Autism and Deafness: Guide

Joyce Sewell-Rutter and Stephanie Dawson | View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Autism and Deafness

This MESHGuide is for all those looking for, and needing, information on children and young people with a diagnosis of Autism and deafness.  Currently (2022), the limited information that exists is spread across many platforms.  This MESHGuide collects together, in one place, a range of informative documents and useful links for professionals and families.

Christina Borders (1DEI 2016) suggests that two language-impacting disabilities increase the need for strong evidenced-based practices but goes on to report 'a dearth of available resources and direction for teachers and professionals supporting comorbid deafness and ASD'.  It is hoped that the limited research and evidence based practice currently available and included in this MESHGuide will result in the triggering of further research into this important area.

The population of students with complex needs has doubled since 2004 (2Anne Pinney 2017).  This includes ‘children with complex forms of Autism [who] have more than doubled since 2004, to 57,615.’  Early diagnosis of deafness and Autism remains a challenge because both present in similar ways.  Teachers working with these students are not able to turn to a breadth of existing practice - this MESHGuide could help.  In turn their experience could add to the body of evidence based practice.

Given the small cohort and the individuality of each child/young person the way forward might be through Single Case Design (SCD) research (Wendel et al 2015).

Wendel, E, Cawthon Stephanie W, Jin Jin Ge, Beretas Natasha S.   Alignment of Single-Case Design Research with individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing with the what works clearinghouse standards for SCD Research   Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 2015, 103-114   permissions email:

By raising awareness, as the numbers of students increase, the authors hope to identify further reports and research to extend the information available.  They invite those of you working with deaf students on the autistic spectrum to use this MESHGuide, report back your experiences and add your own strategies which have effectively supported the learning and social development of your students.

1  Borders et al (2016)  A review of educational practices for deaf/hard of hearing students with comorbid Autism;  Deafness and Education International 2016 vol 18 no 4 p189-205)

Anne Pinney 2017  Understanding the needs of disabled children with complex needs or life-limiting conditions   Council for disabled children Report


This guide is one in a series of Deaf Education MESHGuides.