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Check out this blog from a parent using Active Learning! - Thanks for sharing this, Cindy Peters!


Aristotle once said, "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them."

"We are not teaching skills; we are activating neurology."  - Daniel Kish

Active Learning is an approach developed by Dame Lilli Nielsen to aid visually impaired and deafblind individuals develop tactile skills and build foundational skills in other critical cognitive, physical and emotional development.  Based on typical child development, this approach targets individuals of all ages who function under a developmental age of 3 when real learning only takes place by "doing".  To learn more about this approach, explore the resources listed on this page.

Dame Lilli NielsenDame Lilli Nielsen (1926-2013)

Dame Lilli Nielsen passed away in June of 2013 only days after the Active Learning Conference in Houston.  We honor her life and work and mourn her passing. 

Active Learning Theory was developed by Dame Lilli Nielsen, sibling of and teacher to individuals with visual impairments and deafblindness in Denmark.  Her approach has been widely used throughout Texas, the nation and the world to address learning for these children.

In an effort to promote the use of Active Learning theory with students who are visually impaired, visually and multiply impaired or deafblind, Outreach Programs has collected relevant articles and information to share with professionals and family members.  What follows is a listing of training events, articles, books, videos, websites, and other materials on this approach.

Recent Additions to this Page


On this webpage:

Training Events

Articles and Fact Sheets




Videos, Webcasts and Webinars


Other Materials

Training Events

February 26-27, 2016

Active Learning Conference

Location:  James C. Durkel Conference Center at Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, Austin, TX

Presenter:  Patty Obzrut, Director, Penrickton Center for the Blind, Michigan

This conference will provide strategies and resources for teachers and paraprofessionals who serve students with low incidence disabilities (i.e. severely cognitively disabled, medically fragile, and/or deafblind). Motivating and inspiring an individual with special needs to engage in their environment can be challenging.  Delve deeper into Active Learning theory and ways to implement this approach. Content will include the following topics:

  • General overview of Active Learning and the dynamic learning circle.
  • Understanding and Implementing The Five Phases of Educational Treatment
  • The Functional Scheme:  Assessing the Developmental Level of special needs students
  • Identifying the developmental progression that occurs when using Active Learning equipment
  • The FIELA curriculum and meeting the needs of the special needs student
  • Adapting the daily curriculum to reflect Active Learning Techniques
  • Daily living skills and Active Learning:  Training vs. Learning
  • Planning for the future – identifying the needs of your program and creating inspiration for change.

Registration Fee

$100 for Professionals and Family Members thru January 15th; $125 after that date.

$75 for Paraprofessionals and University Students thru January 15th; $100 after that date.

Assistance is available for Texas family members of students with visual impairments or deafblindness on a limited basis.  For more information visit the Conference web page.

Registration will open in early December.

Articles and Fact Sheets

An Introduction to Dr. Lilli Nielsen's Active Learning

This article discusses some of the basic strategies of Dr. Lilli Nielsen's Active Learning Theory.

Active Learning and the Exploration of Real Objects

This article describes some of the techniques of Dr. Lilli Nielsen's Active Learning Theory.

Incorporating Active Learning Theory into Activity Routines

This article focuses on Phase IV and V of Lilli Nielsen's five educational phases of educational treatment outlined in her book, Are You Blind?, and how the Active Learning principles can be incorporated into activity routines.

Five Phases of Educational Treatment Used in Active Learning 

This article focuses on five phases of educational approaches that teachers are to use in working with children if they are using an Active Learning theory approach. It summarizes the information first published as part of Dr. Nielsen's book, Are You Blind?

How to Make a Texture Board to Scratch, Grab, Hold & Release

Job One for Educators: Becoming a Good Playmate

If children learn through play, then we must become better playmates in order to facilitate better learning for the child.

Resonance Board and Little Room Design Information

Tactual Skills for Students with Visual Impairments

Taking a Look at the FIELA Curriculum: 730 Learning Environments by Dr. Lilli Nielsen

This article is based on a book by Dr. Lilli Nielsen titled The FIELA Curriculum: 730 Learning Environments and lists the developmental behaviors in three-month increments as described in this book.

Touch: A Critical Sense for Individuals with Visual Impairments (NEW)

What My Daughter Taught Me About Active Learning or Whose Goal Is It?

A parent shares her journey in encouraging her daughter's learning through play—on her own terms at home and at school.


Dr. Neilsen's books are published in the United States and sold through LilliWorks.  These books include:

  • The FIELA Curriculum: 730 activities
  • Functional Scheme:Functional Skills Assessment
  • Early Learning Step by Step
  • Spatial Relations In Congenitally Blind Infants
  • Educational Approaches
  • Are You Blind?
  • Space and Self
  • The Comprehending Hand

One of her colleagues, Dr. van der Poel, has published a book of interest to those seeking information on Active Learning.

  • Visual Impairment - Understanding the Needs of Young Children


Active Learning Forms used by staff at TSBVI Outreach Programs

Active Learning Planning Sheet is a form created to capture information about the child's preferences and responses for use in planning Active Learning instructional activities.

Attractive Objects includes a list of objects that might be used in Active Learning activities and environments suggested in Lilli's book Space and Self.


Handouts and Notes 

Handout for Active Learning for Students with Visual and Multiple Impairments Conference in 2013

Active Learning Study Group Webinars 2013-14

September 2013 - Handout

October 2013 - Handout

November 2013 - Handout

January 2014 - Handout

Feb 2014 - Handout

April 2014 - Handout

Active Learning Study Group 2014-15

September 2014 - Handout

October 2014 - Handout

November 2014 - Handout

December 2014 - Handout

January 2015 - Handout

March 2015 - Handout

April 2015 - Handout



Narbethong State Special School

Penrickton Center for Blind Children

PBS Parents, Child Development, Baby & Toddler Milestones

Site of Senses Project

Videos, Webinars, and Webcasts

Webinars and TETN Broadcasts on TSBVI's On the Go Learning


Perceptualizing Aids:  How, Why and When

Instructional Strategies for VI Students Under the Developmental Age of 3 - TETN 20440 - Archived broadcast from 2013 on the TSBVI Distance Learning site.

Sophie's Resonance Board - YouTube video of a toddler in an Active Learning environment

Washington State Services for Children with Deaf-Blindness videos on Active Learning and Hand Under Hand


Zoe in the Little Room on YouTube


Advisor website video on  Active Learning Play Space

Other Materials

Active Learning Equipment

Braille Literacy: Back to the Basics - An article on teaching tactile skills from Paths to Literacy website.

56 Tactile Math Ideas: Ideas and Suggestions for Development of Early Maths Skills - Math activities that include an Active Learning Approach on the Paths to Literacy website.

Pre-Braille - From Paths to Literacy information about important concepts, motor skills, auditory skills and tactile skills needed for developing literacy skills in children with visual impairments.  All of these skills can be worked on through Active Learning approaches.

Downloadable catalog from LilliWorks with information on purchasing all of the Active Learning equipment.

Lily Voekel Foundation makes Resonance Boards for families who need one in their home and are unable to get it through typical channels.  Learn more about this resource.