An Administrator’s Guide to Evidence-Based Practices for Students with DeafBlindness

Authors: Matt Schultz, TSBVI DeafBlind Education Consultant, TX DB Project Kate Moss Hurst, TSBVI Outreach Statewide Staff Development Coordinator

Keywords: DeafBlindness, “general education curriculum”, access to general curriculum, alignment to academic standards, IEPs

Abstract: This article provides a guide to aid administrators in addressing issues and practices related to students with DeafBlindness. It specifically focuses on IEP development and instruction for students with DeafBlindness.

Students who are DeafBlind present a unique challenge to families, schools, and communities. Despite their designation, they represent an extremely heterogeneous population. Given their relatively small size in number, as well as their diversity, curriculum and instructional arrangements must remain flexible.

Curriculum Access for Students with Low-Incidence Disabilities:
The Promise for Universal Learning, p. 52,
Richard M. Jackson,
National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum, 2011.

Based on the interpretation of “general education curriculum” set forth in this letter, we expect annual IEP goals to be aligned with State academic content standards for the grade in which a child is enrolled. This alignment, however, must guide but not replace the individualized decision-making required in the IEP process. In fact, the IDEA’s focus on the individual needs of each child with a disability is an essential consideration when IEP Teams are writing annual goals that are aligned with State academic content standards for the grade in which a child is enrolled so that the child can advance appropriately toward attaining those goals during the annual period covered by the IEP.

Guidance document,
United States Department of Education,
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services,
November 16, 2015,
Yudin, M. & Musgrove, M.


What are the evidence-based practices that can guide decision-making when developing the IEP and providing instruction for students with DeafBlindness?

  • Inclusion of IEP team member or consultant (teacher of DeafBlind, education service center consultant, or state DeafBlind project consultant) who is knowledgeable about the impact of DeafBlindness and also about specialized communication methods and instructional approaches to assist with assessment, instructional planning, and program implementation. (Ferrell, Bruce, and Luckner, 2014)
  • Appropriate assessment that utilizes both standardized and informal assessment which includes functional vision and hearing evaluation, preferred learning channels, orientation and mobility skills, communication skills and concept development, cognitive development, social and emotional development. (Ferrell, Bruce, and Luckner, 2014)
  • Appropriate assessment and instruction in the nine areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (2015 Guidelines and Standards for Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas, p. 23) which includes:
    • o assistive technology
    • o career education
    • o compensatory skills
    • o recreation and leisure
    • o orientation and mobility
    • o sensory efficiency
    • o independent living
    • o social skills
    • o self-determination.
  • Collaboration of all team members in conducting assessment and on-going evaluation, developing the IEP, developing and providing instruction, modification of the general curriculum, and documenting progress. (Fundamental Classroom Conditions to Enhance Learning Experiences for Students who are Deaf-Blind, Gloria Rodriguez-Gil, 2009)
  • Appropriate modifications to the general education curriculum to address conceptual gaps due to combined vision and hearing loss.
  • The development of meaningful communication that is accessible to the child and effective for interaction with others through instruction that is:
    • o focused on bonding and developing interactions and routines for expanding the frequency and functions of communication. (Hagood and Moss, 1995)
    • o embedded into every activity, provided in the context of natural environments, and complemented with ample opportunities for social interaction (Ferrell, Bruce, and Luckner, 2014)
  • Small group or individualized instruction to allow the child to fully access information, engage in the lesson, and receive feedback (Parker et al., 2012; Riggio, 2009; Reggio &: McLetchie, 2008)
  • Systematic and child-guided instructional approaches such as the van Dijk Curricular Approach or Nielsen’s Active Learning Approach. (Ferrell, Bruce, and Luckner, 2014)
  • Access to appropriate assistive technology such as alerting devices, low tech devices (e.g. calendar systems, Little Room, cane), and high tech devices (e.g. braille display, switches) to support communication, orientation and mobility, participation in content-area instruction, and life skills. (Ferrell, Bruce, and Luckner, 2014)
  • Assessment and programming that address behavioral concerns recognizing the impact of communication on behavior as well as etiological specific impact on behavior. (Ferrell, Bruce, and Luckner, 2014)
  • Support from qualified intervention and communication professionals (e.g. interveners, tactile interpreters) to access instruction and participate in school activities. (Ferrell, Bruce, and Luckner, 2014)
  • Utilizing an interagency transition planning process such as personal-futures planning to capture strengths and needs of the individual and to plan for natural and paid supports for all aspects of adult living. (Ferrell, Bruce, and Luckner, 2014)


2015 Guidelines and Standards for Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas

Ferrell, K. A., Bruce, S., & Luckner, J. L. (2014). Evidence-based practices for students with sensory impairments (Document No. IC-4). Page 64. Retrieved from University of Florida, Collaboration for Effective Educator, Development, Accountability, and Reform Center

Hagood, L. & Moss, K. Teaching Strategies and Content Modifications for a Child with Deafblindness P.S. News (Jan 1995).

Texas DeafBlind Project. IEP Quality Indicators for Students with DeafBlindness, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Austin, TX

Jackson, Richard M. (2011). Curriculum access for students with low-incidence disabilities: The promise of universal design. National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum.

Parker, A.T., McGinnity, B.L., Bruce, S.M. (2012). Educational programming for students who are deafblind: Position Paper. Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children, Division on Visual Impairments

Riggio, M., & McLetchie, B.A.B.(2008). Deafblindness: Educational Service Guidelines. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind

Riggio M. (2009). Deafblindness: Educational service guidelines—a product of our strengthening field. Deaf-blind Perspectives, 16(2), 1-3.

Rodriguez-Gil, Gloria. (2009, Summer). Fundamental classroom conditions to enhance learning experiences for students who are deaf-blind. reSources. Vol. 14 (No. 2).

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