Orientation and Mobility Services

Toddler plays in a crawling position on a Resonance Board.
Toddler plays in a crawling position on a Resonance Board.

Orientation and mobility instruction and Active Learning go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Here’s what American Printing House for the Blind’s Family Connect has to share about Orientation and Mobility:




People who are blind or visually impaired must learn to orient to their surroundings and move independently and safely across a variety of environments with the use of their remaining senses, learned travel skills and techniques, and mobility tools. An orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist provides training and instruction in these competencies.

Orientation and Mobility for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

APH Family Connect

This area of the expanded core curriculum (ECC) focuses on two broad interrelated components: orientation (knowing one’s position in relation to other things in one’s surroundings and keeping track of how these relations/positions change as one moves through the environment) and mobility (the physical act of moving from one place to another). The development of conceptual understanding of the environment, including physical layout and spatial relationships amongst people, places, and things, is the foundation for orientation.

The development of motor skills, physical coordination, and stamina, and the use of appropriate mobility tools (e.g., long cane) provide the basis for independent mobility. O&M instruction focuses on developing concepts and understanding of the physical environment as well as purposeful movements that ensure safe, efficient, independent travel for every child whether in their home, school, or community.

Orientation and Mobility and the Expanded Core Curriculum

APH Family Connect


All children who are visually impaired should have an orientation and mobility assessment. The certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS) may use a variety of assessment tools to complete this process. They are also critical partners in completing the Functional Scheme. Some of the sections of the Functional Scheme they should help complete include:

    • Gross Motor
    • Visual Perception
    • Spatial Relations

Because their focus also includes the use of all residual senses for helping the child to navigate in various environments they are also working on sensory efficiency skills, hand skills for grasping things like travel canes or using their hands to trail along a surface to travel, understanding of the body parts, and auditory skills to listen to sounds that can help them orient or stay safe. They will consult with the teacher of students with visual impairment and possibly others in other areas of assessment. 

Providing Instruction

The COMS may work directly with the child and/or use a consultation model to provide information and support to the team. With students who have significant developmental delays they often use both direct instruction and consultation. For example, they may work directly with the child on how to use travel canes or trail a wall. They may also consult with the team on the design and implementation of activities and learning environments that provide opportunities for the child to practice skills throughout the day and in a variety of environments. 

Use of Active Learning equipment like the Resonance Board, HOPSA Dress, Support Bench, Little Room, and Position Board can be used to work on various O&M skills such as grasp, hand and arm movement, leg strength and movement, use of tactual information for travel, coordinated movement of arms and legs, and spatial orientation. Here are some Active Learning activities that address various O&M skills from the Inventory of Purposeful Movement Behaviors compiled by Tanni L. Anthony, Ph.D., COMS that focus on various O&M skills for children birth through age 5:

    • Looks for or reaches to objects that touch body in a Little Room or Resonance Board.
    • During familiar activities such as diapering, bathing, brushing teeth, eating the child anticipates the routine from sensory cues provided by the various objects he/she explores.
    • Actively explores environments such as an Activity Wall, various surfaces under feet in a HOPSA Dress, objects hung on a fence or railing.
    • Moves his/her body to rhythms such as music, songs or rhymes.
    • Remembers an object’s location when it is put down for a few minutes while playing on a Resonance Board or with a Position Board.
    • Climbs onto furniture such as a low chair or up and down stairs in the house or playground equipment.
    • Responds physically to music through dance, rolling, or rocking, or activities like playing along with drum or rhythm band instruments.
    • Does simple household chores such as picking up toys and placing them in container.
    • Opens doors on cabinets, gates, and rooms while exploring an environment.
    • Understands “over/under,” “far/near,” “up/down,” “out/in” while playing games like Hot and Cold, gathering materials for familiar activities, or playing on playground equipment.
    • Correctly uses pedals on tricycle.
    • Carries container of liquid without spilling while watering plants, getting a drink, getting water for the pet’s bowl.

You may enjoy reading pages 122-131 and 209-217 in Joe Cutter’s book, Independent Movement and Travel in Blind Children: Promotion Model 2007, published by Information Age Publishing. Joe is a distinguished orientation and mobility specialist, speaker and author.


Dean Riding a Tricycle

In the video below we see a teenage boy, Dean, exploring with a tricycle. This activity is also a great way to work on concepts like “forward”, “backward”, “stop”, and “go”.

Interacting with an Outdoor Activity Wall

In this video a child with very limited movement interacts with an outdoor Activity Wall and a Position Board. His arm movement is somewhat random but seems to become more purposeful. He is using his hearing as well to locate and identify where the various sounds are coming from when he moves his hand.

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Jordan in the Little Room

In this video Jordan demonstrates using his hands to grasp and locating specific objects (spatial orientation).

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Independent Exploration in the Kitchen Center

In this video, Taylor lies on a Resonance Board and explores a variety of kitchen and other objects in a bin. Note how he places things in specific locations so he can go back and find them and how he uses his body (mouth, feet, hands) and various senses to explore the items.

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Sonya Using a HOPSA Dress

In this video Sonya is in a HOPSA Dress on an H-track and she is wearing tap shoes. She explores the space using both hearing and touch to help orient. She also figures out how to navigate around the ball pit.

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