Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) – “Blindness Skills”
Acquisition of these disability-specific skills is critical to fully accessing the academic curriculum and to the development of independent functioning. These are infused into the day and evening instructional programs at Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB).
Compensatory Academic Skills:
- Reading Braille and reading with devices that enlarge print are complex skills. Speed, comprehension, and the stamina to do sustained reading are often lacking in students with visual impairments.
- Because of an inability to quickly scan a lot of visual information, the organization of papers in a retrievable way requires structured approaches that must be taught.
- For a blind child, braille is essential to becoming literate.
Orientation & Mobility:
- Often considered the most important skill for addressing barriers imposed by visual impairment, O & M travel techniques encompass many skills for independent functioning, such as employment and community life access.
- Early intervention and age-appropriate cane skills and travel experiences taught by a certified instructor are essential.
Social Interaction and Self-Determination:
- Social isolation is a reality for many students with visual impairments. The majority of social skills are learned through visual observation – posture, expressions, mannerisms, fashion.
- Structured learning opportunities throughout the school year lead to improved life outcomes.
- This requires skills and beliefs in order for graduating students to pursue personal goals and self-manage their lives successfully. They must understand their own strengths and limitations and see themselves as capable adults.
- Students need structured opportunities, starting early in their school career, to work on choice-making, problem-solving, self-evaluation, independence, leadership and self-advocacy.
- Activities of daily living (hygiene, grooming, dressing, organizing, accessing one’s personal space and belongings, food preparation and consumption) play an important role in independence.
- These skills are typically acquired through observation and play. For blind students, teaching these skills is time-intensive.
- Unemployment among blind adults of working age is 70%; only 30% are employed and 90% of those employed read braille.
- KSSB graduates, in the last 10 years, are either employed or in post-secondary training or college at a ratio of 85%.
- Opportunities for visually impaired students to learn about work through structured experiences is essential to learn about the range of careers, what people do on the job, and to develop their own career interests. Most people learn this visually in incidental ways.
- Assistive technology integrated as a learning tool into the general curriculum is a great equalizer for a visually impaired student. Much of it relies on knowledge of braille.
- The ability to access, store, retrieve, organize and produce written information using adaptive technology is a complex task for both student and teacher, requiring added time for research and instruction.
- Sensory Efficiency Skills (Visual, Auditory, Tactile):
- Students who have a significant visual impairment but appear to see well are among the most overlooked and underserved. They fake their way through years of being unable to make full use of what they see.
- Low Vision evaluations and instruction in the use of optical and non-optical aids can make an enormous improvement in school and life success if caught early.
Recreation & Leisure:
- Students with visual impairments are at a disadvantage in typical P.E. classes and may not develop important lifelong skills that promote fitness unless specialized instruction is provided.
- Students need structured exposure to activities that lead to a balanced lifestyle.