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Orientation and Mobility

Apps for Users Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired

August 20, 2016 • sensorytravel

(UPDATED: September 25, 2018)

Time to bring back an old post of apps that can be used for independence in the community, for Orientation and Mobility, etc. Seems things are continuing to evolve and change at an ever increasing rate and updates to the original list have become necessary. At times an app will be updated by the developer and it may not have the same level of accessibility, at other times apps completely disappear from the various app stores when the developer is no longer supporting the app or the company is perhaps gobbled up by a larger company. In any event, I will continuing try to update this post on a regular basis, which may include significant changes as the app world evolves. These apps are either specifically designed for blind or visually impaired users or are apps that work well with VoiceOver on iOS or TalkBack on Android devices; many are multiplatform and available on iOS via the Apple Store, Android via Google Play, and Windows Phones via the Microsoft Store. The list is divided into several categories and there are quick links immediately following this paragraph to make it easier to jump to the category you are interested in. So, without further ado, here are the quick links and the list…

Accessibility Navigation and GPS Apps Transportation and Route Planning Weather

 

Accessibility:

Seeing AI

An app that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide information about what the camera sees. Can read text, handwriting, describe scenes, identify items from their barcode, and more. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/seeing-ai-talking-camera-for-the-blind/id999062298

Envision

This is another AI app that offers lots of options for obtaining information, even learning peoples faces. The app presently has a relatively small monthly subscription fee for iOS users, after an initial trial period; it is still free for use by Android users. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/envision-ai/id1268632314?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.letsenvision.envisionai&hl=en

KNFBReader

Text to speech by photograping print with automatic reading available and tactile guidance for aligning camera; expensive but very reliable and easy to use. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/knfbreader/id849732663?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sensotec.knfbreader

Amedia Live Reader

Wherever you point your camera and there is text, this app will begin reading the text. Once the app is open there are no required buttons to press; just point the camera toward the text and it will begin reading what the camera is seeing. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/amedia-live-reader/id1040357170?mt=8

Visor Low Vision

Easy to use screen magnification with very simple controls; open the app an it is ready, touch on the screen to focus, etc. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/visor-magnifier/id944215829?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.visorapp.visor&hl=en

Vision Assist

This app is like having a CCTV in your pocket, complete with options for zoom, contrast, reverse polarity, freeze frame, etc. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/visionassist/id502356279?mt=8

VoiceDream Reader

Document reader that reads many formats of documents and has high quality voice with available options for fine tuning the playback of the text. There is also a lite version which is free. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/voice-dream-reader/id496177674?mt=8

TextGrabber (free)

Text to speech using optical character recognition (OCR) by photographing text with the camera iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/textgrabber-image-to-text/id438475005?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.abbyy.mobile.textgrabber.full&hl=en

NantMobile Money Reader (free)

Money identifier that works with twenty-one different currencies from around the world. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nantmobile-money-reader/id417476558?mt=8

EyeNote (free)

Money identifier from the United States Mint. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/eyenote/id405336354?mt=8

Examine Clothes Color (free)

Color identifier that works quite well in describing even complex patterns. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/examine-clothes-color/id1074506449?mt=8

Color Identifier

Color identifier (choose basic colors once added unless you would like much more modern or esoteric names for colors) iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/color-identifier/id363346987?mt=8

TapTapSee (free)

Can take photographs and describe what is in the photograph or describe what a photograph is if it is already in your camera roll iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/taptapsee-blind-visually-impaired/id567635020?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.msearcher.taptapsee.android&hl=en

BeSpecular (free)

Can take photographs and receive a voice recorded or typed question, that then goes to a crowdsourced pool of volunteers who will answer the given question about what is in the photograph or describe what a photograph it is if it is already in your camera roll (e.g. what kind of soup is this? what is the code date on this medicine jar?, etc.) iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bespecular-help-the-blind/id1068947453?mt=8

Be My Eyes (free)

To quote their website, “Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.” iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/be-my-eyes-helping-blind-see/id905177575?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bemyeyes.bemyeyes

Drafts 4

Basic note taker that will automatically save any note you write and will also integrate with the Reminders app on iOS devices iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/drafts-4-quickly-capture-notes/id905337691?mt=8

Scan

Easy QR code (quick response code) and barcode reader. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scan-qr-code-barcode-reader/id411206394?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=me.scan.android.scan&hl=en Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/scan-qr-code-and-barcode-reader/9wzdncrdr9tp  

