Expanded Core Curriculum

A little girl smells a pot of flowers.
A little girl smells a pot of flowers.

The Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) is the body of knowledge and skills that are needed by students with visual impairments due to their unique disability-specific needs. Students with visual impairments need the expanded core curriculum in addition to the core academic curriculum of general education. The ECC should be used as a framework for assessing students, planning individual goals and providing instruction. (The Expanded Core Curriculum for Blind and Visually Impaired Children and Youths, AFB website)

Similarly students who are deaf and hard of hearing need instruction in similar skills that go beyond what is provided in the academic curriculum. The Expanded Core Curriculum for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing defines specialized instruction for students who are deaf and hard of hearing was finalized in August 2010 and is available at  https://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Special-Education-Services/Pages/Deaf-and-Hard-of-Hearing.aspx.

At the earliest levels of development, an Active Learning approach lends itself easily to instruction in many of the Expanded Core Curriculum areas. For example, using various Active Learning equipment falls under the use of assistive technology. Exploring and experimenting with various objects that are found naturally in the home and community environments helps a child develop critical concepts. Appropriate interactions utilizing strategies suggested in the five phases of educational treatment support social and emotional development, self-determination skills, and sensory efficiency. So many independent living skills can easily be built into Active Learning activities. 

The Functional Scheme is a great assessment tool to use with students who are developmentally younger than 48 months to assess in areas of the expanded core curriculum. The can help the team identify priority goals for the students so that ECC goals are worked on daily.

Teachers of students who are visually impaired and orientation and mobility instructors should consider the use of Active Learning activities and environments to address the ECC throughout the day for these students. Remember, instruction in the ECC is not necessarily carried out only by these professionals, but they are charged with seeing that these skills are addressed with the student. 

Teachers of students who are deaf and hard of hearing may also use an Active Learning approach when working on auditory skills, functional skills of daily living, social and emotional skills, communication, career education, and self-advocacy skills.

For our purposes, we have somewhat merged the areas of expanded core curriculum from these two documents to discuss instruction for learners at the earliest learning stages to include: assistive technology, career education, communication, compensatory skills, independent living or daily living skills, orientation and mobility, recreation and leisure, self-determination and social-emotional skills.

Nine Areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum for Visually Impaired

There are nine Expanded Core Curriculum areas for students who are visually impaired which include:

    1. Activities of Daily Living or Independent Living: the tasks and functions people perform in daily life to increase their independence and contribute to the family structure and include personal hygiene, eating skills, food preparation, time and money management, clothing care, and household tasks.
    2. Assistive Technology: can include electronic equipment such as switches, mobile devices, and portable notetakers; computer access such as magnification software, screen readers, and keyboarding; and low-tech devices such as an abacus, a brailler, Active Learning materials and equipment (e.g., Little Room®), and optical devices.
    3. Compensatory Skills: include skills necessary for accessing the core curriculum including concept development; communication modes; organization and study skills; access to print materials; and the use of braille/Nemeth, tactile graphics, object and/or tactile symbols, sign language, and audio materials.
    4. Career Education: information about jobs, assuming responsibility, punctuality, and staying on task.
    5. Orientation and Mobility: enables students of all ages and motor abilities to be oriented to their surroundings and to move as independently and safely as possible, learn about themselves and their environments and incorporate skills such as basic body image, spatial relationships, and purposeful movement.
    6. Recreation and Leisure: have opportunities to explore, experience, and choose physical and leisure-time activities, both organized and individual.
    7. Sensory Efficiency: includes learning to use vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste efficiently; addresses the development of the proprioceptive, kinesthetic, and vestibular systems.
    8. Self-Determination:  includes choice-making, decision-making, problem solving, personal advocacy, assertiveness, and goal setting.
    9. Social Skills: awareness of body language, gestures, facial expressions, and personal space and learning about interpersonal relationships, self-control, and human sexuality.

Understanding the Expanded Core Curriculum, Perkins School for the Blind

Eight Areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

  1. The ECC areas for students who are deaf or hard of hearing include:

    1. Audiology: Understanding hearing loss, amplification management, and managing the environment to improve auditory and visual information.
    2. Career Education: Career exploration and planning, occupational skills training, soft skills training (use of interpreters, interviewing, etc.), job seeking skills and money management. 
    3. Communication: American Sign Language development
    4. Communication: Auditory and speech skills development
    5. Communication: Expressive and receptive communication skills development
    6. Functional Skills for Educational Success: Concept development, reading comprehension, and study and organizational skills
    7. Self-Determination and Advocacy: Self-determination skills, community advocacy, community resources and supports, cultural awareness (deaf and other), and using interpreters and transliterators.
    8. Social-Emotional Skills: Self-awareness (personal qualities), self-management, support networks, personal responsibility, decision making, social awareness, social interaction including conversation skills, and conflict resolution. 
    9. Technology: skills necessary to access technology.

The Expanded Core Curriculum For Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Iowa Department of Education, Bureau of Student Family Support Services

Not all of these areas can be worked on directly when a child is at the earliest developmental levels, but discerning and locating sound sources, utilizing voice, developing concepts, being able to use hands for work, activities of daily living and developing sign language, developing self-determination and self-advocacy skills, along with social and emotional skills can all be worked on at this level using Active Learning. 

Technology in addition to high tech devices such as a computer or cell phone can also relate to low tech devices such as an object calendar, sequence box, door bell, or an alarm clock. In fact, most Active Learning equipment is considered to be technology for the child who is at the earliest stages of development. 

Like pre-skills in academic areas there are pre-skills in the expanded core curriculum areas that align with ECC skills students work on from first grade through 12th grade.