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Initiative Background and Data Facts

Interveners and Qualified Personnel

Initiative Background and Data Facts

Interveners and Qualified Personnel

This page was last updated on Feb 20, 2018 at 9:39 am



This document, Qualified Personnel for Children with Low-Incidence Disabilities: Focus on Deaf-Blindness, describes the history of the Intervener and Qualified Personnel Initiative beginning in 2011 with the development of recommendations to improve intervener services. It also describes progress made in recent years to promote the role of teachers of students who are deaf-blind.

Data Facts 

Needs assessments conducted by NCDB in 2017 found that having qualified personnel (early interventionists, teachers, related service providers, paraeducators, and interveners) for children and youth with deaf-blindness, is a top priority for families and state deaf-blind projects. Personnel with the expertise to serve a diverse population of children with deaf-blindness are needed in a variety of settings.

The summary below is based on data from the National Child Count of Children and Youth Who Are Deaf-Blind.


While deaf-blindness represents the lowest of the low-incidence populations, it is also incredibly diverse. On one end of the spectrum are those with low vision, mild hearing loss, and no additional disabilities. On the other are those who are totally blind, have a profound hearing loss, and three or more additional disabilities. These two extremes each make up less than 1% of the population. More than 98% fall somewhere in between.

Deaf-blindness is due to a wide variety of causes, each with their own unique symptoms and characteristics. 

  • Hereditary/chromosomal syndromes and disorders, including (most commonly): 
    • CHARGE Syndrome
    • Down Syndrome
    • Usher Syndrome (I,II, III)
    • Stickler Syndrome 
    • Goldenhar Syndrome
  • Pre-natal/congenital complications including: 
    • Cytomegalovirus
    • Microcephaly
    • Hydrocephaly
  • Post-natal/non-congenital complication including: 
    • Asphyxia
    • Meningitis
    • Severe head injury
    • Complications from prematurity (the single most common cause of deaf-blindness in children)

Given the complexity of many of these conditions, it is not surprising that most children with deaf-blindness have one or more disabilities in addition to hearing and vision loss:

  • 55-60% have a physical disability 
  • 65-70% have a cognitive disability 
  • 40-50% have complex healthcare needs

Educational Setting

Children with deaf-blindness are served in a variety of settings, as indicated by data on 9,635 children (aged birth through 21) represented in the 2016 National Child Count: 

  • At home—the setting for almost all infants and toddlers and a small number of older children and youth
  • Inclusive early childhood or school-age settings, where the majority (57.3%) of children are served some portion of the day 
  • Non-inclusive settings such as separate classrooms, schools, residential settings, or private schools (approximately 25% of children)
  • Medical settings (a small number of children)


Over 700 children and youth are known to be receiving intervener services. Individuals providing these services have a variety of levels of experience and training. Intervener services are provided to children:

  • Across the age range from infants to young adults 
  • With varying degrees of vision and hearing loss 
  • With and without additional disabilities
  • In a variety of educational settings 
  • Who have a range of academic abilities as defined by participation in state assessments (from regular grade-level assessments without accommodations to assessments with modified standards)

Although intervener services are present for at least some children in most states and territories (38 out of 54), they are not yet universally available and there is unevenness in the distribution of services. For example:

  • 24.1% of children receiving intervener services have CHARGE Syndrome, but only 9.6% of children on the child count have CHARGE Syndrome listed as their etiology
  • 65.9% receiving intervener services are white, but only 53.6% of the children on the child count are white

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