Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC)

Staying at Home: Cook with Your Child

As we think about engaging and learning while at home, cooking provides a multitude of multisensory learning opportunities. Pick one food that your child loves and create an opportunity to cook that food repeatedly throughout the week. Pick a quieter time and quieter place for this activity for optimal visual abilities. Create a non-complex surface with increased spacing of materials. Block distracting light and movement around the activity. This can be a long or very short activity.

Some simple favorites:

  • Koolaid
  • Eggs
  • Smoothies
  • Nachos
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
  • Chex mix
  • Ice cream sundaes
  • Yogurt parfaits
  • Pre-packaged Mac and Cheese
  • Chicken Nuggets
  • Pizza

Let’s think about what this one activity provides our students with CVI:

Visual Benefits: Remember to engage visual skills at all times. Tell your child what they will see. Show the item to the child without talking. Describe the visual features of the item. Show again without talking. Allow tactile exploration.

  • That repeated visual opportunity will provide visual prediction that your child needs to develop visual recognition of the foods, the packaging, the utensils and the storage containers that are regularly and consistently seen.
  • Thinking about the support of color, picking packages, utensils and containers of very different colors will help the child discriminate and recognize each based on color.
  • That will allow you to describe the visual features: what the food, packaging, utensils and the containers look like.
  • Repetition provides opportunities to develop visual memories.
  • The movement of the cooking sequence draws and helps maintain visual attention.
  • Using these real materials will allow exploration of the different visual perspectives of the visual materials.

Compensatory Skills Benefits:

  • Activities engage visual, auditory, olfactory, taste and tactile senses; all of which support visual recognition skills.

Language Benefits:

  • Creating foods provides opportunities to develop sequencing and following directions.
  • Provides opportunities to use position words: “on top of”, “add to”, “in/out”.
  • Provides opportunities to use attribute words for the visual aspects and tactile aspects of the foods.
  • Provides opportunities to use cooking vocabulary: “mix”, “fold”, “stir”, “beat”, “add”.

Cognitive Benefits

  • Provides opportunities to use concepts: hot/cold
  • Provides opportunities to use concepts: more/less
  • Provides opportunities to use concepts of attributes: big/little, long/short, curved/straight
  • Provides opportunities to use concepts of the appropriate storage of foods (those stored in the cabinets, refrigerator, freezer).
  • Provides opportunities to understand the properties of liquids and solids
  • Provides opportunities to use for grouping and categorizing
  • Provides opportunities to understand parts to whole: sliced banana vs. the whole banana.
  • Provides opportunities to for food handling: peeling, cracking

Reading Benefits Reading in print, Braille, symbols, pictures

  • Provides opportunities to for reading in print, Braille, symbols, pictures
  • Provides opportunities to create lists of things to buy to get ingredients
  • Provides opportunities for reading and following directions of the recipes

Mathematics Benefits:

  • Provides opportunities to for measuring and weighing
  • Provides opportunities to understand one to one correspondence
  • Provides opportunities to understand time concepts
  • Provides opportunities to understand temperatures
  • Provides opportunities to understand size concepts
  • Provides opportunities to count
  • Provides opportunities to cut into foods into factions
  • Provides opportunities to fill and dump
  • Provides opportunities to understand portions

Science Benefits

  • Provides opportunities to experience cause and effect
  • Provides opportunities to use chemistry
  • Provides opportunities to understand how foods are different in form: milks require pouring while mayonnaise requires scooping
  • Provides opportunities to understand how heating and freezing impacts foods
  • Provides opportunities to use force for cutting, separating

Social Benefit

  • Provides opportunities for sharing
  • Provides opportunities for cooperating

Motor Benefits

  • Provides opportunities for opening and closing containers
  • Provides opportunities for holding heavy and light materials
  • Provides opportunities to use two hands together
  • Provides opportunities for stirring different textures with different tools
  • Provides opportunities to use pouring, scooping, kneading

Advocacy Benefits

  • Provides opportunities to plan
  • Provides opportunities to make choices.