 

Navigation and GPS Apps:

Apple Maps and Siri (built in iOS app, free)

Apple Maps is built into iOS devices and can provide spoken location information and pedestrian directions as well as use VoiceOver and Siri for accessibility. There are a number of cities that Apple Maps provides public transportation information for, but to date it only covers a portion of cities around the world; you can find the list of supported cities at the following link for information on Apple Maps: https://www.apple.com/ios/feature-availability/#maps-transit

Google Maps with Google Now and TalkBack (free)

Along with knowing the current location, can also provide location and directions with voice input and provide spoken details iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-maps/id585027354?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.maps&hl=en Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/gmaps/9wzdncrfj12k

Compass (built in iOS app, free)

This app is built into every iPhone and can be used with Zoom or VoiceOver to make the information accessible

Speaking Colored Compass (free)

A basic talking compass app that has excellent contrast as well. Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tekin.fatih.speakingcolorcompass&hl=en

Speaking Compass (free)

Speaks the direction every four seconds; includes the cardinal name as well as the degrees. Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.talking.compass&hl=en

Microsoft Soundscape

 

This app allows you to hear what’s around you in 360 degree sound or 3D Audio Technology. You can set landmarks and then navigate to them or hear them in your environment to aid in orientation; some points of interest will be known and others you can add yourself. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindsquare/https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/microsoft-soundscape/id1240320677?ls=1&mt=8

 

Nearby Explorer

At present, there is one version of this app for iOS (a paid version) and there are two versions of this app for Android devices (a paid version and a free version). The paid version is a full featured GPS app and the free version, called Nearby Explorer Online, is similar but requires a constant data connection as the maps live online rather than being stored on the device as they are in the full, paid version. As a special note, the is the option of utilizing APH Quota Funds for students in the United States) iTunes Store for full, paid version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nearby-explorer/id1095698497?mt=8 iTunes Store for free, Online version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nearby-explorer-online/id1095699328?mt=8 Google Play Store for full, paid version: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.aph.avigenie&hl=en Google Play Store for free version, Online version: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.aph.nearbyonline&hl=en

BlindSquare

Terrific GPS app that is tailored to travelers who are blind and visually impaired. It integrates with other apps, such as Google Maps and Transit to provide route details with public transportation. Best value for price and features in this category. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindsquare/id500557255?mt=8

Lazarillo GPS for Blind (free)

A relatively new addition to the field of accessible GPS apps; this one is available on both iTunes and Google Play and its price is a perfect match for trying it out. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lazarillo-accesible-gps/id1139331874?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lazarillo

NowNav

Very reasonably priced GPS app for Android systems; this is also a free version (see NotNav) that does not include some of the features available in the paid app. Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smithson.nownav

NotNav (free)

Free GPS app available for Android users. Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smithson.notnav

Seeing Eye GPS

Full featured GPS app that has been developed specifically for blind and low vision travelers. The app is free to download and use for the first 30 days, but requires subscription to use after the initial trial period. There is also a fully paid version without subscription that is named Seeing Eye GPS XT. iTunes Store for subscription version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/seeing-eye-gps/id668624446?mt=8 iTunes Store for full price, non-subscription version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/seeing-eye-gps-xt/id945756779?mt=8

Ariadne

Very handy and accurate app for providing information about travel environment, such as direction of travel, landmarks, addresses, and street names, but does not generate point to point route directions. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ariadne-gps/id441063072?mt=8

 

Transportation and Route Planning:

Google Maps (free)

Great way to have a national, in fact an international connection to travel planning. Allows user to select directions based on travel modes of vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, or transit iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-maps/id585027354?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.maps&hl=en Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/gmaps/9wzdncrfj12k

Apple Maps and Siri (built in iOS app, free)

There are a number of cities that Apple Maps supports public transportation information as well, but to date it only covers a portion of cities around the world, you can find the list of supported cities at the following link for information on Apple Maps: https://www.apple.com/ios/feature-availability/#maps-transit

CapMetro (free)

Austin area public transit, but many transit companies have their own app that can be searched for in app store, free iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/capmetro/id787315615?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=co.bytemark.cmta Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/capmetro/9nblggh0djx8 

Transit (free)

Transportation planning app with large bold numbers for bus routes; this app immediately shows you which bus routes are nearest to you and in many areas provides real time arrival information. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/app/apple-store/id498151501?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thetransitapp.droid&hl=en

Moovit (free)

Transportation information for most areas. iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/moovit-your-local-transit/id498477945?mt=8 Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tranzmate&c=Moovit_Website&pid=Moovit_Website Microsoft Store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/moovit/9wzdncrfhzk0

Where To?

