To understand the characteristics & attributes
associated with sensory impairments & our
role as educators in assisting the students in
their educational process.
Text : Special Education for Today’s Teachers, Rosenberg, Westling, McLeskey, 2008
Topics To Be Covered
What are the 3 main sensory impairments?
How common are those sensory impairments?
Where & how are students with sensory impairments
What are the unique challenges they represent?
How do sensory impairments affect learning?
What are the basic strategies to teaching
students with sensory impairments?
Major Overriding Point
Sensory impairments alone do
NOT impact a students cognitive
skills; they just affect how they
acquire information. (pg 353)
Additional Educator Challenge
Be able to distinguish between learning
challenges caused by a lack of sensory input &
those attributable to other learning disabilities &
handicaps. (pg 354)
Sensory impairments are disabilities that
affect how a person acquires information.
The goal of the educator is to assist the
student in attaining the information they
need for their education through various
means. (pg 349)
3 Sensory Impairment Categories
Blind or Visually Impaired
Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Statistics & Background
Of total US population about 10 million persons are blind or visually
impaired & 42 million are deaf or hard of hearing.
Approximately half are over 60.
Among children between 0-12 about 82,000 are blind or visually
impaired, 150,000 are deaf or hard of hearing & about 11,000 are
Children with sensory impairments are taught either in a specialized
school or in a general school setting with aid depending upon the
severity of the impairment. (pg 357)
Deaf: Literacy affects educational & employment opportunities.
About 1/3rd of adults with profound hearing loss get some type of
government assistance. Their average income is 40-60% of their
hearing counterparts. About 30% leave high school functionally
illiterate. (pg 369)
Blind: Only 42% of blind adults ever marry & only 32-46% are
Deaf-blind: Few have jobs because they have other disabilities plus
many problems interacting with others.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing
What’s the difference?
A profound or total loss of hearing that prevents a person
from processing linguistic information even with
A mild to moderate loss of hearing whether
permanent or fluctuating that adversely
affects a child’s educational performance.
In a nutshell: the more severe hearing loss is defined as deafness while less
severe hearing loss is defined as hearing impairment.
Deaf/Hard of Hearing
Goal is to start language development in the
critical first 3 years of life.
Screening begins at the hospital.
Early intervention services focus on providing
the family with support &
Personal Note—Both our sons started services at 6 months &
were fitted for hearing aids at 18 months.
Deaf/Hard of Hearing
Literacy remains a strong focus.
Sadly literacy rates for deaf/hard of hearing are
About 30% leave high school functionally
The average reading level for 18 year old
students who are deaf/hard of hearing is between
3rd & 4th grade. (pg 369)
The focus on literacy may cause work skill
development to be left behind. (pg 370)
Terminology: Hearing Loss
Degree of hearing loss is expressed in decibels (dB).
Normal (0-20 dB)
Mild (20-40 dB)
Moderate (40-60 dB)
Severe (60-80 dB)
Type of Hearing Loss: describes the point in the auditory
system where the loss is occurring.
Conductive Loss: in the outer &/or middle ear
Sensorineural Loss: cochlea, inner ear, or 8th cranial nerve
Combination Loss: both conductive & sensorineural
Configuration of Hearing Loss: a bilateral or unilateral loss, or if
different frequencies are affected differently (slope)
This audiogram shows the sounds & where they would
be represented on an audiogram.
The yellow banana shaped figure represents all the
sounds that make up the
human voice when speaking at normal conversational
Audiograms: My son's
Taken 3/03/08 with new $1400 hearing
Test done on 12/06/07. Notice the
aids. Notice that now with new aids
graph on the left shows that even
correction is now over the threshold.
with aids hearing falls below
Major Issues of Hearing Loss
Even a mild hearing loss can affect learning.
Example: a student might have trouble understanding a teacher
if the teachers back is turned or a student may have a hearing
loss in only one ear.
Issues that must be checked through an audiologist include
the level of loudness required & ones ability to recognize
words at a certain volume.
Deaf & hard of hearing persons have the cognitive ability to
become proficient readers & expressive writers, this ability is
often hampered by delays in language development. (pg 354)
They can learn language through ASL, signed English, or
learning to master spoken language. Example-students can
learn to lip read & speak clearly.
The learning process of students who are deaf or hard of
hearing can be enhanced through use of visual teaching aids
such as pictures, graphic organizers, posters, or
demonstrations. (pg 355)
Extensive focus on literacy skills is a top priority for
teachers of the students who are deaf & hard of hearing!
People should not assume that because information is
printed that a Deaf person is literate. (pg 365)
Many people believe making something available in
writing makes that information accessible for individuals
who are deaf or hard of hearing. These common
adaptations such as closed captioning, text messaging &
TDD/TTY are only effective if individuals are literate.
Teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing are
trained to provide literacy instruction in cooperation
with their content instruction. (pg 366)
The “Deaf” (with a capital D) pg 351
They share a common means of communication
(like ASL) that provides a basis for group identity.
Share a common language (ASL) & culture.
Primary means of relating to the world is all through
Deaf Culture & Community
About 50% of deafness is genetic. Therefore, deaf
persons have created a separate group identity.
Some deaf do NOT want deafness to be even
classified as a disability & may even find it insulting.
Schools for the Deaf
The Deaf community views residential or self-contained
programs as a vital link to the transmission of Deaf culture &
language because children are immersed in an environment rich
in communication that is accessible to all.
