Developing Intervention Strategies and Training Materials to aid Dressing Skills in Visually-Impaired and Non-Visually Impaired Children aged 4-6years.
Being able to dress oneself is a key independent living skill for both sighted and visually impaired children. Sighted children use their incidental learning, largely accessed through visual observation, imitation, rehearsal and practise and parental support, to develop dressing skills in the early years (Lewis & Iselin, 2002). Visually impaired children, lacking access to incidental learning because of their diminished or absent sight need to be taught specific, structured strategies for dressing (Fairnham, M., Johnston, C., Kain, S., Kain, N., McCauley, A., & Steele, E. 2002; Swallow, 1987). These include practise in school as well as at home. Due to the vast within-subjects variation it may seem implausible to compare VI children with Non-VI as there is a failure to establish a group ‘norm’; yet research has also found a vast amount of within-subject variability in typically developed, sighted children, therefore supporting the comparison (Warren, 1984).
This paper reports small scale observation-informed piloting studies of a number of novel skill teaching strategies explored with samples of sighted and visually impaired children (aged 4-6 years). Very little research into such strategies or their effectiveness has been undertaken to date: what has been undertaken has been based on work originally aimed at the re-habilitation of adults following war or domestic injury (Klein, 1983), so lacks a child-centred approach. Additionally, VisionAustralia(Fairnham, M., Johnston, C., Kain, S., Kain, N., McCauley, A., & Steele, E. 2002) published an instructional resource indicating the motor skills required for independent living, and provide information for testing these skills. This internationally available resource has influenced the intervention strategies in the present research.
The research question concerns how development in sighted and visually impaired children occurs in relation to supporting the development of independent dressing skills through structured intervention. Specifically:
• Does level of visual impairment affect the effectiveness of dressing strategies?
• Can one intervention programme be suitable for both visually impaired and sighted children?
• Can an international training resource be developed from the intervention to assist supporting adults (i.e. teachers/teaching assistants and parents)?
The research may also be used as a model for a class of investigations of children’s independent living skill development, and related intervention development strategies applicable to other areas of children's independent living skills such as eating, personal care and organisation skills; that may also apply to broader issues of school readiness for those with other sensory needs and typically-developing children. Furthermore, the research provides the possibility for the development of training programmes suitable for the key adults supporting the children i.e. parents, teachers, teaching assistants and learning support assistants. The intervention materials (specifically the jigsaw puzzle) are of a universal design; meaning that they are not necessarily confined to the constraints of a single language. Further testing will vigorously investigate the potential for incorporation of the intervention and training materials within the curriculum in the UK and Europe.
The current small scale work used a pre-test, intervention, post-test routine and three different instructional strategies (a novel jigsaw and practical dressing game; a novel story/song and sequential movement, practical dressing activity and the use of established song based activities) to look at the progress of a sample of 16 children, 4 of whom were visually impaired. The learning support assistants and teaching assistants were encouraged to participate in directing the intervention, and observing the methods used so they could employ them post-test.
Surprisingly the results suggested there may be a need for sighted children to be taught dressing strategies as well as the expected need for visually impaired children; strategies that engaged motor activities linked to audio stimulation of dressing sequences (through songs), direct use of physical imitation and an emphasis on the clear sequencing of the process of dressing were found to be useful with implications for the role of motor and sensory memory. The results further indicated that involved adults' training in the relevant strategies (and novel resources created for the study) may also be needed to ensure increased independence for young children, regardless of need, when at school. A progression for the research is to investigate whether such training materials would be of international benefit for both visually impaired and sighted children.
Fairnham, M., Johnston, C., Kain, S., Kain, N., McCauley, A., & Steele, E. (2002). Do it yourself: Encouraging Independence in Children who are blind.
R. Flavel, H. Lunn & C. Johnston (Eds.) Vision Australia (blindness and low vision services): University of Sydney
Klein, M. D. (1983). Pre-Dressing Skills: Skill Starters for Self-Help Development. Arizona: Communication Skill Builders Inc.
Swallow, R-M., & Huebner, K. M. (Eds.) (1987). How to Thrive, Not Just Survive: A Guide to Developing Independent Life Skills for Blind and Visually Impaired Children and Youths. New York: American Foundation for the Blind.
Warren, D. H., (1987). Blindness and Early Childhood Development.(2nd Ed.) American Foundation for the Blind.