Career Benefits

  • Provides opportunities to sort needed ingredients and tools
  • Provides opportunities for cleaning needed tools
  • Provides opportunities to set up for completing a task

Technology Benefits

  • Provides opportunities to use recipes on iPads
  • Provides opportunities to use blenders, mixers and other kitchen equipment
  • Provides opportunities to use the oven, the microwave and to use stovetops

Even if your child is not eating foods, participating in tube formula feeding is also an opportunity for many of these same learning experiences.

Each activity can be easily adapted for the various functioning abilities for each child. Some will be independent with supervision and some might require hand under hand support for participation. Touching, looking at, pushing something into a container is all participation. All levels of abilities can be engaged and learning fruitful for all!

Want more? You can use these to follow up after your cooking. Use again and again!

  • Take pictures and make a Powerpoint book of the ingredients or process
  • Find a Youtube of a character making the same food. Follow up your activity with this literacy material: Here is one about making pizza https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gX2vQNNC80c
  • Make a recipe book
  • Make a symbols book for the utensils

Mirror Neurons and Incidental Learning

Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran created this Ted Talk to discuss mirror neurons. Mirror neuron’s role in the brain was recently discovered and research about the function of mirror neurons continues. As Dr. Ramachandran mentions in his talk, he believes mirror neuron use is one of the foundations of human interactions and cultural growth.

Mirror neurons, activated by visual observation, allow us to imitate and practice observed actions and to take the perspective of another person as they operate in the world. I couldn’t help but think of mirror neurons in the context of CVI and visual impairments.

For children with CVI, that lack of essential visual access would make mirror neurons function impossible and this must impact the development of all skills and knowledge, all imitation and the development of all social skills. The role of mirror neurons, it seems, is essentially intertwined with incidental learning and perspective taking, the basis of social skills.

A vast amount of information that a child learns about the world is through this visual incidental learning. If I watch a person eating, I am learning through visual skills alone, how people eat. I know the position for eating, the social skills of eating, and the tools used for eating. My brain, using mirror neurons, is practicing eating long before I ever use a spoon myself. I am exposed to this kind of incidental knowledge all my waking hours from birth and I am learning without being directly instructed.

After watching this Ted Talk, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this not support the need for careful evaluation of what children with CVI really understand and how they understand it?
  • Does this not caution us to think about why children with CVI might struggle with imitation and pretend play? (and caution us to be careful to never use this imitation and pretend play criteria for cognitive assessment)
  • Does this not justify all direct instruction to students with CVI?
  • Does this not justify the repeated need to practice all skills directly taught?
  • Does this not justify the Expanded Core Curriculum for students with CVI?
  • Does this not justify a TVI who understands visual inaccessibility on a child’s educational team?

https://www.ted.com/talks/vilayanur_ramachandran_the_neurons_that_shaped_civilization?referrer=playlist-how_your_brain_constructs_real

Are You Making Your Assessment and Service to Learners with CVI Fun?

First and foremost, our children with CVI are children. Children love predictable games, funny noises, and social interactions. Children like to play the same games over and over again. We can get our goals and objectives accomplished with learners if we understand what makes learners happy and what it is that they deeply enjoy. The parent is the most essential reporter of their child’s preferences. We need to move away from what we think children will like to what the parent knows the child will like. That is the basis for faster, fuller and longer lasting learning.

Some ideas, based on assessment of the child’s visual skills:

Instead of holding materials to gain a child’s visual attention and once they look you move on to another object, create a game that sparks a social, auditory and tactile sequence.

  • “Find the pom pom. It is silver with many shiny streamers”. Once the child looks, wiggle and tickle their arm while making a funny noise.
  • The parent reports that the child likes his/her feet tickled. Present an object that can represent that tickling game. “Here is the symbol for tickling. It is yellow and round like a ball”. Once the child looks, tickle their toes using a funny voice!
  • For literacy, pick a predictable book with a distinctive colored cover. Make sure is enjoyed by the child. Once the child looks, “That is the Farm Animal book with funny sounds. The book is square with a green cover”.

