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This document is intended to be used as a companion to the PDAS (or other district appraisal system) and provides information specific to professionals working with students with visual impairments.  It is assumed that administrators will have the same expectations for excellence for professionals in visual impairments as other educators regardless of the instructional setting, existing disabilities and/or age of the student.

Orientation and mobility (O&M) is a related service that is provided from birth through 21 who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities.  These students have been identified through evaluation as needing O&M instruction by a certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS).

The ultimate goal of this instructional programming is to assure that students with visual impairments are safe and efficient when moving in their homes, schools and communities as required in IDEA.  Instruction may include, but is not limited to:

  • sensory and concept development (the basic building blocks of orientation),
  • purposeful movement,
  • self-directed (independent) travel,
  • use of assistive technology (canes, optical and GPS devices),
  • public transportation and
  • street crossings.

Prior to observation, ask your certified O&M specialist (COMS) to provide the following:

  • copy of weekly/monthly schedule and lesson plan(s) for observed student(s)
  • copy of O&M evaluation
  • copy of goals from the IEP or IFSP (used with infants)
  • copy of O&M PLAAFP and progress reports
  • copy of behavioral assessment/plan, if applicable
  • copy of self-assessment completed by COMS
  • caseload  overview (number of students, disabilities, location & amount and frequency of service)
  • a copy of current certification, since O&M certification is not issued by TEA/SBEC

Key points to look for when applying the performance evaluation to your COMS

Domain I: Active, Successful Student Participation in the Learning Process

  • Opportunities for student problem solving are fostered throughout the lesson.
  • The ability to engage in critical thinking, be self-directed and connect current and previous learning will depend on age, the disability and developmental level of students.  Objects, tactile symbols, vocalizations interpreter and/or assistive technology may be used by the student.
  • Certified O&M specialist (COMS) checks for understanding and provides meaningful feedback.

Domain II: Learner-Centered Instruction

  • Instructional strategies occur in home, school and community environments as per IDEA.  The lesson documentation should reflect this diversity.  The evaluation observation may also be away from the school.
  • Pacing may vary.  Processing time depends on cognition, prior experiences, communication or alertness.
  • Technology used during O&M instruction may include optical devices, GPS devices, tactile maps and may include some technologies used in classroom settings.
  • Safety concerns were primary to the lesson and self-directed and independent travel was encouraged.

Domain III:  Evaluation and Feedback on Student Progress

  • Progress is noted in the system used by school district.
  • COMS documents student academic and functional performance during or following the lesson
  • COMS infuses functional problem solving skills in all lessons.
  • COMS reviews the lesson and provides feedback on progress directly to the student.

Domain IV:  Management of Student Discipline/Instructional Strategies/Time/Materials

  • In unstructured teaching environments (grocery stores, malls, airport), the O&M specialist should be prepared with:
    • alternate discipline techniques that address students’ unique needs and promotes self-discipline and follows the IEP and district policies.
    • a plan that addresses unusual and unforeseen situations that may arise in the community, such as changes in the weather, construction and encounters with other members of the public.
  • Self-directed learning and discipline will look different when working with infants or those with multiple disabilities. 
  • Instructional materials used with students on O&M lessons may include GPS systems, canes, adapted canes, toys, tactile maps, recording devices and optical devices.

Domain V: Professional Communication

  • Review the portfolio/evaluation reports supplied by the instructor.  The language used should be understandable by all readers.
  • The majority of professional communication for orientation and mobility specialist will be with other members of the educational team, including the student, family and members of the community.
  • Professional communication includes modeling and training of other team members.
  • COMS is able to explain, in easily understandable terms, the functional implications of the content of the lesson as it relates to the student’s future outcomes for safe, self-directed and independent travel.

Domain VI:  Professional Development  

  • Relevant professional development activities within a district may be limited, thus an O&M specialist should be allowed to attend trainings beyond district boundaries.
  • COMS should balance professional development that is specific to O&M and that reflects characteristics of his or her caseload (e.g. early childhood, autism, multiple impairments).

Domain VII:   Compliance with Policies, Operating Procedures and Requirements

  • COMS follows district and campus procedures to sign students out and obtain district vehicle.
  • COMS signs in/out from campuses as per expected procedures.
  • COMS are itinerant and serve students on multiple campuses.  Participation in whole-school routines may vary by campus.

Domain VIII:   Improvement of Academic Performance of All Students on the Campus

  • O&M is a related service and focuses on functional performance.  As such, it is not required to be aligned with TEKS.
  • Student attendance and availability will impact student progress.  COMS communicates issues with either attendance or availability to the campus staff and IEP committee, including family members.
  • COMS provide functional instruction.  Modifications and adaptations of materials and instruction for students with visual impairments may happen beyond the classroom and/or school environment.

For additional information on best practice standards see link Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas:  Guidelines and Standards (June 2010)

Developed by a collaboration of VI professionals and administrators from the Professional Preparation Advisory Group (PPAG) and the Texas School for the Blind Outreach Department.