg
Donut 1 1/2" circle of felt with hole in the middle  
Ice cream wooden spoon ice_cream.jpg
Pudding piece of foil top from individual pudding container with pull tab up pudding.jpg
Yogurt pie shaped piece cut from yogurt lid yogurt.jpg


Apple large 1/2" sequin apple.jpg
Banana curved row of small sequins banana.jpg
Generic fruit curved row of 7 small, round beads with 2 large sequins below them generic fruit.jpg
Orange circle of 8 1/4" beads orange.jpg

Meats and Protein

Meats and Protiens
Meats and ProteinSymbolPicture
Bacon 2 wavy lines made with puff paint bacon.jpg
Cheese plastic milk jug square cheese.jpg
Chicken q-tip end chicken.jpg
Chicken Nuggets 4 q-tip ends, with sticks removed, in a circle up, down, up, down, side by side chicken nuggets.jpg
Eggs glue glob eggs.jpg
Fish Jesus fish symbol made with puff paint fish.jpg
Hamburger button hamburger.jpg
Hot dog tiny safety pin hot dog.jpg
Meat circle made of leather meat.jpg
Sausage 3 penny-sized circles of leather, side by side sausage.jpg


Butter cardboard butter pat square from cafeteria butter.jpg
Jelly restaurant jelly container upside down jelly.jpg
Ketchup horizontal row of 4 cork dots with acrylic paint cross on each ketchup.jpg
Mayonnaise horizontal row of 4 cork dots mayonaise.jpg
Mustard horizontal row of 4 cork dots with acrylic paint dot on each mustard.jpg
Peanut butter "P" made of foam plate peanut butter.jpg
Syrup top of pop-up syrup container syrup.jpg



Bread twist tie bread.jpg
Cereal- cold box top with tab and wax bag glued above it cereal- cold.jpg
Cereal- hot oatmeal glued on card cereal-hot.jpg
Chips rectangular foam strip chips.jpg
Corn piece of popcorn corn.jpg
French fries corrugated cardboard strip french fries.jpg
French toast egg symbol (glue circle) with bread twist tie under it french toast.jpg
Generic grain 2 oblong beads in wide "V" shape with oatmeal below it generic-grain.jpg
Macaroni and cheese macaroni noodle with milk jug square (cheese symbol) below it macaroni and cheese.jpg
Noodles a macaroni noodle noodles.jpg
Pancakes circle of felt pancakes.jpg
Popcorn five pieces of uncooked popcorn glued in domino "5" configuration popcorn.jpg
Potato oval shape made from soft part of velcro potato.jpg
Hash browns rectangle made of 3 horizontal strips and 3 vertical strips from soft part of velcro hash browns.jpg
Mashed potatoes ric-rac shape cut from soft part of velcro mashed potatoes.jpg
Tater-tots 3 tiny ovals cut from hard part of velcro tater-tots.jpg
Spaghetti 7 one inch pieces of spaghetti glued vertically spaghetti.jpg
Waffles strawberry basket piece waffles.jpg



Broccoli vegetable symbol with clump of plastic Easter grass glued in middle broccoli.jpg
Carrots vegetable symbol with felt disc glued in middle carrots.jpg
Coleslaw red crinkly ribbon glued on top of vegetable symbol coleslaw.jpg
Green beans vegetable symbol with horizontal sandpaper strip glued on top of it green_beans.jpg
Salad vegetable symbol with Easter grass glued on top of plastic, horizontal sandpaper strip at right hand corner diagonally, and a felt disc glued at bottom left hand corner salad.jpg
Vegetable square from textured part of clear, corrugated plastic salad plate used at salad bars (leave lip up) (*filed under "salad bar plastic") vegetable.jpg


Miscellaneous Foods
Casserole beans and rice glued randomly on card casserole.jpg
Enchiladas zig-zag of tinsel pipe cleaner enchiladas.jpg
Pizza circle of poster board cut with one triangular piece missing pizza.jpg
Sandwich 2 twist ties/bread ties glued vertically with circle made from leather in between them sandwich.jpg
Sausage and Biscuits leather circle with twist tie glued on top sausage and biscuits.jpg
Snack vertical row of staples, stapled vertically (protect back with glue) snack.jpg
Tacos coil of tinsel pipe cleaner tacos.jpg


Breakfast large "B" made with hot glue gun breakfast.jpg
Dinner large "D" made with hot glue gun dinner.jpg
Lunch large "L" made with hot glue gun lunch.jpg

