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Communication and Learning Assessments

Communication and cognition are tightly intertwined. Understanding the world and one’s relationship to it, the essence of cognition, is not easily separated from the child’s communicative abilities. (Rowland, 2009, p. 5)

The assessment of communication and learning in children who are deafblind is typically quite extensive and involves considerable time to both plan and carry out.  

The assessment team should include an individual with expertise in assessing children who are deafblind. Key activities include:

  • Obtaining input from multiple people in a child's life, including all team members and the family
  • Using an "authentic" approach—gathering information about a child in their everyday environments and during routine activities  (e.g., classrooms, with family, during transitions, while receiving therapies) (Rowland, 2009)

Standardized assessments are not usually appropriate because children with deafblindness are not included in the populations on which the tests are based (Rowland, 2009).

See also: Approach to Assessment

Assessment involves gathering information about what is going on with a student. Matt Schultz talks about his role as both a teacher and an investigator of the student's perspective.

Offline Resources

Book: Sall, N., & Rikhye, C. (2022). Dimensions of communication: A manual to assess the communication skills and behaviors of individuals with disabilities. Council for Exceptional Children.

Book: Nelson, C., van Dijk, J., Oster, T., & McDonnell, A. (2009). Child-guided strategies: The van Dijk approach to assessment for understanding children and youth with sensory impairments and multiple disabilities. American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.

Book chapter: Crook, C., Miles, B., & Riggio, M. (1999). Assessment of communication. In B. Miles, & M. Riggio (Eds.), Remarkable conversations: A guide to development meaningful communication with children and young adults who are deafblind (pp. 94-123). Perkins School for the Blind.

Book chapter: Eyre, J. T. (2000). Holistic assessment. In S. Aitken, M. Buultjens, C. Clark, J. T. Eyre, & L. Pease (Eds.), Teaching children who are deafblind: Contact, communication, and learning (pp. 118-140). David Fulton Publishers.

Article: Bruce, S. M. (2010). Holistic communication profiles for children who are deaf-blind. AER Journal: Research and Practice in Visual Impairment and Blindness, 3(3), 106-114.


National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness. (2010). Authentic assessment

Rowland, C. (Ed.). (2009). Assessing communication and learning in young children who are deafblind or who have multiple disabilities. Design to Learn Projects, Oregon Health & Science University.


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