Melanie Audet, Foundation for Blind Children Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Orientation and Mobility Specialist, breaks down the basics of the Expanded Core Curriculum
Have you ever stopped and wondered how one learns to greet people, use an iPhone, or walk as a child? Well, people learn these skills by using their vision to observe others. Someone who is blind or visually impaired may not have the same opportunity to learn using their vision. The Expanded Core Curriculum can fill that gap.
So, what is the Expanded Core Curriculum? It’s a curriculum of nine skill areas specially designed for students with visual impairments to compensate for their decreased opportunities to learn incidentally. When these skill areas are combined, a student is able to access their environment in every day life. Here are the nine different areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum:
Activities of Living of Daily
The first area is Activities of Daily Living; this area focuses on skills needed to care for oneself. This could be teaching a student how to cut vegetables on a cutting board, or how to do laundry. Additional areas include money management, personal hygiene, and home organization.
The next area is Career Education; over 70% of individuals who are blind or visually impaired are currently unemployed. This area is really important to teach students about the world of work. This can be done through an experience-based model. Students may conduct informational interviews, engage in volunteer experiences, or intern at companies to understand their role in the workplace.
The next area is Assistive Technology; this skill area focuses on teaching students skills to access different types of technology. This could be learning how to use accessibility features on a phone, or a tablet, or using a screen reader to send an email, or open a file. All students should learn the different forms of technology available.
Recreation & Leisure
The next area is Recreation & Leisure; students will learn how to have fun. This might be introducing new hobbies, sharing the game of goal ball, a game that relies on touch and sound, or trying a musical instrument. The goal is to help students understand different activities available so that they can enjoy their downtime.
The next skill area is Compensatory Access; this skill area focuses on how students access their academics. This could be teaching a student braille if they’re unable to read print, or teaching them how to use auditory information as part of their learning. Students may also be given help on concept-building and organizational skills.
The next skill area is Self-Determination; this skill area is where students are taught how to advocate for themselves. This could be sharing the accommodations available through their Individualized Education Plan, or how to communicate to others their vision loss. The goal is for students to feel confident.
Orientation & Mobility
The next skill area is Orientation & Mobility; this skill area focuses on teaching a student how to become oriented with their surroundings and how to be mobile in that space. All students should feel safe and independent in travel. This could look like teaching a student how to cross a light-controlled intersection as they’re preparing for college, or how to use a white cane to travel down a hallway without a guide.
The next skill area is Sensory Efficiency; students will be encouraged to use all of their senses– functional vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. This could look like teaching a student how to use their hearing to navigate to the school cafeteria during a busy lunch period, or using their sense of touch to feel a landmark to identify their location.
The last area is Social Skills; students will be taught how to participate in social interactions appropriately. This could look like teaching students how to communicate with someone based on their tone of voice when they may not be able to see their facial expressions or understanding when they hear someone walking towards them to stand up and prepare to greet them with a handshake.
The knowledge and implementation of the Expanded Core Curriculum should be directed by a student’s TVI or O&M specialist and supported by family, friends, and teachers to ensure the student’s success and independence.