Congenital deafblindness

Congenitally deafblind is a term that describes any child who is born with a sight and hearing impairment or develops sight and hearing loss before they have developed language in their early years.

A child looking up at their own hand and smilingChildren who are born with vision and hearing impairments face a tough start. Exploring the world around them, finding a way to communicate their needs and learning to trust people can be difficult. Many children will also have other physical and learning disabilities to deal with.

The child’s perception of the world is different. Parents, family, and teachers have a role in supporting them to make sense of the world if they are to reach their full potential.

The child will need to use their other senses – touch, body awareness in space, balance, taste and smell – to access information which is more easily available to other children. This can delay development.

Communication and learning are significant challenges for children with deafblindness, and key concepts are often achieved later than might be expected. Developing an awareness of others, self-perception, and the impact of actions on others can all be affected.

This can often lead to a misdiagnosis of autism or a severe learning disability, when in fact the key factor impacting on learning is the combined sight and hearing loss.

First published: Tuesday 29 May 2012
Updated: Friday 23 January 2015