Overall Population Demographics
The total December 1, 2017 Deaf-Blind “Snap Shot” count increased to 10,000; a gain of 365 from 2016. Overall, the total number of children and youth served during the year also increased from 10,749 to 10,950.
While 1,163 children and youth exited from state and multi-state project eligibility, 1,380 were added through child find and referral efforts. This indicates an almost 25% turnover in the child counts of the states.
Newly identified children and youth spanned the full age range of birth through 21. Nearly half (48.8%) were birth through 5 years of age. Conversely, over half (55.4%) of the children and youth exiting the child count were ages 18 and over. Other than age, these newly identified individuals have demographics that are consistent with the overall population of children and youth who are deaf-blind.
The distribution of children/youth across age groups has remained relatively stable over the past five years. Since 2013, the number of children from birth to 2 years of age increased from 552 to 613 in 2017. Since 2013 the number of children aged 3 to 5 has increased only slightly, from 1,197 in 2013 to 1,222 in 2017. The number of children and youth aged 6 to 17 increased from 6,116 to 6,545. The number of those 18 years of age and older also increased from 1,561 to 1,621.
The overall distribution of children and youth by race and ethnicity continues to slowly evolve, reflecting broader population changes. The racial/ethnic makeup of the children and youth who are deaf-blind has remained fairly consistent over the past 5 years. There have been slight changes, but nothing significant. For example, the percentage of the population identified as white decreased from 54.4% to 53.6%. The percentage of the population identified as black or African American dipped slightly from 14.4% to 14.3%. The percentage identified as Latino or Hispanic showed a similar small dip from 20.4% to 19.6%. All of the other categories experienced small increases.
The racial/ethnic makeup of the children and youth on the National Deaf-Blind Child Count mirrors fairly well the overall US population. Generally, children and youth who are white are slightly under-represented, while children and youth who are Black/African American or Latino/Hispanic are slightly over-represented.
The distribution of children and youth by gender has remained very stable over time, with about 54% of children and youth being male and 46% female.
The apparent under-identification and referral to state and multi-state deaf-blind projects of very young infants and children remains an important issue. Infants and toddlers benefit greatly from having access to expertise in deaf-blindness. They require appropriate services that address the impacts of dual sensory impairments. Further, parents and families of these infants and toddlers can benefit from supports established within states. Without such early identification and referral to state and multi-state deaf-blind programs, access to needed services and supports is compromised.
Trends demonstrate that what has historically been one of the lowest incidence, yet most heterogeneous populations, continues to become even more so. As our nation’s population becomes more diverse ethnically, racially, culturally, and even linguistically, our national, state, and local systems must continue to adapt to provide effective services to these children and youth and their families.