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A Core Curriculum for Professionals working in Early Intervention with

Children with Low Vision and multi-disabilities.

Focus Area: Early Intervention

Topic: MDVI


Marianna Buultjens

Senior Lecturer

Scottish Sensory Centre

Moray House School of Education

University of Edinburgh

Holyrood Road

Edinburgh EH8 8AQ


++44 131 651 6204

Marianna.Buultjens @ ed.ac.uk

Dr. Lea Hÿvarinen

Apollonkatu 6a 4




++35 894 636363


lea. hyvarinen@ lea-test, fi

Frank Laemers

Universitit Dortmund

Fachbereich 13

Blinden- und Sehbehindertenpfidagogik

44221 Dortmund

Emil-Figge Str. 50

++49 231/755 5874

Frank. Laemers@udo. edu


A Core Curriculum for professionals is one of the outcomes of an EU-funded project which ran from 1998-2001. This project focussed on a group of children who have been frequently neglected in the past and sometimes even today: young children who are blind or visually impaired and have additional or multiple disabilities. There are many reasons for the 'neglect' of this group of children: failure to diagnose or assess the needs of these children; the numbers identified are small (low-incidence); lack of knowledge among professionals of how to 'deal' with these children; no pressure groups to champion their cause. A project, limited both in time and finance, could not possibly hope to address all the issues relating to these children and this project chose to focus on 'Low Vision' because of the many recent developments in diagnosis and increase in understanding of how ocular and cerebral visual impairment affect visual function.

International team work

International collaboration is essential in order to win EU funding and four countries were represented in this team. The project was managed by the University of Dortmund, Germany, with Professor Dr Renate Walthes of the Department of Education of the Blind and Visually Impaired, as director, ably assisted by Frank Laemers as her research associate. Eberhard Fuchs, Director of the Blindeninstitutsstiftung Warzburg represented the long-established peripatetic Early Intervention service for this group of children which is provided by the school in Wtirzburg. Finland was represented by Dr Lea Hÿvarinen, ophthalmologist, internationally known for her research and test materials for children. Dr Mercé Leonhardt, a psychologist, expert in working with families of blind and visually impaired neonates and young children, represented Spain and her employer, the voluntary organisation ONCE. Marianna Buultjens of Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh, teacher trainer with a special interest in the assessment of functional vision in this group of children, represented Scotland/UK.

The team communicated by email and had seven meetings hosted by different members of the group in their own countries. At the very first meeting in Wirzburg the aims, objectives and strategies for the whole project were identified.

·       The questionnaire: as the focus of the project was Europe-wide and not confined to the boundaries of the EU it was vital to find out what the picture was across the whole of Europe in the provision of services to multiply-disabled, blind and visually impaired children. A questionnaire which would provide us with both quantitative and qualitative information on services in the different countries was chosen as the first task for the group.

·       Core Curriculum: identifying what should be essential knowledge, skills and attitudes for those working in this area of early intervention and bringing together written, video and other resources was seen as a task which would continue throughout the three years of the project.

·       One-week course for professionals and parents: the running of a week-long course for participants from as many countries as possible throughout Europe was one of the conditions for funding under Comenius 3.2. At our first meeting in Wtirzburg we decided that this course would take place in Germany in September 2000.

·       Setting up of a website and production of a CD-ROM: Renate and Frank undertook to establish a website for the project. As the project developed it was agreed that the team would collaborate in providing text and video for the production of a CD-ROM which would support the course and then a final CD-ROM which would contain all the outcomes of the project including the structure and content of the core curriculum.

Core Curriculum for Staff

Over the three-year period of the project work was done by the team and other contributors to develop the structure and contents of a training 'package' for professionals who work with young children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment. The wish of the project team was to provide a resource which could be used by existing training providers to supplement their courses or be used by individuals working in this area to further develop their own knowledge. The core curriculum has four main sections: Child Development; Visual System; Assessment; Intervention. In the final version there are 16 Modules with descriptors supplied (see Figure below for full list). There are module descriptors for all topics supported by additional text, video or other supplementary material. As it is contained on a CD-ROM storage space has not been a problem!

Figure 1




A1       New concepts and current theories of early childhood development

A2       Development with visual impairment and with additional or multiple disabilities
            (Incl.: meaning of perception and movement for development," development of     communication," use of touch and hearing ---> multisensory integration; risk factors or signs)



B1       Anterior Visual Functions

            (Incl.: structure of the eye; visual functions [eg; visual acuity, visual field, colour vision,   contrast sensitivity, binocular vision ...]; oculomotor functions)

B2       Posterior Visual Functions

            (Incl.: vision as a brain function; perception; development of visual perception)


C1       Clinical Evaluation (How to understand the results)

            (Incl.: methodological aspects of the assessment of vision in children; assessment materials;

            communication; ergonomic aspects, optical and non-optical devices)

C2       Educational-psychological approaches (main focus)- functional aspects

            (Incl.: methodological aspects of the assessment of vision in children; assessment materials," communication; ergonomic aspects)

C3       Implementation of the results in the intervention process

            (Incl.." interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration; coordination of the assessment          [,, keyperson "]; recording and reporting the results [for the parents," for the team etc])


D1       Methodological aspects of intervention

D2       Methodologies of communication (communication systems)

D3       Family orientated approaches

D4       Psychomotor development

D5       Multisensory development and training

D6       Vision stimulation

D7       Concepts of improving vision

(Areas: - Vision for communication; - vision for orientation & movement; - vision for activities of daily living," - vision for sustained near vision tasks; with regard to Ergonomic,    ecological and environmental aspects)

D8       Collaboration with other specialists (the meaning of the knowledge of local networks)

D9       Quality assurance - Evaluation


Structure of Workshop

Participants in the workshop will be taken through the structure of the Core Curriculum illustrated by examples from the content of the CD-ROM. Discussion will focus on ways this material could most profitably be used in the training of Early Intervention practitioners, either as 'stand-alone' material or as part of, or complementary to, an existing course.

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