Ideas and Advice for Parents                                                                  from Laura Cleary, O&M Teacher at St. Joseph’s & ChildVision

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) is not a skill that students learn only in school and during their structured sessions with an O&M specialist. They do mobility every day so I hope this eases any concerns of parents during this unprecedented time regarding their structured classes.

I will send you on regular videos of tasks and fun ideas of how to incorporate gross motor skills in to the daily routine of your child. Encouraging them to trail and use their upper and lower body protection in the home when necessary will remind them of the different goals they were focusing on over the last few years or for some have not yet learned.

While we are all asked to stay at home, we can also avail of fresh air and exercise while adhering to social distancing of course. This may just be outside your home or in your local park. You can reinforce your child’s orientation and mobility skills by:

  • Exploring outdoor textures: sand, grass, tree bark, flowers, and leaves. Ask your child to describe the different textures and use words like soft, rough, smooth, bumpy etc. Continue this on a daily basis if you can and compare and contrast so they are understanding the differences.
  • There are so many different sounds in our environment and utilising these auditory experiences to help with orientation is something which is constantly done during orientation and mobility sessions. The sound of birds, insects, flies, bees, cars, trucks, dogs, sprinklers, etc. all help build an understanding of the environment your child is in. Ask the child, “What do you hear?” Have the child point in the direction of the sound.
  • Spend time in the sun and shade. Then describe and talk about the weather every day. Use words like hot, shady, wet, breezy, etc.
  • As you walk around the neighbourhood with your child, point out driveways, corners, post-boxes, trees, etc. These will become useful landmarks when he or she begins getting around alone. For example, “If I walk out my front door, walk left, and count three driveways, I’ll come to the post-box.”
  • Teach your child to use footpaths as clues. If you’re supposed to be following the footpath and you’re walking on grass or dirt instead, something’s wrong.
  • Play follow-the-leader in such a way that your child has to follow the sound of your voice as you walk around a room. Do this outside too as your voice will be more difficult to locate in a large space without echoes.
  • When walking with an older child, ask him to tell you where the two of you have been and how to get back to where he came from.
  • Set up travel games. “You got to the kitchen by walking through the hallway. Now can you go back to the hall without walking through the kitchen?”
  • Encourage your child to trail walls, both to find their way and to give them a sense of control over where they are and where they are going. Trailing is done by lightly curving the fingers and holding the back of the hand against the wall but slightly ahead of the body. The wall isn’t used for support but as a guideline.
  • Check out my videos on the St. Joseph’s Primary VI website to help to reinforce these skills.