Teaching Object Permanence: An Action Research Study

By Bruce, Susan M.; Vargas, Claudia | Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, January-February 2013 | Go to article overview

Teaching Object Permanence: An Action Research Study


Bruce, Susan M., Vargas, Claudia, Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness


Object permanence, also known as object concept in the field of visual impairment, is one of the most important early developmental milestones (Fazzi & Klein, 2002; Morss, 1984). The achievement of object permanence is associated with the onset of representational thought and language (Bruce & Zayyad, 2009; Wright, Lewis, & Collis, 2006). Object permanence is important to orientation, including the recognition of landmarks (Anthony, Bleier, Fazzi, Kish, & Pogrund, 2002). Independent mobility (such as crawling) improves visual attentiveness, which is critical to the achievement of later object permanence tasks (Bozeman& McCulley, 2010). Direct instruction can accelerate the mastery of object permanence in children with disabilities (Kahn, 1976; 1984; Morss, 1984; Rogers & Puchalski, 1988) and is more effective than general stimulation programs (Sloper, Glenn, & Cunningham, 1986).

This article presents an action research study on teaching object permanence to a child with multiple disabilities and visual impairment. It illustrates some of the principles of assessment and instruction described in Bruce and Vargas (2012). The Institutional Review Board at Boston College approved this study, which was part of a set of action research studies on pivotal milestones that were conducted with children with multiple disabilities.

THE PARTICIPANT

Jamie, the participant in the study, was a 4-year old girl with severe, global developmental delays; a seizure disorder; and nonambulation (with no other independent means of mobility). Jamie had progressive myopia (with higher myopia in her right eye), staphyloma, and a tilted optic disc in her right eye; hypoplasia (in both eyes); nystagmus; and probable ocular motor apraxia. Although Jamie's visual acuity for stripes was measured at 20/94 with the best correction, this method underestimates visual responses to more complex and typical visual stimuli. Thus, her ophthalmologist determined that she was legally blind and referred her for registration with the state's Commission for the Blind. Jamie had poor visual attention; she struggled to make eye contact and to share joint visual attention on an object. Her visual attentiveness improved with prompts paired with pauses that allowed her time to direct her visual attention. Jamie had a history of sporadic ear infections and had tubes in her ears. Although later testing indicated that she had normal hearing, it is reasonable to suspect that she may have had a history of intermittent, mild hearing loss because of ear infections. However, she was consistently able to respond to verbal inputs during the study and was often observed to smile when provided with verbal praise. Jamie was also nonambulatory and displayed immature grasp patterns.

RESULTS OF THE ASSESSMENT

The action research team selected the following three assessment tools to determine Jamie's present level of performance on object permanence tasks: the Hawaii Early Profile (Parks, 2004); Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System for Infants and Children, Second Edition, Volume 2, Test Birth to Three Years and Three to Six Years (Bricker et al., 2003); and Structured Informal Assessment of Object Permanence (Bruce & Vargas, 2012). The baseline assessment revealed that Jamie had achieved the following precursor behaviors to object permanence: She visually focused on a person or object (when prompting and pause were provided), visually followed an object moving in horizontal and vertical directions, and reacted to the disappearance of a slow-moving object or person (with a smile). She also exhibited the following early object permanence behaviors: She located a partially hidden object when concealment was observed and occasionally located a concealed object (when concealment was observed) and a constant auditory sound (emitting from the concealed object) was provided. Jamie was not able to locate a concealed object without sound cues or when concealment was not observed. …

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