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Expanded Core Curriculum: Orientation & mobility in every step

Lessons that give students the skills and confidence they need to get to where they’re going.

Student practices white cane technique as her orientation and mobility instructor observes.

Orientation & mobility (O&M) is one of nine life skills kids with visual impairments and multiple disabilities learn through the Expanded Core Curriculum at Perkins. Put simply, O&M is the art and science of teaching people who are blind or visually impaired where they are in space (orientation) and how to travel independently (mobility).

Here’s a short look at how we teach it, and a bit more about why it’s such an integral part of the Expanded Core Curriculum.

Why is orientation & mobility so important?

Orientation & mobility is a huge factor in how people with visual impairments can lead independent lives. It helps them get to work or class on their own, to get around a grocery story or simply go for a walk, safely, without needing help from another person. And all people, whether they use a white cane, wheelchair, guide dog, or some sort of assistive technology, can build critical O&M skills for getting around on their own.

How is orientation & mobility taught?

  • Choosing the right environments: You wouldn’t want to drop your student in an airport they’ve never been in before on day one. Start in the environments that are both simplest and most familiar to them. A walk from one class to the next. Or at home, the living room to the kitchen. As they become more comfortable in these environments, then start exploring new places.
  • Prioritize safety: The goal is to empower children to navigate independently, but to do so successfully, they must be able to do so safely. So they should begin exploring with a teacher or caregiving at their side. Some techniques might include having the student lead with their arms out to prevent walking into an obstruction, or with their hands on the wall ahead of them so they can follow the contours of their environment, is effective.
  • Directional focus: While it may sound simple, the importance of understanding left and right as concepts cannot be overlooked. This will help them orient themselves in their own environments, and also be instrumental for understanding directions.

What is the Expanded Core Curriculum?

The Expanded Core Curriculum is built of of nine life skills Perkins students with visual impairments, deafblindness and additional disabilities learn on top of their core academics. It covers everything from using technology to independent living to socializing with peers — knowledge most sighted children acquire by observing everyday life. The Expanded Core Curriculum gives students who are blind, deafblind and have additional disabilities a toolbox of crucial skills they need to succeed at school, in social situations, at home, on the job and everywhere else.

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Slater, who is deafblind, types an email to her Aunt Lori. Photo Credit: Anna Miller
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