Elements of Orientation: A Review of the Literature on the Concepts Used for Teaching Young Children who are Blind or Visually Impaired to Travel Age-Appropriately. Craig Eckhardt Hunter College October 28, 2008
ORIENTATION: Process of using senses to establish one’s position and relationship to all other significant objects in one’s environment; orientation gives meaning to movement. (Hill, 1976) • CONCEPTS: Mental representations, images or ideas of what something should be. (Blasch, 1997)
Concepts are formed by classifying or grouping objects or events with similar properties. The ability to perceive and discriminate similarities, therefore, is fundamental for concept development. (Blasch, 1997)
Orientation Sequence in Typically Developing Children • Child learns spatial dimensions of own body. • Child learns about immediate world around their body. • The child learns about their world in larger and larger dimensions including the environmental content of each setting. (Anthony, 2004)
How Visual Impairment Affects Orientation Development • Much that is learned about the body and body image is learned through gross motor movements and repetitive motor patterns. (Blasch, 1997) • Without vision to confirm the infant's early body movements, the sense of propioception may not develop to full maturity and low postural tone may be evident. (Anthony, 2003) • The rate of gross motor milestone development may be influenced by a visual impairment. There is evidence of delayed movement postures. This may be due in part to the possible presence of low postural tone, and the interdependent relationship of movement and the acquisition of true object permanence and/or auditory localization skills. (Anthony, 2003)
Literature Review: How Visual Impairment Affects Gross Motor Development • Adelson and Fraiberg (1974) tested the theory that postural achievement for blind child develops “on schedule” while self-initiated mobility is visually delayed. -Ten fully-functioning totally blind infants within one year of age were visited twice a month and observed in “intervention activities” with their parents such as bathing and feeding. These activities included both tactile and auditory elements that were used to establish hand-ear coordination. • When study observations were compared to typical development of sighted children, it was discovered that similar timing was experienced in the development of trunk control and leg control, but that delays were present in blind children with tasks like self-elevation, standing and walking.
Literature Review: How Intervention Affects Gross Motor Development in Visually Impaired Children • Adelson and Fraiberg (1974) compared their study results to previous, similar studies (Norris et. Al, 1957) to determine if the intervention activities in their study affected gross motor development. -Comparisons showed that delays in mobility and locomotion [specifically standing and walking] were lessened (between 7 to 13 months) due to the intervention activities that developed auditory-tactile relationships between the child and the parents as well as the outside world.
Literature Review: Effects of Sensory Awareness (Hearing/Echolocation) on Orientation • Ashmead et. al. (1998) conducted a series of four experiments to test the hypothesis that the auditory perception of objects by either "sound shadows" or "echoes" is based on spatially distributed variations in the sound spectrum, rather than on sonar like comparisons of the original and reflected sounds. -”Experiment 1” determined how sound levels vary with frequency and distance from a wall. -”Experiment 2” tested whether efficient travel along a hallway depends on hearing and determined how far away from a wall the auditory information is useful. -”Experiment 3” tested the effectiveness of binaural hearing (hearing sound reflection with both ears) in traveling. -”Experiment 4” studied the phenomenon of visually impaired travelers veering when entering widen spaces.
Literature Review: Effects of Sensory Awareness (Hearing/Echolocation) on Orientation (Cont.) • Ashmead et al. (1998) experiments indicate the following: -Spectral shifts in lower frequencies of ambient sound are what allow people to detect objects in travel. -A traveler can maintain parallel travel paths by means of hearing, especially by using changes in the binaural difference at low frequencies.
Literature Review: How Environmental Structuring Affects Orientation • Dunnett (1997) observed Anna, a 3-year-old girl with total blindness and osteoporosis who had difficulty with being too passive and not participate in basic activities, including reaching for objects. • Teachers at Anna’s school decided to introduce Anna to Dr. Lilli Nielsen’s “Little Room”
Literature Review: How Environmental Structuring Affects Orientation (Cont.) • Dr. Nielsen’s “Little Room” is a structured environment where the child is surrounded with objects that provide auditory and tactile sensory experiences. (Dunnett, 1997) • After four months in the Little Room, Anna demonstrated the ability to reach for objects based on sound cues.
