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Fall 2005 Table of Contents
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Taking a Look at the FIELA Curriculum: 730 Learning Environments by Dr. Lilli Nielsen

By Kate Moss, Deafblind Specialist, Texas Deafblind Outreach

Abstract: 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.

Key Words:Programming, visually impaired, blind, deafblind, Dr. Lilli Nielsen, Active Learning, developmental behaviors.

Many of the children who are congenitally blind with additional disabilities or deafblind have a great deal of difficulty learning because of their inability to access information in the environment the way a typically developing child does. Though they learn in similar ways, the learning process a typically developing child uses before the age of three may not be naturally accessible to the child with vision and hearing loss or motor impairments.

If you watch children under the age of three you see they are constantly moving in and through their environment, interacting with objects. They examine them by tasting, smelling, touching, listening and looking. Through this interaction they use muscles and develop coordination to sing, talk, eat, reach, grasp, lift, bang, shake, and throw. They learn about properties and concepts such as weight, temperature, textures, size, color, shape, and smell by comparing and contrasting the things they contact. Children at this age literally form the neural pathways that help them to see similarities and differences in objects, people, and experiences. This type of learning is the critical foundation of all future learning. Babies and toddlers are also developing emotionally at this age. Beginning with critical bonding to mom and dad, the baby quite naturally learns to accept and interact with an ever-expanding circle of people.

Many congenitally blind and deafblind children fail to develop these foundational concepts in the same way as a typical child because they cannot interact independently with their environments --- their world may only extend only as far as their hands or feet or mouth can touch. Early bonding may be jeopardized by hospitalization and medical treatments. Getting to people or even knowing that there are others around may not be easy. Many of these children continue to function at a very early stage of cognitive and emotional development even after their bodies have grown and they have become much older.

Dr. Lilli Nielsen talks about the importance of addressing the child's development in cognitive, physical and emotional areas. She offers strategies that work to advance the child's learning. I recently reread her book, The FIELA Curriculum: 730 Learning Environments. In this book Dr. Nielsen describes behaviors for developmental levels from birth to 48 months (4 years) in three-month increments. When we are using an Active Learning approach to instruction, it is important to have a clear picture of each stage of development especially with children who are older than 4 chronologically but developmentally below the age of 4. Becoming a better observer of the child's behaviors helps guide material design, learning environments, and interaction strategies when utilizing Active Learning. Below is a list of various behaviors discussed in Dr. Nielsen's book. I would encourage parents and professionals to get a copy of this book for a more in-depth discussion of these behaviors and the adult's role in facilitating development of skills. Being familiar with these developmental behaviors is invaluable in utilizing an Active Learning approach.

Behaviors 0-3 Months

Behaviors 3-6 Months

Behaviors 6-9 Months

Behaviors 9-12 Months

Behaviors 12-15 Months

Behaviors 15-18 Months

Behaviors 16-24 Months

Behaviors 24-30 Months

Behaviors 30-36 Months

Behaviors 36-42 Months

Behaviors 42-48 Months


Nielsen, Lilli, 1998. The FIELA Curriculum: 730 Learning Environments. SIKON, Copenhagen, Denmark.

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