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.

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“Duckness: How Do We Know?

Look at this series of pictures. (From American Printing House for the Blind website)

How can very young children with intact visual skills understand that these are all ducks?

They understand “Duckness”.

They have a keen understanding of the salient features (Roman-Lantzy literacy) that make up this “Duckness” because of shared visual experiences with others and with access to pictures, TV and movies that feature ducks. This develops effortlessly for children with intact visual skills.  Without direct instruction, they understand that real ducks are different sizes, colors, and ages. They understand that ducks can be seen in different perspectives depending on where and how they are standing. They understand that ducks can be flat in pictures. They understand that ducks can be symbolic in toys, signs, pictures, colored cartoons and in black and white drawings.

Our children with CVI lack this visual access to “duckness”. They lack the expanded and repeated knowledge about ducks. If they have seen a duck, their idea of “duckness” is limited to that one duck. Due to reduced eye contact with people and with reduced eye to object abilities, adults do not explain the shared salient features that all ducks share.

As adults serving children with CVI, we should be aware of this limited access and limited understanding that can occur in 3D and 2D. We must create opportunities to expand children’s access matched to their assessed functional visual skills measured with the CVI Range (Roman-Lantzy 2007). We must evaluate all our materials with this visual access limitation considered. We must adjust our own interactions and instructions to include salient feature, comparative language (Roman-Lantzy).

How Do You Know If You Have a CVI Competent Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments? Importance of the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement

How would parents, teachers and administrators know if they have a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) who is knowledgeable and competent to work with children with CVI? This has been huge and frustrating problem for years.

TVIs have been slow to educate themselves to serve these students with CVI effectively even when their caseloads have shifted to include many students with CVI. TVIs might attend a lecture or two and mistakenly think they have “competency” in CVI. The TVI who attends a weekend lecture about CVI, leaves with partial knowledge and few abilities to accurately assess, accurately program or to accurately create appropriate interventions for their students with CVI. They are even more dangerous than the TVI with no understanding!

Most graduate teacher training programs for teachers of students with visual impairments do not include CVI as a core competency area. Due to this, even now, new teachers of students with visual impairments leave graduate programs with little to no understanding of CVI yet take jobs in the field where 60% or more of the students have CVI!

To solve the problem of who has CVI competence and who does not have have CVI competence there is now the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement in place at Perkins School for the Blind: http://www.perkinselearning.org/cvi-endorsement

For this Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement, a teacher of students with visual impairments must prove their competency for CVI. They must take a knowledge test about CVI. They must prove experience with students with CVI by providing letters of recommendation. They must prove their ability to assess 2 students seen in videos using the Christine Roman-Lantzy CVI Range. The CVI Range is the only assessment tool for CVI with reliability. (See Dr. Sandra Newcomb: Reliability of the CVI Range Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, October 2010, © 2010 AFB).

We now have a way to “check” a professional’s competence in a directory of endorsed professionals: http://www.perkinselearning.org/cvi-endorsement/specialists?field_location_taxonomize_terms_tid=All&field_name_address_country=All&page=2

I always want a competent professional to work with my students with CVI and now add this statement to my report recommendation list:

Recommendations:

Services of a Certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment (CTVI) who is CVI Endorsed:

John will benefit from direct and consult vision services weekly from a certified vision professional who understands CVI.  To assure this competence the TVI must be CVI Endorsed: See the Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement http://www.perkinselearning.org/cvi-endorsement Look in the search bar to access the directory of endorsed professionals: “Search for Specialist”. This will assure that the assigned TVI understands CVI, understands the effects CVI have on John’s learning and is trained to assess CVI using the Christine Roman-Lantzy CVI Range. John will benefit from environmental and materials modifications, methodologies and accommodations to support his visual functioning around all characteristics of CVI. The TVI will help build compensatory skills throughout the curriculum and support building advocacy for John’s independent learning. Every year at change of classroom, the TVI should provide an overview of the concept of CVI and provide a detailed explanation of how CVI effects John’s visual functioning.

To find endorsed professionals, you can visit the directory of professionals that have achieved this competence. It is growing daily nationally and internationally.

