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Arizona Deafblind Project

Arizona Deafblind Project

About Us:  The Arizona Deafblind Project is a federally funded grant program. The purpose of the Arizona Project is to provide technical assistance, training, information, and resources to families, educational team members, and other service providers who work with children ages birth through 21 (up to the 22nd birthday), who have an educationally significant combined vision and hearing loss.

The Arizona Deafblind Project is funded under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, Part D).  Every state has a state federally funded deafblind project. All projects are overseen by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Deafblind Projects are currently in a five-year funding cycle that runs from October 1, 2008 – September 30, 2013.

The Arizona Deafblind Project is administered through the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (ASDB), which is strongly committed to the Deafblind Project and its mission. ASDB is a large statewide agency with multiple programs throughout the state. The agency provides numerous resources and supports to the Arizona Deafblind Project. The Project’s main office is at the Tucson campus of ASDB, with a satellite office in Phoenix at one of the Regional Cooperative programs.

Together our Project staff have over 60 years of experience in the field of deafblindness working with children, parents, and service providers.

What is Deafblindness?

Deafblindness … combined vision and hearing loss … dual sensory impairment …. co-occurring vision and hearing loss…  All of these terms mean the same thing. 

A deafblind child is a child who has a degree of loss in BOTH sight and hearing, the combination of which results in significant difficulties in accessing information – whether educational, environmental, or communication information. Most children who qualify as deafblind actually have some usable vision and/or some usable hearing (or some of both). For them however, neither the remaining vision nor remaining hearing can completely compensate for the loss or restriction of the other sense.

There is a wide range of cognitive and developmental ability among children who are deafblind. They can range from being gifted (like Helen Keller) to having profound levels of multiple impairments including cognitive, physical, social, or other health impairments. Children with combined vision and hearing loss can be born with one or both losses, or acquire them shortly after birth or even during childhood or teen years.

Deafblindness creates a disability of access to information. The impact isn’t like adding the vision and hearing losses together. Rather, these two losses are multiplicative (vision loss X hearing loss), and impact the child more intensely.  Due to their combined vision and hearing losses, children with deafblindness miss a great deal of information:  educational, environmental, communicative, social, and conceptual information. Children with combined losses receive information from the world and about the world through fewer senses than their sighted and hearing peers (taste, touch, smell, and limited vision and hearing).


Deafblindness is truly a unique information gathering disability which brings great challenges, both to the children who live with combined vision and hearing losses, but also to the parents and educators who live or work with these children. The Arizona Deafblind Project is here to assist educators and parents better understand the learning needs of their children and acquire strategies that have proven successful with other children who are deafblind. We offer many types of technical assistance, including the following:

General Services

  • Assist in determining if a child has a combined vision and hearing loss and qualifies as deafblind
  • Provide classroom or program consultation visits
  • Demonstrate strategies and techniques to use with children who have combined loss
  • Provide  information and resources
  • Deliver trainings and in-services
  • Attend IEP/IFSP, transition, and other meetings
  • Lend materials from the Project’s Loan Library (books, videos, DVDs, etc.)
  • Assist with transitions and person centered planning

Parent Specific Services

  • Provide home consultation visits
  • Facilitate parent group meetings
  • Make Project SPARKLE available (a web-based parent education program on deafblindness)
  • Offer Parent Liaison services
  • Assist parents to attend workshops and conferences

Special Projects

  •   Intervener Team Training Program
  •   Regional Deafblind Consulting Teacher Program
  •   Annual Child Count

Interveners & Training

What is an Intervener?  An intervener is a paraprofessional trained specifically in deafblindness who works one-to-one with a child who has a combined vision and hearing loss.  Interveners provide a bridge to the world that help children with combined vision and hearing loss gather and understand the everyday information that most people without disabilities take for granted. The intervener provides consistent, ongoing, individualized information to the student to assist him/her in understanding the environment and the people in it, as well as the educational content presented. The intervener facilitates the development of the student’s communication, concepts, and skills across a wide range of functional, academic, and social areas. The intervener works under the direction of the classroom teacher and other service providers.  The primary difference between a classroom aide assigned to work one-to-one with a student who is deafblind and an intervener, is that the intervener has comprehensive, specialized training in deafblindness.

