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Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities and Dual Sensory Loss


This report—the result of a collaboration between the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) and Accessible Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Systems (ATLAS)—fills a profound gap in our knowledge of school-age students who are deaf-blind and have significant cognitive disabilities.

It is based on an analysis of information on students eligible for statewide alternate assessments from the following two key datasets:

  • The National Child Count of Children and Youth Who Are Deaf-Blind – Demographic and other characteristics of children served by state deaf-blind projects
  • The First Contact Survey – Teacher-reported characteristics and skills of their students with significant cognitive disabilities enrolled to take the Dynamic Learning Maps® alternate assessments in 17 states

The report analyzes information from the two datasets where they overlap, and perhaps more significantly, provides statistics in areas where research has, historically, been quite limited, including

  • Receptive and expressive communication skills
  • Hand use
  • Attention to instruction
  • Academic skills in reading, writing, math, and science

The findings indicate that students who are deaf-blind face significant challenges in these areas. 


The report also includes information on the characteristics of students with cortical visual impairment (CVI), a condition that affects many students who are deaf-blind.

The findings provide essential information to help educators, technical assistance providers, researchers, and policymakers better understand the disparities faced by this population of students and address how to identify them as early as possible and provide instruction and services that promote their learning, skill development, and access to the general education curriculum.

PDF DocumentStudents with Significant Cognitive Disabilities and Dual Sensory LossPDF Document|2.8 MB
Young boy smiling.
Paul sitting on his mom's lap.
A woman and a young girl who is deaf-blind sit facing each other at a table on which there is an open book. The girl has her left hand on top of the woman's right hand.