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O&M Guidelines for Working with Jon
by Joe Cutter and Kathy Gabry
Reprinted from Future Reflections

From the Editor: Kathy Gabry is an active leader in the New Jersey Parents of Blind Children, a Division of the NFB of New Jersey. Jon, who is profoundly deaf and has fluctuating partial vision, is her son. Many readers will recognize the name of Joe Cutter, an internationally known Early Childhood O&M specialist.

The following guidelines, which are based upon Jon's IEP O&M goals and objectives, were put together a couple of years ago by Joe Cutter in collaboration with Kathy. The purpose of the paper was to provide clear, concise guidance to every adult who would encounter and work with Jon in the day school for the deaf he attended. The guidelines were handed out to the IEP team members, Jon's classroom teacher, his instructional assistant, the Physical Education teacher, and others as needed. According to Joe and Kathy, it was an effective strategy that helped everyone get on board in doing their bit to implement Jon's IEP and encourage his independent movement in the school.

Although some adaptations and accommodations for Jon's deafness and partial sight are evident in these guidelines, Mr. Cutter believes that most of the goals and objectives are applicable to any blind or visually impaired child in Jon's age range. (Jon was 6 years and 10 months old at the time the guidelines were written). I concur, and suspect many readers will find this material a useful tool in developing IEP's for their children or students.

Readers may also be interested to know that this wasn't the only "handout" the team members received from Kathy, who by profession is a desktop publisher. She did a full color booklet outlining Jon's history, needs, and tips for working with him (based upon his IEP). She tells me she continues to use it, updating it as needed.

Here are the O&M Guidelines for Working with Jon:

A cane is a type of low vision aid. Its usage encourages Jon's independent mobility and is meant to be a complement to his vision.

The cane is to be used whenever Jon leaves the classroom, with the following exceptions: Jon should be offered the opportunity to choose to use his cane for going to the water fountain, going to his cubby, or playing on the playground (the cane is not necessary while playing on the playground, but he is to use it to get to the playground). This means that when Jon goes to physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech, gym, art, lunch, or any other place or activity at school, he is to use his cane.

While Jon is using his cane, no one should be holding his hand or otherwise guiding him (with the exception of an emergency). If, for whatever reason, Jon is traveling without his cane, he should not be holding onto anyone's hand; he should be traveling independently (including on the stairs).

It is important to reinforce the use of proper cane skills such as grip, position, extension, arc, and touch technique. If you see Jon using his cane inappropriately, simply provide hand-over-hand guidance in assuming the proper position. If he begins swinging his cane in the air, provide hand-over-hand guidance by guiding the cane down to the ground and then, firmly, signing "cane down." These skills will improve with familiarity and maturity.

If Jon is headed for a destination but purposefully takes a wrong turn or wanders, he should be treated as any other child who exhibits the same behavior would be treated.

What, specifically, is Jon working on?

Jon should be encouraged to use his cane appropriately both in school and on the school grounds. (Sign for cane: make the letter "d" with your right hand, then sweep it quickly across the open palm of your left hand—think of your pointer finger as the cane and bend your wrist to make the movement.)

Jon will practice his O&M skills for two 30-minute sessions per week as directed by his instructional aide. Goals are to expand his independence at school, become proficient at using his cane skills, expand his environmental awareness, and to expand his awareness of his body and how it travels through space.

Specific activities include:

• Entering and exiting the building by himself at the start or end of the school day.

• Using his cane to travel to occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech by himself.

• Developing vocabulary specific to body parts and planes.

• Using his cane to travel independently to the bathroom and, with or without his cane, go for a drink of water by himself.

• Continuing to play and explore the playground independently.

• Practicing his cane skills in a variety of places at school (stairs, hall, elevator, and playground).

• Traveling comfortably on a variety of different ground surfaces, terrain, and slopes.

• Expanding knowledge of street crossing and concept of traffic.

• Using his tactaid during all O&M practice sessions. (A tactaid is a mobility device worn around the wrist. It vibrates with increasing intensity as a car approaches.)

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