Monday, November 19, 2012

National Child Count - Considerable in Relevance and History

The 2011 Deaf-Blind Child Count has just been published to the NCDB Website. You can find the report at:

This year’s report marks the 26th annual report published by NCDB and its’ predecessors on behalf of the state deaf-blind technical assistance projects.  It is the first and longest running registry and knowledge base of children who are deaf-blind in the world.  Begun in 1986 on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education (Baldwin, 1993), it represents a three decade  collaborative effort between the National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB), its predecessors, and each state deaf-blind project throughout the country, as well as those projects funded in the Pacific Trust territories, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Over time the child count has been collaboratively designed, implemented and revised to serve as the common vehicle to meet federal grant requirements for both the state/multi-state and national technical assistance projects.  It also has served as a common data collection and reporting mechanism for use across the country and to help identify national and state technical assistance needs for children and youth who are deaf-blind, their families and the service providers and systems which serve them (Killoran, 2007). Today, the Deaf-Blind Child Count summarizes, by state, information related to vision and hearing loss, etiology, age, gender, additional disabilities, education placement, participation in state assessment program, living setting and other variables providing a comprehensive picture of children and youth who are deaf-blind.

The child count was initially requested by the Department of Education to examine the discrepancy between the state/multi-state child counts and OSEP’s annual December 1 counts (Baldwin, 1993). The child count is conducted each year to supplement OSEP’s Federal Part C and Part B Child Counts (Special Education Child Count), which include children as deaf-blind only when deaf-blindness is their single disability. In contrast, the December 1 Deaf-Blind Child Count data is collected for children with deaf-blindness in isolation, as well as those with additional disabilities (Muller, 2006). This is an important distinction in that nearly 90% of the children and youth on the Deaf-Blind Child Count have one or more additional disabilities. Consequently, a majority of children who are deaf-blind or have deaf-blind intervention needs are not identified as such on OSEP’s Special Education Child Count.  For 2011, a total of 9,387 children and youth are included on the December 1 Deaf-Blind Child count.

In contrast, WESTAT (2012) reports that 1,587 students (3-21) were identified as deaf-blind on OSEP’s 12/1/11 Part B Special Education Child Count. Due to the non-categorical nature of Part C, no infants or toddlers are reported as deaf-blind since they are all reported as developmentally delayed or at-risk by their state Part C lead agencies (WESTAT, 2008). This 83.1% discrepancy between Part B and Part C reporting of children and youth who are deaf-blind and this nation Deaf-Blind Child Count is significant. State Deaf-Blind Project directors consistently indicate that most Part C lead agencies and State Education Agencies report their children and students with deaf-blindness as being developmentally delayed, multiply disabled, visually impaired or hearing impaired, rather than identifying them as deaf-blind. Concerns about the under-identification of deaf-blindness and its resulting unique intervention requirements has been a consistent problem and one which results in a lack of, or delay in receiving, appropriate intervention and instruction critical to children’s early development (Muller, 2006). The opportunity for early identification, intervention and the provision of instructional services aimed at the unique needs of young children and students who are deaf-blind is a critical component that cannot be lost.

In reviewing the child count data submitted over the years, it is clear that no single portrait can be painted to represent a typical child with deaf-blindness. Children who are deaf-blind are as varied as the number reported and the nature and extent of deaf-blindness in children is often misunderstood (Malloy & Killoran, 2007). These children represent one of the lowest incidence, yet most diverse group of learners receiving early intervention and special education services. They are an extremely heterogeneous group whose sensory losses may be accompanied by additional physical or cognitive disabilities, complex medical needs and/or behavior challenges (Muller, 2006).

While you are on the Deaf-Blind Child Count page, also take the time to access the data maps that visually present state – by – state data on selected variables.  

Mark Schalock, NCDB 


Baldwin, V. (1993) Proceedings of the national symposium on children and youth who are deaf-blind.  Reiman, J. and Johnson, P., Editors, Monmouth, OR: DB-LINK, The Teaching Research Institute, Western Oregon University.

Malloy, P. &  Killoran, J. (2007). Children who are deaf blind.  Practice Perspectives - Highlighting Information on Deaf-Blindness. Monmouth, OR: National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB), Teaching Research Institute, Western Oregon University. Available at:

Mueller, E. (2006). Deaf-blind child counts: issues and challenges.  Alexandria, VA: Project Forum at NASDSE. Available at:

WESTAT. (2012). Part B annual report tables. Retrieved September 2011 from

WESTAT. (2012). Part C annual report tables. Retrieved September 2011 from 

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