About Guidance for Planning Behavior Intervention for Children and Young Adults who are Deafblind or have Visual and Multiple Impairments

From the Authors

This content was developed by Matt Schultz, Deafblind Education Consultant, Kate Moss Hurst, Deafblind Education Consultant, Lynne McAlister, VI Education Consultant, and Deanna Peterson, Deafblind Education Consultant. Our original focus when creating this document was on students who are deafblind and have very limited or only emerging language. Over time we recognized that the content also has application to all children who are deafblind or visually and multiply impaired, even those with more advanced language skills. We hope to shift the viewpoint of educators and others from viewing these children as having “behavior problems” to recognizing they are children in distress.

A young girl who is deafblind hugs her knees to her chest and buries her head; these are behaviors that many indicate she is experiencing distress.
A young girl who is deafblind hugs her knees to her chest and buries her head; these are behaviors that many indicate she is experiencing distress.

Children who are deafblind or have visual and multiple impairments pose unique challenges to the educators who work with them because of their unique learning style resulting from reduced or missing access to information through vision and hearing. This is especially true if the child has limited communication skills, has always had limited vision and/or hearing, and experiences additional disabilities or medical issues. Frequently the way these children behave in response to this lack of information is interpreted as intentional “bad behavior”. In fact, these troublesome behaviors are a natural response to stress caused by feelings of fear and confusion. Science is only beginning to show us what impact stress has on all human development and functioning. We want to ask educators working with these children to reframe their thinking about behavior these children may exhibit and see a child in distress rather than a child who is willfully “acting out”.

Goal 1 Information about Key Components of Programming

In this booklet, we hope to provide information for educators and others that will help in developing proactive strategies in programming to reduce the amount of stress the child might experience. We believe that appropriate programming does reduce stress and helps to develop children who are eager to learn and participate with others. The first portion of this booklet discusses key components of programming for students who are deafblind or visually and multiply impaired that supports the child in becoming more resilient and competent interacting with others and the world. This book addresses those students with the most severe challenges, though most of these strategies are also beneficial for students who are more advanced communicators with fewer additional challenges.

Goal 2 Responsive Strategies to Address Distress

We also know that sometimes a child comes to a program already in a highly distressed state. Even programming that utilizes these proactive strategies isn’t always enough to meet their needs. Our second goal, therefore, is to also provide responsive strategies for the most fragile children by guiding teams in the development of behavior intervention plans specifically for children who are deafblind or have visual and multiple impairments. The second portion of the booklet contains forms to use in the process of developing an appropriate plan for intervention when behavioral challenges occur.


These forms contain a series of questions the team may want to consider in evaluating current programming for the child. It also contains questions to guide the team in developing a full profile of various factors that might contribute to the child’s overall functioning. We also include forms to use for collecting data on specific problematic behaviors and finalizing the Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). Your team may choose to use only part of these forms since your district may have specific documents they prefer to use.  More important than the form is considering all of these factors whenever you are developing Behavior Intervention Plans for a child who is deafblind or has visual and multiple impairments.

Our Thanks

We would like to thank our colleagues at Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired for their help in developing this document. We would especially like to thank David Wiley, Mari Hubig and Theresa Johnson for their contributions to this document. We would also like to thank the parents, colleagues and our Outreach team members for their support in reviewing and editing this document. We are deeply indebted to the students who are deafblind or visually and multiply impaired who have taught us so much about how to provide appropriate supports that help a child develop resiliency to overcome the stressors they endure.