The Active Learning approach emphasizes that all individuals learn best by active participation. All activity, especially in the earliest stages of development, actually "wires our brains" and establishes critical foundation concepts and skills necessary for all future learning.
Individuals with multiple disabilities (cerebral palsy, visual impairment, cognitive impairment, autism, hearing impairment, etc.) are at great risk from developing reliance on others to interact with the world around them. They learn to be a passive rather than active participant, waiting for adults to provide activity rather than seeking it out on their own. Children and adults with special needs often develop stereotypical or aggressive behaviors in order to communicate with others or cope within the environments in which they are placed. Active Learning recognizes that every child/adult with special needs is unique. The programming and intervention for facilitating learning must reflect this individuality.
Active Learning emphasizes creating a developmentally appropriate and enriched environment so that children and adults with multiple special needs become active learners. This website is dedicated to helping professionals and parents understand the theories of Active Learning, to facilitate simple ways to change the environment, and to create programming that fosters independent and appropriate developmental learning.
Active Learning is an approach based on the work of Dr. Lilli Nielsen. It is not just a piece of equipment, such as a "Little Room" or a HOPSA dress, but rather it refers to a total approach, for instructing individuals with severe multiple disabilities. It contains an assessment, a curriculum, specifically-designed equipment, and instructional strategies that support learners to be active participants in their surroundings.
This approach is closely tied to evidence-based research, such as the work of Jean Piaget's developmental stages of learners. It views the child's development holistically, including not only motor, cognitive, and sensory skills, but also social and emotional development.