University of Edinburgh

Inclusive Curriculum (VI)

Presented in February 2006
(NB external links will open in a new window)

Jacqueline McGuire

Social Skills and the Curriculum

What is Curriculum?

  • Curriculum literally means 'a course to be run' (Skilbeck, 1984:22)
  • Traditionally it has been synonymous with formal 'one size fits all' academic learning.
  • Now a vehicle for enabling individual pupils to achieve intellectually, aesthetically, socially, emotionally, spiritually, imaginatively or physically.
    (The Structure and Balance of the Curriculum: 5-14 National Guidelines, 2000:3)

Notes: This holistic focus on individual pupil needs within the curriculum is fuelled by the Scottish Executives mantra of the right of every Scot to reach their fullest potential. Planning for individual needs within the curriculum to fulfil potential is also the main focus of the Education (Additional SfL)(Scotland) Act.

I decided to explore:

  • Why the pupil may be experiencing difficulties with social communication.
  • My role as a TVI in promoting and teaching social skills within the curriculum.
  • Working together as a catalyst for planning and change.
  • Social inclusion.

Two questions:

  • How do teachers interpret and define inclusion?
  • Whose job is it to teach social skills to pupils with a visual impairment?


Many teachers still view inclusion as a state of being physically present in the classroom and nothing else.
(Davis and Hopwood, 2002:3)

In the drive towards inclusion academic needs have been placed over social needs. (Augusto, 1992:vii; Buultjens et al, 2000:9)

Educational attainment drives schools

  • Most teachers still see the curriculum in academic terms – under pressure to achieve good academic results.
  • Teachers are caught up in a catch 22 situation.
  • Scottish Executive decrees that schools should be looking at the social development of pupils within the curriculum. (Scottish Executive, 2002:17)

However raising standards of educational attainment, improving exam results and position in league tables is what is currently driving education in mainstream schools.

Whose job is it to teach social skills?

Teachers of visual impairment are neither qualified nor skilled to teach them.
(Sacks, 1992:xi)

Although extra skills may be required by TVIs to be able to teach basic social skills, it is one of the competencies of a teacher of the visually impaired.
(Kamionka, 2002; Adamowicz-Hummel and Wisniewski, 2002)

Expanded Core Curriculum/Additional Curriculum

Separate VI Curriculum?

  • Any additional skills that a pupil may need to acquire should mainly be taught by the teacher of visual impairment. (Koenig and Holbrook, 2000:198)
  • This second curriculum has often been referred to as 'the expanded core curriculum' or the 'additional curriculum'.
  • The skills taught in it should not be superfluous to the core curriculum but integral to it.

Social Communication Development

  • Nearly 85% of social learning is learned visually.
  • Children learn how to become socially competent by observing, imitating and modelling the behaviours of others. (Wolffe and Sacks, 2000:11)
  • Estimated that 75% of meaning acquired from conversations comes from non-verbal communication. (Anderson, 2003:32)

If these percentages and facts reflect the general consensus, then it stands to reason that a visual impairment could seriously impinge on and delay a child's social development.

However …….

Research by Warren (1994) and Webster and Roe (1998) reveals that although a visual impairment can influence progress in social development, it is not the most important contributing factor to any delay.

The social environments in which the child moves and the opportunity for social interaction within them are more influential in determining social development and learning than the visual impairment per se.


  • Pupil
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • SfLAs
  • O+M Officer
  • Educational Psychologist

Social Skills Assessment

  • Vital to ask the pupil how they view their own social competency. (Bartimeus, 2003)
  • Interview questions from the Study Guide 'Focused On: Assessment Techniques' by Wolffe and Sacks. (2000:15)
  • Rating sheets distributed to staff in school, parents and pupil. Adapted from Bartimeus CD Rom 'stimulation of social competence' (2003).
  • Observation.

Interview Questions

  • Describe your activities today.
  • Share with me what has been going on in class these past few days.
  • Tell me about what you have been doing at home.
  • Tell me about what you have been doing after school.
  • Describe a typical day in your life.
  • Help me understand how you typically interact with your sighted classmates.
  • What qualities do you look for in your friends?
  • How would you describe the most popular person in your school?
  • How are you similar to or different from the most popular person in your school?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses in social situations?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • How would your family describe you?

(Focused On: Assessment Techniques' by Wolffe and Sacks, 2000:15)

Rating Sheets

  • Talking to peers
  • Talking to adults
  • Listening
  • Making a request
  • Responding to a request
  • Saying no
  • Dealing with the visual impairment
  • Receiving criticism
  • Responding to problems and teasing
  • Body language
  • Additional comments

Educational Psychologist

  • A behavioural approach suggested.
  • A straight forward programme of this is the theory and this is the practice – suits pupil's learning style.
  • No references made to feelings or criticism of actual skills during the programme.

Script pupil in social skills, build up their confidence, give them a repertoire of behaviours that are available to them and accepted in society.


Behavioural approach based on Goldstein methodology. It promotes skillstreaming and social competency by scripting the pupil in the steps required to be successful in a social encounter. It also encourages transference of the skill through recording/rating forms;

  • Steps modelled, rehearsed and videoed
  • Weekly pupil self-recording form
  • Weekly parent and staff rating form


Listening. Being a good listener is vital for good social interaction skills. (Sacks and Wolffe, 2000)

Saying hello. If pupils do not become initiators then they will be left out of a peer group.
(Sacks and Wolffe, 2000)

Nonverbal communication. This is an area in which people with visual impairments need 'specific instruction'. (Wolffe et al, 2000:10)

Group composition

  • Teacher
  • Support for Learning Assistant
  • Two pupils

Skill: Listening

1. Sit/Stand up straight.

2. Look at the person who is talking (face the person, establish eye contact if possible, if not look at their face).

3. Think about what the person is saying (show this by nodding your head, saying "mm-hmm").

4. Wait your turn to talk (don't fidget).

5. Say what you want to say (ask questions; express feelings, "That's exciting/a shame"; express your ideas, "I think . . . ")

(adapted from: 'Skillstreaming the Adolescent' by Goldstein et al ©1997)

Self-recording Form

Name: _________________________
Date: _________________________

Instructions: Each time you use the skill, write down when and how well you did.

