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’Opening Doors’ - Introduction

Introduction

I have over twenty years experience working as a specialist teacher with children and young adults with multiple disabilities and severe cerebral visual impairments (CVIs). I have developed an innovative
approach with colour tents to engage children who have limited visual responses. The tent, which surrounds a child with a single colour, frequently evokes a first time visual awareness response.

In January 2015 I co-authored a paper with Professor Gordon which was published in the British Journal of Visual Impairment, entitled:
'Some children with multiple disabilities and cerebral visual impairment can engage when enclosed by a 'tent': Is this due to Balint Syndrome?

This paper suggests that most people with quadriplegic cerebral palsy have damage to the posterior parietal areas of the brain leading to Balint Syndrome. The main features of this syndrome are: simultanagnosia: which is the incapacity to see more than one or two items at a time, optic ataxia: impaired visual guidance of movement (which can be masked by the cerebral palsy) and psychic paralysis of gaze: difficulty fixing on an object of interest as well as difficulty in breaking fixation from that object.

Working with children in the tents reveals that the aspect of Balint's Syndrome that is most often evident (if one looks for it) is the inability to see more than one or two things at once (simultanagnosia). It is also possible that one or more of these aspects of Balint's syndrome can be evident without all being present at the same time.

Following on from this paper an audit project (in the first instance with a small group of children) was carried out in 2017 to collect data from teachers based in four different schools across the country. The teachers who worked with children with complex needs and CVIs observed and recorded responses before, within, and after the use of the colour tent. This project is being developed to strengthen the work with tents and share with parents and professionals thus improving the quality of life and learning for these young people.

In the next part of the 'Opening Doors' Series I will discuss how to use a 'mind map' to support the use of colour tents with a child.

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