To find what is nearby, such as restaurants, banks, etc.; paid version seems to work best with VoiceOver iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/where-to-find-best-places/id903955898?mt=8

 

Weather:

Dark Sky

Weather app that tells how long until rain is at your present location iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dark-sky-hyperlocal-weather/id517329357?mt=8

Technology in Orientation and Mobility

May 8, 2015 • sensorytravel

2015-05-08

Technology in Orientation and Mobility

A question came in about how technology is used during Orientation and Mobility lessons and I had so much fun typing the E-mail response I thought I would share it as a blog post.

There are so very many options today in terms of technology, but the basics of life shared in the terrific book Finding Wheels are still as relevant today as ever. The foundation of travel and getting where you want to go is enhanced by technologies but one still needs that special gray matter between the ears, a white cane or guide dog if non-visual or partial visual travel skills are needed, and a healthy serving of common sense. That being said, on with the toys : )

The Trekker Breeze is quite familiar to most folks as an accessible GPS solution that is on the verge of getting much, much better. HumanWare is about to release Trekker Breeze Plus. The Plus version will appear the same on the outside but the inside will have improved components that allow quicker and more stable connections to satellites, the ability to “lock in” Open Area mode, and I am sure a bevy of other enhancements. For those that have already purchased a Trekker Breeze, there is no need to take out a loan for the $800 to purchase a new device; there will be a $199 upgrade program. HumanWare will rebuild the originally purchased Trekker Breeze, giving it a new GPS module as well as a new battery if you send it in once the program gets up and running. Hopefully things will start happening toward the middle to end of May, 2015.

In terms of iOS and Android devices, there are a multitude of apps to choose from. A curated list of favorites with links and descriptions can be found at the blog post “Apps for Independence in the Community and Orientation and Mobility”

In terms of lessons with students (could also be used with Adults), here is another post with tech activities that can be done for each area of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) during Orientation and Mobility lessons; “Mixing O&M, Technology, and the Expanded Core Curriculum”.

Oh, just one more note, this will all be updating soon as folks begin using the “taptic engine” in the Apple Watch as it will give tactile/haptic feedback to the wrist to alert the traveler when a turn is required along a route; there are different taps for right and left turns.

Geocaching and Letterboxing for Orientation and Mobility Lessons

May 7, 2015 • sensorytravel

 

Geocaching and Letterboxing for Orientation and Mobility Lessons

For those wanting to add some creative adventures to their Orientation and Mobility lessons, you can introduce the concept of Geocaching and Letterboxing.

Here are some suggestions for activities:

  • Have prepared locations for “letterboxing” with described directions, using cardinal directions from a known landmark and use the compass (braille, talking, or app from smart phone) as an orientation tool.

  • Have students enter the location of a cache with latitude and longitude coordinates into BlindSquare (iOS) or APH Nearby Explorer (Android) to get some prompting by tracking the coordinates as a landmark.

  • For a team activity, braille the clues and hints so that students can use their compensatory skills to read to the group.

  • To develop concepts for Orientation and Mobility, be sure to use words that emphasize the concept in the directions, such as parallel and perpendicular, traffic side of sidewalk, cardinal directions, with the landmark behind you, etc.

  • Consider making a sample activity plan to share with parents and families so they can participate with their child as well

The Geocaching app on the iPhone with VoiceOver affords a way to search for the presence of caches in your area, but as far as using it in an accessible way, it is a bit of a challenge. The app has a compass to direct the user but the compass position is not read by VoiceOver due to the app design. What you can get from the app is the latitude and longitude of the cache itself which can then be entered into another app that is more accessible. One such app that is specifically developed for users with visual impairment and blindness is BlindSquare (costs about $29.99). BlindSquare allows a user to enter their own places as landmarks and then edit the location with latitude and longitude coordinates. The technical part is that Geocaching displays coordinates in a hybrid form (e.g. 32˚ 49.818′ N and 116˚ 46.574′ W) while BlindSquare uses Decimal degrees (e.g. 32.8303˚ N and 116.7762˚ W); luckily there are free conversion apps you can get that will do the conversion for you. You can also use programs and apps like Google Maps to get the latitude and longitude of a location anywhere on the planet without having to have physically traveled there to set it as a landmark. This lets you have guidance to where you would like to travel. BlindSquare can provide directions with cardinal directions (N, S, E, W), relative directions (To Your Right, To Your Left, etc.), or clock face (toward One O’Clock, or Three O’Clock), and can have distances expressed as feet or meters. 