Why? All kids are kids no matter their abilities.

  • Creating fun, predictable interactions with children is the basis of a strong trusting relationship which allows the child to show you optimal skills in all areas. (Another plug for direct service to students with CVI)
  • When interactions and learning are based on what the child likes, the memory of that interaction is solidly stored in the brain.
  • Fun interactions guarantee that the child will be motivated to communicate at the highest possible level. (Expanded Core Curriculum area)
  • Creating visual recognition using these “symbols” for games allows you to build a repertoire of symbols that will be the basis for choice making based on building visual recognition.
  • When you see the way children communicate (large body movements, smiling, raising their arms or vocalizing), you can acknowledge that communication and help the child understand your needs for understanding their communication. “I see a big smile (touch the side of their mouth in an upward motion). When I see that smile I know you want more”. “I see a large body movement. That tells me you like this game”.
  • You can build literacy choices and experiences supported by storyboxes, yet another set of visual opportunities. http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/storybox-ideas-norma-drissel
  • You will have fun too!

Chose Vision for IEP Eligibility

Vision is the primary learning mode for children with perfect vision. Vision gathers information quickly, links previous learning to new learning and links information from all the other senses for a full and complete understanding.

We know that for children with CVI, vision is the primary disability. For children with CVI, their visual impairment impacts all access to all of the general education curriculum. Their visual impairment impact all access to all of the special education curriculum.

Identifying the student with CVI and determining eligibility as “Vision” ensures that a teacher of students with visual impairments is part of the team and that there is consideration of the Expanded Core Curriculum. The Expanded Core Curriculum addresses the Unique Disability-Specific Needs of a child with a visual impairment.

For a child with CVI:

  • Their lack of visual attention and visual recognition limits the effective gathering of information about how the world works.
  • Their lack of visual attention and visual recognition limits the effective gathering of information about how the people in the world behave.
  • Their lack of visual attention and visual recognition impacts their connecting, categorizing and classifying of information.
  • Their lack of visual attention and visual recognition limits their understanding of sound sources.
  • Their lack of visual attention and visual recognition requires direct experiences in natural environments.

The Expanded Core Curriculum includes these 9 areas:

  1. Compensatory skills
  2. Orientation and mobility skills
  3. Social interaction skills
  4. Independent living skills
  5. Recreation and leisure skills
  6. Career education
  7. Use of assistive technology
  8. Sensory efficiency skills
  9. Self-determination skills

This is not an extra curriculum. This is an essential curriculum for the child with visual impairment. These are skills that everyone needs to live and work successfully to their full potential. The critical difference for our children with CVI is ACCESS to these 9 skill area. Children with perfect vision begin their exposure to the Expanded Core Curriculum at birth. Children with CVI must have the same consideration.

Children with and without additional disabilities can have Expanded Core Areas addressed in their programming due to the absence of or reduction of incidental learning.

Children with CVI

  • lack access to all visual information which optimizes all the learning for their peers with perfect vision.
  • lack access to the same number of repeated opportunities for visual information to reinforce concepts which optimizes all learning for their peers with perfect vision.
  • lack access to visual experiences to link new information to old information which optimizes all learning for their peers with perfect vision.
  • lack the ability to access and practice continuously in naturally occurring environments which optimizes all learning for their peers with perfect vision.

CVI is a neurological condition but is manifests in a visual impairment. This visual impairment is the issue for all learning. For the eligibility section of the IEP, chose “Vision” and the primary disability and “Neurological” as the secondary disability.

Bring Vision to the forefront for all learning.

Two Interconnected Expanded Core Curriculum Areas for Children with CVI

As a Teacher of Student with Visual Impairments, I am certainly focused on the improvement of visual skills for my students with CVI. I am also interested in how my students understand everything that is easily understood by their sighted peers due to their incidental learning. These intertwined Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) areas must be considered for that equal access.

