You may also want to visit Assessment to hear a lecture from Patty Obrzut on the FIELA Curriculum.

FIELA Curriculum offers a variety of level appropriate activities for children with multiple special needs. To help plan a daily routine, some activity ideas require use of gross motor skills, others fine motor skills, and still others require both gross and fine motor skills.   

The FIELA Curriculum is made up of a book (The FIELA Curriculum: 730 Learning Environments), a catalog of activities and a velcro board which is used to organize the child's week.   It was developed by Dr. Nielsen to help us determine which environments and experiences are appropriate for an individual at any point in his or her development and how they can be provided in a number of different ways.  The manual, catalog of activities and velcro board may be purchased from LilliWorks.

Photo of the FIELA manual, activity cards and schedule.

 FIELA is an acronym that stands for Flexible, Individual, Enriched, Level, Appropriate.

Flexible because it can be adapted to the child's interest, learning nees and the skill the child prefers to learn at any specific time.

Individual in that it recognises the impact of the unique combination of disabilities on the way the child goes about acquiring psycho-social and cognitive-motor skills.

Enriched because it maximizes varied neuronal activity.

Level Appropriate because it meets the learning needs of the child at a specific point in time according to his or her assessed level in all of the developmental areas.


FIELA schedule and activity organizer.The cards, which are moveable, are used to set up the individual's daily and weekly schedule of activities. Additionally there are some activity cards that are not on the schedule, but may be used as an alternative learning environment if the child is not interested in a specific activity scheduled at that time. 

The curriculum includes activity cards for each segment (e.g. 0-3 months, 3-6 months) and are divided into Gross Movement (blue cards), Fine Movement (yellow cards), and Gross and Fine Movement (green cards). Some of the activity cards also have adult-child (a.c.) interactions. If the activity or learning environment can only be performed or utilized by a child with some degree of vision an "S" (for sight) will also appear on the card.

Dr. Nielsen suggests an appropriate program will contain  two parts: the individual's self activities and adult-child activities.  It should also include opportunities to: repeat, experiment, explore, compare, understand spatial relations and object positions, work on number concepts, link new and familiar activities, play sequence games, take apart and put together, solve problems, share experiences with others and interact. (The FIELA Curriculum: 730 Learning Environments, Nielsen, Nielsen, Lilli, 1998. )

Humans are always moving.  Even when sitting, we turn our heads, move a hand, adjust our posture, etc.  The most inactive period of time for humans is during sleep, and even during sleep we occasionally adjust our positions through movement. Children learn through their own movements.

The FIELA Curriculum reflects balance.  The FIELA Curriculum suggests altering the type of movement activities throughout the day.   The curriculum must provide a balance between fine motor and gross motor activity. Even though the daily activities utilize fine or gross motor actions, a child will also learn to use all of his available senses (see Pathways to Learning) at different points when active.

(NOTE: Individuals in the earliest stages of learning may not be able to utilize their different senses in an integrated fashion.  They may only be able to focus on touch or only on vision. Later they will develop the ability to combine the use of more than a single sense so for example they can look and reach to grasp at the same time.)

Many of these activities the child does in independent play with minimal interaction with an adult. The adult should be clear about their role during these activities (see Five Phases).  For example, maybe they will support the child in playing games such as building a tower for the child to knock down or babble in imitation of the child's vocalizations.

Some activities reflect the need for adult-child interactions while other activities can be performed without adult-child interaction   Just because an activity is listed as not requiring adult-child interaction, it does not mean that an adult or another child cannot be present or participate in the activity.

Dr. Nielsen recommends at least one 30-45 minute period daily be allocated for adult-child interactions.  Remember, the adult typically interacts with the child before and after each activity, commenting on what has happened and what might happen next.  The focus during the adult-child interaction times, though many other areas of development may be worked on, is primarily targeting the child's emotional development. 

 The FIELA Curriculum  is a starting point; and encourages you to  create other developmentally appropriate activities.

  • All developmental needs are addressed through these learning environments, however most learners will use some form of movement to participate.  It is important to vary the type of movement required throughout the day.  
  • Adults spend time alone, or with others.  Children spend time alone, with other children and with adults.  There is a developmental progression to interaction with others.  First children engage in solitary play, then parallel play, then group play. 
  • The FIELA Curriculum should also reflect a balance of time spent alone during activity, time, with other children during activity, and time with adults during activity.  As many children under the developmental level of 2 years of age engage in solitary play  - most activities under the two year age of development reflect activities with only adult interaction.   
  • The FIELA Curriculum  recommends a minimum of at  least one 30-45 minute period of adult-child interaction daily.
  • All development leads to growth in all areas; you cannot separate out a specific area for instruction.
  • A simple place to begin in designing a curriculum is to look  at the Gross and Fine Movement assessment fields; start at the level near where student is functioning in these two areas.
  • You can also expand search for activities at level either slightly above or below.
  • Activities must be motivating.
  • Plus (+) labeled activities indicate activities that are appropriate for that level and above, but not levels below (e.g. G2+ for gross motor development of gross motor skills 2 months  and above).
  • The adult analyzes and adapts activity to meet learner’s needs in all areas related to his/her development (e.g. vision, mouth movement, spatial perception, etc.).
  • If the student’s emotional level is very different from gross or fine motor levels, the child should be offered activities that reflect the emotional level of the child so that trust can be built between the child and the adult.  Offer  activities that are easy for him/her to feel success during adult-child activities.
  • The focus for the adult is about supporting the student to learn to relate with others during these activities; it is highly related to emotional and social development.
  • Use activities that are highly motivating during adult-child interactions; MOTIVATION is a critical factor.

 FIELA collage