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Sensory Learning: Identifying Opportunities for Students with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities to Engage in Literacy Activities. Weekends with the Experts Amy R. McKenzie, Ed.D. Florida State University January 19 & 20, 2007. Presentation Outline. Welcome & Introductions

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Sensory Learning: Identifying Opportunities for Students with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities to Engage in Literacy Activities

Weekends with the Experts

Amy R. McKenzie, Ed.D.

Florida State University

January 19 & 20, 2007

presentation outline
Presentation Outline
  • Welcome & Introductions
  • Background Information on the Speaker
  • What is Literacy?
  • Determining Sensory & Literacy Needs
    • Learning Media Assessments
    • Interactive CD: Cathy
    • Diagnostic Teaching & Assessment
    • Sensory & Communication Assessments
    • Reporting Assessment Results
    • Interactive CD: Sara
presentation outline3
Presentation Outline
  • Stages of Literacy Development
  • Encouraging Literacy Development: Identifying Environments, Teaching Strategies & Activities
    • Environments
    • Strategies & Activities for Fostering Early Literacy
      • DVD Literacy Episode
    • Functional Literacy Planning
      • DVD Literacy Episodes
presentation outline4
Presentation Outline
  • Conclusion: Our Next Steps
    • Teacher Perceptions
    • IEPs
    • Service Delivery
  • References/Resources
  • Question & Answer
  • Friday: Afternoon Break 3:00-3:15pm
  • Saturday: Morning Break 10:30-10:45am
  • Saturday: Afternoon Break 3:00-3:15pm
past and current research
Past and Current Research
  • Emergent literacy opportunities for students who are deafblind or visually impaired
    • Investigated:
      • Environment
      • Activities and strategies
      • IEPs and Assessments
      • Professional Perception
  • Knowledge and skills of TVIs for supervising paraprofessionals
  • Inclusion perceptions of pre-service general education teachers
  • All team members must have an open mind about the literacy development of students with visual impairments and multiple disabilities.
    • Keep all options open!

(Koenig & Holbrook, 1995. p. 81)

  • Consider the needs of the student, not the needs of the team or placement environment.
the fundamental truths
The Fundamental Truths

By Cay Holbrook & Alan J. Koenig

Truth #1

Every child who is blind or visually

impaired has the right to attain

literacy to the greatest extend of his

or her abilities.

the fundamental truths11
The Fundamental Truths

By Cay Holbrook & Alan J. Koenig

Truth #2

All students who is blind or visually

impaired have the right to

literacy instruction from a

qualified teacher of students

with visual impairment.

three facets of literacy
Three Facets of Literacy
  • Emergent Literacy
  • Academic/Conventional Literacy
  • Functional Literacy
emergent literacy
Emergent Literacy

Emergent literacy is the process of developing literacy that begins at birth and ends when children begin to engage in conventional or functional reading and writing (Sulzby & Teale, 1991)

academic literacy
Academic Literacy

“The basic reading and writing skills taught in a conventional literacy medium during elementary and middle school years” (Koenig & Holbrook, p. 265, 2000)

functional literacy
Functional Literacy

“The application of literacy skills and the use of a variety of literacy tools to accomplish daily tasks in the home, school, community and work setting” (Koenig, 1992).

This definition relates more to academic students applying their literacy skills to daily tasks.

functional literacy17
Functional Literacy

Functional Literacy

  • For students with visual and multiple impairments, both the application and the vocabulary are functional in nature.
  • It is meaning-centered; reading that focuses on the reader’s knowledge and experience. The emphasis is on deriving meaning from what is written.

