By Dr. Lilli Nielsen
The “Little Room” is designed to give blind infants, children with slow development, severely disabled children and children with combinations of disabilities the possibility to gain the ability of reaching, the beginning of the understanding of space, and early object concept.
Non-handicapped children are reaching for objects when they are 3-4 months old while blind children often are 10-12 months old before they achieve this ability. Some blind children will instead of reaching behavior, develop a stereotyped motor behavior, which is turned toward their own body. It is therefore important to offer the blind infant surroundings, which can motivate him to reach for objects as early in life as possible.
The “Little Room” can be built in the size that best fits each child. The material in the Little Room must be provided with objects that hang from the ceiling and/or upon the walls, so whatever movements the child makes, he will come in tactile contact with the objects. It is a good idea to observe which qualities the child prefers – which structure the child prefers to search – which sounds the child prefers while reaching – which smells the child prefers just now.
When the child reaches for the ceiling and the walls (one can build the Little Room bigger,) so the child thereby can be motivated to move himself around in the Little Room and perhaps out of it and into it. In some ways the handicapped child gains the experiences and understanding of space that non-handicapped children achieve by looking around, and by building a lot of different playhouses. Blind children and severely disabled children are not able to build playhouses by themselves, or to find small spaces under furniture and cupboards as needed early in life.
The modules of the “Little Room” must now and then be moved from one place to another and be provided with new objects so the child’s curiosity and thereby his motivation for experimenting can be preserved. It is important that the “Little Room” is equipped with many objects so the child can compare different tactile and auditory stimuli. It is also important that the objects can be reached by the child, and are graspable.
Lilli Nielsen, 1992, SIKON: Space and Self.
Lilli Nielsen, 1989, SIKON: Spatial Relations in Congenitally Blind Infants.
Lilli Nielsen, 1993, SIKON: Early Learning – Step by Step.
Lilli Nielsen, 1998, SIKON: The FIELA Curriculum – 730 Learning Environments.
The Little Room can be purchased through LilliWorks http://www.lilliworks.org/.