We were walking down the hallway when my student turned to another staff member. He grabbed for the staff member’s arm. “Ayy-ee-oooh”, my student said to the staff member. “Oh, cheerios?” the staff member repeated back to my student.
He then turned to me “Ayy-ee-oooh”, he said as he grabbed my arm and pulled me closer to him. “Do you want some cheerios?”, I asked him. “Ya.Ayy-ee-ooh. Ayy-ee-ooh.”, my student repeated.
In that moment, my student, who did not speak in anything but vowels, had a severe learning disability, and light perception in one eye (no light perception in the other eye), had just completed a very complex task.
He was able to locate a person in the hallway who knew his word for Cheerios and then coordinate a complex system of communication in order to get his needs for Cheerios met.
If you pay attention to the tiny details of your students with multiple impairments, these intricate skills can be seen many times over.
Today, we are going to dive in to How to conduct an Orientation and Mobility assessment for students with multiple impairments, what assessments I love best, and some typical pitfalls that we need to be aware of during our assessments.
First, let’s clarify:
What defines a Student with Multiple Impairments?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines a student with multiple impairments as a student with more than impairment that affects their learning. The Special Education Guide website provides an exemplary definition and overview.
For us, we are going to classify that as a student with a visual impairment + another impairment.
This could fall in to at least one category:
Visual + Physical
Visual + Other Sensory
Visual + Cognitive
Visual + Social
Physical Impairments are: a limitation on a person's physical functioning, mobility, dexterity or stamina.
Some impairments that you might see include:
Spinal Cord Injury
Sensory impairments are a disability of the senses (e.g. sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste).
Cognitive Impairments cause significantly impaired cognitive functioning.
Some examples we often see are:
As Orientation and Mobility Specialists, we also often need to teach students with cluster syndromes as students with multiple disabilities.
Cluster Syndromes include conditions that affect multiple systems:
Conditions with more than one symptom.
Parts Orientation and Mobility Assessment for a Student with Multiple Impairments:
Review past reports
4. Observations: Using the assessment, observe skills in:
a. Variety of environments
Familiar: Home, School, Community, familiar vehicles
Unfamiliar*: Different parts of school, new community environment, unfamiliar vehicles
Familiar environment, UNFAMILIAR routine.
b. Variety of lighting conditions
c. Variety of situations
5. Summary* (Some people include a subjective summary, other’s don’t. I haven’t seen a definitive right or wrong with this. I like reading subjective summaries, but I was also taught the our assessments need to be as objective as possible).
a. Travel guidelines (for parents, staff)
b. Goal area recommendations
How to Conduct an Orientation and Mobility Assessment for a Student With Multiple Impairments
Determine the purpose of your assessment. Be as clear as possible with yourself. This will help you determine which assessment you choose, and which portions of the assessment you choose to conduct. For students with multiple impairments, you probably aren’t looking at assessing on the entire TAPS curriculum. Depending upon their age, TAPS may not even be the best option. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Decide on an assessment tool. My favorite tools* are:
*Not affiliate links.
3. Gather as much information about the student as possible before you observe. Review their folder, call their parents, talk with their teachers and paraprofessionals. Then, Write out all of the things that you know about your student.
4. Write a list of the skills you need to assess during your observation. Since you already have your report started, you can then walk in to your observation with a clear list of the skills you need to seek out.
5. Now it is time to assess your student! Use the template of your assessment as a guide.
This is my biggest teaching tip:
During your assessment, gather information from a macro to micro level. Macro: What is going on in the environment? What is the lighting like? What ambient sounds are around? Down to the micro: was the teacher on the left or the right side of the student? What happened when the teacher moved to the other side? What happened when their peer suddenly clapped their hands loudly? Could they still do the skill you were looking for?
The gems are in those tiny intricate details. When your students can't verbally tell you the information you need to assess, you have to be very observant.
Seeing a skill done in a familiar, routine setting does NOT indicate that the student has the skill. It just means that they have memorized a routine. Try to see a skill in a an unfamiliar routine. Conversely, a skill performed while seated and instructed is NOT indicative of full comprehension. You will also want to see them perform the skill while in their routine and while traveling.
Here is a quick, 2 minute video sharing how to conduct an Orientation and Mobility Assessment for a student with multiple impairments