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Active Learning

Nielsons Active Learning (1992; 1993) is based on the idea that all children learn through being active in their environment versus being passive (Shafer, 1995).  The concepts of Active Learning and the Little Room will be reviewed for parents, but there is little recent research to support this clinical- practice.  Most of the research available dates back to the late 60s so future research is definitely needed to verify the effectiveness of the Active Learning approach. There is no explicit parent involvement in Active Learning, but it does suggest the importance of teaching techniques like carefully structuring the environment.

 Dr. Nielsons makes several recommendations for creating an optimal learning environment for a visually- or spatially-challenged child (Nielson, 1992).   One of her techniques is to create a Little Room to increase active tactual manipulation and spatial orientation for children who are visually impaired.  The idea of the Little Room (1992) came from Dr. Nielsons many experiences working with a 20-month old visually impaired boy.  She wanted children with visual impairments to be able to form a basic foundation for what the rest of the surrounding world was like. 

Nielson (1989) evaluated the development of spatial relationships in 20 congenitally blind babies. The study was a controlled assessment of infants for eight sessions of 20 minutes each through video-recording.  The infants were split up to participate in a controlled environment and a Little Room environment.  Greatest improvements were found when infants were exposed to the Little Room for more that two periods.  Increased tactile, auditory, and positional activities were reported.  In this study, the environment was controlled so that there were no distractions. Gains may not be the same in context where someone interferes with the infants activity.

The Little Room is constructed using wall modules to surround the child so different stimulating objects can be fastened to the walls for the child to interact with (Nielson, 1992).  The walls should be clear so the child can be observed, and slits or opening should be made in the walls for proper ventilation.  There is no set regimen for what objects should be used but it is a good idea to include things that are enjoyable for the child, graspable, have weight and temperature, and have tactile qualities as well as auditory qualities (Nielson, 1992). 

Nielsons Little Room and Active Learning are implimentable in a home setting.  These techniques were designed for children with visual impairments or spatial concept deficits (Nielson, 1992) but there is little recent research to back up its effectiveness.  Through clinical evidence, Dr. Nielson has found that the Little Room has worked for her clients (Shafer, 1995) and continues to support its effectiveness through practice and by teaching the concepts at conferences.