Question #4
What assessments are available to determine the range of cognitive and developmental abilities with infants who are deaf-blind?




        DB-LINK, (1999, July). The National Information Clearinghouse on Children who are Deaf-Blind. [Online]. Available.

        Mar, H. (1996). Psychological evaluation of children who are deaf-blind: An overview with recommendations for practice. Monmouth, OR: U.S. Department of Education.

        McInnes, J. M., Treffry, J. A. (1982). Deaf-blind infants and children: A developmental guide. Toronto, Ont.: University of Toronto Press.

Synthesis of Information

Cognition is a term which refers to the development of a child’s intelligence or thinking processes. The word encompasses a variety of definitions, including: The ability to reason and solve problems; creativity and play; the concepts and ideas a child has about his or her world; and the ability to adapt to changes in his or her life. Cognition or learning is a developmental area which is greatly impacted by dual sensory impairment. Since perceptual interaction with the environment is necessary for normal cognitive growth, the child with deaf-blindness will not naturally develop learning skills such as object permanence. This child will also have difficulty learning about cause and effect, spatial relationships, and the properties of objects. Simple daily living skills will be difficult to master. He or she will not learn through imitation. For the child with deaf-blindness, that which is not taught or touched will not be learned (McInnes, 1982).

Many infants and toddlers who are deaf-blind are mistakenly identified as being severely developmentally handicapped because they have not been given the opportunity to interact with his or her environment or understand the results of those interactions. And in fact, their intellectual capacity may far exceed the limits indicated by their label.

Because children who are deaf-blind are so diverse in sensory capabilities, there is no "best" approach to assessing their cognitive abilities. However, all evaluation tools must be guided by pragmatic and relevant concerns; such as an individual’s ability to communicate, acquire new information, interact with others, carry out meaningful routines, and solve problems. There are many different assessment approaches:

Listed below, are various instruments used to assess infants and young children with visual impairments and multiple impairments. Some of the assessments have been used for assessing infants with special needs, but not extensively with deaf-blind infants:

Parents should have an active role in the assessment of their child. Parents can provide information and insights about their child that might not be observed within the limited time frame of an evaluation.


It seems, from all of the information I have read that children with dual sensory impairments possess unique challenges all unto themselves. Most of the developmental assessments are not specifically designed for this population. There needs to be extreme care taken when administering adaptive evaluations in order to accommodate any special needs the child may have, in turn allowing for as accurate a result as possible.

Regardless of the evaluation tool, it is more important that the classroom teacher, parent, or caregiver be able to interpret the results of either a psychological and/or developmental assessment. Adequate assessment, followed by a comprehensive intervention program, should lead to improvement in an infant’s use of residual senses for communication, cognitive, mobility, and social-emotional development.


        Linder, T. (1995). And you thought they were just playing: A transdisciplinary play-based assessment. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Pub. Co.

        Siegel-Causey, E.(1992). Assessing young children with dual sensory and multiple impairments: Ages birth to five. Columbus, OH: GLARCDB

        SKI*HI Institute. (1993). A resource manual for understanding and interacting with infants, toddlers, and preschool age children with deaf-blindness. Logan, U.T.: H.O.P.E., Inc.


Contact Information:

If you would like more information regarding this web site, or would like to make a comment, please contact me at the following email address:

[Return to the Main Page]