 

Teachable Moment: Color Highlighting

I did this Teachable Moment for Perkins School for the Blind. It discusses some ideas of how to use color highlighting to help with visual motor skills for children with CVI.

You can find it in Perkins eLearning

http://www.perkinselearning.org/videos/teachable-moment/color-highlighting-children-cvi

Adapting Classrooms for Children with CVI

It can be a real challenge to adapt learning environments for our students with CVI. Of course, one adaptation suggestion is never the answer. The environment must match the child’s assessed functional needs around CVI. The functional visual assessment for children with CVI must be the CVI Range (Roman-Lantzy 2007). Even children in the same Phase of CVI, must have distinctly unique adaptions for their environments and for their learning. These distinct needs can only be identified with assessment of the individual child.

For a child with an ocular impairment like retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), we would never say “Oh, this child has ROP? Here are the environmental needs and the learning material needs.” We would assess functional vision to identify the unique visual needs of that individual child. Our children with CVI deserve the same respectful and accurate assessment of their functional vision. They deserve accurate environmental supports and adaptations to learning that match that assessment.

In several classrooms where I serve children, the reduction of visual and auditory complexity and controlling access to light are the most challenging environmental adaptations. The solution we have used was to create learning centers in the classroom using cubicles.

 

These cubicles were donated by a business that was renovating their offices. The donation was a free and effective environmental support for many of my students. The cubicle walls are large and sound reducing. They tend to be tall which blocks distracting light. Perfect for so many children. Call your local Chamber of Commence or contact your local Rotary Club. I’m sure businesses would be so happy to help and to see these cubicles recycled and put to good use!

Visual Experience, Experience, Experience

For science nerds like me!

“Neuroscientists Reveal How the Brain Learns to Recognize Objects”

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100922121937.htm

This article comes from work being conducted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They are studying how humans process visual information for recognition so they can design artificial visual systems. It seems vision is such a complex process! I think parents and teacher have understood this for years!

This great article that drives home the brain’s need for repeated experience to build visual understanding. The brain must have repeated experiences with objects in different kinds of positions, perspectives, lighting, size and distance. It reminds me to provide my students with real objects in repeated, predictable routines to build familiarity. It reminds me not it only present iPad visual targets that can’t be manipulated. The child builds visual recognition from the presentation of objects in multiple positions to view multiple perspectives. If the child is not able to manipulate material themselves, we must provide that varying visual perspective.

This is a reaffirmation of the characteristic of Novelty that Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy discusses (Roman-Lantzy CVI Range 2007)

 

 

What’s the Complexity? Workshop

This month I attended a full day workshop titled: “What’s the Complexity?” with creator, Matt Tietjen, M.Ed. CTVI. This assessment tool was developed to look at the characteristic of complexity as described in the work of Christine Roman-Lantzy in the CVI Range 2007.

The “What’s the Complexity?” framework takes a close look at the characteristic, Complexity,  that is most difficult to control and the characteristic that seems to effect children’s visual functioning to the greatest degree. It provides a way for parents and educational teams to assess complexity in all forms. It helps parents and teams choose appropriate materials, design appropriate environments matched to appropriate tasks and then to plan across the complete learning day for the student with CVI.

It focuses on all Phases of CVI (Christine Roman-Lantzy) but I believe is most valuable for the students functioning in Phase II and Phase III as they try to access pictures. The “What’s the Complexity?” framework also provides us with a well thought out system to assess the student’s interpretation of images. We evaluate the child’s understanding of photographs of their real items (my spoon), colored photographs of other classes of items (the class of spoons), understanding of realistic or abstract cartoon icons of items (spoons in cartoon form), colored icons (Mayer Johnson spoon) and black and white line drawings (black and white drawing of a spoon).

This is an important new tool for us as we serve our children with CVI. It will help support our recommendations for children’s accessible media. Fantastic!

I understand that a graduate class will be offered in September at Perkins elearning to deepen the understanding for using the “What’s the Complexity?” framework. I will certainly be signing up for this!

