O&M Program Supervisors and Planners -- Problems and Solutions
In 2000, in response to concerns about misunderstandings and misperceptions of program administrators which resulted in inappropriate O&M programs, the AER Orientation and Mobility Division established an Ad Hoc Supervisory / Program Planning Committee.
This committee gathered ideas and resources which are posted here -- if you can add any helpful suggestions or information, please contact Dona Sauerburger.
Suggestions, stories, and resources regarding this process:
Using rating scales to determine service time and caseload
I have always found the Michigan Severity Rating Scales helpful in justifying service levels.
Judi Cuffney firstname.lastname@example.org
The Michigan Severity Rating Scale can be used in several different ways:
1. as a guide or estimate of
O&M service and intensity of need (i.e., amount of service time);
type of service need (direct, collaborative, a mix...).
2. as a rationale for administrators who sometimes fear that O&Mers pull the recommended service time out of a hat.
The Michigan Severity Rating Scale provides a range, but that range can be very helpful --
I have found that it justifies my professional instincts.
I use it for each and every student -- I use it at IEP reviews and at the beginning of each academic year (placement and setting sometimes change the need, which can then drive the need for an IEP review).
The Rating Scale has room in it for professional consideration, other available supports, etc. and, as mentioned, provides a guide for type of service delivery, range of service time needed.
From there, the O&M specialist and the team can have additional discussions regarding the individual student.
I consider it one of the many accountability measures that I use as a professional.
I also use the collection of these scales for the workload I have the honor of working with as rationale for staffing needs-- sharing them with my administrator establishing a consideration for adding positions as the program needs dictate.
Sandy Staples email@example.com
How many of us have received a child with an IEP in place and felt that the service level was too high or too low? If you work in a large department like I do (4 teachers of visually impaired children (TVI), 1 O&M specialist, and 1 braille transcriber), it even happens within the department that we disagree on service levels.
So a few years back when a TVI was retiring, our special education directors commissioned us to standardize caseloads to determine whether to replace her or not.
The website at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (who else?) had everything we needed to do just that.
Go to www.tsbvi.edu and search for "severity rating".
My school district (in Arizona) adopted the Michigan Severity Rating system, in which several factors (visual acuity and field, braille/print, previous training, etc. are given numeric weight. The final result offers a suggested level of service (mitigating factors weigh in). This enabled us to justify hiring the staff person we needed at the time, but has also helped us to provide services on a fairly consistent level among service providers (really helps when assigning/shifting caseloads from year to year). Meanwhile, ASDB utilizes QPVI. I think TSBVI outlines at least 4 systems for evaluating caseloads and need for services. Pulling it out of thin air, even though the figure may be based upon our vast experience, rarely cuts it with administrators.
As an O&Mer and former SPED teacher, I can tell you that the SPED team can request an evaluation for O&M and recommendations for the IEP.
The IEP is not a static document -- it can be changed whenever a need arises, not just at an annual meeting.
A good O&M evaluation and recommendations can prompt a new meeting and an IEP amendment.
Also, very importantly, if the parents have been denied an O&M evaluation or feel that their child is being appropriated inadequate O&M service time for the level of the needs of their child, they can invoke their rights (they should have received a rights and responsibilities document prior to every IEP meeting) and demand an evaluation and an IEP amendment based on the needs and safety of their child.
The ball is always in their court.
Every school district that I have been involved with trembles when parents know and exercise their rights. No child should be put at risk, so if the parents become forceful, they will get what they want.
Parents who feel that their child is not being allotted enough O&M time should just not settle. They are their child's best advocate. The school district is legally mandated to pay for at least one outside evaluation, and the parents should insist upon it if they are unable to obtain satisfaction for their child.
Kartar Kaur Khalsa
I remember a mother contacted the non-profit agency I worked for and asked for an O&M Assessment for her 14 year old son. He was not getting O&M in the school setting but was on a consult because that was how it had been. She tried telling them that his vision was getting worse and that he needed more O&M but they disagreed and his IEP was written with just a consult. So, she had me do an O&M Assessment & Report for the IEP and had me attend his IEP meeting. Along with contacting the Center for Independent Living and getting someone there to help advocate at his IEP meetings, this was sufficient to get his IEP O&M goal/time changed.
If parents are not being supported as to amount of service then I would suggest that they write their own IEP goals and have them added to the IEP. For example, if the O&M specialist's goal is to travel around the classroom independently, the parent could agree and then add the playground as well. So, agree to the first goal and the amount of service needed for THAT goal, then add their own (another) goal which would add more service. Or during the IEP ask the classroom teacher how well the child is getting around the campus/classroom and if they state poorly, then that will give the O&M the opportunity to chime in to add more service.
benefits of O&M for children
I use the research and article by Alan Koenig and Carol Farrenkopf in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness (Jan-Feb 1997) Essential Experiences to Undergird the Early Development of Literacy as a foundation for O&M training for young children and the TAPS curriculum and checklist. They really speak to real-world applications and the long range benefits. I've never found a way to vicariously teach riding an escalator, negotiating a revolving door, or crossing a roundabout.
