Instructional Program and Methodology

This program outline is broad in scope. It is modular in nature and addresses the needs of blind and low vision students of all ages and levels of functioning. Student needs are addressed and strategies for meeting these needs are approved by the service team. It is expected that the student will emerge from this program with the ability to function in all listed domains comparable to age or developmental peers in the "mainstream", and attain and maintain an overall quality of life comparable to age peers.

  1. MOVEMENT AND NAVIGATION: negotiation of all environments and environmental conditions relevant to the student's current and anticipated life style. 
    1. Perceptual training to optimize use of all remaining senses. (For more detail on our perceptual development approach, see *Alternative Perception and flash sonar.) The entire sensory/motor system is refined to maximize its active awareness of and self-directed interaction with the environment through all sensory modalities.
      1. Audition and flash sonar
        1. Perception and processing of the auditory environment: (increasing auditory perceptual thresholds): sound isolation, localization, and recognition; environmental cuing.

        2. Sonic Environmental Perception (awareness of objects and environmental features using sonically based techniques): flash sonar, sound shadowing - allows the blind to perceive what is around them by the way sound waves bounce off their surroundings.

        3. Spatial Gestalting and Self Orientation: Using auditory cues including planted source sounds (tags) and flash sonar to hearing the location of an array of points in a large space, and to be able to image and to navigate among those points.

