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Observation
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Observation

Observing for an Overview of Needs

figure with question marks trying to fit pieces into a box

Let us assume a child has now been identified as deafblind. Now, we need to observe this child to determine NEEDS. In this process, we not only look at the child, but at the environment, and people that flow in and out of the child’s world. If we have already identified the child as being deafblind, some critical things to look at include:

Proprioception: the body's internal ability (via muscles, tendons, joints) to understand one’s position in space, to sense the relative position of parts of the body, and to body movements. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proprioception ; http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-proprioception.htm )

Kinesiology or human kinetics is the science of human movement. When we think of this study, we also think of posture, dance, physical education, orientation and mobility, and other movement-related subjects.

Click for related information: Brain Gym



What Do You Actually Do?

figure juggling communication devices

Before you observe, check to make sure you have a notebook or note paper in addition to all the charts or documenting items that you need. Use a pencil so that you can erase if needed. Remember that you may not be able to capture everything with just one observation. So you might schedule more than one observation and divide your time according to what you want to observe. You can also use technology to document some things that you feel you need to look at a few times. So make sure you have your camera, video camera or flip video set up and available. Make sure you are ready to go! Avoid using distracting equipment, such as the flash on a camera, a timer, or a laptop that can easily be heard. You are there to observe, not distract.

Reminders:

Examples of seemingly unimportant documentation

Example 1: Susie is being wheeled down the hallway and a sixth-grade peer, Samantha, stops to pat the back of Susie"s right hand and say, "Hello."

(Document this very brief interaction)

Observation lesson one: The patting of the back of the right hand turns out to be "Hello", a touch cue in Susie's communication. Each person who knows this cue uses it during the rest of the day. When someone who doesn"t know this tries to shake her hand instead, Susie snatches her hand away.

Observation lesson two: A "Hello" in the hallway between friends is totally appropriate and should be encouraged. It could become a part of post-observation "round table" conversations.

Observation lesson three: Samantha"s other two friends saw what Samantha did and possibly learned (incidentally) what to do to approach Susie. They also learned not to be afraid of Susie!


Example 2: Tina, the classroom aide, is helping Tim create a piece of artwork. He has Cerebral-Palsy and is deafblind. She offers him her hand to "help" him get to the right spot on the paper. But he raises his arm until his hand is near his shoulder - going in the opposite direction to the artwork. Tina is not upset by this. She waits patiently.

(Document that Tim raises his arm and hand; and that Tina WAITS)

Observation lesson one: Tina obviously knows something you do not. Your instinct would be to think that Tim is protesting and does not want to do the artwork, when in fact he does (Resist instructing Tina!!)

Observation lesson two: The next step in the process "reveals all." Tim needs to raise his hand in order to bring it back down to the level - and to the exact spot on the piece of paper where he has to glue something on.

Observation lesson three: Tim"s eyes follow his hand going down, so he is trying to coordinate his poor vision with his hand-movements.



Useful Tools to Use in Observation

Observation and Identification Checklist: Providing a Baseline for Action

The two publications below (one new, and one older) are both really useful because they contain suggestions and ideas of what to observe, checklists and charts to document observations, and examples. Child-guided strategies has DVDs that document what the authors say. For face-to-face training sessions, information and forms will be derived from these publications:

Nelson, C., Van Dijk, J, Oster, T. & McDonnell, A. (2009). Child-guided strategies: The Van Dijk Approach to Assessment. American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. Current cost is $45.00

Klein, M.D., Chen, D., & Haney, M. (2000). Promoting learning through active interaction: A guide to early communication with young children who have multiple disabilities. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. (PLAI Curriculum) $30.78 and less on Amazon.com.

Aitken et al (2000) have a useful section in their book (pp 18-19) on methods used for observation. They list a number of options including a diary (day-to-day anecdotal records), detailed "total observation" (documents everything in detail), documentation of a specific behavior (e.g. toileting, mobility in unfamiliar surroundings). They also briefly talk about video recording. The advantages they list are:

They caution that videos can be misleading if a clip is watched and interpreted out of context, especially if you were not the person recording it. They also caution that the behavior you are viewing on the video clip may not be "typical" for this specific child who may need to be observed again in real time.

References

Aitken, S, Buultjens, M., Clark, C., Eyre, J.T., & Pease, L. (2000). Teaching children who are deafblind: Contact, communication and learning, David Fulton Publishers, London. (Pp. 12-19 is on "Observing the Child")

Klein, M.D., Chen, D., & Haney, M. (2000). Promoting learning through active interaction: A guide to early communication with young children who have multiple disabilities. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. (PLAI Curriculum) www.brookespublishing.com

Koenig, A.J, & Holbrook, M.C. (1995) (2nd edition). Learning media assessment: A resource guide for teachers of students with visual impairments. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. www.tsbvi.org

Nelson, C., Van Dijk, J, Oster, T. & McDonnell, A. (2009). Child-guided strategies: The Van Dijk Approach to Assessment. American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. www.aph.org

Proprioceptive Dysfunction information.

SensationalBrain.com for information on sensory diet.

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The Oregon Deafblind Project is funded through grant award # H326T130008, OSEP CFDA 84.326T, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education (OSEP), OSEP Project Officer: Susan Weigert.

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