(Rex, Koenig, Wormsley & Baker, 1994)

literacy for students with mi
Literacy for Students with MI

A broader definition of literacy is needed due to the fact that:

  • Not all students will be traditional readers and writers, but they will have literacy!
  • Communication is often the primary need of students with multiple disabilities.
  • A variety of communication modes are used by students with multiple disabilities.
langley s definition of literacy
Langley’s Definition of Literacy
  • …literacy is communication especially when the concepts and issues are applied to students with visual impairments and additional disabilities. In this respect, then, literacy is the most basic foundation for all learning, for receiving and imparting information, and for initiating interactions with others. What is more important for students with visual & multiple disabilities is that literacy opens the doors to personal relationships, shared interests, leisure activities, learning strategies, partial to full independence at home and in the community, and vocational possibilities (Langley, 2000, p. 1)
various aspects of literacy
Various Aspects of Literacy
  • Reading is the complex, recursive process through which we make meaning form texts using semantics; syntax; visual, aural and tactile clues; context; and prior knowledge (p. 75).
  • Writing is the use of a writing system or orthography by people in the conduct of their daily lives to communicate over time and space. It is also by the process or results of recording language graphically by hand or other means, as by the use of computers or braillers (p. 77).
various aspects of literacy21
Various Aspects of Literacy
  • Speaking is the act of communicating through such means as vocalization, signing or using communication aids such as voice synthesizers (p. 75).
  • Listening is attending to communication by any means; includes listening to vocal speech, watching signing, or using communication aids (p. 73).
  • Viewing is attending to communication conveyed by visually representation (p. 76).
various aspects of literacy22
Various Aspects of Literacy
  • Each of these aspects demonstrates an integrated language-communication approach to literacy, as suggested by Rex, Koenig, Wormsley & Baker (1994) for all students in Foundations of Braille Literacy.
  • Language and Communication Activities = Literacy Activities
  • Literacy Activities =

Language and Communication Activities

expanding the framework
Expanding the Framework
  • We all have to step outside of the box when it comes to our philosophies and teaching of literacy to students with multiple impairments.
  • The conceptual framework for literacy must be expanded beyond academic reading & writing!
determining sensory literacy needs25
Determining Sensory & Literacy Needs

Determining these needs can be accomplished through a number of assessments including:

  • Learning Media Assessment
  • Diagnostic Teaching
  • Sensory & Communication Assessments
why conduct a lma
Why Conduct a LMA?

#1: IDEA says so!

why conduct a lma28
Why Conduct a LMA?

#2: It is an objective way of documenting the following elements of IDEA mandates:

  • An evaluation of the student’s

reading and writing skills

  • An evaluation of the student’s

reading and writing needs

  • An evaluation of the student’s

reading and writing media

(Koenig and Holbrook, 2000)

why conduct a lma29
Why Conduct a LMA?

#3: It is an objective way to observe and document the student’s preferred sensory channels.

#4: It is the first step in the development

of an appropriate, assessment-based communication and literacy programs for students with visual & multiple disabilities.

why conduct a lma30
Why Conduct a LMA?

“…the first step to designing literacy programs and discovering methods for ensuring appropriate literacy opportunities for students with additional disabilities are a comprehensive assessment of the need for literacy media and a functional analysis of the student’s response to options and opportunities for…

why conduct a lma31
Why Conduct a LMA?

…embedding literacy instruction and practice – whether reading, writing, or use of other literacy tools – in all learning environments. These steps should lead to the functional and age-appropriate design, adaptation and application of materials and strategies that will enable the student to engage in literacy activities with his or her peers” (Langley, 2000, p. 1).

initial assessment
Initial Assessment

Forms needed:

  • Form 1: General Student Information
  • Form 2: Use of Sensory Channels
  • Form 8: Functional Learning Media Checklist
  • Form 9: Indicators of Readiness for a Functional Literacy Medium
  • Form 10: Initial Selection of Functional Literacy Medium
determining preferred sensory channels
Determining Preferred Sensory Channels
  • This is the first step of a Learning Media Assessment for all students with visual impairments
  • The student’s preferred sensory channel for learning is determined through extensive observation of student behaviors
  • This process is beneficial to all students, regardless of disability area!
determining preferred sensory channels34
Determining Preferred Sensory Channels
  • Cornerstone of the initial selection phase
  • In this step, the education team will “objectively determine a student’s primary and secondary sensory channels for learning” (p. 21)
determining preferred sensory channels35
Determining Preferred Sensory Channels


  • Provide the basis for selecting appropriate general learning media.
  • Help inform, but not dictate, the decision on the student’s literacy medium or media. (Koenig & Holbrook, 2000, p. 120)

