Curriculum and Instruction

a teacher writing while a student watches

A curriculum for children with visual impairment and additional disabilities (VIAD) needs to reach the goal of enabling a child towards personal adequacy, social competency and economic independence and more significantly, make his life a lot happier and healthier.

In other words, the learning experiences for a child with VIAD need to support him in taking care of his immediate self care needs such as eating, drinking , brushing , bathing and grooming as well as his need to move from one place to another , search and locate things that he needs and be able to solve problem naturally as they occur in his life. Learning experience shall also help the child to identify significant people in his life, including his family members and establish a trusting relationship with them. It will help the child to ask for help and support whenever he needs it.

It is therefore important to keep in mind the primary goal for any curriculum for a child with VIAD is making his life happier and healthier.

Curriculum designed for such children includes planned exercise

  1. In environment, which helps the child to learn best using his remaining vision and /or hearing along with his other senses.
  2. To reach level of performances that are appropriate for him, this expected performance will vary from child to child as per his unique personality and needs, and is relevant to the child’s immediate environment.

Who implements the curriculum? A team Approach?

Anyone who comes in contact with the child on an everyday basis has a role in teaching the child. As important members of the educational team, the input of parents and other family members in the decisions for the child’s education is of crucial value. Family members are often the best persons to know and talk about their own child. The family members and the teacher, a host of related professionals are also involved in the educational process of the child, including the speech therapist, physiotherapist, the occupational therapist, vision specialist, orientation and mobility instructor, art and music therapist, psychologist and others depending upon the needs of the child and the availability of trained resources in the area. Each member of this multidisciplinary team has a specific role to play starting with the assessment to designing the intervention programme, evaluation and follow up action.

Where do we carry out the curriculum? The learning environment:

A child who is deaf blind will learn best in a real life situation where skills are taught in the appropriate place and at the appropriate time, giving the child the motivation and reason for learning. Providing a reactive environment for the learner indicates that maximum care is taken for incorporating learning opportunities within the routine of eating, bathing, cooking, playing and shopping activities. It is essential to keep in mind the child’s emotional and social responses and opportunities to develop a positive self image through success experiences. For example, the basic activity of eating and drinking can have a profound impact on the personal, social and communication development of the child.

Things to remember

  • The overall aim of a curriculum is to make the life of a child with visual impairment and additional disabilities happier.
  • The curriculum increases independence in personal adequacy , social competency and economic independence.
  • Children who have VIAD have unique needs and learning styles.
  • A curriculum increases the child’s interaction with people, objects and actions of the world around him.
  • The child with VIAD remains the focus person of any educational decisions and settings.
  • Family members make immense contribution to the educational decisions of the child.
  • A multi disciplinary team approach is an effective way of working with VIAD children.
  • It is important to provide a reactive environment to the child for increasing his opportunities for interactions.
  • Children learn best when they experience the information within their immediate environment.

Impact of disabilities – challenges to learning:

Children who have VIAD, like all children are individuals who have strengths and needs that are very specific. The senses of vision and hearing are often referred to as distant senses, which connect the person to the world beyond his own body and personal space. It is through these senses that children who have sight and hearing learn the most about the world and develop social relationships. Having VIAD, limits the child’s contact with people and things in the environment . the children therefore depend on others to assist them in accessing , interpreting and organizing information from the world around them. Without being in close physical contact with the world around them, they are left completely isolated.

Children with intact vision and hearing learn effectively from all they do and from all that happens around them. These learning experiences include a series of day to day events happening around the child, because the senses of vision and hearing help the child to organise the information.

A child with VIAD will learn to use all the information about the world around him but with the use of his tactile, olfactory, kinaesthetic, and proprioceptive senses along with whatever, residual hearing and vision he might have. And to have this kind of learning, it is important for him to participate actively in the full sequence of the activity. In other words , he will need to experience activities in the real life settings as they occur naturally in the environment. He will learn best by doing things together with you.

Learning Characteristics : Learning All the time

Learning through doing, forms the basis of a strong learning environment for the child with VIAD. It is evident that he faces a major obstacle in learning because of the lack of opportunity to access visual and auditory cues from the environment, less able to anticipate events in his immediate environment and limited scope to make choices. To reduce this loss, it is important to develop routines in the life of the child.

Establishment of routines benefit children whose world is otherwise chaotic. Such routines are designed to encourage communication.

Through these ordinary everyday experiences, a routine is developed which helps the child to increase his communication with the world around him, gain control over other’s actions and learn concepts that are meaningful and relevant in his day to day life. The ultimate goal of any curriculum for children with VIAD is to lead the child towards increased opportunities for communication.

The development of a warm, secure and trusting relationship between the child and adult is the corner stone of any educational approach. It is only through this bonding that the child with VIAD will allow the adult to become a part of his world and interact with the adult in a positive and meaningful way.

Learning is meaningful

Children with VIAD are limited by their lack of distance senses to learn effectively from the world around them. They have to depend on the amount and manner in which adults around them interpret the information to them. A teacher must make the most of every opportunity for learning. All interactions with adults and all aspects of the environment will be harnessed to help the child overcome the restrictions imposed by sensory impairments.

It is therefore imperative to make every use of the learning environment to help the child to become full and active participant at home, at school and in the community.

All learning opportunities for children with VIAD need to be meaningful and relevant for the child’s immediate and/or future lives. A young child is may be taught about the parts of his body and to match it with the parts of his mothers body while he is having a massage, taking his bath, wearing his clothes, helping the mother wear bangles, put a bindi on her forehead and pin her dupatta. This makes learning meaningful , fun and consistent for the child.

Children with VIAD get more real information from things that they would commonly find lying around the house. Things that they would need to use at some point of their lives. They need real objects accessible to them in their day to day lives.

Children and young adults who have VIAD also need materials that are interesting and age appropriate around them and they can easily access. This is one way of providing an as inclusive experience as possible and thus respecting his growing up.

Designing a functional curriculum

When a curricular approach takes into account the pupil’s current individual needs, his future needs and designed to meet his needs, it is called a functional curriculum. The instructions in the functional curriculum focuses on the individual needs of the child as compared to the expectations from him in his immediate family and community environment. Different skills are taught across the life cycle areas of independent living, work, leisure and recreation, regular education and community life. The activities are based on the child’s chronological age. It also takes into account, the individual adaptations and aids and appliances required by child to enable him to learn the activity to the best of his ability. The functional curriculum uses the child’s interest and strengths as the basis for planning intervention strategies. The diversity of the impairment is so great that there is no common baseline from which to begin to work. The curriculum framework thus begins with the child. Family members and other significant members in the child’s life play a role in the intervention programme for the child.

This abstract is taken from the book "Creating Learning Opportunities: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Students with Vision Impairment and Additional Disabilities, Including Deafblindness." To learn more or place an order for the book, please contact at infoperkins@gmail.com.