The goal of this curriculum is to help you think through issues you face when dealing with Deafblind (DB) students, not to tell you, specifically, what to do. To that end, this section introduces three bodies of theory from within DB education,
as a way of familiarizing you with ideas that are widely implemented by various members of the DB team.
Once you know the theoretical bases of much of the work done by educators with DB students, the hope is that you can apply these ideas in your work as a therapist, and in doing so, move the whole team into a more fully developed awareness of the whole child.
There are two primary contributions that school-based therapists can make for DB students and their educational teams:
- Use your awareness of the developmental progression of motor development, and your ability to evaluate quality of movement, to help members of the team know what movements need to be encouraged through activities (and, of course, help set up those activities for everyone to use with the student)
- Infuse the physical and occupational therapy strategies into the daily curriculum for the student. Research and experience shows us that integrating facilitated, structured movement into the daily experience of DB learners helps with concept development, communication, security and attachment to others, and development of functional skills.
An Educational Approach that Appreciates Movement as an Essential Basis of Learning
“Living Along With a Child”
- Focus on dialogue between “teacher” and “student”
- “Experiencing with” a child versus “teaching”
- The “educational” program IS a “motor” program
Four Essential Strategies for Learning, developed by Jan van Dijk
“Created for children whose developmental age is three-and-a-half years or younger, the Active Learning approach enables the child with multiple disabilities to learn in the same way that very young children without disabilities learn-by doing, rather than being trained or taught. In this approach the child is provided with opportunities to learn through active exploration and examination of the environment. Teachers (and parents) set up developmentally appropriate environments that encourage the child to touch, move, and explore. They then respond to the child’s actions and sounds and interact with the child at his/her level of interest and development….Active Learning works with even the most significantly delayed and disabled children, enabling them to learn that they can act upon the world and initiate interaction with others.”
Active Learning Equipment and Materials:
The Little Room:
The Little Room consists of a metal frame supporting three side panels with various textures, a Plexiglas ceiling, and two play bars from which a variety of objects (everyday objects or toys) are suspended. This gives the child the opportunity to experience the properties of objects, to compare different objects, and try out different things to do with the object on his own without adults interpreting that experience for him. Since the objects are stable, it allows the child to repeat his actions with an object as many times as he needs to, at one to two-second intervals, without dropping and losing it. The immediate repetition enables the child to store the information gained from the experiences in his memory.
The resonance board is a thin plywood panel carefully designed to vibrate to every movement a child makes while lying on it. It enhances the effectiveness of the Little Room, but can also be used alone to encourage play and movement.
Use the Resonance board for:
- helping a child get feedback for even insignificant movements
- intensifying the auditory properties of objects
- defining a safe area for play and exploration
- establishing or extending sitting tolerance
- focusing staff and student attention on meaningful movement
For information about ordering
equipment designed by Lillie Nielsen, contact:
1815 Encinal Avenue
Alameda, California 94501
(510) 814-9111; fax: (510) 814-3941.
Books and Curriculum: The
full line of Dr. Nielsen’s books is available from:
2109 US Hwy 90 West Ste. 170 #312
Lake City, Florida 32055
Phone: (407) 352-1200; Fax: (386) 752-7839
- Hands as “useful and intelligent sense organs”
- Developing Tactile “intelligence”
- Hands as essential to the sense of self
- “Reading” and “speaking” the hand
- Bonding, object permanence, mobility, all “hand” functions for the DB child
Twelve Suggestions for working with a child to develop hands that “speak” and also do all those other less dramatic, daily functions, too:
- Watch and/or touch the child’s or adult’s hands and learn to “read” them
- Think of hands as initiators of topics in conversational interactions, particularly with young children who do not yet use words.
- Use hand-under-hand touch to respond to exploration, initiation of topics and expressions of feeling. This hand-under-hand touch (or finger-alongside-finger touch)
- is non-controlling.
- allows the child to know that you share the experience of touching the same object or of making the same kind of movements.
- does not obstruct the most important parts of the child’s own experience of any object she may be touching.
- Make your hands available for the child to use as he or she wishes.
- Imitate the child’s own hand actions, your hands under thechild’s.
Adamson, Bakeman, & Smith, (1994) Gestures, words, and early object sharing. V. Volterra, and C.J. Erting, (Eds.), From gesture to language in hearing and deaf children. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Fraiberg, S. (1977). Insights from the blind; comparative studies of blind and sighted infants. New York: Basic Books.
Miles, B., Riggio, M. (Eds.) (1999). Remarkable conversations: A guide to developing meaningful communication with children and young adults who are deafblind. Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind.
Lane, H. (1997, June). Modality-appropriate stimulation and deaf-blind children and adults. Address to the Hilton-Perkins Conference on Deafblindness, Washington, DC.
Quigley, S.P., & Paul, P.V.(1984). Language and deafness. San Diego, CA: College-Hill Press.
Smith, T. (1994) Guidelines: Practical tips for working and socializing with deaf-blind people. Burtonsville, MD: Sign Media, Inc.