Orientation and Mobility (O&M) in the school setting is considered to be a related service for students with visual impairment as defined under 34 CFR § 300.34 of The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is provided to students who meet criteria for special education services under Special Education Rule 13 160-4-7-.05, Eligibility Determination and Categories of Eligibility. As such, it is not limited to only totally blind children, but can be a service available to students with low vision as well if an evaluation shows that they require the service in order to access and benefit from an educational plan. The Individual Education Plan (IEP) team convened to make decisions about the provision of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for a student with visual impairment should discuss the possible need for O&M services and make subsequent referral for evaluation.
Orientation is the process of using sensory information to establish and maintain one’s position in an environment. Mobility is the process of moving within one’s environment safely and efficiently. The goal of O&M instruction for persons who have visual impairments is safe travel in any environment as independently as is possible. O&M in the school setting is an integral part of the Expanded Core Curriculum for students with visual impairments. O&M cannot be addressed as an isolated skill area, but should be imbedded in the student’s overall educational and social environment. Concept development, access to educational venues, sensory skills, motor development, and community awareness are all components of O&M. O&M must be integrated with cognitive, social, perceptual, self-advocacy, and language development.
The O&M teacher or specialist is responsible for conducting an assessment in order to determine and make recommendation for the nature and extent of any services required. The O&M specialist works with the teacher of the visually impaired to assess areas of concept, motor, and sensory skill development. Findings and recommendations are presented to and discussed with the IEP team in order to develop goals/objectives, timeframes, and amount of service time required.
The O&M specialist will serve as a team member with and consultant to the teacher of the visually impaired, the regular classroom teacher, other school personnel, and to the parents of the student. O&M training must be integrated as much as possible into the educational environment and curricular activities in order to be maximally effective. The O&M specialist should provide parents with specific activities to practice in the home and community setting so that skills may be applied in context of daily routine and daily living activities.
Direct O&M instruction can include:
A qualified O&M specialist is one who has graduated from an accredited college or university with a degree or certificate in orientation and mobility that included the completion of an internship.