Learning Step by Step
Review by Lis Grundy
Reprinted in Future Reflections from the Information
Exchange, a publication of the Royal National Institute,
who has attended a Lilli Nielsen lecture will know,
from watching her mimic the antics of toddlers, that
she has a great insight into the learning processes
of the "normal child." This,
coupled with an extraordinary empathy for the needs
of visually impaired children, forms the basis of her
new book: Early Learning-Step by Step.
it she explores the concept of "active learning" and
how, by examining and exploring the world about them,
children are able to acquire new skills that are meaningful
to them and will therefore be used by them to fulfill
their own needs and also their interactions with others.
Children learn by "selecting." This is precisely what
I see them doing when they are learning to grasp, to
experiment with balance games, to play sequence games,
and so on. The child can only select if he has something
to select from, "something to compare."
those who have read Lilli's books this may all sound
rather familiar but, as the title suggests, this book
heralds a welcome progression of her work with the "Little
Room" by suggesting how environmental intervention can
be used in the world beyond.
begins by looking at normal motor development, before
and after birth, and goes on to relate this to those
children with a visual impairment and/or multiple disabilities
and suggests how missed developmental stages hinder
the child's progression and therefore further development.
this she gives many suggestions on how to encourage
a child to explore and to move and therefore to experience
those lost stages that are the prerequisites for progress
onto the next skill.
those children with little signs of mobility she describes
how kinematics, or unintentional movements, can be harnessed
to produce those that are intentional and therefore
those children who are more able she suggests ways of
encouraging independent sitting, crawling, walking,
is interesting that nowhere in the book does Lilli explore
the use of "high tech" equipment. Instead, she constantly
introduces the "tools" which are her "stock in trade"ordinary
spoons, cups, plates, brushes, buckets, etc.all
of which can facilitate learning whilst enabling a visually
impaired child to make sense of the world in which they
is particularly so with feeding and Lilli devotes two
chapters to this topic"Learning How To Chew" and
"Learning How To Eat." Again she suggests activities
for a great range of abilities including marbles in
the mouth for the more able pupil, definitely not for
the faint-hearted tutor!!
the chapter that is given over to "Toys & Materials,"
Lilli describes specific pieces of equipment that were
developed in unison with the Active Learning Approach.
These include the Essef Board, the Support Bench and
the Net Hammock "Poten" all of which were designed to
encourage movement. Throughout the book there is a great
deal of useful material that describes the functions
and ways of using the equipment.
conclude, rather than examining toys and methods in
detail, Lilli looks at learning to play constructively
as she outlines the developmental steps and looks at
the significance of the sequence of learning required
to manipulate toys and to play games.
book stands alone as a source of information and suggestions
for those who are new to caring for, and to teaching,
those children with multiple disabilities and/or a vision
impairment. It would however be enhanced by having first
read Lilli's other work. For
those who are already in the field this is the practical
book that follows the theory.