Meaning Category:  ACTIONS

Backing Shape: Triangle
Background Texture: Felt

Art piece of crayon art.jpg
Baseball large baseball shape made with hot glue gun baseball.jpg
Basketball ball 1" in diameter glued in the middle of the triangle basketball.jpg
Bathe soap sliver bathe.jpg
Break/Crack large egg shape made from cardboard cracked down the middle with cracked, jagged edges break_crack.jpg
Buy plastic grocery bag with penny in the middle buy.jpg
Carry 2 ceramic tiles glued on top of one another, bottom tile is a 3/4" square tile and the top one is a 3/8" square tile carry.jpg
Chew class triangle of bumpy vinyl wall covering with 3 popcorn seeds underneath chew class.jpg
Choose pipe cleaner "O" and "X" with glue line down the middle choose.jpg
Clean room 1" square of material with 1/4" x 3/4" piece of sponge glued on top of it clean room.jpg
Cook "C" made from glue cook.jpg
Cut blade end of plastic knife cut.jpg
Dance bow made from ribbon dance.jpg
Drink upside down cork "T" drink.jpg
Eat piece of plastic spoon glued upside down eat.jpg
Exercise piece of tinsel garland exercise.jpg
Fire drill 2 matches spaced 1/2" apart fire drill.jpg
Fishing split shot on end of fishing line attached to tiny stick fishing.jpg
Get dressed square piece of plastic mesh, 1/2" x 1" get dressed.jpg
Grooming fingernail file grooming.jpg
Horseplay small plastic horse horse play.jpg
Jump clothespin jump.jpg
Language Arts one inch square of cedar craft shingle with fancy circular plastic disk (tracer) glued on top language arts.jpg
Laundry 2 buttons in horizontal row laundry room.jpg
Listen to music jingle bell listen to music.jpg
Listen to radio small, round, silver, symbol-like piece listen to radio.jpg
Make 2 one inch square cedar craft shingles, stacked and glued together make.jpg
Massage bulldog clip and domino massage.jpg
Masturbate fake fur masturbate.jpg
Math an equal sign made of 2 horizontal glue gun lines, 1" long math.jpg
Measure a third of a medicine cup (side and bottom) with curved side glued down measure.jpg
Meeting triangle piece of plastic mesh meeting.jpg
Movement Class bow made from ribbon with a marble glued in middle movement class.jpg
Open hole punched in middle of triangle


Orientation and Mobility piece of PVC pipe glued horizontally orientation and mobility.jpg
Phone calling coiled piece of telephone cord phone calling.jpg
Plant/Gardening seed plant_gardening.jpg
Play game marker play.jpg
Pour corrugated plastic tubing pour.jpg
Push circular wooden bead, 1/2" in diameter push.jpg
Read miniature book or book made from tiny yellow sticky pad read.jpg
Relax sheepskin piece relax.jpg
Ride rubber strip from fat rubber band ride.jpg
Run shoe string in circle run.jpg
Sack lunch little lunch sack made from a paper bag with top folded over sack lunch.jpg
Science activity textured craft stick, similar to a popsicle stick, glued horizontally science activity.jpg
Set table 1" round piece of styrofoam (plate) with bottom half of eraser (cup) glued above and to the right of the plate settable.jpg
Shave head of disposable razor without blade shave.jpg
Shower shampoo top shower.jpg
Skate 1 pom pom skate.jpg
Snack vertical row of staples, stapled vertically (protect back with glue) snack.jpg
Soccer round foam circle soccer.jpg
Start 1/2" wooden bead with horizontal glue line above it start.jpg
Stir 1 1/2" piece of straw with bottom half cut open and shaped to look like a spoon (shaped like a slurpee straw) stir.jpg
Swim triangle cut out of towel swim.jpg
Swing chain, glued vertically swing.jpg
Talk time/Conversation fancy circular plastic disc (tracer) glued on top of plastic mesh triangle conversation.jpg
Tennis 1 1/4" round piece of mesh with 1/2" plastic bead glued on top of it tennis.jpg
Vacuum ink cartridge of a ballpoint pen bent to resemble a stand-up vacuum cleaner, glue used to accentuate the parts of the vacuum cleaner (wheels, bag, handle) vacuum.jpg
Walk poster board triangle walk.jpg
Wash/Clean slice of sponge wash.jpg
Wash dishes piece of plastic spoon glued with bowl side up with piece of sponge glued inside it washdishes.jpg
Work an "X" made from 2 linked paper clips work.jpg
Can crushing 2 linked paper clips above a piece of crushed can cancrushing.jpg
Coke job 2 linked paper clips above a coke tab coke_job.jpg
Mail job 2 linked paper clips over a piece of envelope with sticky piece free mailjob.jpg
Newspaper job 2 linked paper clips above roll of newspaper newspaperjob.jpg
Plant job 2 linked paper clips above a bean glued on card plant_job.jpg
Plastic sorting 2 linked paper clips over a piece of plastic from milk container plasticsorting.jpg
Recycling 2 linked paper clips above a piece of plastic from a liter coke bottle recycling.jpg
Sort silverware 2 linked paper clips above a plastic fork piece, prongs down sortsilverware.jpg
Tape job 2 linked paper clips over a piece of audio tape stapled to a card tape_job.jpg
Towel folding 2 linked paper clips glued over a piece of towel towelfolding.jpg
Trash dumping 2 linked paper clips over trash bag piece trashdumping.jpg