Why is Training Important?  Training is important in order to understand the impact of the combined losses and challenges that they present to the child. A combined vision and hearing loss creates a disability of access to information. This occurs because the incidental information that is available to sighted and hearing children, or even to those with a single sensory loss, is not readily accessible to those with dual sensory loss.  Instead of effortlessly receiving a flow of information like other youngsters, children with a combined loss receive only partial information. This information is distorted and incomplete, making it extremely difficult to understand. These students exert an immense amount of energy in simply gathering and processing information, and can become extremely fatigued and frustrated by the learning process.

The impact of vision and hearing losses together has a multiplying effect, and can impact every area of a child’s development, especially communication, learning, and social skills. Children with deafblindness who are in functional programs have difficulty in developing language, concrete concepts, and daily living and other skills.  Students with combined loss who are in academic programs, despite their level of intelligence, may have difficulty developing abstract language and abstract concepts. This can result in challenges in keeping up with classroom content.

Whether the student is at a functional level or academic level, specialized training in deafblindness will provide staff with an understanding of the impact of these two sensory losses together, as well as teach them numerous strategies to use with their student.

The Arizona Deafblind Project offers a two-year TEAM Training program.  Our experience has shown us that interveners work best when directed and supported by a team. When all team members receive the same information and training, student goals are more accurate, and targeted outcomes are more often met. Contact Project staff to learn more about our training program.

For additional in-depth Intervener information and documentation please visit Intervener.Org.

Referral & Child Count

Referral:  The Arizona Deafblind Project maintains a Registry of children in the state who have a combined vision and hearing loss.  A child must be on the Registry for his staff or parents to receive technical assistance from Project personnel (unless we are assisting in identifying a student).

To refer a child to the Deafblind Registry:  Please complete the Referral Form, and send it back to the Tucson office along with vision and hearing records.  These can include ophthalmological, optometric, functional vision assessments, audiograms, and functional hearing assessments. You may also include medical histories and educational records such as the current IEP.

The Annual Census:  The Arizona Deafblind Project is funded through a federal grant from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Every year OSEP requires each state, through their state deafblind project, to submit an annual count of children who are deafblind with updated information in areas such as numbers and types of vision and hearing losses, types of classrooms in which students are served, and educational categorized the students are reported under. In total there are 34 data fields which we must update. The Arizona Deafblind Project works closely with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to collaborate on collecting, analyzing, and reconciling the census information related to children who are deafblind.

Who qualifies as Deafblind?:  A student qualifies as deafblind if he/she has a degree of loss in both sight and hearing, the combination of which results in significant difficulties in accessing educational and environmental information.  There can be confusion about how students are reported to ADE. This does not mean the child isn’t deafblind.

Many children with combined vision and hearing loss also have some degree of communication, developmental, and/or learning problems. For this reason, they are often reported by their school district in the October 1 Special Education Census as Multi-Disabled/Severe Sensory Impaired (MDSSI) or Multi-Disabled (MD).  Many others are reported as having only vision loss or having only hearing loss. This may be because their teachers don’t recognize the very critical impact of the two sensory losses in combination.

In Arizona, a student can be reported to ADE as BOTH visually impaired and hearing impaired.  If reported this way, ADE will roll the student over into the federal count category of deafblind in order to submit more accurate numbers.

We need your help with Count Procedures: Each winter/spring, the Arizona Deafblind Project sends a packet of information to Directors of Special Education or Program Coordinators whose districts or programs serve one or more children that are registered with the Project as deafblind. The packet includes count instructions along with printouts of every child in that district/program who is identified as having a combined vision and hearing loss. Project staff ask that programs update any inaccurate information and then return the printout to the Deafblind Project.

Confidentiality:  All information reported to OSEP is confidential. When submitted, the count NEVER includes personally identifying information. It only includes statistics and numbers.