Orientation and Mobility

A young boy plays with materials located in various places on a Mulit-Function Activity Table.
A young boy plays with materials located in various places on a Mulit-Function Activity Table.

One area of the Expanded Core Curriculum is Orientation and Mobility. “Orientation” refers to the ability to know where you are and where you want to go, whether you’re moving from one room to another or walking downtown for a shopping trip.”Mobility” refers to the ability to move safely, efficiently, and effectively from one place to another, such as being able to walk without tripping or falling, cross streets, and use public transportation. (VisionAware.org, 2017)

The ability to move and the confidence to move are also key to all learning since we learn through doing.  Skills that are included in orientation include:

    • knowing various body parts,
    • knowing where various things in your environment are relative to your body
    • learning concepts like up, down, under, over, around, behind, in front of, etc.
    • learning how to move parts of your body or all of your body to get to various places and things in your environment
    • utilizing all your senses to know where you are and where you want to go (visual clues, auditory cues, tactile landmarks, etc.)
    • learning how to use adapted devices like travel canes or wheelchairs to travel
    • being able to ask for help to get where you want to go

Active Learning focuses on movement skills, sensory skills, language concepts and communication, making choices, self-advocacy and independent living skills.  All of these skills are needed for safe and efficient movement and travel.

Children who are visually impaired, blind and deafblind may have difficulty knowing where their body is in space. They may also not be aware of specific body parts, especially if there are other neurological or motor challenges. Children who can’t sit independently, stand, change the position of their own bodies, or move from place to place may also struggle with orientation, not to mention mobility.

Activities like independent play in the Little Room or with a Scratch Board or Position Board helps them learn spatial orientation. Moving along a track in a HOPSA Dress with different textures and objects underneath works on leg strength needed for mobility and at the same time helps the child learn about tactile landmarks in the sequence of materials they encounter along the way. Playing with a variety of materials that have different textures, shapes, smells, taste, weight and colors helps the child develop better sensory efficiency. When children start to crawl or roll learning to follow a path to get to a preferred toy or activity is important.

Most importantly, the child needs to feel successful and unafraid to reach out with hands and feet to see what the world has to offer. Active Learning helps with all of that. Work with your Orientation and Mobility Specialist to identify priority skills for your child. Ask for their help to incorporate an Active Learning approach to their instruction. Collaborate to create activities and environments at home that encourage the development of these important skills for your child.

Activity Ideas

Here are some ideas related to Orientation and Mobility and Active Learning:

    • Playing in a Little Room
    • Playing with a Position Board
    • Playing in a HOPSA Dress with various textures underfoot and along side on an Activity Wall
    • Playing on a Resonance Board with various objects placed around the child’s body
    • Place objects with tape to various parts of the body for the child to pull off
    • Put wrist scarves, bracelets, or bells on arms and legs
    • Put various objects inside, under, behind, etc. a large box
    • Build towers with shoe boxes or cups and sauces to knock down
    • Cruising along a table with interesting objects placed on it for exploration
    • Crawling into and out of dens, through tunnels made from cardboard boxes
    • Following a textured path made from cardboard with various textures glued to it such as artificial turf, sandpaper, leaves, etc.
    • Map Sticks
    • Journey Sticks

Ideas for Home

A toddler pulls to stand and cruises along a couch to get toys.
A toddler pulls to stand and cruises along a couch to get toys.

There are many ways to encourage your child to pull up to standing, crawl or cruise.  For example, place interesting and motivating objects along the family sofa, a low cabinet (make sure it will not topple), or along a railing. Encourage exploration by playing with objects just out of your child’s reach in a way that creates a noise or in some other way gets his attention. Initially you may want to offer a hand to help the child pull up to stand or cruise, but remember the goal is for the child to begin to try to move his own body into the position.

Selecting a few toys or objects that can make noise might be motivating to a child with no vision or very little vision. Many battery operated toys work well for this, but you can also use things like small vibrating devices in a metal or wooden box. Also placing objects such a walnuts, ping pong balls, or wooden dowels in a tipping tray that will make a noise when the child touches them or the tray.

Some children are highly motivated by a particular type of music. If this is your child, let him or her get down on the floor and move to the grooves! It doesn’t matter how he or she moves, just get them moving. Remember kinesthetic movement; the movement of one body part often triggers movement in another body part.

A child's feet stand on a textured mat.
A child’s feet stand on a textured mat.

Once you child is crawling or cruising on his own, you can create an obstacle course and play with your child or invite a peer or sibling to join in the fun. You can create these using furniture, cardboard boxes, pillows and other things around the house. You may want to add a textured path to encourage the child to move in a specific direction.

A child's legs stick out of a cardboard box den.
A child’s legs stick out of a cardboard box den.

Children love small spaces or dens. Create tunnels with blankets, chairs, tables and boxes. Encourage your child to crawl through by placing interesting objects on the other side or simply coming to the sound of your voice.  Create tunnels to crawl through using chairs and blankets. Another option is to create tunnels using large cardboard boxes with both ends open.