Services for Children & Youth with Dual Sensory Impairments

An adult man and a child with low vision practice ASL while reading a book about London.

Rhode Island Services to Children and Youth with Dual Sensory Impairments, also known as the DSI Project, is a federally funded grant coordinated by the Sherlock Center. The DSI Project is designed to provide technical assistance to educational teams and families who serve learners with deafblindness (birth to 22 years old) in Rhode Island. The DSI Project’s goals include: 

  • Collaborate with the medical, community and infant toddler services to identify children with dual sensory impairments early so services can be provided to the child and family. 
  • Provide training to families and service providers who work with children with dual sensory impairments. 
  • Provide family and self-advocacy support. 
  • Assist families and educational teams in accessing supports to maximize their child's independent living and help them prepare for times of transition. 
  • Maintain information on the Rhode Island census for the National Child Count. 

Dual Sensory Impairment Definition 
Dual Sensory Impairment, also referred to as deafblindness, is a condition in which the combination of hearing and visual losses in children and youth cause “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.” 34 CFR 300.8 (c) (2) 


How to Access Services

Who is eligible

Dual Sensory Impairment can be characterized as low vision to complete blindness along with a mild hearing loss to profound deafness. The combination of the two sensory losses makes it challenging to implement typical educational strategies and approaches into the student's IEP. Eligibility is determined by reviewing a child's medical records and talking with a child's family and/or educational team.  

The referral process

The first step in the eligibility process is to refer a child, birth to 22 years of age, to the DSI Project. It is essential that the referral form be complete and accurate. Once a child meets eligibility requirements, he or she becomes eligible for our services. If you know of a child who experiences both vision and hearing loss, we encourage you to contact our Project today. 
Through the DSI Project, family members of children with dual sensory impairments, as well as the child’s educational team, can access a variety of services at no cost. Services could include consultations, trainings, resource sharing and networking with other families. The DSI Project can connect you with other resources within the state and the nation. The Sherlock Center’s Lending Library has media you can check out for free on topics related to deafblindness and many other topics. Families and their school teams can also join the Sherlock Center’s mailing list to receive news and event announcements.  

To be referred to the DSI Project, the following information is needed: 

  • A release form from the referring organization signed by the child's parent or legal guardian. 
  • A completed referral form.
  • A vision evaluation must include information regarding the student's visual acuity (near and distance with correction), field limitation, general visual functioning, nystagmus, ocular motor functioning, date of onset for the vision condition and etiology. 
  • A hearing evaluation must include information regarding the student's degree of hearing loss, type of hearing loss, overall hearing functioning, auditory processing loss, date of onset for the hearing condition, etiology, any chronic condition that significantly interferes with the auditory learning mode and current hearing with correction (if necessary). 
  • An educational report (IEP or IFSP) for school-age children that documents important information such as: effective teaching strategies, student and family preferences, assessment results, levels of performance in all applicable areas, annual goals, services and accommodations (such as assistive technology, hearing aids, magnification, communication). 

Services we offer

The DSI Project provides support tailored to the individual needs of a child with dual sensory impairments, their family and/or the educational team as part of early intervention or school. 
Family Support 
Parents are often overwhelmed with the complexity of their child's life. Some parents benefit from identification of their child/s strengths, coordination of services and assistance during times of transition (such as entering a school program, changing classrooms, and moving into the adult world). This project supports each family throughout their child's education, and helps families make realistic decisions regarding their child's participation in current and future settings. 
Child Support 
Children with dual sensory impairments often require specialized communication systems that focus on a child's strongest sensory systems. This federal project works with the child, and those who support the child, to identify and use communication systems, mobility systems, learning styles, material and curriculum modification, and alternative assessment techniques. 
Professional Support 
Project staff provides the educational community with ongoing education through personal classroom contact, in-services for teachers and related staff and university courses within the Department of Special Education at Rhode Island College. The focus of professional support includes: 

  • The unique needs of children and youth with vision and hearing impairments. 

  • Techniques on the successful inclusion of students with dual sensory impairments in general education settings. 

  • Information and access to resources that support families and educators in the areas of recreation, communication, assessment and program planning. 


DSI Project staff

The Rhode Island DSI Project is located at the Sherlock Center on Disabilities at the Rhode Island College campus. You may contact project staff regarding referring a learner with dual sensory impairment or to request services, information or resources. 
For referral or technical assistance requests
Jennifer Carrier – Coordinator,  Low Incidence Disabilities 
Voicemail: 401-456-2835

Tiffany Newlin – Coordinator 
Voicemail: 401-456-1999, ext. 7301 

For fiscal/grant-specific issues 

Amy Grattan – Executive Director 
Phone: 401-456-8072 
Sue Dell – Professor 
Mailing address: 
Sherlock Center on Disabilities
Rhode Island College 
Dual Sensory Impairment Project 
600 Mt. Pleasant Ave. 
Providence, RI 02908 

Fax: 401-456-8150 

Dual-Sensory Impairment Resources

View all DSI resources
  • Online Resource

    ABC Flash Cards for Kids (Android)

    This app features ABC's on flash cards with a letter on the front and a picture on the back and includes seven types of games that help teach the English alphabet.

  • Online Resource

    Art of Glow (Android)

    In this free app, you can draw with colorful, animated glow particles on a black background. (You can change the speed; slower is best. Do not use with children who have seizures.)

  • Online Resource

    Art of Glow (iOS)

    In this free app, you can draw with colorful, animated glow particles on a black background. (You can change the speed; slower is best. Do not use with children who have seizures.)

  • Online Resource

    Awesome Xylophone (iOS)

    This app includes a touch-and-play xylophone. There is a small fee for this app.