ORIENTING TO ENVIRONMENT
By: Carmen Willings
It’s essential to teach students who are blind or visually impaired to navigate safely from one location to another. The goal for students is for them to travel independently from any point in the classroom to any other point in the classroom as well as be able to travel from the classroom to significant locations in the school building. Remember, if a student's vision is impaired, they will not be able to observe activities that are available in their environment unless they are shown what is available through guided exploration.
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Gathering Information From the Environment
Students should be encouraged to use all their senses to gather information about their environment. Interpreting the information they gain through the students usable vision, hearing, touch and smell can help the student establish and maintain their position in space.
Strategies to Encourage Environmental Exploration
Strategies to Develop Environmental Awareness
In the classroom, the student should learn routes, but still be shown the "whole".
In the community, use tactile, auditory, olfactory, and visual exploration accompanied by meaningful verbal descriptions. This will help the students make sense of the world around them. Outings into the community should be important components of students program )pet stores, grocery stores, airports, restaurants, gas stations, post offices, taxis, office buildings with elevators and escalators, bus rides, bowling alleys, etc.
Develop an age-appropriate arm strengthening program to support physical ability to use protective technique and teach good protective trailing technique.
Consider having the student use a feather duster to practice trailing walls, fences, railings and play equipment, maintain contact and walk parallel.
Attach interesting items (balloons, braille messages, stickers, etc.) along familiar trailing surface for student to locate and to increase motivation for maintaining contact while trailing.
School Campus Orientation
Orient the student to their classroom, playground and school building including any additional classrooms the student will be going to.
Show the student where their cubby or locker will be and walk them around the classroom and school building, pointing out important or helpful landmarks.
Let the student explore the different work stations and areas that they will need to travel to. This would be a good opportunity to tell the student what activities are available in each of the stations and what the rules and expectations are for each of those areas.
Orient to the Playground
It is important to orient or familiarize the student to the playground prior to their first day whenever possible. This can be done by first showing the student any climbing structures and guide them in finding the walls or fences that they can use to trail with a hand (if appropriate). Students who are visually impaired need support from staff during periods of free play on the playground. Make certain that students with visual impairments play and talk with classmates rather than sit on the sidelines. Describe choices of activities that are available. Support the inclusion of the student in group activities.