Future Reflections Fall 1991

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FUNCTIONAL CURRICULUM: JUST COMMON SENSE

                                by Patty Merryman

Editor's Note: Reprinted from Perceive, a newsletter for parents published by

P.A.V.I.C. of Colorado, the following article was originally titled, "Spring

Conference Time."

     One of the most exciting new (it's really old fashioned but full of common

sense) approaches in education is called "Functional Curriculum." It's a way of

looking at the child and asking, "what are other children of that age doing and

how can my child be doing more age-appropriate activities?" As a parent of a

multi-handicapped boy, pegboards and blocks were just not helping in the

activities of daily living and having my child be an integral part of family

life. When the other children had chores, he was playing. They felt picked on

and he felt left out. I decided to use what I had learned in the "functional

curriculum" workshop over the summer months to involve my son in household

chores.

     Some of the goals we had set were to improve his short- and long-term

memory, improve tactile discrimination, and to improve motor planning and

orienting objects into a given space. Okay, what daily activities use these

processes? My creative parental mind began to churn.

Short- and Long-Term Memory

     I remember in which drawer and where in each drawer I keep each type of

clothing. Time for my six-year-old son to learn where his clothes are stored so

that he can get them in the morning to get dressed. This not only helped his

memory skills but his dressing skills and independence. Yea! Now Mom has one

less job to do, and he is on his way to becoming a more typically independent

six-year-old. Of course, this took my time at the beginning of the summer, but

by the end it was his job entirely.

Tactile Discrimination

     How about having my son sort the socks from all of the other clean laundry

in the basket? Although this may not be a normal chore in most homes, it is

useful in our home for the division of labor between the two sisters. All of the

socks are put to the right and all of the other laundry is placed on the left.

This teaches my son left and right as well as giving him much opportunity to

tactually explore and discriminate similar textures. Other laundry tasks are on

the way.

Motor Planning--Orienting Objects in Space

     The old pegboard and puzzles just lost out to the silverware divider.

Although for half of the summer, knives, forks, and spoons could be found in any

slot facing any direction, by the end of the summer most utensils were in the

right slots even if not perfect. I found some preliminary planning had to be

done on my part. He had to be in a chair that was of adequate height and he had

to have the container, from which he was removing the silverware, at a slightly

lower level in order for him to have the ability to lift them up and out. These

problems were solved with a step-stool chair for him to sit on near the drawer,

and with a regular chair for the container to sit on. I also was careful to

remove all sharp knives and objects prior to his beginning the task.

     These tasks not only helped my son reach his IEP goals over the summer but

also gave him a sense of responsibility to the family. He has a job that is his,

and now he gets very upset if he hears someone else putting away the silverware.
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