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The Value of Family Engagement: Identifying Unique Needs and Priorities of Families with Children Who Are Deaf-Blind


Because both vision and hearing are impacted, children identified with deaf-blindness require unique educational support and strategies in their home, school, and community. To help meet the continued need for evolution and adaptation of local, state, and national services for these individuals and their families, partnering as a deaf-blind technical assistance network is critical. This network includes the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) and state deaf-blind projects in every state and Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the Pacific Basin, and the Virgin Islands. The mission of this network is to assist families, educators, agencies, and organizations to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to help children who are deaf-blind learn, access the general education curriculum, and successfully transition to adult life.

Currently, state deaf-blind projects vary widely in the activities, staffing, and resources that they allocate to technical assistance for families. Additionally, states vary significantly in their demographics and numbers of children who are deaf-blind. As such, defining commonalities of support for all families’ needs, despite differences across state resources, is critical to providing equitable services and supports across the U.S. An essential part of these services is promoting family engagement, which focuses on facilitating increased parental involvement in education and transition opportunities as well as providing the training and information needed to partner productively with service providers (U.S. Department of Education, 2018).

Family engagement typically involves

  • Helping family members learn about deaf-blindness and acquire the skills needed to promote their child’s development
  • Bringing families together to share experiences and advice
  • Providing referrals to other resources


“Family members are the most important people on the educational team and in the life of a child or youth with deaf-blindness. They are the one consistent presence as children move from early intervention to school, and then transition to adult life. Educational settings change, and practitioners come and go, but the family is always there.” (National Center on Deaf-Blindness, n.d.).