Blogs & News

Gordon Dutton’s Blog (15) Teaching in small steps

Learning in little attainable steps

Nina is a 9 year old girl, living in Romania, and it's my privilege to be friends with her family.

She's a gymnast of olympic standard and this year came third in Romania for her age category.

While watching her do a back flip on the high bar, my heart was in my mouth!

It seems such a dangerous thing for a child of her age to be doing. Yet she does it with ease and loves it!

I take my hat off to her teachers.

  • She started out at the age of five as a gymnast on the floor mat.
  • Then she went on to perform her skills on a white line on the floor.
  • Next came the two inch high bar secured to the floor mat.

This was followed by a micro-step by micro-step approach to both developing her skills and gradually raising the bar, in more ways than one!

Now her performances, to my untrained eye, are flawless.

Slowly but surely an enthusiastic motivated little girl has never left her comfort zone, yet has attained world class skills that few could ever match.

The question is whether we can apply these micro-step approaches to children with cerebral visual impairment.

I believe we can.

What are the principles?

Like Nina, we need to help the child to be...

  • happy, positive and motivated.
  • always within their comfort zone, and to...
  • achieve a new attainable goal each day, ever so slightly beyond the one they reached yesterday. a distraction free, known, and encouraging environment.

What are the approaches?

We need to...

  • know in depth what the child can do and what the child enjoys (parents and carers know this better than anyone)
  • think hard about and plan how each ability can be taken one tiny step further and
  • do it

Does this strategy work?

I've recommended this approach to many parents over the years, who understand the nature of their child's vision and the unique limitations this creates.

The outcomes have been remarkable.

Education begins at home.

An example of the successful use of this approach in a child with CVI can be read here. Connor is functionally deaf blind due to combined severe CVI and CAI (cerebral auditory impairment) and has profound learning challenges with minimal communication, yet is learning to ride a horse using that approach.


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