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Summer 99 Table of Contents
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An Introduction to Dr. Lilli Nielsen's Active Learning

By Stacy Shafer, Early Childhood Specialist, TSBVI, VI Outreach

This article first appeared in the June 1995 edition of VISIONS

Dr. Lilli Nielsen has worked as special education adviser at Refsnaesskolen, National Institute to Blind and Partially Sighted Children and Youth in Denmark since 1967. She was trained as a preschool teacher and psychologist. She has performed research in the area of spatial relations with infants who are congenitally blind and has written several books and articles about educating children with visual impairments and multiple disabilities. Dr. Nielsen's approach is called Active Learning. She has presented week-long training sessions on developing the full potential of young children with visual impairments and multiple disabilities in countries around the world. We were very fortunate that she presented in Dallas, Texas, May 1994. I was asked to write about some of the information she has shared with us.

All young children learn through play. They need to be encouraged to explore their environment and objects in their environment. Dr. Nielsen believes that all very young children learn by being active, rather than passive recipients of stimulation. We need to observe typical children to see how they learn to move their own bodies (raising their heads, reaching for objects, sitting up, etc.); use their bodies to explore their surroundings (including any and all objects within their surroundings); and actively participate in interactions with other people. A visual impairment prohibits a child from having enough opportunities to develop these abilities and have these experiences without intervention. She encourages adults to set up the child's environment so that s/he can do this.

Here are a few of Dr. Nielsen's recommendations when developing the child's environment:

Dr. Nielsen has given us lots of information about ways to encourage a child with a visual impairment to learn and develop. For more information about Dr. Nielsen's Active Learning, contact the Consultant for the Visually Impaired at your Education Service Center or call Outreach Services at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.


Here are some of the books and articles written by Lilli Nielsen.

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