Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Emerging Evidence from Single-Subject Research in the Field of Deaf-Blindness

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Emerging Evidence from Single-Subject Research in the Field of Deaf-Blindness

Article excerpt

Abstract: Professionals in the field of deaf-blindness are challenged to use instructional practices that have been tested using experimental methodology. Single-subject design has been examined as a form of research that assists in substantiating practice. In a review of the literature, the authors identified 54 single-subject studies from 1969 to 2006 that provided emerging evidence for practitioners.


The emphasis of the federal government on research, demonstrated outcomes, and evidence-based practices has challenged professionals in the field of deaf-blindness, along with all special education professionals, to conduct studies that substantiate practice that is based on scientifically recognized research designs (Odom et al., 2005). It is widely recognized that there have been few experimental studies of effective practices with people who are deaf-blind (Ronnberg & Borg, 2001; Vervloed, van Dijk, Knoors, & van Dijk, 2006). In their review of research on deaf-blindness, Ronnberg and Borg (2001) concluded that the lack of research in the field of deaf-blindness was due to the heterogeneity in the low-incidence population, methodology required by experimental designs, and scientific obstacles of studies.

In the United States, the 1964-65 rubella epidemic, which preceded Public Law 94-142--the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)--created a need for practitioners and educators in all service systems to meet the diverse needs of the large population of children with deaf-blindness caused by congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), a number unlike any that had been served in U.S. educational systems in the past (Enerstvedt, 1996). Enerstvedt described the exigence created by that new population of children with multiple disabilities and the federal government's response in creating regional centers, as well as specialized programs, to respond to the overwhelming needs of an educational system within a short time frame. The need to begin educational services expediently for children who were born with CRS provides a contextual understanding for the lack of emphasis on experimental studies with children who are deaf-blind and the number of articles that were written by practitioners who were challenged to meet the unique needs of this burgeoning population.

Current national policies, such as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which emphasize that teachers' practices must be validated through the use of scientific measurement, present specific problems for the larger field of special education and the low-incidence field of deaf-blindness. The broad-based public dialogue on the conceptualization of science within the field of education has led to recognition of the importance of multiple methodologies creating a blend of descriptive research and experimental designs (Gersten et al., 2004; Shavelson & Towne, 2002). Odom et al. (2005) discussed the challenges of applying the "gold standard" of research to low-incidence disability fields because of the heterogeneity of students in educational settings. Low-incidence fields that seek to create a body of evidence for using specific teaching strategies that are based on experimental designs may find single-subject designs more feasible for reasons beyond heterogeneity, geographic spread, and diversity of contexts. Homer, Carr, Halle, Odom, and Wolery (2005) described the cost-effectiveness of conducting single-subject studies in comparison with large randomized clinical trials. Finally, the quality indicators for single-subject research of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), as outlined in Homer et al., provide guidance for systematically examining studies for evidence of effective practices.

Historians have described the elements of the field of deaf-blindness by examining its roots in the fields of blindness, deafness, and multiple disabilities (Enerstvedt, 1996). …

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