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Edwina Wilkes, CTVI. COMS, New Caney Independent School District

Abstract: The author describes many activities available in the community involving learning or practicing Expanded Core Curriculum skills, with a particular emphasis on Orientation and Mobility

Keywords: Expanded Core Curriculum, orientation and mobility, community based instruction, recreation and leisure.

There are so many important things for our students with visual impairments to learn, but not all of them are academic. I’d like to share some ideas of how we teach skills in the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) in our district, a small community north of Houston. Some of these things we do with the students at school and some we work with parents at home. We have great kids that are willing to try just about anything. We encourage them to try everything, and choose what really turns them on. Teaching the kids and their families about the ECC is so important, and we do our best to educate. One of my early lessons as a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) and Certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (CTVI) was this: a parent is going to continue to do things for their child until the child tells them, “I can do it myself.” In my early years, I kept telling the parents “…let Tommy do it for himself.” Then one day Tommy turned to his mother who was dutifully buttoning his coat, and said to her rather sharply, “Stop it! I can do it!” Mom looked at her son and said, “Well OK, then show me.” Tommy took forever to get those four buttons just right, but he did it independently and right in front of his mother. It was then she began to believe that maybe her son would not have to have someone at his side every moment. Now that is potential independence!

O & M Activities Away From School

  • Listen to a train go by. Get out of the car and stand as close as you dare. Talk about the sounds, vibrations, safety, etc.
  • Visit a nearby park with friends. Break into pairs or small groups. Group A is responsible for drawing a map as you walk. Group B is responsible for searching for leaves. Group C is responsible for writing down sounds we hear. Group D is responsible for safety. Group E… We always have each kid make a lunch while we are at the park. We always do tree rubbings and the kids love it! When possible we take a “boy leader” and a “girl leader” that are a couple of years older than the group.
  • Each year we take about ten kids who are 10 years old and above to a climbing wall with a great zip line. The benefits are really beyond words. Parents are invited and this year our bus driver climbed as well!
  • Tandem bike rides are fun but we only have one bike. This has been great for balance, coordination, and good cardiovascular exercise.
  • Firefighters are great at talking with the kids about the gear they use, what they sound like with the helmet and oxygen (very Darth Vader), and even demonstrating how they would carry or pull them. They will work with very small groups and allow the kids to handle their gear.
  • Emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) are also good with our students and will show them equipment and techniques.
  • Simple scavenger hunts requiring following written, recorded, or verbal directions or instructions to specific destinations.
  • We have several braille students that write to each other, and the VI teachers “deliver” the mail. The rule is you have to ask two things and tell two things. The letter can be as long as the student likes. They cover everything from grades, teacher’s names, favorite foods, movies, and of course, television and music likes and dislikes.
  • Go to Hermann Park and roll down the big hill <>.
  • Talk to your kids about turns and landmarks as you drive.
  • Go to the library at story time.
  • Take the tour of Minute Maid Park .
  • Practice O&M skills in the mall early in the morning with the “walkers” .
  • City bus ride or train ride.

Other Expanded Core Activities

  • Learn to tie shoes (we use a board that is laced with two thick and different color and textures of laces).
  • Play in a lawn sprinkler.
  • Learn to swim.
  • Art projects. I like pasta art.
  • Make homemade ice cream.
  • Go on a picnic.
  • Anything to do with money.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Learn to play cards, dice, and board games.