Skill: ________________________

When? How well did you do?
(excellent, good, okay, poor)
1. ________________ ________________

2. ________________ ________________

3. ________________ ________________

4. ________________ ________________

What happened as a result of your skill use?

(adapted from: 'Skillstreaming the Adolescent' by Goldstein et al ©1997)

Parent/Staff Skill Rating Form

Date: ________________

(student's name)___________________________

is learning the skill of ______________________

The steps involved in this skill are:

1. Did he or she demonstrate this skill in your presence?

Yes No

2. How would you rate his or her skill demonstration? (check one)

below average
above average

3. How sincere was he or she in performing the skill? (check one)

Not sincere
somewhat sincere
very sincere


Please sign and return this form to: ______________________

by ______________________________

Signature: _______________________

Date: _______________________

(adapted from: 'Skillstreaming the Adolescent' by Goldstein et al ©1997)

Skill: Saying hello

1. When entering a room, say something general, such as 'Morning' or 'Hello/Hi, everyone' (smile, wave if you want, keep your head up).

2. Approach the person you want to talk to.

3. Look at the person (face them, eye contact).

4. Say 'Hello/Hi' followed by their name if you know it.

5. If you haven't met the person before, tell them your name. (Hello/Hi, I'm . . .)

(Adapted from Bartimeus CD Rom 'stimulation of social competence' 2003.)

Nonverbal communication

  • Happy
  • Bored
  • Excited
  • Angry
  • Passive
  • Upset
  • Kidding someone on
  • Agreeing
  • Disagreeing
  • Annoyed

Skill: Using the correct facial expression

1. Look happy and smile when saying hello and when listening to people.

2. Look sad only when you talk about sad/upsetting things or when someone tells you something sad/upsetting.

Skill: Asking a Question (in class)

1. Decide what you'd like to know more about. (Ask about something you don't understand, something you didn't hear, or something confusing.)

2. Decide whom to ask. (Think about who has the best information on the topic; consider asking several people.)

3. Think about different ways to ask your question and pick one way. (Think about wording; raise your hand; volume of voice; eye contact.)

4. Pick the right time and place to ask your question.

5. Ask your question.

(adapted from: 'Skillstreaming the Adolescent' by Goldstein et al ©1997)

Skill: Asking a Question (Friend/Peer)

1. Decide what you'd like to ask a friend/peer. (Ask about something you want to find out more about, for example, something about them, what they did last night/are going to do, something you need to know, something you didn't hear.)

2. Think about different ways to ask your question and pick one way. (Think about wording; volume and tone of voice; eye contact.)

3. Pick the right time and place to ask your question.

4. Ask your question. (First say their name and then your question.)

5. Think about what the person is saying (show this by nodding your head, saying "mm-hmm/okay" etc, eye contact).

6. Wait your turn to talk (don't fidget).

7. Say what you want to say. (Ask questions; express feelings, "That's exciting/a shame"; express your ideas, "I think . . .")

(adapted from: 'Skillstreaming the Adolescent' by Goldstein et al ©1997)


Social skills programme was successful with regards to enabling the pupil to feel more confident in initiating and maintaining conversation with appropriate body language in school, at home and in the community.

Skills were 'lost' as soon as the programme stopped over the Christmas period.

Social skills acquisition needs to be 'an ongoing process'. (Sacks and Silberman, 2000:617)

'A lack of success in initial responses should not be deemed an adequate reason to abandon inclusion, but rather as a starting point.' (NASEN, 1999)


Adamowicz-Hummel, A and Wisniewski, B (2002), '3rd Workshop on Training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Europe. 9. Report on theme 4: Special fields of competence',
Available: (Accessed: 2006, January 6).

Anderson, N (2003) 'An advocate's notebook: social interaction', Visability, 39, 32-33.

Augusto, C R (1992) Foreword, in Sacks, S Z, Kekelis, L S and Gaylord-Ross, R J (eds) (1992) The Development of Social Skills by Blind and Visually Impaired Students: Exploratory Studies and Strategies. New York: AFB Press, vii-viii.

Bartiméus 2003. Stimulation of social competence in children and young people with a visual impairment: A guide for upbringing and education [CD-ROM]. Bartiméus.

Buultjens, M, Stead, S and Dallas, M (2002) Promoting social inclusion of pupils with visual impairment in mainstream schools in Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Sensory Centre.
Available on this website

Davis, P and Hopwood, V (2002), 'Including children with a visual impairment in the mainstream primary classroom',
Available: (Accessed: 2002, November 5).

Goldstein, A P, McGinnis, E, Sprafkin, R P, Gershaw, N J and Klein, P (1997) Skillstreaming the Adolescent: New Strategies and Perspectives for Teaching Prosocial Skills. Champain: Research Press.

Kamionka, M (2002), '3rd Workshop on Training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Europe. 8. Report on theme 3: Classroom management',
Available: (Accessed: 2006, January 6).

Koenig, A J and Holbrook, M C (eds) (2000) Foundations of Education Second Edition: Volume II Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments. New York: AFB Press.

Nasen (1999) 'Nasen Policy Document on Inclusion',