New Practice Guides from National Center on Deaf-Blindness

Authors: Adam Graves, Deafblind Education Consultant, Outreach Program, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

Keywords: deafblind education, evidence-based practice, technical assistance, qualified personnel, deafblind IEP, National Center on Deaf-Blindness, Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Teacher of Students who are DeafBlind

Abstract: Dr. Adam Graves, Deafblind Education Consultant, describes and reviews newly released practice guides from the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB).

Beginning in 2020, I had the opportunity to serve as a reviewer for a series of practice guides produced by the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB). These practice guides are 5-6 pages long and are intended to be used in conjunction with coaching from the staff of the state deafblind projects, or other qualified personnel, to provide guidance on evidence-based instructional design for educational programs of students who are deafblind. The following is a description of the new practice guides, how to access them, and how educational teams of students who are deafblind might benefit from them. 

According to the NCDB website:

A key purpose [of the practice guides] is to let technical assistance providers or coaches and practitioners know what a practice involves when implemented correctly. The more clearly the components of an intervention are known and defined, the better it can be successfully implemented (Fixsen et al., 2013). NCDB Practice Guides also serve as quick reminders of the purpose and key elements of a practice. The guides are not intended to provide instruction on how to implement a practice and should be used in combination with technical assistance/coaching and information resources (e.g., factsheets, articles, videos, modules). (NCDB, 2022)

As of this writing, NCDB has published six practice guides on the following topics:

  • Building Trusting Relationships
  • Appropriate Assessment Strategies
  • Optimizing Availability for Learning
  • Preparing the Learning Environment
  • Hand-Under-Hand Technique
  • Active Learning

Each practice guide contains three sections to help educators develop best practices in utilizing the information contained within the guide. The three main components of each practice guide are:

  • Practice Rationale 
  • Essential Components 
  • You’ll know the practice is working if the child… 

Each section contains either a brief paragraph or list of bullet points describing the practice and some of the key concepts to consider when integrating the practice in instructional activities. The section on Practice Rationale provides an explanation as to why a particular area of practice should be included in the IEP or instructional design of programs for students who are deafblind. The Essential Components section lists and describes the basic elements that make up an effective program in an area of practice, such as the visual, tactile and auditory environments in the classroom or the actions or expectations of the instructor when working with the student. Finally, the section titled You’ll know the practice is working if the child… lists and describes student responses to programming that are indicators that the practice has been implemented effectively.

In addition to these three sections, each practice guide provides a web link that practitioners can use to learn more about the concepts and practices featured in the guide. There is also a list of references with information that supports the effectiveness of the practice described in the guide.  

NCDB has employed a very careful process in creating these practice guides to ensure that the information contained within them is both accurate and reflective of current research and knowledge on each topic. This process includes a review of current literature, interviews with community and family members, and a review of the guide by individuals with experience in the field of deafblind education such as staff members from deafblind projects and faculty from colleges and universities with coursework in deafblind education. 

In my role as both a reviewer and a professional, I appreciated both the format of, and the quality of the content in, these practice guides. The information is presented in a manner that is not too dense for the reader but is also based in both academic research and experiential knowledge of practitioners. As a consultant with the Texas DeafBlind Project, I believe that teachers working with students who are deafblind will find the sections entitled Essential Components and You’ll know the practice is working if the child… especially useful. These two sections provide brief but descriptive examples of what instructors can look for to evaluate the effectiveness of their own practice. In fact, I have already found these practice guides to be a useful resource to include along with some of the coaching and recommendations that I provide in my work with educational teams. 

I anticipate that teams who have a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment (TSVI), Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (TDHH), or a Teacher of Students who are DeafBlind (TDB) who have experience working with students who are deafblind will find these practice guides especially useful as both a validation of best practice approaches for their students and as a self-evaluation tool. As NCDB suggests, for practitioners who have little or no prior knowledge or experience in working with a student who is deafblind, the use of these practice guides may require some additional coaching or guidance. Support on completing evaluations and developing specific routines, as well as activities, accommodations and instructional materials, along with the information from the practice guides should help less experienced practitioners get started in creating an appropriate IEP or curriculum for the student. Those instructors who have some background knowledge on working with this population of students will likely find that these practice guides are also a very useful tool to supplement their coaching and collaboration with classroom teachers, related service providers, families, paraprofessionals (including interveners) and even administrators. 

While there are currently only six topics covered, NCDB has begun work on the creation of future practice guides including a series of guides focused on communication. All current and future NCDB practice guides can be downloaded from the NCDB website


Fixsen, D., Blase, K., Metz, A., Van Dyke, M. (2013). Statewide implementation of evidence-based programs. Exceptional Children, 79(2), 213-230.

National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB). (2022). Practice Guides. Retrieved from: 

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