The app will get you close to the cache but locating the actual box will be more manual. One way to adapt this is to arrive early and to have a sound module with a motion sensor (such as the kind used in halloween decorations where the sound effect occurs as you walk by, [ http://www.electronics123.com/shop/product/300-second-usb-recording-module-with-motion-sensor-and-black-enclosure-5324?search=motion ]) placed at the cache or coordinate directions with tactile landmarks that will be clues to bring the students in closer. At some point you may be able use things like iBeacons and “Nearables” (just visit Estimote.com for fun dreaming about how you could use the technology). Another strategy is to use a wireless doorbell. The main unit can be placed at the cache site and the button for the doorbell can be used by the student looking for the cache, as they get within range the doorbell will respond to the button press and provide a sound clue of where to head to ([ http://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-RCWL300A1006-Premium-Portable-Wireless/dp/B001CMLAZ4/ref=sr\_1\_1?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1431017857&sr=1-1&keywords=wireless+doorbell ]).

Letterboxing sites:

Geocaching sites:

 

Chris Tabb, 2015-05-07

chris@sensorytravel.com

Orientation and Mobility for Functional Programs

February 19, 2015 • sensorytravel

 

General Orientation and Mobility Recommendations for Functional Programs

(Note: This document was intended for all members of a student’s IEP Team. The pronouns are intentionally varied; “student” will be used at times and “child” will be used at others. Though it may appear that one section is intended for a parent and another for an education professional, all strategies can be implemented both in the home and the educational setting.)

Encourage Purposeful Movement:

Having times in the day that allow the student to practice moving independently will help them to develop skills that can be generalized to new areas and longer duration travel. Purposeful movement can be as simple as bringing a hand to a preferred toy that is next to or even on the body. When there are structures in place to support and encourage this movement at home and at school, the motivation to travel and begin moving with purpose will increase. Examples of establishing a supportive environment for purposeful movement include having a location for preferred toys that the student can access at any time and reliably find favored objects there. This strategy can be enhanced or extended by using tactile markers that show certain areas are “their” areas, such as marking a cubby and coat hook with a texture or small object that will help them to know where their own things are at school. The marker can also include a braille label so they begin develop the concept that braille is associated with names of things. Other places where it would be helpful to include “their” symbol or tactile marker are their chair, desk, door to their room at home, etc. With an expectation of predictability and control in the environment, the student is more likely to initiate travel on their own and also begin developing a sense of self-mastery and confidence for travel as they receive their own, earned reward when they reach their favored objects or destination of choice. This natural reinforcement perpetuates the motivation to move.

Another helpful strategy is to plan some “free exploration” time into the student’s day, just a brief period (e.g. 10 to 20 minutes) where they can practice navigating in the school and or home environment (even outdoors when the terrain and other conditions are safe for doing so). This gives an appropriate and educationally beneficial opportunity to satisfy and encourage curiosities they may have about their environments. If they become disoriented or find something unexpectedly, it becomes an excellent opportunity to develop problem solving skills. An example might be finding a hallway in the school that allows them to take a new route to class, or finding a library cart in the hallway and learning how to navigate around it safely. During this time, an adult is nearby to assist as necessary, but the student is deciding what to do and where to go, rather than the adult providing the agenda and directing their actions.

Developing Sensory Efficiency:

Encouraging the student to become aware of all of the sensory inputs they have the physical ability to attend to in the environment will help them begin nurturing the skills related to sensory efficiency. Remember to include tactile, auditory, kinesthetic, proprioceptive, olfactory, and if there is the ability to receive visual information, then vision as well.

