Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) is the set of nine specialized instructional areas addressed by the educational team, including the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments, the Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist and other school personnel qualified to provide instruction. The ECC areas are used as a framework for assessment to identify specialized instructional needs that are required to enable the student to access the general core curriculum and additional needs that result from the visual impairment as required by IDEA.
1. Assistive Technology
Assistive Technology is an equalizer because it provides a student who has a visual impairment access to the educational instructional materials. The ability to access, store, retrieve, organize and produce written information using adaptive technology is a complex task for both student and teacher, requiring added time for research and instruction.
In addition the availability of tools and devices is constantly changing that needs careful selection of assistive Tools and devices in order to provide access to the core curriculum (reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies) and speciality area classes such as: music, art, PE, etc.
According to IDEA, Assistive technology refers to both the devices and services identified as a need for special education services, related services or as a supplemental aid and service.
It is recommended that an individual knowledgable in the area of visual impairment and the universal tools as well as assistive tools and devices uniquely developed for use by individuals who are visually impaired is a part of the assessment and selection process when determining assistive technology needs and services.
2. Career Education
Employment data for individuals who are blind or who have a visual impairment is concerning. Most people state that unemployment among blind adults of working age is 70%. This percentage is significant and requires focus to address this need. Most children visually observe and learn about careers as they go with their families and friends into the community but individuals who are blind do not. When students are provided structured activities and work related experiences to learn about career, outcomes are improved. Students learn about the range of available careers, what people do when on a job, and begin to examine their own career interests.
It is clear that for successful employment outcomes Career Education is is infused in the curriculum from early childhood through high school and beyond. Young children can learn about all of the types of jobs represented in their own community. As the student moves up in grades, this awareness expands and includes instruction in job tasks, practical experiences through volunteer and paid opportunities in the local community and forming more personal employment interests.
3. Compensatory Skills
Compensatory Academic Skills are the ones necessary to access the core curriculum and includes communication methods such as braille, Nemeth code, tactile graphics, tactual symbols. It also includes ways to access the print environment through braille, print, digital or audio formats. In addition this topic includes ways to access digital content or complex mathematics, science or diagrams, charts and graphs through accessible learning software, large print/talking calculators or the abacus. In addition organization skills, concept development, study skills and sign language when needed is included in this vast set of skills covered by the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments. Speed, comprehension, ease of use and the stamina to access the educational curriculum is critical component. to ensure a student who is blind or has a visual impairment develops literacy in print, mathematics and computers.
4. Independent Living
Activities of daily living (hygiene, grooming, dressing, organizing, accessing one’s personal space and belongings, food preparation and consumption) play an important role in independence. These skills are typically acquired through incidental learning opportunities based on observation and play but for the student who is blind or who is visually impaired, intentional teaching is more beneficial. The resources listed below may not be exclusively designed for students who have a visual impairment but can be used by the TSVI to determine topics in the area of the ECC areas.
5. Orientation and Mobility
Along with literacy, Orientation and mobility (O&M) is considered an essential skill for individuals who are blind or who are visually impaired because it provides the foundation for independent functioning. O&M is part of the expanded core curriculum and is an IDEA related service considered as a possible need related to the visual impairment for children ages birth to 21. Basically O&M teaches the student how to safely and efficiently move or travel in their environment. Specialized instruction is provided in familiar and unfamiliar indoor environments, home and school, residential neighborhoods, business environments, navigating intersections and using public transportation. Instruction may include the use of the cane, maps, monocular, GPS systems, and paper or digital maps are included. This related service must be provided a certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS).
6. Recreation and Leisure
All of us need to have a balanced lifestyle that includes employment/work and recreation/leisure. The benefits of balancing work and leisure are often listed as improved health, reduced stress and depression. Students who are blind or who are visually impaired may not visually observe many of the opportunities available for either active or passive recreation and leisure activities. Intentional awareness and instruction in this ECC area is critical to prepare for life beyond high school. Active leisure activities include movement such as dancing, running, swimming and passive leisure activities encourage relaxation such as reading, visiting with friends, watching a moving.
Self-determination includes choice-making, decision-making, problem solving, personal advocacy, assertiveness, and goal setting. Students who have a visual impairment often experience a lot of help to complete tasks. As a result they may experience fewer opportunities to practice completing tasks on their own, problem solving or making choices. Allowing the student to make decisions, set goals and solve daily problems will increase chances for independence beyond high school.
8. Sensory Efficiency
There is a perception that when an individual has a visual impairment, their other senses (hearing, touch, smell, taste) are automatically heightened. That is not necessarily a true statement. Some individuals may improve use of their senses due to attention and practice while others for a variety of reasons may require support and instruction. Keep in mind that vision loss can appear confusing to others. A student may walk around the hallways never bumping into anything and yet in the classroom, can’t read the print on the paper or describe a photograph accurately. In addition when a student is asked if they can “see” the assignment easily – the common answer is “yes” – even though they do not. The student is not lying, they just may not realize their vision does not provide the same accuracy as those who have perfect sight. As a result – it is necessary to determine if a student needs specialized instruction in sensory skill development.
9. Social Interaction
Almost all social skills are learned by visually observing other people. This includes interpersonal communication skills with peers, employers, friends and colleagues. In addition it includes the conversational skills, non-verbal communication such as gestures, facial expressions and personal space. Structured learning opportunities embedded within the school day will lead to increased confidence when navigating social interactions in all kinds of environments.