Creating Meaningful O&M Lessons through Collaboration

Authors: Emily Leeper, VI Educational Consultant, Outreach Program, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), with Jessica Rose, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS), Northside ISD, San Antonio, TX

Keywords: orientation, mobility, O&M, collaboration, ECC, COMS, TSVI, lesson planning

Abstract: The author presents an interview with an experienced Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) demonstrating how collaboration can help create meaningful orientation and mobility (O&M) lessons that support all areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum for Students with Visual Impairments (ECC).

Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) are in a unique position to provide meaningful lessons that support the Expanded Core Curriculum for Students with Visual Impairments (ECC) in settings outside the school campus. COMS often focus on the skills learned in their O&M training courses when planning instruction, but for school age children, there is so much more to include in lessons. 

Jessica Rose is a COMS in Northside ISD in San Antonio with many years of experience working in public schools. She shared her approach to developing meaningful lessons for her students: “I think the key to providing motivating lessons for students is collaboration. Take the time to find out what is going on in the classroom. Don’t just meet the student at the door!”, she said. 

Jessica meets regularly with her student’s Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TSVI), and they often collaborate together on lessons. She also spends time in the classroom herself to better understand student needs. She continued, “I like to work on skills like spatial concepts with students in their classroom. I can also support independent movement and model how to create opportunities for the student to practice skills with the other adults in the room. Plus, I get to find out what’s going on. What are they learning in the classroom?” 

For a fourth grade student, Jessica learned that the teacher had planned a poetry unit that focused on the language of colors. She explained that “this was an opportunity to get out and explore. We worked on associating tactile information with color terms. Things like the dead, crunchy grass is brown, but the soft grass is green. The feel of the sun on your skin is yellow, but the shade of a tree is blue.”  

Collaboration with a student’s teachers and the TSVI led to fun and engaging lessons for a 6th grade student whose science class was learning about force and motion. Jessica said, “So, we went out to find steep sidewalks in the neighborhood and took turns rolling a ball up and down. What happens when you push it uphill? How about downhill?”  

Jessica shared that sometimes transition age students express an interest in a particular career without truly understanding what the job entails. One of her students said he wanted to be a travel agent but couldn’t describe what that job would be like. Through collaboration with his transition case manager and TSVI, she designed community-based lessons that included independent travel to a travel agent’s office. The student was then able to interview the agent to learn more details about the job.

 Another example is a student who wanted to pursue a Culinary Arts degree, although he had limited cooking experience. Collaboration with his case manager and TSVI  resulted in the student traveling to various restaurants independently and asking questions about the establishments and the job application process. “Those lessons,” she said, “included so many ECC areas. Use of public transportation, social skills, assistive technology, and career readiness, It really all tied together.”

“When working with teachers and families, it’s so important to share what students can do, not just what they need to learn,” Jessica said. She documents the things her student can do on their own, using videos or photos, so she can easily share the student’s progress with others on the educational team. 

Jessica acknowledges that collaboration requires effort on the part of the COMS as well as a change in thinking about lessons: “People on the team usually don’t really know what O&M is and what my role is. So, I take the time to be present. I feel that thinking collaboratively makes my lessons more fun and meaningful, for both me and my students.”

Previous Article

In Your Element: Access to Chemistry

Family Wisdom
Next Article

5-a-side Blind Soccer Has Arrived!

Effective Practices