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Initiative Background and Data Facts

National Child Count

Initiative Background and Data Facts

National Child Count

This page was last updated on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:42 am

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History and Value of the National Child Count 

Each year in December since 1986, state projects serving children who are deaf-blind have reported on children identified in their states. This annual National Child Count of Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind (birth–21) is the first and longest-running registry and knowledge base of children who are deaf-blind in the world. It represents a collaborative effort between NCDB, its predecessors, and each state deaf-blind project in the country, as well as projects funded in the Pacific Trust territories, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

The child count was initially requested by the U.S. Department of Education to examine the discrepancy between the state/multi-state deaf-blind project child counts and OSEP’s annual December 1 counts (Baldwin, 1993). It supplements OSEP’s Special Education Child Count, which counts children as deaf-blind only when deaf-blindness is their single disability. In contrast, the Deaf-Blind Child Count data includes children identified with only deaf-blindness as well as those with deaf-blindness and additional disabilities (Muller, 2006). This is an important distinction because nearly 90% of children and youth on the Deaf-Blind Child Count have one or more additional disabilities. Consequently, the majority are not identified as deaf-blind on OSEP’s Special Education Child Count.

The count serves as a common vehicle to identify trends and needs within the population and to develop local, state, regional, and national technical assistance initiatives to address these needs.

Data Facts 

Each year, every state deaf-blind project updates its annual census—providing information about new children who were identified over the course of the year, updating or confirming information on currently active children, and determining those who have exited special education or are no longer eligible to receive state project services. This information is incorporated into the annual count.

These annual updates always show a significant turnover in the children who are included in the report. In 2016, 1,265 were added and 1,203 were dropped. This represents 23% of the total number of children and youth served in the 54 states and territories.

Details about the 1,265 newly identified children:

  • They represented all but four states or territories.
  • Approximately half were five years of age or younger (47.9%). Specifically, 70 were less than 1 year of age; 134 were age 1; 125 were age 2; 89 were age 3; 79 were age 4; and 67 were age 5.
  • More than one quarter (28.5%) were elementary school age (6-11 years); 20.3% were middle or high school age (12-17 years); and 6.5% were age 18 or older.
  • They were generally representative of the broader population of children included on the national count in terms of race/ethnicity, etiology, documented hearing and vision loss, and additional disabilities. 

Over time, the addition of new children will reflect changes in the makeup of the population. Careful monitoring for changes can and should drive national and state efforts to better meet the needs of children and youth with deaf-blindness.


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