Orientation and Mobility Assessment

An orientation and mobility (O&M) assessment examines a child’s ability to travel safely indoors and outdoors, with or without assistance. An O&M instructor, a professional with specialized training in teaching travel skills and concepts such as spatial awareness, will conduct the assessment.

Some TVIs are certified in O&M, while others have limited expertise and cannot evaluate your child’s O&M needs. If you’re concerned about your child’s ability to move safely and independently without O&M services, voice your worries. Request an O&M evaluation from the education team.

The assessment usually involves interviews and observation to see if your child would benefit from formal O&M instruction. O&M assessments are conducted for children of all ages and ability levels. Including children who are not yet walking, those in wheelchairs, and those who may never travel unassisted. If your child is receiving O&M services as part of their educational program, as included on the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP), then at minimum, an O&M assessment should be completed every three years. Most O&M instructors conduct an assessment annually to assist them in making recommendations for appropriate IFSP or IEP goals.

What Happens During the Assessment?

The O&M instructor will assess your child’s grasp of key concepts for navigation based on their age, abilities, and vision. This includes understanding spatial terms like left, right, inside, outside, and awareness of environmental elements like sidewalks and streets. Your child’s understanding of the parts of their body and how they relate to these concepts is also explored. In most instances, you can expect the O&M instructor to:

  • Interview you, the TVI, the general or special education classroom teacher, and your child about travel skills and any concerns you might have. The places you and others would like to see your child learn to travel to and from and where they might wish to go are also discussed. The interview may be conducted in person or via phone or maybe a checklist people are asked to complete.
  • Observe your child in familiar and unfamiliar indoor and outdoor environments to gather information about how they move through the environment using their vision, if present, and other senses.
  • Evaluate any O&M skills previously learned such as protective techniques, the sighted (human) guide technique, trailing, and use of the long cane.

O&M Assessments Go Beyond Movement

The O&M instructor will consider skills beyond moving in the environment if they affect independent travel. Here are just a few examples:

  • Activities of daily living: Can your child store their belongings such as their cane, coat, and money independently? Can your child use money to pay the bus fare or make a purchase at a store?
  • Social skills: How does your child interact with others? Do they know how to ask for assistance? When assistance is offered and it is not needed, does your child know how to decline it appropriately?
  • Planning: What skills does your child have when it comes to planning a route
  • Literacy skills: How does your child make a note of information needed during travel? Does your child use print, braille, or audio recording for shopping lists, bus schedules, or emergency contacts in case they get lost?
  • Use of optical aids and assistive technology: When traveling, does your child use low vision devices to gather information, such as a monocular to see a building number or a street sign, or a magnifier to read a print bus schedule?

After the Assessment

The O&M instructor will share the assessment results with you and other members of the educational team. You may want to ask for a copy of the O&M instructor’s report for your files. It’s important to keep this documentation and other assessment reports. Based on the O&M instructor’s input, your child may start or keep getting O&M lessons. If they don’t need it now, it doesn’t mean they won’t need it later. For this reason, it is important to have your child’s O&M needs assessed periodically.