Department of Education, Office of Special Education Grant
State Technical Assistance Project to Improve Services and Results for Children Who Are Deaf-Blind (CFDA 84.326T)
Children with DeafBlindness in Texas live in a vast state with a rapidly growing population. Over five million children are educated in 1,023 LEAs and 180 charters at 8,771 campuses, with the second-largest elementary and secondary school enrollment in the country (TEA, 2018). There are challenges in educating children from diverse cultures – 52.4% Hispanic, 28.1% White, 12.6% African-American, and 6.9% from other or multiple cultural backgrounds. Nearly 60% of students in the state are economically disadvantaged (TEA, 2018). Texas experienced the greatest in-migration in the US between 2010 and 2016, with the 2nd largest increase in growth of the under-18 population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017). Population growth has been centered in urban areas; Texas is now home to six of the top 20 cities in the US by population (Infoplease, 2018). While urban areas are growing, there are significant rural regions, with over 80% of the districts enrolling fewer than 3000 students and over 200 districts serving under 500 total students (TEA, 2018). Texas has a long southern border area, with 14 counties directly bordering Mexico.
Scattered widely in 260 school districts are 736 children and young adults identified on the 2018 Texas DeafBlind Child Count. This is the second largest DeafBlind student count in the country, representing over 7% of students with DeafBlindness reported nationally (NCDB, 2016). Etiologies of these students’ dual sensory impairments vary tremendously. Each student has unique, complex and intensive needs that impact every aspect of development and learning. Texas Child Count data indicates that over 81% have identified disabilities in addition to the visual and auditory impairments. While in the past these students were served in a small number of specialized settings, 96% of students are currently served in their local districts and 98% are living at home. Over one third are educated in districts that have three or fewer students who are DeafBlind.
Local districts must have access to evidence-based expertise, training and technical assistance to promote academic achievement and improved school outcome results (Ferrell et al., 2014). Because of the geographical breadth of Texas and limited number of specialists with knowledge and skills in educating students who are DeafBlind, most family members and other IEP team members do not have ready access to experts in this disability area. The uniqueness of individualized supports, the distance between children, the scarcity of experts in DeafBlindness, and limited availability of public and private resources all create barriers to quality services and technical assistance (TA).
For these reasons, the Texas Deafblind Project was awarded funding through a State Technical Assistance Project to Improve Services and Results for Children Who Are Deaf-Blind (CFDA 84.326T) from the U. S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Funding is granted to Texas Education Agency who subcontracts with Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired Outreach Programs to provide services.
The five-year grant focuses on these specific initiatives:
Goal 1: Students who are DeafBlind will receive improved educational programming through provision of evidence-based TA.
Goal 2: Increase early identification and referral of children who are DeafBlind for appropriate services and supports.
Goal 3: Expand the use of high-quality practices to facilitate developing communication, social interaction, literacy, and numeracy for children who are DeafBlind.
Goal 4: Educational teams and systems for community support will use evidence-based transition practices to improve post-school outcomes for students who are DeafBlind.
Goal 5: Families of individuals who are DeafBlind are engaged with and empowered to create positive change within their families, communities, and systems.
Goal 6: Needs for all Texas students who are DeafBlind will be identified through an annual Child Count including disability and demographic information and trends.
Goal 7: Texas will have a system that recognizes, trains, and certifies qualified personnel working with students who are DeafBlind.
This project is supported by the U. S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the U. S. Department of Education.