Most people assume that a deaf blind child is someone who is not able to hear or see. “Our country’s special educational law defines deaf-blindness as the combination of the visual and hearing impairment” (“Deaf Blindness”). These two impairments make the person lose his or her communication skills, developmental and educational needs. The National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness observes that the key feature of deaf-blindness is that the “combination of losses limits access to auditory and visual information” (“Deaf Blindness”). Through this research I was able to discover the origin of deaf blindness and explore about this disability.
“Laura Bridgaman was the first person who was an individual with deaf blindness who learned language” (“Deaf Blind Education: History”). She entered the England Asylum for the Blind in 1837 to start learning. Since that year in United States there were programs and services for students who are deaf blind. Education for the deaf blind became more important each year. Government started to provide more opportunities for the deaf blind children.(“Deaf Blind Education: History”). Most of the time when we say deaf blind the name that comes to our mind is “Helen Keller”. She is the most known deaf blind person in the history. A school for the deaf blind was not always easy to build. Keller had to attend the school separately for deaf and blind. She attended the Perkins Institute for the Blind and the Wright-Humanson school for the deaf in New York, and The Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Massachusetts.
Deaf Blind schools were started to establish after the publish of Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in 1885. This school was a boarding school supported by the state (“Deaf Blind Education”). In the 1960s Rubella Epidemic was taken place. Since the Epidemic; history and the education of deaf blind children have changed. The methods to help deaf blind were developed in Netherlands and it influenced many people. After that many successful methodologies to teach deaf blind individuals have increased since the time of the the Rubella outbreak. The collaborations and sharing of knowledge of many countries also helped to develop and improve opportunities for the individuals with deaf blind (“Deaf Blind/ Disability Community History”).
There are over 70 causes for deaf blindness. Some of them are Usher syndrome, Cytomegalovirus, complications due to prematurity and traumatic head injuries. Most of the time children with deaf blindness may have an additional challenge like cognitive delays or some other medical condition. “However, only a small percentage of children who are deaf-blind are without any sight or hearing.” Most of the children have some type of vision and/or hearing that is useful (Bekker). Everyone knows that there are five senses that are important. Among these senses the 2 most important senses are hearing and Vision. These two senses help us gather information. This also helps us to study better. 80% of what we learn is visually.
That includes seeing the notes and watching an informational video. “Hearing is the basis of the communication or language system that most people use” (R.M, Turnbull, and M.L). In school we listen to our teachers to learn more information and to do better in academic. When these two major senses are impaired or lost, a person will have to struggle in several areas and this will also affect a child’s developments. A deaf blind student will have difficulties in communication/ language development, movement or motor development, cognitive and emotional or social development, body image and self concept. More importantly a child will have difficulties in learning (R.M, Turnbull, and M.L).
Doctors agree that family planning methods can cause deaf blindness. During pregnancy a women may have infections. These infections can also cause deaf blindness. Rubella, the vaccine cannot be used all the time to prevent deaf blindness (Bekker). However, if a woman takes this vaccine prior to pregnancy being a deaf blind can be prevented. This vaccine should not be used by a pregnant woman. After taking this vaccine the women who received should wait at least two months to elapse before getting pregnant (Bekker).
All the children with deaf blindness differ from each other. They are all unique in their own way. The amount of visual and auditory loss varies in all individuals. The sensory input sometimes gets damaged but for some other individuals it won’t get damaged. The vision and hearing may be lost from birth but for some others it takes time and eventually gets lost. “Either or both losses may be gradual or immediate and may not be accompanied by the loss of other body functions” (Mcllnnes and Treffry). Deaf blind people will face symptoms that are combined.
There will be symptoms based on loss of hearing and loss of vision. There are different types of conditions that may lead to deaf blindness. Congenial Rubella Syndrome and Usher Syndrome are common conditions that lead an individual to be a deaf blind. loss of a little vision and hearing is very common among older people. It’s just a sign of aging. This can rarely lead to be a deaf blind person (Schneider, O’Toole, and Fletcher).
Based on the statistics 45000 to 50000 people in US are deaf-blind. “According to the 2007 National Deaf-Blind Child Count, over 10,000 are children under the age of 21″(“Deaf Blindness”). The word deaf Blindness is sometimes misunderstood by people. They think it means a person who cannot hear or see at all. But this word actually describes a person who has a little of both vision and hearing. Each person with this disease may have different amount of loss in their vision and hearing (“Deaf Blindness”). It is difficult to estimate the exact number of deaf blind people in United States because it varies widely from one person or agency. The number adults who are deaf blind are approximately 35000-40000 in population (Harrington).
Today there are many modern technologies that help deaf blind individuals to have a better knowledge and a better life. The assistive technology that was created for visually impaired can also be used by the deaf blind students. Assistive technologies like computer adaptations, adaptive devices and telecommunication devices are very helpful for deaf blind people (R.M Turnbull, and M.L). Early intervention service is established for young children who are 3 years old or under the age of 3. These services are significant for children with deaf and blindness and their families. They address the child’s developmental and needs of learning. Sometimes these services are free of charge. Children with deaf-blindness who are 4 years old or older should change to the Special Education Services from the Early Intervention Service.
This service is provided free through the public school system. “Even if a child with deaf-blindness is not in school yet (for example, a four-year-old), the school system is still responsible for making sure that special education and related services are available to the child” (“Deaf Blindness”). Deaf Blindness can be prevented by taking early precautions. People should be more aware of this disease. Children who are 12-18 month old can be prevented from deaf-blindness by taking the vaccine called Rubella. A third vaccine known as Measles mumps-rubella (MMR) is given when the child is 3 years old. These vaccines are really important to give to the children. This can prevent future loss of vision and hearing. Most of the people in our current society are not aware of deaf blindness (Bekker).
In our society children with disabilities are not treated the right way. Most of the children who have both visual and auditory handicaps are assumed to be profoundly retarded. Parents of these children face this situation differently. Some parents struggle for their kid because of the lack of assistance. Parents who don’t have enough money to treat their child struggle the most. Some parents cope with the situation but some others are unable to handle the situation and they may be having a heart break. Parents should stay strong and seek professional support.
They should give their child proper care. A parent’s feeling for their deaf blind child is not explainable through words (Mcllnnes and Treffry). Through this research I was able to explore about deaf blindness, a disability which I had no information about. But now I know different types of information about deaf blindness. 85% of people don’t know what deaf blindness is or how it causes. Therefore it is important to raise a public awareness about deaf blindness in our society.