Once we have seen the definition and the main aspects of Deafblindness, we must talk about the main groups of the type of Deafblindness.
At this point, it is necessary to insist that practically no person deaf is equal to another. The combination of the age of onset, development or lack of language, sensory communication system impairment, whether or not there are other disabilities present, etc., all form a very unique cocktail for each person
Having said that, the age of onset is the usual criterion for establishing the type of Deafblindness of a person. The impact this variable has on learning opportunities and how to relate to the environment is decisive. There are two basic types of Deafblindness:
Congenital Deafblindness. Deafblindness comes from birth or before the acquisition of language.
Acquired deafness. Deafness is post-birth, regardless of age. It can occur from childhood to old age. In this group we include people:
- Deaf, some by birth, who later lose their sight.
Blindness, some from birth, which later lose hearing.
- Those who lose sight and hearing at the same time.
Deafblindness associated with aging. This comes to be a subgroup of acquirers that, with the prolongation of the life expectancy of the population becomes more and more manifest.
Type of Deafblindness: congenital
The main avenues of learning in childhood are observation and imitation. A child with congenital Deafblindness does not have the ability to develop language skills or to learn models of behaviour or relationships. He or she does not even understand the world around him or how he can relate to the objects that comprise him.
For a person who has never seen or never heard, the world is chaos where there is no possibility to understand what is happening or to anticipate what may happen. This sense of vulnerability produces a permanent situation of isolation and defensive behaviour that leads to rejecting the relationship with the environment. One such manifestation is the avoidance of physical contact, in what is called tactile defensiveness.
This isolation, both sensory and communicative, together with the difficulty of understanding and being understood, often leads to behaviour problems that, if left unattended, can lead to difficulties in social acceptance.
The degree of dependence of a person with congenital Deafblindness is high, since they have impaired motor skills, orientation, balance, adaptation to day / night cycles, etc. Without proper intervention the concept of the world of these people ends up in their own body which becomes their safety zone.
These cases pose individual and specific needs for communication, motor, social and emotional development that require the intervention of a multidisciplinary professional team.
Type of Deafblindness: acquired
A person with acquired Deafblindness has a certain knowledge of the world, more or less depending on the age of appearance, which means that, in principle, it can adapt to the environment.
With the appropriate accessibility, the learning of complementary forms of communication and the help of certain devices, they will be able to assume the activities of daily life in a relatively independent way.
The communication system of a person with deafness acquired varies depending on each case. Even so, they will still need the support of a guide-interpreter or mediator in communicative situations, and a guide on journeys. It is for this reason that we do not stop considering them as a dependent person.
Another important factor is the emotional process of adaptation to the new situation. Losing autonomy and being aware of this is emotionally painful, and many people with acquired Deafblindness go through a process of mourning and anguish in knowing themselves in the path of dependence.
Their perception of the loss of autonomy, coupled with the lack of leisure options and social participation, entails a risk of depression and isolation that must be professionally accompanied.
Type of Deafblindness: associated with aging
We talked before about the deafblindness associated with aging. We all know about or have a grandfather or grandmother with hearing problems, who speaks louder than before, who puts the TV on louder. The same goes with the eyes: the glasses are not entirely useful, it can be degenerative, darkness is disorientating, etc.
Both combined losses can represent a case of Deafblindness if there is an important impact on the abilities of daily life. If, because of not seeing and not feeling well enough, the person begins to isolate themselves, to stop doing the usual things such as shopping, cooking, reading, going to the cinema, etc., then we may face a case of Deafblindness. In addition, if the person is unable to carry on a straightforward conversation, has difficulty orienting himself / herself, and needs help with basic activities, such as washing and moving around regular places, a review in this regard is needed.
This is the fastest growing group of deaf people. It is also the most disregarded because everyone considers it “normal” that older people have vision and hearing problems. However, this must change and one must insist that appropriate assessments be made within this group as well.
Factors to take into account
The collective of Deafblind people is extremely diverse. Each case is different and unique. The combination of the main factors that describe how deafblindness is, in addition to the age of onset, are:
- Types of visual and auditory loss. It is different to be totally blind and have auditory functions remaining, to be totally deaf and have visual remnants or to have remnants of both directions. They vary in the type of skills and type of help needed. The type of subtraction available also determines: The visual debris that leaves a cataract is different from that left by pigmentary retinosis, for example.
- Disabilities and added medical problems. There are usually added difficulties in cases of congenital Deafblindness. In these cases, the presence of medical complications and physical or intellectual disability is common.
There are also contextual factors that play an important role in the prognosis of a person with Deafblindness:
- If there has been a diagnosis with early intervention
- The availability of family resources
- The suitability of professionals
- The suitability of the centers
- The existence of a long-term intervention program that accompanies the person and helps them to develop as many competencies as possible
To learn more about the types of Deafblindness, see the Deafblindness Guide and Reference Manual.