Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Literacy in Early Intervention for Children with Visual Impairments: Insights from Individual Cases

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Literacy in Early Intervention for Children with Visual Impairments: Insights from Individual Cases

Article excerpt

Abstract: A qualitative case study design was used to investigate the ways in which two early interventionists supported emergent literacy development for infants and toddlers with visual impairment. Three themes are addressed: (1) the importance of a family-centered approach in addressing emergent literacy in early intervention; (2) the role of the early interventionist in language and concept development; and (3) the need to focus on the senses as they relate to literacy. The findings provide practical insights into the role of the early interventionist in supporting early literacy development.

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This study is intended to be a partial remedy to the paucity of empirical information regarding emergent literacy in young children with visual impairment and blindness. Emergent literacy has been defined with respect to children with visual impairment and blindness (D'Andrea & Farrenkopf, 2000; Koenig, 1992; Stratton, 1996; Stratton & Wright, 1991), and practices for promoting emergent literacy in young children with visual impairment and blindness have been described (Swenson, 1999; Wormsley, 1997). The home literacy environments (Craig, 1999; Dote-Kwan & Hughes, 1994; Rock, Head, Bradley, Whiteside, & Brisby, 1994) and storybook reading practices of caregivers of children with visual impairment and blindness have been described (Craig, 1996; Crespo, 1990). Empirical evidence highlights experiences that promote literacy-learning success for school entry for children with visual impairment and blindness (Koenig & Farrenkopf, 1997), and the quality of instruction provided by teachers of school-age children with visual impairment and blindness has been examined (Corn & Koenig, 2002; Koenig & Holbrook, 2000; Suvak, 1999). Despite this wealth of research, no empirical investigations of emergent literacy intervention practices of early interventionists who provide support to young children with visual impairment and blindness have been published to date.

In the present study, emergent literacy is defined as the developmental process beginning at birth in which children acquire the foundation for reading and writing (Teale & Sulzby, 1986; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998, 2002), including oral language and listening comprehension, concepts about print, alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness, and the environments within which they develop (Senechal, LeFevre, Smith-Chant, & Colton, 2001; Strickland & Shanahan, 2004; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998, 2002). In early intervention, emergent literacy also includes areas of concept and motor development that relate directly to reading and writing skills in later childhood.

The recommended practice for the delivery of early intervention services involves working in the homes of young children with visual impairment and blindness. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004 provides legislative support for family-centered early intervention services for infants and toddlers (birth to age 3 years) with disabilities and their families. Family-centered intervention is a method of managing and delivering assistance, support, and services to families. Family-centered services take place in natural environments and are characterized by collaboration among professionals and family members (Hatton, McWilliam, & Winton, 2002). Effective family-centered practices honor diversity and view the family holistically. When well implemented, family-centered practices build on strengths and improve family functioning through flexible and individualized support (Dunst, 2002; Maroney & Davis, 2001; Trivette & Dunst, 2005). Family-centered practices acknowledge the heterogeneity that exists within and among families and recognize that decisions, supports, and services will influence the entire family unit (Fazzi & Pogrund, 2002).

The importance of family-centered practices is reflected in the vital role caregivers play in the language and concept development of young children with visual impairment and blindness. …

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