How do we orientate a child to a new space?
During their theory training our O&M Practitioner students learn how to train children who are congenitally blind or have extremely low vision. This is not the same as when training adults who have lost sight during their lives. A child who has never had vision needs to be intentionally taught concepts that a sighted child would pick up using their vision.
When training children to move around and orientate themselves in a new space they need to be introduced to that space. On entering the room the O&M Practitioner would explain where everything is and he child would explore the room, touching all the items to ‘see’ them and know what they are. The windows and doors and their positions need to be determined. Where things are in relation to each other must be determined, so the bed is under the window and next to the cupboard. Children are taught special concepts such as next to, under, left , right etc. so that they can better navigate an area.
Once the actual space has been explored, we can then use a model for the child to feel how all the different parts of the room relate to each other. They start to think abstractly and can conceptualise the room and how the parts relate to create a whole. With sight you enter a room, look around and build a picture instantly.
This is a model of our lecture room which could be used to orientate someone to this space, the second photo shows a bedroom setup from a bird’s eye view. The use of models is a useful tool to assist someone with a visual impairment to orientate themselves to a new space.