Understanding and Advocating for the Expanded Core Curriculum

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Imagine with me you’re looking into the future of your son (or daughter) who is blind or visually impaired. He’s in his early twenties and nearing the completion of his first year of employment. It isn’t his dream job, but hey, one must start somewhere. He lives downtown in an up-and-coming area, about two blocks from a bus stop, and shares a home with two friends. You had been sweating about his life post-nest, but he’s actually doing quite well.

When we look toward the future, it’s easy to see that while math and the rest of the core curriculum are necessities, equally so (and arguably more so) are the areas of the expanded core curriculum, which teach children who are blind or visually impaired to travel, work, and live as independently as possible. So today, as we’re on the brink of a new school year, I want to remind you to advocate for your child with significant vision loss to receive education in the expanded core curriculum.

Understanding the Expanded Core Curriculum

Whether your child is in a residential school for the blind, a resource room, or has an itinerant teacher of the visually impaired (meaning the teacher travels to schools within a school district), your blind or visually impaired child’s education should include the expanded core curriculum subject matter, as it (1) enables children to access the core curriculum, and (2) it teaches the concepts and skills sighted children learn incidentally (through observation).

The expanded core curriculum includes the following nine areas of focus. Click on each to explore what it is, why it’s taught, and how a teacher of students with visual impairments approaches instruction.

*Orientation and mobility skills must be taught by an orientation and mobility specialist.

The expanded core curriculum may seem enormous but understand the areas are best learned in conjunction with one another, which streamlines the learning process. Take for instance a routine trip to the grocery store that can cover most (if not all) of the expanded core curriculum. Create a grocery list (compensatory skills and assistive technology); plan the route (orientation and mobility); talk with/about the employees (career education); make choices (self-determination skills); ask for assistance (social interaction); shop for one meal’s ingredients (independent living); intentionally help your child interpret the scents and sounds you encounter (sensory efficiency); and pay (independent living skills).

Advocating for the Expanded Core Curriculum

Now, what if your child who is significantly visually impaired or blind isn’t receiving instruction in the areas of the expanded core curriculum?

Special education law states children are entitled to specially designed instruction to address the unique needs resulting from the child’s disability. With this in mind, in addition to the educational core curriculum, a child who is blind or visually impaired should receive instruction in the expanded core curriculum, which addresses the basic educational needs of a child who is blind or visually impaired in addition to providing the child with the skills to access the core curriculum.

Therefore, I recommend requesting an assessment documenting the present levels of performance within the nine domains of the expanded core curriculum. Where the educational team (including the parents) recognizes areas needing improvement, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team can develop appropriate goals.

So, begin by knowing your rights and learn how to be an advocate for your child!

Additional Resources

Phil Hatlen's Advice on the Expanded Core Curriculum

Children with Multiple Disabilities Need the Expanded Core Curriculum, Too!

Bringing the Expanded Core Curriculum Into Your Holidays with Your Blind or Visually Impaired Child

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