Literature Review: Effectiveness of Spatial Tasks in Route Travel • Blades (2002) performed a study to determine the extent of how different spatial tasks enhance route travel and which task is most effective. • Procedure: Four groups of blind or low vision travelers were given a guided route through a university campus and then told to retrace the route three times. The participants were categorized into four groups, each performing various spatial tasks, including: -Pointing between landmarks at various designated locations while walking the route. -Verbalizing the route after completion. -Making a tactile map of the route after completion. -The final group walked the route with no spatial tasks given (control group).
Literature Review: Effectiveness of Spatial Tasks in Route Travel (Cont.) • The results of Blades (2002) test suggest that doing a spatial task can enhance O&M lessons, and that modeling is the most effective spatial task.
Literature Review: Evidence for age-appropriate instruction • Ambrose (2000) studied 24 fully sighted children either 6 or 10 years of age to determine what concepts were incorporated in learning routes; the six categories of concepts included environmental objects, addresses, orientation, signs, traffic and landmarks. • The procedure involved each subject being guided through a route and, along the way, being stopped at 13 different points where the tester would ask questions from a devised “Assessment for Children’s Wayfinding”.
Literature Review: Evidence for age-appropriate instruction (Cont.) • Ambrose (2000) study found that age affects performance of route learning (10 year olds scored higher than 6 year olds). • This indicates that concepts are developed around the same age and implies that age-appropriate teaching methods are needed in O&M.
Conclusions/Implications for Orientation and Mobility • Visual impairment does affect the development of orientation concepts and, thus, requires early intervention with age-appropriate activities. Specific activities include those that focus on: -Body awareness and movement -Object recognition and manipulation -Sensory development -Spatial concepts (distance, directionality, etc…) • Structured environments (Little Room) and orientation aides (tactile maps/models) are helpful in developing orientation concepts. RESEARCH LIMITATIONS: More current research needs to be done on how developing specific concepts of orientation benefit orientation skills in young travelers with visual impairments.
References Adelson, E. & Fraiberg, S. (1974). Gross Motor Development in Infants Blind from Birth. Child Development. 45, 114-126 Ambrose, G. (2000, August). Sighted Children’s Knowledge of Environmental Concepts and Ability to Orient to an Unfamiliar Residential Environment. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 94, 509-521 Anthony, T. L. (2004). Developmental Sequence of Orientation and Mobility Skills. Accessed September 9, 2008 from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired website: http://www.tsbvi.edu/Education/omdev-sequence.htm Anthony, T. L.(2003). Orientation and Mobility (O&M): The Early Years of Infancy through Preschool. Accessed September 9, 2008 from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired website: http://www.tsbvi.edu/Education/earlyyears.htm Ashmead, D. H., Wall, R. S., Eaton, S. B., Ebinger, K. A., Snook-Hill, M., Guth, D. A. & Xuefeng Y. (1998, September). Echolocation reconsidered: Using spatial variations in the ambient sound field to guide locomotion. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness 92, 615-633 Blades, M., Lippa, Y., Golledge, R.G., Jacobson, R. D., & Kitchin, R. M. (2002, June). The Effects of Spatial Tasks on Visually Impaired Peoples’ Wayfinding Abilities. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. 96, 407-419 Blasch, B., Wiener, W. R., & Welsh, R.L. (1997). Foundations of Orientation and Mobility, 2nd Ed. New York: AFB Press Dunnett, J. (1997, March). Nielsen's Little Room: Its use with a young blind and physically disabled girl. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 91, 145-151 Hill, E. & Ponder, P. (1976). Orientation and Mobility Techniques: A Guide for the Practitioner. New York: AFB Press Knott, N. I. (2002). Teaching Orientation and Mobility in the Schools: An Instructor’s Companion. New York: AFB Press