Meaning Category:  MISC./FUNCTOR WORDS

Backing Shape: Trapezoid
Background Texture: Lined braille paper

Canceled large "X" made of glue cancelled.jpg
Finished plain poster board with bottom fringed finished.jpg
Goodbye two vertical leather strips glued far apart goodbye.jpg
Help full braille cell Help.jpg
Hi two vertical leather strips glued close together


More black binder clip clipped to top of symbol more.jpg
No "X" made of pipe cleaner, very small as in "choose" symbol no.jpg
Yes "O" made of pipe cleaner yes.jpg

Backing Shape: Green diamond
Background Texture: Plain poster board

Left Puff paint "L" on left side of diamond with an arrow pointing toward it {L<-} left.jpg
Right Puff paint "R" on right side of diamond with an arrow pointing toward it {->R} right.jpg

Meaning Category:  GYM SYMBOLS

Backing Shape: White oblong
Background Texture: Plain poster board

Gym Symbols
GYM SYMBOLSSymbolPicture
Aerobics Wooden heart aerobics.jpg
Balance Beam 1" wooden ruler balancebeam.jpg
Ball Piece of red kickball ball.jpg
Barrel Film canister barrel.jpg
Bicycle Large paper clip twisted into handlebar shape bicycle.jpg
Bicycle helmet Half bubble ball, open side down bicyclehelmet.jpg
Bolster/Mat Ceramic disc on vertical vinyl cloth bolster_mat.jpg
Bricks Corrugated backside of piece of ceramic tile bricks.jpg
Bubble ball pit Two bubble balls side by side bubbleballpit.jpg
Canvas hammock Large nylon rope, horizontal hammock.jpg
Climbing rope Tic-tac-toe symbol made of yarn climbingrope.jpg
Colored mat ric rac glued next to each other, horizontally coloredmat.jpg
Elastic exerciser Pipe cleaner in a handle shape elasticexerciser.jpg
Flatbed swing Chain link, vertical on carpet rectangle flatbedswing.jpg
Goal mouth (basketball) Goal made with pipe cleaner and netting with flat marble above it basketball.jpg
Moonwalk Square of vinyl cloth moonwalk.jpg
Music Cassette case music.jpg
Pogo stick 1" piece of pvc pipe glued vertically pogoswing.jpg
Rocker boat Wooden spool glued horizontally rockerboat.jpg
Roller skates Five pompoms glued in a circle roller_skates.jpg
Scooterboard Toy wheel scooterboard.jpg
Sit-up table 2" white triangular sponge glued horizontally so it's at an angle on the background sit-uptable.jpg
Smooth bolster Square piece of rubber glove or balloon smoothbolster.jpg
Softball Wooden toy bat with flat marble above it softball.jpg
Spinning swing Large nylon rope glued horizontally spinningswing.jpg
Stairs 3 pieces of popsicle sticks in ascending lengths glued on top of each other like stairs stairs.jpg
Swedish ladder 2" long varnished wooden bead glued horizontally swedishladder.jpg
Trampoline Pen spring glued vertically trampoline.jpg
Trapeze Circle of yarn with small piece of a straw around it at the bottom trapese.gif
Tunnel 2" tunnel shape made of chamois cloth tunnel.jpg
Twirler Pipe cleaner around a piece of tubing from flowers twirler.jpg
Vaulting box 1 1/2" styrofoam cube glued horizontally vaultingbox.jpg
Wrist weights Two flat marbles wrapped in vinyl cloth wristweights.jpg