Good Play Curricula for Professionals

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This pictorial curriculum provides new and stimulating research-based insights and guidance for parents, teachers, and adults who work with visually handicapped toddlers. These toddlers need specific skills which will insure successful cognitive and social learning and will ease later transitions to other life situations.

The techniques presented in this pictorial curriculum reflect optimism and confidence in the diversity and flexibility of the individual infant. Many theories, programs, and tests limit the potential of the child with visual and multiple handicaps. This curriculum assumes a more optimistic position, stressing flexibility, and plasticity inherent in the human organism.

Where a broad range of possibilities exist, there is a need for a detailed well-traveled curricular map with which to travel. The GOOD PLAY PICTORIAL CURRICULUM presents such a map with orderly alternatives and possibilities associated with specifics: (a) what objects to use? (b) which activities and techniques match stages of development? (c) how can a flexible teaching style be used?

Infants and toddlers use vision, as they do every sense, in order to function. Regardless of how much they see, infants believe exactly what they see. They are concrete observers, mixing and matching sensory information across several senses. This means that a pragmatic educational curricula for infants and toddlers with visual/multiple handicaps must be functional and concrete. But it must be something more, much more. It must incorporate simultaneous presentations of several sensory areas in order to maximize every opportunity to obtain optimal development.

This "new" approach comes from research that demonstrates how learning to use separate sensory data develops only as children approach the preschool years. Toddlers, regardless of degree of visual loss, have been shown to use residual levels of vision with great intensity, as if they are all too aware of the dominant influence vision has in relation to other senses.

The intensity factor has led to speculation that a cross-over multiple-sensory-domain technique will facilitate the ability of toddlers to mentally represent objects, and to enhance their ability to develop social contacts, especially group play with peers. This new approach offers individual toddlers the chance to control aspects of their home and school environment by means of auditory and spatial scanning.

Research has also shown that the rate of developmental progress in the first 3 years of life has been directly in proportion to the amount of residual sensory functioning available to the child. The more residual vision, the faster the rate. The more residual movement or hearing, the faster the rate of progress. Thus, this curriculum will emphasize residual potential, as well as instruction and motivation based not on a single replacement system (i.e., replacing vision with tactile input), but upon a simultaneous, multiple sensory, and controlled environmental approach.

For example, an array of specific objects may be arranged so that a toddler is motivated to match one sense experience to one motor or language experience. As an illustration, a book may be offered by the teacher as something to read "up-close" (visual) or "listened to" over the microphone that the teacher uses (audition), or the book might be used as a page turning and passing device (tactile or manual). Toddlers are being taught to respond to preferences that "match" the sensory information they need at their level at a specific point in time.

It may be that simultaneous delivery of information in this way may cause toddlers to develop skills in self-directed listening and self-organized behavior. As an illustration, a teacher or parent reads from a book, passes the book for looking at pictures, and later, places the book on a shelf so that the child could locate and use it later. The teacher or parent becomes an entertaining facilitator, heightening motivation and excitement and producing intentionality in toddlers' responses.

In our culture, childhood is long. A long period of flexible childhood learning allows for the evolutionary process of neotency which "slows down the developmental rates and the consequent retention of adulthood traits" Gould (1986). Human infants have big brains proportionate to their bodies. Their brain mass doubles in weight in 6 months! Human toddlers have more circuitry and more capacity for flexible responses than seems possible from the sheer amount of material contained therein. Many have described the feeling that each individual is somehow more than the sum of his other parts. Thus, the multiple sensory effect idea developed here seems a good way to deal with all this potential. Are infant developmental patterns like climbing a ladder, branches of a tree, weaving a fabric? Which metaphor fits? A metaphor deserves a curriculum that fits. There is in all likelihood an interweaving of sense information as Robertson (1981) puts it, that can be controlled in order to assist very young children in accommodating to their environment and situation!

What do we know?

Who? Who will the curriculum serve? Why not young infants?

How? How will this curriculum deliver? What are the technology of learning and technology of teaching?

Where? Where does good play happen?

When? When does good play happen?

Ask Dr. Susan