Autism and Deafblindness

Autism and Deafblindness

April 13, 2021

Part 1: Why Deafblindness and Autism Can Look So Alike

Julie Maier and Maurice Belote, Educational Consultants from California Deaf-Blind Services, presented on why autism and deafblindness seem similar and how they are different. This presentation explains why some students with deafblindness may share some of the same features with autism. Julie and Maurice wrote an article on this topic that you may want to download.  



December 5, 2022

Part 2: Building Bridges Between Best Practices and Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Deafblindness

Julie Maier joined us to present a follow-up session on her and Maurice Belote’s April 2021 presentation which was based on an article they co-authored in 2014 (link above).

Julie started with a recap of the first presentation where she touched on key diagnostic features of ASD and some of the unusual visual and auditory characteristics that students with ASD that may have. These unusual visual and auditory characteristics often cause people to think the student has autism, not deafblindness. Julie then homed in on the key difference:  

Students with ASD have sensory processing differences while students with deafblindness have sensory systems that are not functioning properly. 

Because many people have experience and training in autism, they find it easier to explain behaviours and endorse interventions that were designed for students with autism. While many of those interventions may seem like a good fit, they may not address the unique visual and auditory needs that students with deafblindness require. It is important that students with deafblindness, whether they also have autism or not, receive interventions related to deafblindness and/or autism interventions that have been adapted for deafblindness.  

Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) are effective learning strategies supported by rigorous research and evidence that show they work with specific students. Julie strongly recommends that “practices and interventions selected for a learner are evidence-based and matched to that learner.” Most EBPs for students with deafblindness are still emerging and require further research. However, most of us in the field know that certain techniques work, and Julie encourages everyone to continue using best practices. If you choose an EBP that was designed for a student with autism, be sure that it can be adapted for your student with deafblindness’ unique visual and auditory differences. Watch Julie’s session (link in the title) for more on EBP that she recommends, as well as Part 1 (above) if you need a refresher.