An orientation and mobility (O&M) assessment examines a child’s ability to travel safely both indoors and outdoors and with or without assistance. An O&M instructor, a professional who has specialized training in how to teach travel skills and concepts, will conduct the assessment.

Teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) may be dually certified in O&M. Other TVI’s may have basic knowledge of orientation and mobility, but not qualified to assess your child’s skills and needs.

If you have concerns about your child’s ability to move safely and independently in the environment and your child is not receiving O&M services, discuss your concerns and ask other members of the educational team for a referral for an O&M assessment.

The assessment involves a combination of interviews and observation to see if your child would benefit from formal O&M instruction. O&M assessments are conducted for children of all ages and ability levels. Including children who are not yet walking, those in wheelchairs, and those who may never travel unassisted. If your child is receiving O&M services as part of their educational program, as included on the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP), then at minimum, an O&M assessment should be completed every three years. Most O&M instructors conduct an assessment annually to assist them in making recommendations for appropriate IFSP or IEP goals.

What Happens During the Assessment?

Depending on your child’s age, ability level, and amount of usable vision, the O&M instructor will evaluate their understanding of basic concepts that underlie orientation and travel. Including those relating to one’s position in space and location in the environment—for example, left and right, inside and outside, and up and down—and awareness of aspects of the environment, such as sidewalks and streets. In most instances, you can expect the O&M instructor to:

  • Interview you, the TVI, the general or special education classroom teacher, and your child about skills related to travel and about any concerns you might have. The interview may be conducted in-person or via phone or may be a checklist people are asked to complete.
  • Observe in familiar and unfamiliar indoor and outdoor environments
  • Evaluate any O&M skills previously learned such as protective techniques, the sighted (human) guide technique, trailing, and use of the long cane.

O&M Assessments Go Beyond Movement

The O&M instructor will look at other skills besides your child’s ability to move in the environment if these skills have an impact on independent movement and travel. Here are just a few examples:

  • Activities of daily living: Can your child store their belongings such as their cane, coat, and money independently? Can your child use money to pay the bus fare or make a purchase at a store?
  • Social skills: How does your child interact with others? Do they know how to ask for assistance?
  • Planning: What skills does your child have when it comes to planning a route
  • Literacy skills: How does your child make a note of information needed during travel? Does your child print, braille, or audio record a list of items.
  • Use of optical aids and assistive technology: When traveling, does your child use low vision devices to gather information?

After the Assessment

The O&M instructor will share the assessment results with you and other members of the educational team. You may want to ask for a copy of the O&M instructor’s report for your files. It’s important to keep this documentation and other assessment reports. The O&M instructor will share evaluation results. These results will provide input into the determination of your child receiving, or continue to receive, O&M instruction. The O&M may determine that you child does not need O&M instruction. This determination does not automatically mean that your child will never need this kind of instruction. For this reason, it is important to have your child’s O&M needs assessed periodically.