One way to think of the difference between kinesthetic and proprioceptive is how you feel on a hill. When walking up or down a hill, you feel different muscles being used; and, if you are walking up the hill you certainly feel the additional strain and effort needed to ascend the hill. This muscle sensation is kinesthetic. This is a way to tell whether there is an elevation change on a path regardless of vision. Proprioceptive would be the sensation that you feel in your joints, such as in your ankle as you flex forward or backward to be upright while standing on a hill. The same sensation can be recognized while standing on a foam roll, or while leaning on the edge of a step or curb. These are not typically “taught” to children as most children have already recognized they are on a hill with their vision, it is considered incidental learning. When we take the time to deliberately draw attention to these other sensory inputs available to our children, we help them learn tools that they can use to access information about their environment at any time.

When teaching, we will often say “look at this” or “do you see how…”; these visual representations are often the way that adults learned and they convey the information they are teaching to students in the same manner. By thinking about the other senses available to our students we can help them to “visualize” their environments through these other, or additional sensory channels. It might be clapping hands in the gymnasium to hear the echo and then comparing the same clapping sound in the smaller and often more auditorily reflective bathroom; or, listening for the sound change while passing interconnecting hallways in a quiet main hallway. As adults likely learned about the world in a wholly different manner, it may take some additional thought and creativity to introduce sensory exercises, but the dividends returned in independence in the children is tremendous. Once they begin recognizing all the sources of information available to them and continue attending to the sensory information, their ability to visualize (visualized through a variety of sensory channels, such as sound waves that make a picture for sonar) their world continues to develop.

Here are some activity examples to practice:

  1. Localizing sounds, such as identifying the location of dropped object or pointing at a person who is walking and following the sound of their steps. 

  2. Aligning with sounds

  3. Walking toward, away from sounds

  4. Walking around sounds to circumnavigate something

  5. Identifying patterns in sounds

  6. Using echoes and reflected sound (passive and active echolocation)

  7. Distinguishing sources of sounds, such as car, lawnmower, airplane

  8. Estimating distance of sound

  9. Estimating direction of sound; is it coming toward or going away from

  10. Understanding when one’s own ability to use sound is impacted by changes within the environment, or within one’s self

  11. Finding other sensory means to verify or confirm what is being received or interpreted through the auditory channel

Tactile could be touching different textures or temperatures. It might be a lesson in feeling the sun on the skin for maintaining alignment along a route and determining direction of travel by knowing the location of the sun.

Olfactory sense can aid orientation and connection with the environment to provide clues for what might be happening in the environment, such as smelling the aroma of a bakery, or recognizing a strong smelling dumpster that you have to walk past everyday in the parking lot as you approach the school.

Advancing Concepts:

Rough and smooth, inside and outside, more and less, fast and slow, these are all concepts that can be developed across educational settings and in the home. It is best to present these in natural settings wherever possible such as finding the rough brick next to the smooth glass in the hallway while transitioning to an activity. The more concepts that are developed and used in varied places and settings, the greater the power and connection of the concepts. Those that are originally introduced at a desk activity might later be used when matching textures of clothing, discerning landmarks, etc. 

Often concepts that would be learned through exploration by children who are visual learners must be taught more deliberately to students who are blind and visually impaired as they may not otherwise recognize learning opportunities that are in the environment. This might include feeling the glass windows and discussing the qualities of glass; it holds temperature and is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, it is very often smooth and hard yet is makes a different sound than either wood, metal, or plastic. Each of these materials can be explored, and new concepts related to their qualities introduced, compared, and contrasted.

Consistency in Learning Environments:

Regular repetition and having all Team members working on the same concepts and skills, with the same language for these, will facilitate the acquisition of the concepts and skills. Keeping the number of new concepts and skills to a minimum level that is represented and reinforced in multiple areas across settings (i.e. in the classroom, with each related service, and at home) keeps the new information at the center of attention and learning and allows for a maximal number of occurrences to connect the concepts with different situations and environments. The more the concepts are experienced the quicker the acquisition, and the more they are encouraged the stronger their resiliency and meaning.

Routines in the student’s day provide natural repetition and opportunities to learn new concepts and practice others that have already been introduced. Ensuring that the child has the same routine presentation will help them achieve increasing levels of independence within the activities of the routine; photographs with descriptions of the steps for the routine and its set up can be laminated and placed near the routine area so that whomever is working with the student will set it up the same way. This allows the student to focus on learning the routine itself and any concepts that are being deliberately included rather than having their attention distracted by differences in setup or preferences of the adult they are working with. 

