As Orientation and Mobility Specialists, our caseloads include academic students, students with severe and profound multiple disabilities and students who fall somewhere in the middle. It can be challenging to evaluate and determine goals for students who are mobile but currently do not need a cane and who are in resource and/or higher functioning self-contained classrooms. Many of these students can and do benefit from direct service O&M and often their O&M lessons can impact so much more than just O&M skills.
Kay is an 8th grade school student who has bounced between resource classrooms and self-contained classrooms. She is currently a student with low vision and is able to see large print but has a progressive eye condition. Kay, who is very quiet at school – rarely saying more than a flat-toned “yes”, “no” or “don’t know” – is reported to be a chatterbox at home with her younger sister. Kay’s classroom teachers have only heard her say a few phrases when interacting with peers. Kay does receive speech therapy. She does follow directions in the classroom and can work independently or with a few prompts on her level. Kay can travel in her familiar school independently; although, she prefers to follow her classmates. In preparation for her 3-year re-eval, Kay’s mother stated that Kay is uncomfortable outside of school and home, and she agreed to an O&M evaluation. When evaluated in her community, Kay had no knowledge of her community or the types of stores/businesses in her community. She was very hesitant traveling in her community and did not want to lead the way. Direct service O&M goals were added to her IEP, including goals pertaining to learning and safely traveling in her community.
Traditional community O&M lessons were implemented along with intentional activities to encourage better communication skills. Travel time to and from community routes were spent talking (about O&M-related topics and sharing interesting personal stories). On the way to the lesson, the O&M instructor talked about where they were going and what they were going to do, then asked pertinent WH questions and prompted Kay and modeled desired, full sentence answers. On the return trip, the O&M instructor reviewed the lesson by asking WH questions: Who went on the trip, Where did they go, What did they do, and as things progressed, Why did they go to that store/location along with When did they do a particular activity. Kay was prompted not only to answer these questions but how to answer these questions with full sentences, not phrases. As their rapport between the O&M and student strengthened, Kay responded with better sentences and more age-appropriate answers!
The O&M had talked with the school’s secretary prior to the outing so that when Kay signed backed into school, the secretary asked Kay simple WH questions about the outing. The classroom teacher also asked WH questions sometime later in the day. A note was sent to the parents about the outing, so that they could ask similar questions too.
Kay was encouraged to record her WH answers using the Audio Memos app on the O&M’s iPhone. Initially, when Kay was prompted by her O&M instructor she gave one-word answers. In the beginning, the question was asked, and Kay responded (and/or was prompted to respond) to practice the response before repeating to record the question and answer. The recorder was turned off in between each Q&A. After a short time, Kay was able to answer questions directly without practicing first and without turning off the recording. Kay was very excited to listen to these recordings at home and to share them with her sister!
Kay began to look forward to her community trips and she willingly began to talk about where she went and what she did. She began answering questions about school-related things and home-related things. The questions broadened to include holidays, pets, favorite food, and more!
The recording below is a series of WH questions asked by the O&M instructor and answered by Kay. This recording was made in the car while sitting in the parking lot directly after a lesson.
Audio clip of Kay’s WH questions and answers.
Notice that Kay gave one-word answers in this recording. Her O&M instructor initially allowed one-word answers in order to encourage Kay to record her answer. Kay quickly learned to answer using full (but short) sentences and later her sentences expanded as she learned to add prepositions and more details.
In the second audio clip, Kay was standing on the sidewalk along a strip center. During her O&M lessons, she was learning about the various store types and had explored several of the stores. However, she struggled to learn the route to individual stores as she did not sequence the order of the stores. Kay was not able to read the printed signs for each store (her reading issues are not related to her visual impairment), but she did learn an identifying characteristic for each store. In this lesson, as she walked past a couple stores, Kay stopped to record the store names. She then listened to this recording at home and when traveling back to the strip center for the next O&M lesson.
Audio clip of Kay’s Shopping Strip Stores
What has changed between the first audio clip and the second clip? Kay’s voice in the second clip is no longer flat and dull. Her voice is more expressive, she laughs, and even threw in a couple of sentences!
Audio Memos app is a simple app to use. Kay quickly learned how to start and stop her recordings independently. The audio clips can be named and can be emailed to others. Audio memos is also accessible with VoiceOver, for those who rely on a screen reader.
By the end of the school year, Kay’s main classroom teacher – who had worked with Kay for several years – said that Kay was a new person. She said that Kay had come out of her shell in the classroom and was talking to teachers and peers. Kay began sharing little stories from home with her peers and was engaging – and in some cases instigating – conversations! Kay also began independently recording short stories that she created using Audio Memos and later learned to use dictation on an iPad in the Pages app to “write” her stories. It took a team of people working together (classroom teachers, speech therapist, O&M, and family members) using WH Q&As to provide structured opportunities to help Kay verbally express herself. Having community lessons also gave Kay new experiences to talk about!
By Diane Brauner