 

Morning Meeting Ideas for Children in Phase I

I had a request for some morning meeting ideas for children in Phase I as measured on the CVI Range (Christine Roman-Lantzy 2007). The concepts and vocabulary around “Characteristics” and “Phases” come from Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s work.

The first place to start, of course, is to assess the child using the CVI Range. This is the only functional vision assessment for children with CVI. Understanding the child’s functional visual skills allows you to create goals and objectives and to provide across-the-day accommodations and methodologies to meet those needs.

Phase I:  Goal: Building Visual Behaviors. Providing access to use visual skills around the 10 characteristics.

The child has a favorite color and will only look at simple one colored items. (Color)

  • Materials in morning meeting must meet the color preference. This is not always red o yellow. Your assessment will tell you the preferred color. Because this child is very visually impaired, compensatory skills should also be considered. Items presented must be 3D, real objects NOT PICTURES! 3D objects will provide visual access, tactile input, olfactory input and auditory input.

Pictures are completely inaccessible for this child who is not using central vision   effectively. (Central vision is essential for children to understand any 2D materials).

The child looks at movement or shiny items but does not seem interested in stable objects. (Movement)

  • Materials in morning meeting must meet this assessed need for movement of the presented materials to foster visual use. Shiny items are considered under the Movement characteristic since the reflected light from the surface looks like movement. Movement should be gentle and slow not fast and frantic.

There is no or little reaction to visual threat or touch between the eyes. (Visual Reflexive Responses)

  • Reflexes are reflexes and cannot be taught. There are no accommodations for visual reflexes.

The child fixates briefly but likes light, ceiling fans and movement. (Light gazing and Movement)

  • To foster looking at the presented morning meeting materials, light must be controlled, limiting the child’s lightgazing.
  • Because light is important to encourage looking, light the materials that are presented or use materials that light up.
  • Because fixation is brief, the material must be presented for longer so the child has another opportunity to visually locate.

The child sees things in the peripheral fields but does not react to items in central vision positions. (Visual Fields)

  • Because peripheral fields are stronger than central visual fields, the materials must be presented off center in the best assessed lateral visual field. (The child in Phase I will have a distinct preference for one lateral visual field).
  • The lower visual fields are often not functional well into Phase III so eye level is recommended. Upper fields can also be inaccessible.
  • Make sure the “action” of morning meeting is within their best assessed visual field.

There is visual attention in near space only within 2 feet. (Distance and Complexity)

  • The child can only look at items in near space. The exact assessed distance needs to be respected and materials presented within this distance. At this Phase, this is typically within 18”-24” of the child’s eyes.
  • Give the child a copy of the material being used with other child in turn. This provides visual access for the child even when materials are being presented to other children at greater distances.

The child rarely looks to faces (Complexity).

  • Faces are very complex. This child will have difficulty looking at faces. Be mindful that the child may be attending but not able to make eye contact or even look towards your face if you are talking. Greet them with your name and tell them what you will be doing with them. Call their name before delivering a message or asking a question. Research shows that adults often do not talk as much or as long to children without eye contact. Adults should be aware of this and monitor their behavior with children.

The child sees best in uncluttered, quiet places. (Complexity)

  • Provide quieter environments
  • Create morning meetings of less children so the movement, visual complexity and auditory complexity is more controllable. There is no rule that morning meeting needs to be all the children in one morning meeting. Have several smaller meetings.
  • Provide non-complex backgrounds for all learning materials.
  • Where non-complex shirts. You are the the visual background!
  • Seat yourself in the same position as the child to see what the child sees. You will be surprised how much visual complexity you will notice and need to control.
  • Position this child solidly for best visual skill use.

The child only looks at familiar and favorite toys. (Novelty)

  • Use familiar materials.
  • Use consistent materials to build visual familiarity.
  • Predictable routines in morning meeting will support visual recognition of materials and help children predict the sequences.

The child has a long delay before they turn to look. (Latency)

  • The child will have latency for looking and latency for understanding what is seen. Using the assessment and taking data will help identify how long the child requires for visual attention, which visual field is faster and which visual field has the most sustained visual attention abilities. The material needs to be where the learning is accessible and for as long as the child requires.

