About Us

The terms deafblind, MSI (multi-sensory impaired), and dual-sensory impaired are often used interchangeably in this field. Internationally, the preferred term is deafblind. In the UK the tendency is to use MSI. In Wandsworth we use deafblind/MSI

A child who has both a hearing impairment and visual impairment is impaired in their ability to access the world at the most basic level. With compromised information through distorted ‘Distance Senses’ the child is in a uniquely difficult position. This will affect their ability to access and understand their world. Such a child's sphere of experience is very small; they could be described as being ‘in a bubble’. The impact of deafblindness will be felt in the child’s relationships, motivation, mobility, learning styles and communication.

Our understanding of the impact of deafblindness gives us a duty of care to assess the children and provide an education best tailored to their needs but there is also a statutory duty at a governmental level in the Deafblind Guidance (issued by the Department of Health in 2009.)

Historically in Wandsworth, having two well-established schools for children with visual impairment (Linden Lodge) and hearing impairment (Oak Lodge) and two leading Sensory Support Services (Hearing Support & Vision Support) meant that there was likely to be a larger than average group of children with combined losses. With the formation of Wandsworth Sensory Support Service, informal joint working between the two services led to the development of the deafblind Service.

Part of the Team around the Child

In order to raise awareness of the needs of children who are Deafblind, the Service has for many years, run a six monthly special interest group with representatives from all the professions who work with these children within the Borough. As well as ensuring better inter-disciplinary links, this has provided a forum for raising awareness of the very special needs of these children and a focus on training and on-going development.

Helen Keller, (who was left Deafblind by meningitis as a young child) described herself in the period between her illness and before she met the teacher (Annie Sullivan) who would eventually led her back to having contact with the hearing-sighted world as ‘Phantom’. She was a ghost of the person she would later come to be. It was only through good teaching that she became Helen. Whilst most of our children will, unlike Helen, have been born with Deafblindness and may have other profound and complex additional difficulties, ensuring that they are well assessed, given suitable educational programmes and on-going planning and development as part of an interdisciplinary team, is the best way to ensure that they can each achieve their true potential as well.

The Service

In other boroughs Deafblind children may have, at worst received no specialist input at all, or they may have had a Sense Family Education Advisory Service (FEAS) individual assessment. There is a charge for this.  In Wandsworth, we have a former member of the Sense FEAS team who undertakes assessments of Deafblind children to evaluate their needs, provide input into individual programmes, suggest ideas for working and help plan for future input.

The child who is Deafblind will find accessing the environment very difficult which will affect all parts of their education. They need trained 1:1 workers who can enable them to do so. Such workers are called Intervenors and in Wandsworth we now have a large number of specialist support staff who have undertaken this training and are building a pool of experience.

The Deafblind Service supports and develops these staff professionally. In the rest of the country where there are such staff (and they are not common) there is very little on-going training and professional development; this is an area in which we are taking a lead.

Every child in the borough who has an educationally significant level of hearing and vision loss will have access to the Deafblind Service. Other children may be supported through their peripatetic teachers and information trickled down through them to other ‘hands-on’ staff.  For more information on how we can help please contact us at info@wandsworthhis.org.uk