Be cautious: This is the student’s preferred sensory channel, not the most efficient!

determining preferred sensory channels36
Determining Preferred Sensory Channels
  • Use Form 2 from LMA Manual
  • Data Gathering Environments
    • Three or more observations
    • 15-20 minutes for each observation
    • Variety of environments, including:
      • Structured and unstructured times
      • Familiar and unfamiliar environments
      • Indoor and outdoor settings
determining preferred sensory channels37
Determining Preferred Sensory Channels
  • Data Gathering Participants
    • Include all team members
      • Especially parents if they are interested!
    • Allow for a brief “training” including:
      • Review of the forms and purpose
      • Coding of joint observations
      • Coding of video tapes
determining preferred sensory channels38
Determining Preferred Sensory Channels
  • Data Gathering Procedure
    • Only observable student behaviors should be coded
    • Student behaviors can include reactions or motor behaviors
    • Record behaviors in the order they occur
    • Be comprehensive and objective when recording behaviors!
    • Code each behavior V, T, A as well as primary or secondary sensory channels
determining preferred sensory channels39
Determining Preferred Sensory Channels
  • Data Interpretation
    • Gather observation forms from team
    • Looking for consistent pattern across the observations in both primary and secondary channels
    • If inconsistent, look at observations themselves
    • Also, investigate if a student is not using one sensory channel – may not have the opportunity to use it!
determining preferred sensory channels40
Determining Preferred Sensory Channels
  • If it is evident that this student inconsistently uses his or her senses, and/or is considered to be at a communication level lower than 18-months: consider using the sensory assessment portion of Every Move Counts to enrich this information.
  • Note:This is not a substitute for the Learning Media Assessment process!
  • We will discuss Every Move Counts in a few minutes…
functional learning media checklist
Functional Learning Media Checklist
  • Use Form 8 to collect information regarding the student’s use of various learning media for both near and distance tasks in a variety of settings.
  • Consider current & future IEP goals and objectives when determining which media to observe; involve other team members.
  • Complete this form for all students!
indicators of readiness for a functional literacy program
Indicators of Readiness for a Functional Literacy Program
  • Use Form 9 to determine if a student is ready to progress into a functional literacy program; this must be a team process and determination!
  • Complete this form for all students!
  • If behaviors towards the bottom of the list are consistently demonstrated, the student is ready for a functional literacy program – move into Form 10.
indicators of readiness for a functional literacy program43
Indicators of Readiness for a Functional Literacy Program
  • If Form 9 behaviors are not consistently demonstrated, consider continuing with a communication assessment. The LMA at this point will result in the identification of the student’s preferred sensory channels and learning media channels – visual, tactile, and/or auditory. Also, report the results from Form 9 to show growth over time.
  • If the Every Move Counts assessment was used, its results can be reported in the LMA.
initial selection of functional literacy media
Initial Selection of Functional Literacy Media
  • Use Form 10 to determine the student’s functional literacy medium. Again, this must be a team process and determination!
  • Observe the student in a variety of settings; note the student’s natural choice of sensory response mode and working distance.
making an initial decision
Making an Initial Decision
  • As with all Learning Media Assessments, the end factor for interpretation is relying on your professional judgment! These assessments do not generate a hard and fast score of any type.
  • Even at the point of interpretation, the student’s needs must be the primary issue at hand.
continuing assessment
Continuing Assessment
  • A continuing assessment is only for a student who has had a full, comprehensive LMA previously conducted and the need for a functional literacy program was determined.
  • Use all forms described in the previous section, except Forms 9 & 10. Instead, proceed with the use of Form 11: Continuing Assessment of Functional Literacy Media.
  • If the student was not ready for a functional literacy program, conduct another Initial Assessment for continued assessment.
diagnostic teaching
Diagnostic Teaching

According to Koenig and Holbrook, 1995:

  • Students with MIVI have limited experiences;
  • Students with MIVI need longer time to respond to requests;
  • Students with MIVI have multiple factors influencing their performance on any one task.
diagnostic teaching49
Diagnostic Teaching