      2. Visual Efficiency (scanning, eccentric viewing, blur interpretation, closure, etc.)
      3. Development of tactile, kinesthetic, and Haptic sensation and awareness: Tactile maps and models, tactual/haptic probes like the long cane and adapted mobility devices, and perception of surface gradient topography, such as street camber and driveway slopes.
      4. Cognitive Mapping: The ability to develop, maintain, and manipulate spatial layouts mentally.
    2. Training in and/or facilitating the use of any and all devices and aids related to movement, navigation, and perception with consultations as necessary.
      1. All forms of long cane training where appropriate, and the use of adaptive and supportive mobility aids with consultation as appropriate.
      2. Non-optical and optical aids with consultation as appropriate including monoculars and binoculars.
      3. Technological Environmental Perception Systems which enable detailed awareness of the dynamic environment.
        1. Movement Facilitation: ultrasonic sonar and object detectors, echolocation enhancement devices.
        2. Navigation and location information devices: global positioning systems, directional systems such as tactile and talking compasses, integrated magnification systems, optical to speech or tactile reading systems, and accessible sign technology.
        3. The use of navigation strategies, such as landmarking, auditory/visual perception of distant objects or environmental features, environmental cues, cardinal directions, maps (auditory, tactile, digital, etc.), etc.
        4. The optimization of lower and upper body, and manual fine and gross motor strength and coordination, including remediation of vision related gait and postural anomalies with consultation as appropriate.
        5. Assisted Movement, such as by a human or dog guide where necessary.
    1. Interactive Literacy: moving blind children and adults toward methods of emergent literacy in connection with sighted peer development - phonics, interactive reading, emersion with family and classmate involvement; based on the idea that literacy is typically learned interactively in social contexts in which the written word is shared. Family training, accessible literature dissemination, professional training, and team reading approaches are used. Covers Braille, aural, and low vision reading techniques, technology, and strategies.
      1. Braille Literacy.
      2. Large print and magnification devices/options including modern portable options.
      3. Aural and digital literacy options.
      4. Combinations of the above for full access.
    2. Computer Literacy: Evaluating, applying, and developing the very latest in computer access technology to promote complete, not restricted computer access. Systems are assembled and adapted as necessary to student needs.
    3. Access to public media and documents including newspapers, public libraries and on-line sources, money, government documents.
    1. Domestic management including cooking and food preparation, cleaning, adaptation and use of household appliances, and structural maintenance (use of basic repair tools). B. Personal care (where appropriate) including feeding, dressing, grooming, and hygiene.
    2. Life skills including shopping, money management including banking, organization of personal affects, and handling public forms and paperwork including effective record keeping.
    3. Basic consumer knowledge (where appropriate) including utilities up-keep, matters of credit, housing issues, insurance issues, and general consumer awareness.
  4. COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION - assisting the student to implement adaptations as necessary to facilitate mainstream community participation and assisting student to address social barriers.
    1. Facilitating student self-sufficiency in the areas of education, vocation, and career through informational counseling, search and evaluation process for educational programs and jobs, exploring all options, assisting the student to address specific barriers, and preparation (resume, interview style, work ethic).
    2. Leisure and recreation based learning - Extreme and interactive activities are used as a medium for rapid development of highly advanced perceptual/motor functioning which transfers to every aspect of living. World Access for the Blind currently implements a mountain biking program in which blind youth traverse technical terrain at high speeds on solo mountain bikes. An independent mountaineering program enabling the blind to travel the wilderness without sighted assistance is also being developed, along with strategies for participation in a wide variety of mainstream ball sports. Strategies are being developed to allow blind youth to participate fully and productively in a wide range of community programming such as scouting and league sports.
      1. Methods used.
      2. Outdoor activities including mountaineering, biking, skiing, beach going, and picnicking).
      3. Indoor or contained activities including theater, amusement parks, and interactive gaming.
      4. Interactive sports, such as ball play and wrestling with techniques based on the Access Sports Model (ASM) designed by Professor Paul Ponchillia and associates.
      5. Hobbies and self sports.
      6. Integration into "mainstream" community programming as appropriate - church, clubs, scouts, camps, gatherings, and volunteerism.
    3. On the Move: The efficient use of all forms of public and private transportation based on the Finding Wheels curriculum.
    4. Community Connection: The strategic use of all public and community resources for the acquisition of information necessary to enhance quality of life including community programming and assistive or adaptive resources.
    5. Traffic management and negotiation based on gap detection strategies and lane by lane scanning: being able to analyze and negotiate all kinds of vehicular traffic under all types of conditions.
    6. Social skills training as appropriate.
  5. ATTITUDE FOR SELF-DIRECTION - helping students to understand and adopt the "No Limits" attitude of mutually meaningful, positive living, self-directed living.
    1. Exposing student and support system to positive, successful blind role models through blind instructors and contact with blind people who value "no limits" ideals.
    2. All individuals in student programming value the No Limits philosophy, and seek to facilitate and support student growth.
    3. Providing written information to students and significant others about blindness.
    4. Development of self-advocacy and assertiveness, and service team administration.
    5. Regular, peer support group sessions for students, and for significant others.
    6. Connection to on-line support groups including blindness chat rooms and news groups
    7. Referral to psychological counseling as needed.
  6. We emphasize the following methods, models, and perspectives in our instruction
    1. No Limits Perspective: Our students are grounded in the knowledge that limits are to be self chosen, not impose by others. Our students are encouraged to enjoy the freedom and strength of character to discover their own limits without presumption of limitations by others. They are introduced to a new frontier of possibilities and promising realities. Limits are re-evaluated and redefined.
    2. Self-directed Discovery based learning: This is based on the structured discovery method as documented by Richard Metler, and person centered approaches in psychology as developed by Dr. Karl Rogers. Students develop advanced skills in self-directed environmental interaction and decision making through a process of "doing." This process is discretely fostered by specialists and coaches. Students learn to develop their travel style more by encountering the world, and less by instructor direction. Students are often encouraged to participate in the planning of their own lessons involving places and activities that interest them.
    3. Perspective Building: It is a process that recognizes the necessity for a positive attitude of self respect in and beyond the instructional process. This strategy holds that, when pushed to the brink, humans are motivated more by what we feel than what we think. Blind students must build a foundation of self respect and positive thinking before skills can be readily and fully learned and actively applied. The emphasis is not on teaching a bunch of skills, but on facilitating a condition by which these skills unfold more or less naturally within the student. When students feel they can function and can build their lives or put their lives back together, learning becomes much faster, more enjoyable, and nearly automatic. This is done by continually facing students with the reality that they can do more than they ever believed by exposure to blind successes, high impact activities, and perceptual enhancement strategies that allow them to "see" in ways not previously thought possible.
    4. Gain Model Perspective: The gain model is articulated by Joe Cutter, which views blindness as a process of gaining information and perspective through alternative channels and modalities to construct a fully functional, viable approach to environmental access. This is in some contrast to the more traditional deficit model, which views blindness in terms of what one no longer sees, with emphasis on loss of information, and remediating that loss. The focus is on perceptual development without reference to loss or limitation.
    5. Instructional Coaching: Coaches are usually former blind and low vision students who exemplify our No Limits perspective, and are firmly grounded in all our techniques of self-direction. They are assigned to foster the movement of a blind or low vision student or family member through the process of adaptation into full realization of potential and ability. In general, coaches are matched with students in terms of gender, age, and blindness or low vision. They provide an indispensable support to the instructional process by infusing it with the blindness perspective. Coaches actually assist in the instruction of techniques, while also serving as a mentor and role model. (See *Instructional Coaches for more detail on the coaching concept and coach duties.)
    6. Sleep Shade Training: This is based on an established approach of grounding students in nonvisual perceptions and skills. When appropriate, this form of training helps to detach students from concerns about what they can no longer see%