Working with Your Child’s Orientation and Mobility Specialist: 8 Questions to Ask

Who Is the Orientation and Mobility Specialist?

An orientation and mobility instructor working with a school-aged girl

The orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist is a professional who has extensive training in teaching children to travel at home, at school, and in the community. O&M specialists often provide instruction to children with multiple disabilities. Sometimes this instruction is direct when they work with children regularly to teach them skills. Sometimes the instruction is indirect or consultative when the specialist provides other team members with information and support to infuse O&M activities and practice for skills into a child’s day. A child does not need to be able to crawl or walk independently to benefit from O&M instruction. The first step in determining if your child will benefit from work with an O&M specialist is to have this professional conduct an orientation and mobility assessment.

An O&M specialist on your child’s educational team will advise on teaching body concepts (“left” and “right”), spatial concepts (“up” and “down”), environmental concepts (“streets” and “traffic signals”), and mobility techniques. The team should plan how to integrate O&M skills throughout your child’s day. This includes navigating home, using cars or buses, and joining in family and school activities. O&M skill development is interconnected with using vision, communication, and social skills during travel. Creating travel routines will help practice O&M and other skill.

O&M specialists train individuals of all ages and abilities. Start conversations with your child’s O&M specialist with specific questions. Discuss what your child is learning and how to support it at home and in the community. Repeated practice is crucial for mastering skills, so ensure what professionals teach aligns with your actions.

8 Questions to Ask Your Child’s O&M Specialist

Not all of the following questions will be applicable to your child. The O&M specialist may not feel your child is ready to work on a particular skill set or may be putting emphasis on another area of O&M.

  1. How are you helping my child learn body concepts, spatial concepts, and environmental concepts? What activities can I do to support his learning?
  2. What sensory skills are important for my child to learn to increase the use of vision, hearing, and touch as my child travels? How can I increase use of other senses at home and in the community?
  3. What mobility skills is my child learning, such as human (or sighted) guide, trailing, or protective techniques? Can you show me these techniques and suggest how I can incorporate these into our day at home and in the community?
  4. Can you share what orientation skills you are working on with my child? How can I help understand where my child is, and how we can use information in the environment to orient?
  5. What strategies are you using to teach my child to ask for assistance from others as they travel? How can I support this learning at home and in the community?
  6. What is my child learning about different forms of transportation in the community? What can I do to support this learning?
  7. How are you helping my child learn to be safe during travel? What strategies should I use to help my child learn about safety while traveling together?
  8. What other skills are you teaching my child, such as money-handling skills, being responsible for personal belongings, or using assistive devices when traveling? How can I do the same?

For more information, see Foundations of Education, Volume II, A. Koenig & C. Holbrook (Eds.)