Instructional Approaches and Learning Theory

Educators use various approaches for teaching students who have multiple disabilities. This section features links to current teaching methods: the Van Dijk Approach and Dr. Lilli Nielsen's Active Learning, as well as important information for creating environments that enhance learning.

Van Dijk Approach

National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness
Dr. Stephanie MacFarland, who specializes in training teachers of students with multiple disabilities, outlines van Dijk's learning theory for children who are deafblind.
National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness
Dr. Jan van Dijk describes his educational approach, including the topics of attachment and the development of communication.
Perkins eLearning, Perkins School for the Blind
This tutorial presents two webcast interviews with Dr. van Dijk, in which he explains and demonstrates his educational theories. Continuing education credits can be purchased, but the videos are available freely.
Features a weblog with updates on research and publications, and a forum of experts that respond to questions about education of children with deafblindness.

Dr. Lilli Nielsen's Active Learning Approach

This website offers an overview of the work of Dr. Lilli Nielsen, with an introduction to the Active Learning approach, materials, equipment and instructional strategies.  The site is a collaboration between Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Penrickton Center for Blind Children, and Perkins School for the Blind.
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)
Recorded video webinars on various aspects of Active Learning can be viewed here.
Future Reflections, 2004, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
This is an excerpt from Dr. Lilli Nielsen's book, Early Learning Step by Step. It outlines her Active Learning Approach and explains the importance of the learning environment for childen with visual impairments and multiple disabilities.
Future Reflections, 2012, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Educator Gigi Newton tells a personal story of how she moved from rejecting Lilli Nielsen's Active Learning Theory to becoming a self-described "groupie" of her methods.
Future Reflections, 2006, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Sue Elan Holmes writes "about her experience with the Little Room, and what the Active Learning approach has meant for her son, Jimmy."
Future Reflections, 2005, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Stacy Shafer outlines some of Dr. Lilli Nielsen's recommendations for designing a learning environment for a child with visual impairments and multiple disabilities.
National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB)
NCDB hosts a portal page on their website with an overview on the work of Dr. Lilli Nielsen, with links to key resources
This website is a primary source of information on Active Learning and the sole source of Active Learning equipment authorized by Dr. Lilli Nielsen in North America.
Washington Sensory Disabilities Services
Video resources can be highly informative, especially when explaining Space for Active Learning (SAL). On this page, you'll find three videos demonstrating various types of SALs. (For best results, use Internet Explorer to view Videos.) Be sure to also read the FAQ page offered here.
Future Reflections, 2006, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Jean Bugbee shares her experiences using the Active Learning Approach with her adopted daughter, Renee.

Environmental Considerations 

California Deaf-Blind Services
Elizabeth Hartmann focuses on three main aspects of environments in this article (page 3): space, people, and time. Giving each appropriate attention "make them more conducive to meaningful communication" for children with deafblindness.
Ohio Center for Deafblind Education
Authored by Kay L. Clarke of the Ohio Center for Deafblind Education, this downloadable booklet includes detailed instructions for creating structures for safe and independent play.