Traditionally, O&M centers around cane skills, traveling in the community, street crossings, bus routes, etc. With the "new normal" where social distancing is mandatory, how are O&Ms handling virtual training and keeping up with students' IEP goals? Last night, I had the opportunity to participate in a video call with a handful of dedicated O&Ms in the US, Ireland and Australia. During this meeting, O&Ms shared ideas and concerns, as O&Ms across the globe are facing similar situations. In summary, the O&Ms concluded that there are a variety of activities that O&Ms can teach through virtual lessons, including O&M-related technology (GPS apps, bus and transportation apps, payment apps such as Apple Pay, etc.) and that there are many O&M-related concept development activities which are used with younger students.
- Virtual Instruction: O&M post - tons of ideas for virtual O&M activities!
Please share YOUR ideas to the comments section below this post!
Expectation of Meeting IEP Goals
O&Ms, as a group, tend to be very passionate about their job and their students/clients. During the call, the question about being able to meet current O&M IEP goals was discussed. As a dedicated O&M, it is hard to wrap your mind around the possibility/fact that if schools are closed the rest of the semester, students will not be able to master all of their current O&M IEP goals, especially if the school closures are extended to the end of the semester. The realistic mindset for most educators during this unprecedented time, is that the main goal of virtual instruction/home activities is to "maintain skills" and not teach new skills. It is "ok" if your student does not complete all of his current O&M goals during extended school closures or if the focus of your instruction moves to concepts rather than physical skills of traveling in the community.
We do not have enough information yet about how to handle IEP goals that are not completed, and how or if, missed time will be made up. In the meantime, O&Ms can work on important O&M concepts and tech skills, through virtual lessons and potentially with support from students' families. Having students at home provides a unique opportunity for O&Ms to connect with family members. Take this opportunity to educate family members about correct O&M techniques (human guide, cane arc, etc.), O&M concepts, and expectations of student independence!
Note: As one O&M who works with young students mentioned, students - especially young students - miss YOU. O&M's tend to develop close relationships with their students. During this uncertain time, students are excited when their O&M checks in and they are excited to continue their 1:1 time through virtual instruction.
O&Ms should continue to keep good records of contact with students and families, virtual instruction, packets of information/materials/activities provided, student's actual participation during school closures, skills, etc. It is also important to keep records of when contact/virtual instruction attempts were made but families declined. When schools do resume, this documentation will be critical as IEPs are reviewed and/or amended.
Current Virtual O&M-Related Opportunities for Students
Did I mention that as a group, O&Mers are incredibly passionate about their job and students? Look at what these amazing colleagues are offering for ALL O&M students! FYI: I am so PROUD to be a part of the O&M community!
- Orientation and Mobility Virtual Seminar for Middle School Students (6th - 8th grade)
Note: This is ongoing - anticipated to be every Thursday during school closures.
So You Think You Want a Guide Dog Workshop ONLINE (Note: Must be 18 or older)
- Monday, March 30, 10 - 12 Pacific Time
- Presenter: Katt Jones
- Description: Are you curious to leanr more about guide dogs but don't know where to start? This workshop will cover how to decide if a guide dog is right for you, what skills you need before applying to schools, common misconceptions about guide dogs, how to pick a guide dog school, what to expect during the application process, how to best prepare for school once you are accepted. Please RSVP to Katt Jones at Kjones@lighthouse-sf.org. We will be using Zoom to host the workshop online. The link will be emailed out to those who register along with workshop materials.
Note: A similar guide dog workshop geared for high school students is in the works! Stay tuned!
Create Video Resources
Do you have CURRENT videos and resources about correct O&M techniques? We are specifically interested in video tutorials to share with families. During the global video conference last night, the O&Ms discussed the need for current videos; so many of our O&M resources are sorely outdated! This is a great time for O&Ms and/or students to create (and share!) O&M-related videos showing proper techniques and tutorial videos on how to teach proper techniques. We need resources for different age groups - what is age-appropriate O&M skills for a preschooler is different than what is age-appropriate for a high school student! What about creating a video about a specific O&M task, such as how to teach a kindergarten student who uses a cane to walk in-line with his/her class? (During these school closures, it might be a video teaching the student to walk behind a sibling.) What about how a middle school student is learning to walk beside a peer (not touching, not following, but age-appropriate skills of walking beside a peer). Be creative: situations/environments might be staged, such as how to ask for help at a service desk in a store or what things you might say to a bus driver as you get on a public bus. Role playing is a way to teach skills! Have you assigned your student to TEACH a family member how to be a good human guide? This would also make a great video! What kind of videos tutorials would you like in your tool box?
O&M Interns: There are many interns and student teachers who planned on spring internships and student teaching. Would YOU be interested in creating O&M-related videos?
Are you doing virtual lessons? Can you record your lesson and share it with us? What kind of virtual lessons/activities are you doing? Please share this with us on Paths to Technology!
Tactile Map Activities
I love tactile maps! How are your using tactile maps with your student during school closures. Did you create that map and mail it to your student or leave it on the student's front porch? Did you send materials for the student to create a tactile map at home and then use that map during a virtual lesson? Did you ask the student (or family) to find and use tactile materials around the house to create that map?
- Young student: Use 3D materials (such as furniture from a doll house or objects) and a box to create a tactile map of the student's room, family room, house, etc. Can the student make a tactile map of his/her classroom?
- Students learning about street crossings: Create a simple tactile map of an intersection and use small cars and a small character to show traffic patterns and when the character should cross the street.
- Older student: Use objects (3D) or textures (2D) to create a tactile map of a store in his/her community, his neighborhood, or familiar streets, etc. Use Around Me or look around feature in a GPS app (such as BlindSquare) to add local stores to the map.
During the conference call, an Australian O&M shared about the ROAM project: a 3-year distant instruction O&M project. The ROAM Project team has developed a way to provide O&M instruction to remote areas of Australia using real-time, remote video assistance. In 2018, the ROAM team won the Outstanding Organization Award at the 2018 HESTA Community Sectors Award. This carefully designed distant O&M instruction required an initial face-to-face O&M assessment, a support person with the visually impaired person during the actual distance instruction, and a smart phone camera worn by the O&M client with various wide angle lens, allowing the O&M to see a broad view of the surrounding area and allowing the O&M client to have his/her hands free.
Editor's Note: The clients who participated in the ROAM project were all adults who were evaluated and determined to be appropriate candidates for this type of distant learning format for O&M training to solve the on-going issue of not being able to provide face-to-face O&M instruction in these remote areas of Australia. It is an intriguing method of O&M instruction and worth taking note of. However, we are not recommending distant O&M community travel lessons for kids during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Learn more about ROAM here.