An example for the early stages of purposeful movement is an activity mat or rug, where toys are placed in consistent locations (e.g. the musical toy always goes in one corner, the vibrating toy diagonal to the first, a plush toy in the third, and a squeeze toy in the final corner). With the toys being placed in consistent locations, regardless of the adult the student is working with, they will be more inclined to explore, as they will be able to predict where their favorites will be, and then successfully achieve getting what they want independently. These skills can then be generalized to larger areas, such as travel within the classroom, the school building, and ultimately the school area, including the outdoor recess area.

Value Sharing:

Interactive games and value sharing time where the student is met at their own place and level of interest is the best place to begin developing rapport. This rapport development is a foundation for later expansion of skills when students are presented with possible fear at learning new skills (e.g. entering loud environments, crossing streets, etc.) and can rely on the trust they have developed with the adult they are working with.

As adults we often forget to be truly listening to the student, especially when the child is non-verbal. We need to remember to join them in their moment whenever possible rather than starting by trying to coax them into the moment we would like them to be having. We are much more apt to get their “buy in” to the activity we are proposing for them to do if we have first met them where they are and shared what they are involved in. In this way, we are already connected and communicating before offering what we would like them to consider doing. 

Motivators and Communication:

Keep track of what is motivating and aversive to your child. These items or sensory experiences can then be used as “carrots” or motivators for other activities if they are positive motivators for your child; or, if they are aversive stimuli they can be helpful for demonstrating choice and conceptual understanding with preferences. This can be during a choice sequence with a calendar system, etc. to verify that an item that is expected to be viewed as aversive by the child will not be chosen, and a preferred item will be selected. Once these items are consistently communicated using the actual object, they can then be transitioned to a symbol or piece of the item, such as the chain from the swing to represent the activity of swinging. Eventually the symbol will become even more abstract, such as one link of the chain or even a raised line drawing, just as print and braille words are an abstraction of the physical and concrete things they represent. 

Once the child is demonstrating the ability to use symbols they can be used to communicate planned activities, make choices, and express preferences. They can also be used to create functional routines and reasons for practicing routes, such as going from the classroom to the playground to reach the swing, or visiting the office to deliver a daily attendance record as part of a job routine. These activities can then be reviewed with the symbols to “talk” and communicate about the experiences of the activity; this further develops concepts, literacy, and a sense of understanding and control within the environment as well as the social benefit of sharing about an event.

Experience is the best teacher:

Let safe accidents happen. We learn from mistakes and if we prevent a child from having accidents occur, we are depriving them of the opportunity to learn from the mistake or accident. If a child is walking on the playground and tumbles on the ground due to a change in elevation, they learn what it is to fall, they learn how to get up, and with enough occurrences they learn to shift their balance and prevent themselves from falling. It has to be lived, to be learned. Certainly there are some accidents that are beyond the scope of safety, such as the fall from the top of the swing set or stepping into a street with moving vehicles. These are indeed areas the adult should intervene. But, if an accident will not result in bodily harm it can be an opportunity for learning to occur. Sometimes we pre-teach a skill to a child, such as a protective technique that includes bringing the hand up and in front of the head to prevent bumping into a table when bending down; generally the skill is only truly acquired when the child bumps the table with their head and is able to make the connection within themselves that bringing the hand up before bending down could prevent the bump in the future. If as adults we always provide the prompt or cue to implement the protective technique for them to avoid bumping their head, we are interfering with the natural learning process. There are certainly times we have to help the child to process the event and connect the technique with the desired outcome, but eventually they must learn to self-initiate the technique for it to be effective and having the “safe” accident happen is truly the best teacher.

Celebrate the Successes:

There are many “milestones” that are printed in books but it is important to keep track of personal “milestones”. The first time your child rolls over and is able to get to a toy, it is a milestone. Reaching an arm out to touch something that draws their attention is a milestone; it warrants celebration and a note in a family journal. These celebrations of successes in life are at least twofold. They help us track the succession of accomplishments that your child has and they help us to see how far they have come. Sometimes, in the day to day challenges we forget how far we have come, how many challenges we have in fact overcome. The awareness of growth helps us to have confidence that we will continue to move toward greater levels of independence and to remember “the best is yet to come!”

CHRIS TABB
STATEWIDE ORIENTATION AND MOBILITY CONSULTANT