“Diagnostic teaching simply guides a teacher’s instructional practices as though each interaction with a student, whether instructional or not, is an opportunity to engage in an integrated assessment” (Koenig & Holbrook, 1995)

diagnostic teaching50
Diagnostic Teaching


  • Hunter is a five year old student with deafblindness and motor impairments, as well as developmental delay. His TVI is using diagnostic teaching to determine his ability to use real objects as part of a a choice board. Hunter is having difficulty associating the objects with the activities.
diagnostic teaching51
Diagnostic Teaching
  • Using the diagnostic teaching model, how would you proceed in determining the factors that might be contributing to Hunter’s inability to succeed?
diagnostic teaching52
Diagnostic Teaching

The process of diagnostic teaching:

  • Takes place over a period of time;
  • Is never 100% conclusive and
  • Is an evolving, on-going process.
communication assessments
Communication Assessments
  • Every Move Counts: Sensory Based Communication Techniques (Korsten, Dunn, Foss, & Francke, 1993)
  • The Callier-Azusa Scale (Stillman et al., 1978)
  • Communication: A Guide for Teaching Students with Visual and Multiple Impairments (Hagood, 1997)
every move counts
Every Move Counts
  • For students who are at less than an 18-month old level of communication development.
  • Two step assessment:
    • Sensory Response Assessment
    • Communication Assessment
  • Communication intervention curriculum
every move counts56
Every Move Counts
  • The purpose of the Sensory Response Assessment is to determine a student’s response (reactive or proactive) and response pattern to a variety of stimuli.
    • Reactive = reflexive response
    • Proactive = purposeful response
every move counts57
Every Move Counts
  • This information can then be used to help identify the stimuli that a student enjoys. These stimuli can be incorporated into communication and learning activities and the environments.
  • After all, we are more likely to be an active participant if there is an enjoyable aspect of the activity!
every move counts58
Every Move Counts
  • See “Sensory & Communication Assessment: Excerpt of Every Move Counts” handout
  • Let’s take a look at page 24; this is the coversheet of the Sensory Response Assessment.
every move counts59
Every Move Counts

Things to consider:

  • Do not interact with the child other than to preview the presentation of stimuli – physical or verbal anticipatory prompt.
  • Team members should have a clear view of the child.
every move counts60
Every Move Counts
  • Observe the student’s biobehavioral state for 15 second prior to presentation of the stimuli. (Pretask Condition)
  • For more information on biobehavioral states, see “Biobehavioral State Management and Assessment for Student with Profound Impairments” in Teaching Students with Visual and Multiple Impairments: A Resource Guide, 2nd Edition (Smith & Levack)
the carolina record of individual behavior crib
State 1: Deep Sleep

State 2: Intermediate Sleep

State 3: Active Sleep

State 4: Drowsiness

State 5: Quiet Awake

State 6: Active Awake

State 7: Fussy Awake

State 8: Mild Agitation

State 9: Uncontrollable Agitation

The Carolina Record of Individual Behavior (CRIB)
every move counts62
Every Move Counts
  • Observe the student’s reaction to both the presentation and removal of the stimuli.
  • Provide a score of the overall reaction – see page 20.
every move counts63
Every Move Counts

Let’s try an example.

  • Amy is presented with the olfactory stimuli of mint extract. She is in a calm state prior to the presentation. Upon presentation of the extract, she crinkles up her face and begins to cry. After removing, she is calm.
every move counts64
Every Move Counts

Let’s try another example:

  • Prior to the presentation of tactile stimuli, Amy is in calm, relaxed state. Upon presentation of the vibro-tactile toy on Amy’s arm, her entire body becomes rigid. After removing, her body relaxes.
every move counts65
Every Move Counts
  • EMC also contains a Communication Assessment; see page 28
  • The score of this assessment does not give you a developmental age-level. Rather, it serves as baseline data for future, ongoing assessment to measure growth in the area of communication.
the callier azusa scale
The Callier-Azusa Scale
  • There are two main scales: G and H
  • Scale G includes the domains of: Motor Development, Perceptual Abilities, Daily Living Skills, Cognition, Communication & Language, and Social Development
  • Scale H is exclusively a Communication Assessment including the domains of: Representational/Symbolic Development, Receptive Communication, Development of Intentional Communication, and Reciprocity
the callier azusa scale67
The Callier-Azusa Scale
  • Both can be used for assessment of sensory and communication abilities
  • “Sensory & Communication Assessment: Excerpt of The Callier-Azusa Scale Cognition, Communication and Language” handout
  • For ordering information, go to:

communication a guide for teaching students with mivi
Communication: A Guide for Teaching Students with MIVI
  • This book includes both a communication assessment and teaching strategies/ curricular materials
  • Chapter 2 focuses on a process approach to assessment; designed as a tool for planning and assessing change. It collects info on:
    • Communication form, content and social aspects
    • Change in communication
    • Functional language, developmental readiness and learning priorities
communication a guide for teaching students with mivi69
Communication: A Guide for Teaching Students with MIVI
  • Five step process for gathering information regarding a student’s communication abilities
  • See ““Sensory & Communication Assessment: Excerpt of Communication: A Guide for Teaching Students with Visual and Multiple Impairments” handout
for more information
For more information…
  • Although it focuses on students who are deafblind, consider reviewing the communication assessment information available in Remarkable Conversations: A Guide to Developing Meaningful Communication with Children and Young Adults who are Deafblind (Miles & Riggio, 1999)
  • Provides a comprehensive process for communication assessment; not a tool.
reporting assessment results72
Reporting Assessment Results
  • Writing the assessment report is one of the most vital steps in the overall assessment process.
  • It is important to remember this is your one medium to convey the important findings of the assessments you conducted.
reporting assessment results73
Reporting Assessment Results

Writing the LMA Report

  • Two overall formats:
    • Written following the Functional Vision Evaluation, in one document, as part of an initial eligibility or reevaluation
    • Written alone as an ongoing, annual report to the IEP team
reporting assessment results74
Reporting Assessment Results

Writing the LMA Report

  • The LMA report should cover, in detail, the information gathered on each form.
  • It is a good idea to use form titles as “headers” for the report. This will ensure that you have reported all needed information.
  • The LMA Report must include Recommendations directly related to the assessment results!
reporting assessment results75
Reporting Assessment Results

Writing the LMA Report

  • If Every Move Counts was used as part of the LMA, consider reporting the results as part of the LMA Assessment report
  • If communication assessments were used, report these as a separate report but refer to the results in the LMA assessment report.
environments organization
Environments: Organization
  • Print rich environment with extensive labeling
  • Organization of the classroom into areas or centers
    • Centers or areas should be labeled in an appropriate and accessible format
    • Each center should contain literacy props, or literacy related items for reading, writing and communicating
environments organization79
Environments: Organization
  • The environment should be labeled in the assessment-based communication mode/literacy media for all students in the classroom
  • Labels can include print, large print, braille, real objects, tactile symbols, pictures and Mayer-Johnson symbols, etc, on one large piece of cardstock or cardboard.
environments centers
Classroom Library or Book Center

Writing Center

Dramatic Play or Daily Living Skill Centers

Block and Puzzle Centers

Math and Science Centers

Listening Center

Art/Tactile Center

Music Center

Class Large Group Area

Environments: Centers
environments centers81
Environments: Centers
  • All centers should include literacy props that are appropriate for the students, based on assessment results
  • For example, a writing or office center would include a braille writer for a student who will be learning braille or a 20/20 pen and bold line paper
strategies and activities for fostering early literacy
Strategies and Activities for Fostering Early Literacy

Note: Much of the fostering early literacy information in the following section was developed by Dr. M. Cay Holbrook & Dr. Alan J. Koenig (2002)

fostering early literacy
Fostering Early Literacy

Four main areas of focus:

