Who Is the Orientation and Mobility Specialist?

An orientation and mobility instructor working with a school-aged girl

The orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist is a professional who has extensive training in teaching children to travel at home, at school, and in the community. O&M specialists often provide instruction to children with multiple disabilities. Sometimes this instruction is direct when they work with children on a regular schedule to teach them skills. Sometimes the instruction is indirect or consultative when the specialist provides other team members with information and support to infuse O&M activities and practice for skills into a child’s day. A child does not need to be able to crawl or walk independently in order to benefit from O&M instruction. The first step in determining if your child will benefit from work with an O&M specialist is to have this professional conduct an orientation and mobility assessment.

As a member of your child’s educational team, an O&M specialist can provide guidance in how to support your child’s understanding of body concepts (“left” and “right”), spatial concepts (“up” and “down”), environmental concepts (“streets” and “traffic signals”), and mobility techniques. As the educational team plans together for your child, discussion of how O&M skills can be incorporated into all aspects of your child’s day needs to occur. The discussion might include how your child will move from room-to-room in your home, get into and out of cars or buses, and participate in family outings and activities at school and in the community. The development of O&M skills does not occur in isolation. Your child will be using his vision and his communication and social skills during travel, so looking at ways to build routines for him around travel will allow him to practice not only O&M skills but other skills as well.

8 Questions to Ask Your Child’s O&M Specialist

O&M specialists teach a wide range of skills to children and adults of varying ages and ability levels. There are a number of questions you might want to use as a beginning point when talking with the O&M specialist who is working with your child. Together you can discuss what your child is learning and how you can reinforce this learning at home and in the community. Your child needs many opportunities to practice any one skill, so it is essential that there is carryover between what professionals are teaching and you are doing.

Not all of the following questions will be applicable to your child. The O&M specialist may not feel your child is ready to work on a particular skill set or may be putting emphasis into another area of O&M.

  1. How are you helping my child learn body concepts, spatial concepts, and environmental concepts? What activities can I do to support his learning?

  2. What sensory skills are important for my child to learn to increase his use of vision, hearing, and touch as he travels? How can I increase his use of his senses at home and in the community?

  3. What mobility skills is my child learning, such as human (or sighted) guide, trailing, or protective techniques? Can you show me these techniques and give me suggestions on how I can incorporate these into his day at home and in the community?

  4. Can you share what orientation skills you are working on with my child? How can I help him understand where he is, and how he can use information in his environment to orient himself?

  5. What strategies are you using to teach my child to ask for assistance from others as he travels? How can I support this learning at home and in the community?

  6. What is my child learning about different forms of transportation in the community? What can I do to support this learning?

  7. How are you helping my child learn to be safe during travel? What strategies should I be using to help him learn about safety as we travel together?

  8. What other skills are you teaching my child, such as money-handling skills, being responsible for his belongings, or using assistive devices as he travels? How can I do the same?

For more information, see Foundations of Education, Volume II, A. Koenig & C. Holbrook (Eds.)