Tuesday, 25 January 2011


How do teachers set targets for a CVI child who could be at the lowest ability level, a pmld child with visual difficulties? In England we have something called the p levels. They are a set of descriptions for recording the achievement of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) who are below the national curriculum levels. Reporting P scales has been mandatory from September 2007; schools must use P scales to provide data for pupils with SEN who are working below level 1 of the National Curriculum. To give an example here is the P scale for English: speaking / expressive communication.

P1(i) Pupils encounter activities and experiences. They may be passive or resistant. They may show simple reflex responses, for example, startling at sudden noises or movements. P1(ii) Pupils show emerging awareness They may have periods when they appear alert and ready to focus their attention on certain people, events, objects or parts of objects, for example, grasping objects briefly when they are placed in their hand. They may give intermittent reactions, for example, sometimes showing surprise at the sudden presence or absence of an event or objectP2(i) Pupils begin to be proactive in their interactions. They communicate consistent preferences and affective responses, for example, showing a desire to hold a favourite object. They recognise familiar people, events and objects, for example, looking towards their own lunch box when offered a selection. They perform actions, often by trial and improvement, and they remember learned responses over short periods of time, for example, repeating an action with a familiar item of equipment. 

Whichever side of the pond you happen to be if you are a teacher you will be setting targets for your CVI pupil. We know that targets should be SMART, i.e. they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound

You have to really know your child well to be able to do this effectively. And bearing in mind we are mainly talking about visual targets or visually related targets this needs to be carefully thought through. Let us take a girl like Harriette, she is PMLD as well as VI and CVI. To be time-bound and attainable you must work within her limits and her abilities. We know she can see something big and brightly coloured a few metres away. We know she has her favourite things. She knows the layout of the classroom by now and can go and find the storage box where her toys are kept. We also know she does not take favourably to anything new or unfamiliar. Yes she needs a more precise vision assessment but even without this we can set some targets that she can realistically attain in 3 months, which is before the end of April. In April she may have to move to another room and this will seriously disturb her routine and no doubt set her progress back. So let us be realistic and set April as the target deadline. A three month target. It has to be specific and measurable so let us choose an action or activity that she can do and link it with an activity or object that is as yet new and unfamiliar to her. Also it would be practicable to set something that is soon to be done  ORECS for instance have to be chosen. This refers to Objects of Reference Exchange Communication System. It’s a form of picture exchange communication system.

PECS is a visual communication system which can be easily understood by communication partners. For example, a waiter with no prior knowledge or experience of this system is likely to understand the message if they are handed a ‘sentence strip’ with pictures attached to it representing ‘I want’ and ‘coffee’. PECS is usually introduced to students who are non-verbal or who have limited language. Potential students need to have the fine motor skills necessary to manipulate the pictures. PECS can also be modified for students who are at an object level of symbolic development i.e. we use real objects rather than pictures. When we use this version of the system we call it ORECS (Object of Reference Exchange Communication System).

So linking all this together perhaps it could be possible to have an OREC that is as yet unfamiliar and part of the target could be to enable Harriette to become familiar with it and use it as part of her ORECS. And to make it even more of a visual target we might say she should be able to see it or distinguish it when it is next to one or more other objects. In other words when there is a small element of crowding impairing her vision. That at least is a start. Please feedback to me on this one. 

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