ASL Lessons | Bookstore | Library | ASL University Main ►

DeafPlus: Interventions and Accommodations:

Samantha Flickinger

October 12th, 2022

What does it mean to be Deaf plus? Deaf plus is a term used for individuals who are not only Deaf or Hard of Hearing but have other diagnoses, as well. This can include autism and intellectual disability (ID) but is not limited to these specific disabilities. For students who are Deaf plus, it is imperative during their schooling that they receive the accommodations and interventions necessary to help the student reach their academic potential. Without academic interventions being utilized, students may not understand what is going on in the class or be able process the material. Every student has different academic challenges and needs, which means interventions vary and need to be individualized for every student.

While there is a high need for interventions/accommodations to be used, there has not been much research done on specific interventions for students, who are Deaf plus. In my experience as a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TODHH), who works with students that are identified as Deaf plus, you go through many phases of trial and error to find what works best for each student individually. According to Bradley, et al, “...we’re making the most of the situation by blending common sense, proven teaching strategies for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, and the expertise of a variety of other educational fields.” (Bradley, et al., 2008, p. 18). An intervention that can be useful to help gain and maintain communication skills are alternative and augmentative communication devices (AAC devices) or Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS). Another intervention that many students who are Deaf plus may need are social skills training. Students who are Deaf plus can struggle with understanding social cues and boundaries. Both of these interventions are things that are used daily in my classroom and are extremely beneficial for my students.

The first intervention for students who are Deaf plus that can be extremely useful is having an AAC device or using PECS. An AAC device can range in complexity, for example, some AAC devices utilize technology while some utilize objects, picture cards, etc. These devices are especially helpful for students that have trouble with gaining language skills. For example, one of the students I work with utilizes an AAC device to be able to expand on what they are talking about or asking for. This particular student can form some signs but struggles making the correct formation and only communicates using one word sentences when signing, so the AAC device allows them to request items they may not be able to sign or allows them to build sentences. PECS can be utilized as a way for students to quickly express their wants and needs. Students who are deaf plus, can have a difficult time learning and retaining ASL knowledge and skills or may have difficulty physically forming the sign. According to Nelson and Bruce, “Sign language frequently plays an important role in communication in children with DHH-ID, however, important considerations when teaching sign language are degree of ID, short-term memory skills, ability to physically form signs, and the environment.” (Bruce & Nelson, 2019, p. 10). This shows just some of the many factors that can contribute to why a student would need to utilize such devices.

Another intervention that is important is social skill training. According to Hyte, “...appropriate behaviors are explicitly taught and practiced; it is not assumed that students know socially appropriate behaviors…” (Hyte, 2017, p. 77). The students in my classroom are not only Deaf plus, but also have behaviors, so social skills training is worked on daily. The social skills that are worked on differ between each student and their specific needs. For example, I have two students in my classroom and one needs to develop an understanding of social boundaries, while the other student needs to work on calming skills and managing behaviors. Working on social skills is embedded daily into classes and other activities, whether it be indirectly working on them or explicitly practicing them. Social skills can be taught by breaking the skills down into manageable steps for the student to practice and by reading social stories that correlate. Each student has different social needs and challenges that will need to be attended to.

As a TODHH, I have experienced that while there has not been much research done into specific interventions or accommodations for students, who are Deaf plus, teachers have been working to find what fits their students best. Many students, however, will need help gaining and maintaining communication and social skills. This can be done using AAC devices, PECS, and by indirectly and explicitly teaching social skills.



Bradley, L. A., Krakowski, B., & Thiessen, A. (2008). With Little Research Out There It's a Matter of Learning What Works in Teaching Students with Deafness and Autism. Odyssey, 9(1), 18.


Nelson, C., & Bruce, S. M. (2019). Children who are deaf/hard of hearing with disabilities: Paths to language and literacy. Education Sciences, 9(2), 134.




*  Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy
DONATE  (Thanks!)

Another way to help is to buy something from Dr. Bill's "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)  

*  Also check out Dr. Bill's channel:

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University ™ 
ASL resources by  ©  Dr. William Vicars