AER Orientation and Mobility Division: Position Paper
Teaching O&M Through Individual and Group Lessons
Approved by O&M Division membership through mail ballot Spring 2004 (Approval percentage: 99%);
The standard of practice in orientation and mobility is to provide one to one instruction for individuals who are engaged in active travel both indoors and outdoors. The reasons for individual lessons focus upon five issues:
1) Instruction must be individually designed to meet unique needs.
No two students are alike and have the same needs. Variations in vision; visual prognosis; concomitant disabilities, background and experience; understanding of concepts; facility for orientation; cognitive ability; emotional needs; and goals necessitate an O&M program designed to meet the unique needs of each individual. Unless there are several individuals with similar needs and learning styles in the same setting, it is usually not feasible to provide an individually designed program, at a pace appropriate for the individual, to more than one person at a time.
2) Students learning to travel need individualized attention.
Students should each be monitored in order to assess their progress and plan subsequent lessons appropriate for their level of mastery and deficit of skills and concepts.
3) Discovery learning should be facilitated.
One goal of O&M training is for students to be able to identify and solve problems by themselves. Some of the skills and concepts necessary for this task can be learned through group activities, including team problem-solving and observing role models, but they must ultimately be applied individually. Being in the presence of others who are working on similar tasks can provide incidental unwanted assistance to the student, defeating the purpose of providing opportunities for individual problem-solving.
4) Student safety must be provided appropriately.
A primary responsibility of the O&M instructor is to provide for the safety of each student. The level of monitoring and intervention which is appropriate and necessary will vary, but the safety of most students requires the undivided attention of an instructor at certain stages of instruction.
5) Students need to gain a sense of self-reliance.
Many students begin O&M instruction unconvinced that they will able to travel independently, in spite of knowledge that other blind people can do so. Skills and concepts may be learned in groups but students must apply them independently in order to become convinced of their own capabilities.
While individual lessons remain the standard of practice, there are many situations in which group lessons are appropriate and advantageous for consumers, such as:
Various types of group lessons can be developed for travelers, such as:
- Group lessons may increase the motivation of the traveler by developing a sense of shared importance.
- Peer encouragement helps to support students in the face of frustration.
- There is recognition that the student is not the only one who has challenges.
- Positive competition may result and may help to push the participants to higher levels of functioning.
- Participants in group lessons will gain an appreciation for their own strengths and the differences between travelers. Teaming skills will develop and lead to group problem solving.
- Instruction in groups may be a more cost effective way of providing service. However, although instruction in groups may be a more effective way of providing service, cost effectiveness should never be the sole rationale for this delivery option. Succinctly, the rationale must include one or more of the above mentioned advantages to be considered an appropriate delivery option and the lesson objectives must never be compromised.
However, it is important to note that group lessons may be an option only as long as:
- Concept development: this may include exploring the environment to learn about traffic patterns, accessible pedestrian signals, spatial orientation, geographical directions, etc.
- Route planning: brainstorming and information-gathering may be best accomplished in groups. This may include problem-solving relating to physical and social barriers, analyzing the environment, and gathering information.
- Role playing interactions: examples are role playing situations of soliciting aid, refusing aid, interacting with the public, and interacting with bus drivers
- Sensory training: students can learn in groups to interpret environmental clues such as identification of sounds, use of echo detection, and identification of changes in textures and terrain.
- Visual training: identification of critical features of the environment
- Use of optical aids
- Competitions: travel skills and concepts may be facilitated by competitions to find stores in shopping malls or find articles during a scavenger hunt
Return to O&M Program Supervisors and Planners -- Problems and Solutions
- adequate and appropriate monitoring for safety is provided for each student in the group;
- students receive instruction that has been individually designed to meet their unique needs;
- discovery learning is facilitated by providing each student with sufficient opportunities and time to analyze the features of the environment and problem-solve solutions with no more assistance than is appropriate and necessary;
- the student becomes self-reliant, and confident of the ability to travel independently without peer assistance;
- the decision to provide group lessons is made by the instructor with concurrence of the consumer and, where appropriate, his or her family.
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