PROBLEM: Limited O&M personnel to provide services
O&M specialists have used the following strategies to augment or expand their O&M services:
collaborate with other staff to augment / reinforce O&M skills
provide some O&M training through group sessions (see position paper on group sessions)
Use an O&M Assistant (see position paper on best practice for O&M Assistant programs).
PROBLEM: O&M lessons restricted to building or campus, and/or no transportation to the lessons
Some O&M instructors are required to provide all their O&M instruction in the building and/or on the grounds of the school or center where they work, and others are not allowed to transport students to the site of their lesson.
To assist with this problem, the position paperOrientation and Mobility in Natural Settings was developed. It is hoped that this paper will aid practitioners whose administrators may not understand the fundamental nature of providing O&M assessment and instruction in the environments in which these O&M skills and techniques will be used, to help administrators of O&M programs understand the necessity for irregular work schedules (including night lessons) and instruction in the community. It was approved unanimously at the O&M Division business meeting July 17, 2006.
Suggestions, stories, and resources regarding O&M lessons off campus and transporting students to the lessons:
O&M as a related service is described in IDEA. It doesn't specifically address driving students, but it does state that training in the community is part of O&M. I've copied and pasted from two parts of the code below:
First - the definition of O&M:
Regulations: Part 300 / A / 300.34 / c / 7 (7) Orientation and mobility services--
(i) Means services provided to blind or visually impaired children by qualified personnel to enable those students to attain systematic orientation to and safe movement within their environments in school, home, and community; and
(ii) Includes teaching children the following, as appropriate:
(A) Spatial and environmental concepts and use of information received by the senses (such as sound, temperature and vibrations) to establish, maintain, or regain orientation and line of travel (e.g., using sound at a traffic light to cross the street);
(B) To use the long cane or a service animal to supplement visual travel skills or as a tool for safely negotiating the environment for children with no available travel vision;
(C) To understand and use remaining vision and distance low vision aids; and
(D) Other concepts, techniques, and tools.
The other part that addresses O&M as a related service: It is important that administrators understand that it is a related service (and therefore may be mandated on an IEP where appropriate); and the definition - where it clearly lists training in the community. Here's the language related to O&M as a related service:
Regulations: Part 300 / A / 300.34 / a
(a) General. Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. Related services also include school health services and school nurse services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.
Meanwhile, Craig Phillips suggested that we look into the Federal Register policy guidelines for IDEA (one of which is posted above).
Here's a link to another one, and THIS ONE specially addresses transportation of kids with disabilities in the definition of Transportation.
These documents basically give you the rationale for how decisions and policy guidelines are made. I copied and pasted the pertinent information below, but here's the link to the Federal Register that this is from: http://idea.ed.gov/download/finalregulations.pdf
Transportation (§ 300.34(c)(16))
Comment: A few commenters stated
that the definition of transportation
should require transportation to be
provided between school and other
locations in which IEP services are
provided. Other commenters requested
that the definition explicitly define
transportation as door-to-door services,
including provisions for an aide to
escort the child to and from the bus
Discussion: A child’s IEP Team is
responsible for determining whether
transportation between school and other
locations is necessary in order for the
child to receive FAPE. Likewise, if a
child’s IEP Team determines that
supports or modifications are needed in
order for the child to be transported so
that the child can receive FAPE, the
child must receive the necessary
transportation and supports at no cost to
the parents. We believe the definition of
transportation is sufficiently broad to
address the commenters’ concerns.
Therefore, we decline to make the
requested changes to the definition.
If the O&M requirements in the IEP call for training with intersections, the school district is responsible for transportation, just like a field trip or a ride to school. There must be a transferable reason though, such as the child walks home or is old enough to consider going away to college; transition is another good venue for justification " if they do not want you to transport the child they must make reasonable accommodations for the education of the child. O&M in some special education settings can be a separate class all together, instead of PE...
My experience with the transportation issue might be helpful.
I was hired and had a county car available to me. As the county car mileage increased and the performance decreased I was concerned for the replacement of the car, which the district wasn't sure they would do. Since transporting students by approved teachers (as was done in School Community Based programs) was stopped several years back (they use buses now), they weren't sure they would replace my county car and they offered no other support.
My concern was if I need to use my personal car, the liability is definitely on my insurance, but what if I am sued personally in the event of an accident?
In researching the transportation handbook at our district there was a statement or employee right that if your job included transporting students in your vehicle, then the district is responsible in providing the additional insurance.
Using this info I encouraged my super to look into this and stressed the liabilities involved.
Fortunately, it worked -- the remaining O&Mers in my district do have available to them the extra insurance available in transporting students which is paid by the district. This may be worth looking into and be helpful in getting additional coverage on your car insurance, as well as allowing you to transport students to necessary training areas.
I have used field trips in the past whether it's tagging along on an already planned field trip, encouraging a teacher to plan a field trip that works well for an O&M lesson, or including O&M field trips into the IEP so that if transportation is difficult I can at least get my student in the necessary environment for an entire day. Sometimes summer school is useful because it is often run out of a different school which may be in a better location - in that case I'll suspend current goals and take advantage of the location.
For transportation, I have used local police as well as DARE Officers (police officer hired to work with the schools), and also cabs and buses.
In addition, some districts I have worked with have had the parents transport their students then reimbursed those parents.