 

Visual Experience, Joint Attention and Salient Features

I went to a wonderful workshop this month with Dr. Roman-Lantzy. The topic was “Assessment and Strategies for Children in Phase III” (as measured on the CVI Range Roman-Lantzy 2007).

Some of the many things we talked about included:

  • Visual inaccessibility at distance for children scoring in Phase III (CVI Range Roman-Lantzy 2007)
  • How vision, cognition and language are linked.
  • How joint attention in typically developing, sighted children helps build these visual, cognitive and language skills.
  • How vision, cognition and language skills are based on the child’s experience.

It got me thinking about my own daughter’s visual, cognitive and language development. She was a typical developing toddler with full visual access.

We lived on our sailboat in Boston Harbor. We were surrounded by ducks daily. My daughter would see these ducks everywhere, everyday. (visual experience)

When she looked at or pointed to the ducks, we shared gaze to the ducks and I would label this animal: “Duck” (shared gaze, language)

As she language skills grew, she would begin to point and label them as “Duck” as well (building language and shared gaze).

When we traveled on land, she began to label other animals as ducks. She understood that dogs, cats and other birds we saw were not human but animals (cognitive). She over- generalized that any animal that was not human was a “duck”.

Sharing her gaze and sharing her experience, I pointed out the salient features that made these other animals different and labeled them as different. “No. That is a dog, he has 4 legs and is furry”. (cognitive, shared gaze and salient features).

Very soon, my daughter was able to use her cognitive comparison skills to label each animal she saw with the correct name based on the visual salient features: shape, number of legs, how then moved, where they lived, how they sounded.

For children in Phase III, supporting children’s visual, cognitive and language skills must be carefully planned, based on experience and presented at near by providing supports around salient features. They must be presented in planned, accessible ways due to the inaccessibility of distance events and materials.  This link must be facilitated to build visual, cognitive and language skills by comparing and contrasting visual attributes that are experienced, highlighted and shared.

Importance of Color

So many times I see professionals mark the CVI Characteristic of “Color” as “Resolved” as soon as a child looks at more than a single favorite color. (Roman-Lantzy CVI Range 2007).

This is a great misconception. Marking the Color characteristic as “Resolved” means that color is no more important to the child than to a typically developing peer. (Roman-Lantzy)

Color remains important for many children assessed much higher in the CVI Range. I recently assessed a child in a typical kindergarten. Careful interviewing of parents and his team plus observations and direct assessment uncovered this important information about this child’s color preferences:

Parent/Team Interview (Roman-Lantzy):

  • This child’s parents immediately report “red” as a favorite color. He always picks red clothing, red toys and wants to paint his room red.
  • This child’s teacher immediately was able to state that “red” was this child’s favorite color. When I asked this teacher whether he knew the favorite color for other children in the class, the answer was “no”. (This color preference for this child with CVI was strikingly evident for a teacher with 14 other students in the class!)

My observations and direct assessment revealed:

  • This child looks at all colors and colored patterns.
  • This child does have a distinct preference for the color red for visual attention at near and distance.
  • This child was observed visually locating and then following a peer dressed in red or orange when told to line up, when evacuating the building in a fire drill and when outside on the playground.
  • Told to pick items for decorating a snowman in Art, this child walks completely around the table to chose a red ribbon for the scarf.
  • Walking the hallway to Art, this child was observed to have increased visual attention to red items in the hallway on all planes (materials on the floor, wall, above to the red Exit signs and to children dressed in red walking by).
  • In the Speech session, this child picks red pirate game piece and has great sustained visual attention to the red, lighted spinner.
  • Asked to pick a marker for an activity, this child picked the red marker every time.
  • Asked about a bowl choice, he asked for the red one.

If we know this child has such a strong color preference, we can infuse this color into activities that are difficult for him:

  • Added to the locker hook to hang up his coat
  • Added on the classroom sign-in sheet to highlight where to place his name.
  • To draw his visual attention to salient learning features.
  • Added to the envelop edge to help him place the paper into the folder.

Missing this vital information about color, misses a great learning accommodation for visual functioning.