DB-Link: National Information Clearinghouse on Children Who Are Deaf-Blind. (Better Speech and Hearing Month)(Organizational Spotlight)

By Leslie, Gail | The Exceptional Parent, May 2003 | Go to article overview

DB-Link: National Information Clearinghouse on Children Who Are Deaf-Blind. (Better Speech and Hearing Month)(Organizational Spotlight)


Leslie, Gail, The Exceptional Parent


ELIZABETH is the mother of a five-year-old with CHARGE Syndrome. (CHARGE is a complex syndrome involving multiple anomalies of the eyes, heart, throat, genitals and ears, also affecting growth and development.) She needs information to share with her physician about the effects in behavior of combined hearing and vision loss.

ELEANOR has just learned that her six-month-old daughter, who is deaf, also has significant visual impairments. She wants to understand more about using touch to connect with her baby.

STEVEN is a special education teacher. In two weeks, an eight-year-old boy who is deaf and blind will be enrolled in his third grade class. He has never worked with a child who has deaf-blindness before. He is anxious to learn as much as he can, as well as communication and teaching strategies for this student.

JENNIFER is a graduate student of a master's program in severe disabilities. She is writing a research paper on the impact of learning in individuals who are deaf-blind. She needs help locating what has been written on this subject.

DB-LINK, The National Information Clearinghouse On Children Who Are Deaf-Blind responds to questions such as these Monday through Friday; via telephone, e-mail and the internet. Individuals across the country have access to the world's most comprehensive and dynamic collection of information about deaf-blindness. For persons with disabilities, information is an essential tool when making choices. DB-LINK services and products make it possible for families, teachers and service providers to find resources that will make a difference for the deaf-blind children in their lives.

Why a clearinghouse for deaf-blindness?

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has funded DB-LINK since 1992. DB-LINK is the only federally funded clearinghouse dedicated to a specific disability. That singularity of focus is warranted by the unique and exceptional circumstances that arise for any child when hearing and vision loss occurs in combination.

Deaf-blindness may seem to refer to a total loss of sight and hearing. While for some children that will be true, but most children who are deaf-blind have some usable vision or hearing. The combined loss, however, creates intense communication and developmental needs that cannot be met by strategies for children who are only blind/visually impaired or deaf/hearing impaired. This population of children is small in number and very diverse in the nature of their disabilities. Communication is their single most important need. For information to be useful, it must be tailored to match the immediate needs of a particular child.

Deaf-blindness is a low-incidence disability. The number of children identified across the country is just under 11,000. This means that only a few school districts or teachers will ever serve a student who is deaf-blind. In most instances, they will find themselves responsible for the education of students for whom they have little or no professional expertise.

History

With the belief that information could improve the education and quality of life for deaf-blind children, the federal government made funds available for the clearinghouse. DB-LINK was formed as a consortium project and is a partnership of three agencies: Teaching Research Division of Western Oregon University, Perkins School for the Blind Massachusetts and the Helen Keller National Center in New York. DB-LINK's task has been to organize the information about deaf-blindness, insure that families and professionals are aware of our resources and make information widely available and accessible.

Before DB-LINK, it was difficult to locate in-depth information about deaf-blindness. It was not a topic included in the disability information found in most education programs or libraries. The numbers of professionals and experts in the field are few and practices and research had no network for distribution. …

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