These two important areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum must be considered separately and together. These are:

  1. Sensory efficiency skills
  2. Compensatory Skills, Functional Academic Skills (Including Communication Modes)

Sensory Efficiency Skills: This area is especially important for the child with CVI but in a totally different way than that considered for a child with ocular impairments. We are expecting improvement for student with CVI. Functional visual assessment using the CVI Range (Roman-Lantzy 2007) provides the baseline for functional visual skills and sets the stage for this improvement using strategies and objectives matched to the assessed needs.

Compensatory Skills, Functional Academic Skills: This area must be considered to support the
building functional vision of the student with CVI. Vision is the distance sense that supports what is heard, smelled, felt and tasted.

Think about a classroom where someone drops something. The child with typical visual abilities can turn, look and determine what made the sound and determine that the sound is not a threat. The student with CVI hears the item drop and due to lack of visual location abilities or lack of distance abilities, does not turn, does not understand what made the sound and might remain in a state of stress wondering if this sound is a threat or not. We need to build this understanding of environmental sounds by labeling the sound, bringing the child closer to the sound, bringing the sound to them and allowing them to make the sound themselves for complete understanding. If someone drops a tray in the classroom, I make sure to bring a tray to the child and allow them to see it, feel it and push it off the tray to create the sound. Once understood, the sound will not create stress and allow the child to return to the learning. This approach provides the student with the same access to the visual, auditory, tactile, cognitive/language information enjoyed by their sighted peers.

For functional academics, focus needs to consistently be on ways to create and foster the highest level of independence possible to live and work in the future. These are skills that should be worked on from birth! Think of the value of organizational skills for a child with limited visual abilities. Getting objects from a storage place and returning the item to that store place when completed builds independence and understanding of the student’s environment.

For communication the CVI Range can help us determine whether we provide tactile sign language to the student with deafblindness or just visually presented sign. If the child is only using peripheral vision, they could never see and understand the small, distinct visual-only sign that requires central vision use. If a communication device is used, the CVI Range provides information about the accessibility of pictures, the ability to recognize pictures, the number of items that can be seen and recognized at one time (complexity of array), and what size is needed (due to complexity not acuity!). For literacy and communication, the CVI Range provides information about the unique need for color highlighting, spacing and print size (due to complexity not acuity!)

All students with visual impairments need the ECC considered and provided in their educational programming. Students with CVI have the same educational needs but with consideration that CVI is completely different from ocular impairments.

The Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) for Students with CVI

What is an Expanded Core Curriculum?

Years ago, students with visual impairments were educated in separate schools for the blind. Curriculum needs addressed everything for the student with a visual impairment both academic areas and specialized instruction that provided students with all skills to insure full independence in life. Students often lived at the school and instruction occurred across the day: self-care, moving safely in the environment, using transportation, safety awareness, social skills and recreation opportunities were embedded.

The education model shifted in the 1980s and students with visual impairments increasingly moved to inclusive programs in their communities. These inclusive programs could address the academic needs of students with visual impairments when adapted by a teacher of students with visual impairments. Something was missing. At the inclusive setting, inclusive schools were unprepared to address the other important learning needs for children with visual impairments. They never had to address these important areas because students without vision loss learn these skills incidentally by watching.

The Expand Core Curriculum is an essential consideration for all children with visual impairments including children with CVI. The nine areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum, if they are considered at all, are often mistakenly considered only for the academic child with ocular visual impairments.

Inclusive school settings teach the general education curriculum of math, science, English language arts, foreign language, gym, science, social studies and fine arts to their students. For students with visual impairments, the expanded core curriculum provides those essential independence skills needed for living and working. The expanded core curriculum is meant to level the educational playing field by providing instruction specific to the needs of a child with a visual impairment.

The expanded core curriculum, or ECC, should be used as a framework for first assessing students with visual impairments, then for planning individual goals and objectives.

The nine ECC areas that provide this specific instruction include.

  • Compensatory or functional academic skills, including communication modes
  • Orientation and mobility
  • Social interaction skills
  • Independent living skills
  • Recreation and leisure skills
  • Career education
  • Use of assistive technology
  • Sensory efficiency skills
  • Self-determination

Are these considered on your child’s IEP? We will look at each a bit more in-depth in later posts.