Example – In a regular classroom with hearing children the Deaf
child only “hears” what an interpreter tells them. Children who
attend Deaf schools also can be around Deaf role models. (pg 351)
School districts take over the responsibility at
age 3 from Infant-Toddler.
Goal in the classroom setting is to increase
Elementary & Middle School Programs
Deaf/Hard of Hearing
Students who are in a general educational setting often receive
services through consultants who come in periodically & meet
with students & teachers. They will support the student in
accessing the general education curriculum & possibly tutoring
of specialized skills. (pg 364)
Students in the general educational setting will often have an
Teachers who have a deaf/hard of hearing student may need to
use more visual aids & make sure the student has no gaps in
Classroom amplification systems are often used.
(note-our sons teachers were all provided with sound systems.)
About 15% of students who are deaf or hard of
hearing attend school at a separate facility
These schools are taught ASL and deaf culture
as well as facets of hearing culture & English.
Kansas School for the Deaf (KSD)
Olathe, KS is home to the Kansas School for the Deaf,
the Kansas Deaf Cultural Center & Deaf Museum.
Various businesses accommodate the large deaf
The McDonalds across from KSD has a touch screen
The AMC theatre has captioned movies.
WalMart has certain employees where badges signifying they
Blind & Visually Impaired
Definition: Impairment in vision that even with correction,
adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
Note: if you wear glasses & they correct your vision--you are
not visually impaired.
Not to be confused with the term “Legal Blindness”
“Legal blindness” is a level of visual acuity used to determine
eligibility for various benefits.
Example--Government assistance, transportation.
Some Technical Terms
How clearly a person sees at a specific distance.
The area one can see without turning their head. Same as
Identification between 0-3 years.
Early intervention programs are designed to help infants and
children who are blind or visually impaired achieve early
milestones & being learning basic concepts. (pg 363)
Special preschools are designed to specifically address the
sensory needs. (pg 363). (example--Childrens TLC in Kansas City, MO)
Teaching Strategies: Visually Impaired
For students with visual impairments can include
worksheets with larger print & magnifying devices.
For Blind the most common strategy is to convey
information either in an AUDITORY or TACTILE
Method of conveying visual information through
Examples include giving verbal descriptions of the
environment & using audio books.
Allowing students to explore objects through touch
such as using models.
Orientation & mobility specialists teach
students to recognize auditory cues, physical
& even olfactory cues to maneuver
independently though the environment.
A 6 dot code used to represent text in a tactile
format (pg 355)
Assistive technology can include Braille keyboards
& Braille computer screens.
Text to speech software
Text & graphic magnifiers
Trekker is a GPS system for the blind & visually
impaired that uses GPS & digital maps to help blind
persons find their way in urban & rural areas.
Few blind kids attend schools for the blind & those
that do, do so mostly because they have other
disabilities. Some students only attend for short
times like an intense Braille instruction. (pg368)
Social Development for Sensory
Students with impairments miss out on “incidental
learning opportunities”. Also must be given
instruction on social norms & behaviors. Restrictive
settings often impede this. (pg 356)
Example—A blind person might not know that
picking ones nose is not acceptable.
Participation in groups, clubs & community classes
can often be an easier way to provide structure to the
development of social relationships. (pg 357)
Identified between ages 0-3.
Most toddlers learn through by watching
others, visual cues, or exploring their
Special preschools (example – Childrens TLC in
Kansas City, MO) all have specific aspects to be
effective. (page 363).
Trend is low levels of self determination.
Only 42% are ever married & 32% are
There is strong need for more emphasis
on career development. (pg 370)
A major fallacy of teachers of the blind/visually
impaired students is that their “materials” just
need to be in Braille or enlarged print. Reality is
these students miss out on what the “sighted”
take for granted: visual cues, demonstrations,
metaphors w/o experiences & other incidental
learning… (pg 366)
Consultants can work with the general
educators to incorporate simple strategies for
Strategies for the General
Provide opportunities for tactile exploration.
Allow space for adaptive/assistive equipment.
Example-- include text readers or magnifiers.
Give verbal descriptions of visual information.
Learn details about the implications of vision loss for the
student. Example--change the colors used on papers & bulletin boards or
Allow the student to indicate their preferred seating.
Residential Services: Blind
About 13% of students who are blind or visually
impaired receive their full instruction at separate
facilities . Example--Kansas State School for the
Blind in Kansas City, KS.
Most have other learning disabilities in addition
to their visual impairment or they may attend
only for a short term to learn specific skills. (pg 368)
Note: KSB 2007 enrollment had approx. 65 K-12 students.
About 63% of students classified as deaf-blind have
other intellectual disabilities.
Face increased learning challenges because reduced
from 5 senses to 3.
Students who are deaf-blind often require individualized
instruction for nearly all areas of learning. (pg 370)
Have few options partly because of other
disabilities & limited life experiences.
The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-
Blind Youths & Adults (HKNC) in New York
is devoted to developing job skills. They claim
a 50% employment rate for graduates of their
program. (pg 371)
Transition: School to Adult Life
This can be the most critical period in the life of
ANY young person. For a student with sensory
disabilities the process may present several
obstacles. (pg 369)
Planning & Preparing
Implications for the Teacher
So what--does this mean to me?
Teachers of students with sensory impairments have a
rewarding & challenging career.
Main role is to provide direct services to students.
Spend additional time consulting with other teachers,
adapting curriculum materials, accommodating lesson
plans, & completing paperwork.
Work with a wide variety
of students in age, grade
&ability level. (pg 371)