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Orientation ' Mobility Instruction - Level 1 - Skills Development
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O&M Level 1 - Development of Skills

Cognitive Development

Three substages of cognitive development have a direct impact/influence for O&M skills and will be a focus for O&M instruction for young learners who are deafblind:

Object permanence, out of sight, NOT out of mind:

During the first 9 months, the infant doesn't have the memory capacity to search for an item completely removed from view or out of touch. Once the child has attained object permanence, he or she understands that an object continues to exist even if it's outside immediate view or immediate touch.

For all children with vision impairment, including those who are deafblind, it will be important to help teach object permanence skills by paying close attention to the child's signals, or actual reach, that s/he is interested in the sounding object or newly removed silent object. Verbal or body alerting or quieting, and/or new hand movement may signal the child's interest in the object. Object touch cues will help to cue the child to reach, as will a reactive spatial environment that reinforces both random and intentional reach into space.


The ability to problem solve with an end result in mind is called means-end. This indicates that the child is able to understand the result of certain actions. An infant doesn't initially realize that his/her body movement produce a certain sensory result. With repetition, however, the infant begins to discover that body movements can make something happen. One of the first indications of intention occurs with deliberate hand watching behavior. With the discovery of the hands as a "working part" of the body, the four-month-old infant learns to reach for nearby objects, the beginning of purposeful movement.

Spatial Relations

The development of spatial relationship skills involves the formation of concepts related to position, location, direction, and distance. This includes spatial awareness of one's body, awareness of both near and distance space as it relates to one's body, and awareness of the space dimensions between objects.

It is essential that children who are deafblind have learning opportunities and receive instruction that facilitates early purposeful movement. Movement interactions help the child know "what's out there" and learn about relationships between objects and words, signs, symbols, and actions. O&M instruction for a child who is deafblind will focus on movement that provides opportunities to gather sensory information, and to communicate and make choices. O&M instruction provides a set of foundational skills that can broaden the student's awareness of the environment, resulting in increased motivation, independence and safety. The instruction is designed to teach the child to move as independently and as purposefully as he/she is able.

The team needs to ensure that instructions are given to the child who is deafblind in a way that the child understands. This may require the use of an interpreter and the development of touch cues or object cues.

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Western Oregon University | The Research Institute | The Oregon Deafblind Project

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The Oregon Deafblind Project is funded through grant award # H326T130008, OSEP CFDA 84.326T, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education (OSEP), OSEP Project Officer: Susan Weigert.

However, the contents of this site does not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

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