The annual National Deafblind Child Count is the world’s first and longest-running count of children who are deafblind. Begun in 1986 on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, it represents a collaborative effort between the National Center on Deafblindness (NCDB) and state deafblind projects throughout the country, including those in the Pacific Trust territories, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

The annual child count helps identify state and national technical assistance needs for children who are deafblind, their families, and the providers and systems that serve them.

Data Collection

Each year, state deafblind projects capture a point-in-time count of the number of children eligible for project services on December 1 as well as information about the special education services those children receive under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B or C.

  • IDEA Part C covers early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities.
  • IDEA Part B covers children and youth ages 3–21.

The official count used in this report is the number of children eligible for state deafblind project services on December 1.

NCDB provides technical assistance to the state projects to help them conduct their counts and compiles the data into this national report.

The Importance of an Accurate Count

The number of children identified as deafblind in the National Deafblind Child Count and the total included in the IDEA Part B child count are often vastly different. In 2022, 9,895 children and youth were identified with deafblindness (ages 3–21) according to the National Deafblind Child Count, while only 1,650 were identified in IDEA’s 2021–2022 school year Part B count (U.S. Department of Education, 2022).

This discrepancy occurs because the National Deafblind Child Count includes children whose sole disability is deafblindness as well as those with additional disabilities. In contrast, IDEA Part B reporting regulations instruct states to count children only when a child has deafness and blindness and no other disabilities.

Over the years, under-identifying or under-counting children who are deafblind has been a consistent problem. Accurately identifying all children who are deafblind is essential so they can begin receiving specialized services and supports that are critical to early development and learning (Herbster, 2015; Müller, 2006; Purvis & Schalock, 2014).

Overview of Deafblindness

Deafblindness is defined in IDEA regulations as

Concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.

This is a common definition of deafblindness used by state deafblind projects, but they have the discretion to establish additional criteria for their services.

The population of children who are deafblind is one of the smallest yet most diverse groups of children receiving early intervention and special education services. In addition to deafblindness, many children also have physical or cognitive disabilities, complex medical needs, and/or behavior challenges.

Understanding the Report Data

The National Deafblind Child Count includes data to help inform state and national technical assistance services and initiatives. This includes information on

  • Gender
  • Etiology
  • Documented Vision Loss
  • Cortical Visual Impairment
  • Documented Hearing Loss
  • Central Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Auditory Neuropathy
  • Cochlear Implants
  • Other Impairments or Conditions
  • Living Setting
  • Intervener Services
  • Use of Corrective Lenses, Listening Devices, and/or Assistive Technology
  • Primary Language in the Home (Optional Reporting)

The report also includes the following data elements, which are consistent with those used in IDEA Part B and C child counts regarding all children receiving special education services:

  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Part B and C Category Codes
  • Early Intervention Setting (Birth–2)
  • Educational Environment (3–5 and 6–21)
  • Participation in Statewide Assessments
  • Part C Exiting Status (Birth–2)
  • Part B Exiting Status (3–21)

Data Considerations

The method used to calculate the December 1 count total was changed in 2021. Previously, it was based on the number of children who were eligible for state deafblind project services and receiving IDEA Part B or C services on December 1. Now, it is solely the number of children who were eligible for state deafblind project services on December 1. The criteria for receiving IDEA services was removed because it excluded some children from the report, such as those who were on 504 Plans or who had exited school but were not yet 21 and were still receiving transition services. Due to this change, trend data cannot be generated using totals from past reports. Contact NCDB for assistance obtaining data for trend reports or analysis.

In 2020, modifications were made to several child count reporting elements (e.g., gender, educational settings). A clear understanding of these changes is important for anyone doing analyses that involve more than one year of data. Notes on the 2020 changes are included in relevant sections of this report. For additional information, see