  • Providing enriched early experiences
  • Reading aloud
  • Shared reading
  • Providing early literacy experiences
providing enriched experiences
Providing Enriched Experiences
  • Home, school and community
  • Students must be active participants in the experience!
  • Ensure that students are using a variety of senses during the experience.
providing enriched experiences85
Providing Enriched Experiences
  • In sequential experiences, students should be involved start to finish.
  • Provide accurate & consistent vocabulary throughout the experience.
reading aloud
Reading Aloud
  • Read early and read often!
  • Choose books that are interesting to your students & are based on real life experiences.
reading aloud87
Reading Aloud
  • Pick a daily time for reading aloud; make it part of a routine at home and school!
  • Model your enjoyment of reading; include others who enjoy reading.
  • Make the reading aloud process as multi-sensory as possible! Include tactile symbols or real objects.
  • Model book reading behaviors – page turning, holding the book, etc.

(Newbold, 2000)

shared reading
Shared Reading
  • Shared reading is the process of an adult and a student reading together in some capacity.
  • Use stories with predictable patterns or a repeated story line, as well as familiar stories or rhymes.
shared reading89
Shared Reading
  • Make the reading aloud process as multi-sensory as possible!
  • Use alternative or augmentative communication systems as part of shared readings.
    • However, the use of alternative or augmentative communication systems must be done so in a meaningful way!
provide literacy experiences
Provide Literacy Experiences


  • Experience stories
  • Book bags or boxes
  • Shared writing or scribbling
experience stories
Experience Stories

Joint story writing process based on an activity or event experienced by the student.

experience stories92
Experience Stories
  • Arrange an experience.
  • Take time throughout the experience to explore using all senses; collect artifacts.
  • Sit down with the student and write a story based on the experience.
  • Turn the story into a book and read!
books bags or boxes
Books Bags or Boxes
  • Bags or boxes with objects associated with a book or story.
  • Use the objects while reading the book or story either in a reading aloud or shared reading experience.
  • The type of objects should be based on student’s communication needs!
  • See “Tips for Creating Story Boxes” handout
shared writing or scribbling
Shared Writing or Scribbling
  • Shared writing or scribbling is a vital component of literacy development.
  • Model writing for students whenever possible.
    • Think of activities where you can model writing – what comes to mind?
  • Have plenty of paper, crayons, pencils, paints and a braille writer in a location accessible to students in a variety of locations.
unique needs of students with visual and multiple disabilities
Unique Needs of Students with Visual and Multiple Disabilities
  • Activity or Schedule Calendars
  • Choice Boards
  • Braille Readiness/Early Braille Activities
functional literacy programs
Functional Literacy Programs

Note: All of the information in the following section was developed by Dr. Diane P. Wormsley (2004)

functional literacy planning
Functional Literacy Planning
  • Create a text rich environment
  • Select the individualized reading and writing vocabulary
  • Create word boxes or flash cards and teach the first key words
  • Teach letter recognition skills
  • Assess phonemic awareness
  • Teach phonemic awareness
functional literacy planning102
Functional Literacy Planning
  • Develop writing skills: mechanics and process.
  • Create functional uses for reading and writing
  • Create stories
  • Keep detailed record and use diagnostic teaching
  • On going assessment and monitoring is key!
teacher perceptions105
Teacher Perceptions
  • The perceptions of teachers who work with students who have visual and multiple impairment varies in terms of their thoughts on what entails emergent literacy.
teacher perceptions106
Teacher Perceptions
  • For students with visual and multiple impairments, we are often so focused on their uniqueness that we forget that they are children who have the many similar developmental needs as all children.
  • Although teachers are working on many of the skills and activities suggested in the previous sections, they are not being highlighted as literacy activities and skills in IEP development.
  • As a field, we need to change this! If IEPs equal accountability, then we are shortchanging our efforts in the area of literacy by ignoring this on the IEP.
service delivery110
Service Delivery
  • As we discussed at the beginning of this presentation, all students with visual impairments deserve quality literacy instruction and support from a certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments
  • This can come in the form of consultation, but it also means direct services to all students – including those with multiple impairments.
service delivery111
Service Delivery
  • Ask yourself, would you every consider providing consultation only services to an emergent braille reader who does not have multiple impairments?
  • Then why it is acceptable to provide consultation only services for students who do have multiple impairments?