University of Edinburgh

Lilli Nielsen

photo of Lilli

Having grown up with four blind siblings, Lilli had a unique perspective on visual and multiple impairments in a career lasting through several decades.

She was a special education adviser from 1967-96 for the Refsnaesskolen, National Institute for Blind and Partially Sighted Children and Youth in Denmark. She trained as a preschool teacher and psychologist with her PhD, awarded by The University of Aarhus, investigating spatial perceptions in congenitally blind infants.

After she retired from Refsnaesskolen, in 1997 she was awarded by the Queen of Denmark the Knight's Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog for her lifetime's work. Her retirement did not preclude a continued professional involvement in research and being in great demand to present her work at many international centres of excellence.

Sadly on 24th June 2013, Lilli passed away after a short illness.

Involvement with the Scottish Sensory Centre

Lilli Nielsen was a long standing professional colleague and friend of the staff of the Scottish Sensory Centre. Her last visit to the Centre was October 2001, when she gave a two day seminar on 'Understanding, assessing and teaching children and young people with MDVI.'

Lilli holding a seminar at the SSC

During these two days Lilli shared with us both her lifetime's experience in this work and her most recent developments of materials and equipment for assessment and promoting perception and movement. Day one comprised: Cause, effect and intervention appropriate when learners have stereotyped behaviour (unvaried cognitive activities); theory and practice in the use of Perceptualising Aids.

Day two comprised: The importance of knowing the learner's perceptual and motoric capacity; assessing using the Functional Scheme: 0-48 months; how to use the FIELA curriculum.

Her involvement with the centre goes back to the late 1980's. In 1990 she took part in the Scottish Education for the Nineties: Learning with Visual Impairment Conference held in Moray House College of Education in September 1990.

Lilli left us a great legacy of publications including a photo album packed with ideas for activities and toys for promoting Active Learning. With permission from Lilli, this 'Idebanken' has been digitised for a wider audience to benefit from this work.


Lilli has written many articles and books on children with special educational needs, including: 

Are You Blind?
ISBN: 87 503 8270 5
1990, 112 pages paperback
Deals with visually impaired autistic children which the author characterises as especially developmentally threatened and describes an education method which, over a period of 20 years, has shown to be of benefit to these children's emotional, motor, communicative and social development. More information. For teachers, parents, psychologists and others who are involved in caring for these children.

Early Learning Step By Step
ISBN 87 601 3980 3
1993, 168 pages paperback
Outlines how environmental intervention can facilitate visually impaired and multi-disabled children's access to achieve motor and other abilities through active learning. This book also explored how children with and without disabilities achieve the prerequisites for learning. For teachers, psychologists, parents, preschool teachers and others who are involved in caring for visually impaired children who have additional disabilities.

Educational Approaches
ISBN: 87 503 9568 8
1992, 176 pages paperback
Papers and articles combined with essays and information about books, materials and research by the author. For teachers, psychologists, parents and others involved in caring for visually impaired children, with or without additional disabilities.

The FIELA Curriculum - 730 Learning Environments - The flexible individual enriched level appropriate curriculum
ISBN 8760175338
SIKON, 1998
Comprises a book, a catalogue and a velcro board. The curriculum is made to ensure that the child with one or several disabilities can access an individual learning programme which will match his developmental level, his needs for learning and his interests

velcro belt
Lilli with her velcro belt

Functional scheme: levels 0-48 months
ISBN 8760188933
SIKON, 2000
A tool for assessing the developmental levels of a learner who, irrespective of age and/or handicap(s), has developed to a level between birth and 48 months. Users are encouraged to add items to each subsection of things a child can do if nothing on the list illustrates the capacity a particular child demonstrates. For teachers working with visually impaired children who have multiple disabilities.

Perceptualizing Aids: Why, how and when?
VIDEO, 1999
Options for therapy for children with multiple disabilities with or without visual impairment. A video for parents, teachers, nursery teachers and therapists. More information.

Space and Self
ISBN 87 503 9566 1
1992, 112 pages paperback
Examines the development of early spatial relations and how visually impaired children can achieve this through the use of the 'little room'. More information. For teachers, parents, psychologists and others who are involved in caring for multi-disabled children.

Spatial Relations in Congenitally Blind Infants
1988, 125 pages paperback
Explains the findings on her study on spatial relations in congenitally blind infants. For teachers, parents, psychologists and others who are involved in caring for multi-disabled children.

The Comprehending Hand
ISBN: 87 5036790 5
1994, 58 pages paperback
In addition to highlighting the problems involved in developing motor skills, this book presents a number of methodological considerations and gives practical hints as to how material and surroundings can be adapted to stimulate and encourage blind and partially sighted children. For teachers, psychologists, parents, preschool teachers and others who are involved in caring for children who are especially developmentally threatened.