Professional Development Workshop Sample Outline - 2-3 day format


Professional Development Workshop


Self Directed Achievement, Perceptual Development, and FlashSonar: How blind people can learn to see


June, 2015


Two-Three Day Experiential Format


[This workshop format has been developed over 20 years of experience conducting perception and achievement trainings and workshops throughout the world and to a wide range of attendees. Although we generally find this format to be very effective, This is a sample outline which can be adapted to fit individual needs and preferences. It can be abbreviated to fit a single day, or expanded to several days to include more advanced material. Everything, including fees, is negotiable. The items marked with a star (*) are items covered more fully if a third day is available.]




This is an immersive, fun, hands on, experiential workshop involving live blind student assistants, and observation and application of a range of perceptual and strategies of self direction in different environments throughout the community.  We provide and demonstrate a comprehensive overview of using perception based, achievement  oriented methodology to naturally foster the development of self direction, including perception,  intentional discovery, mutual social engagement, and psycho-emotional processes. Principals of perception based instruction focus on audition, taction, and mutual social engagement.  When properly supported, the self direction systems in the brain of someone with little or no eyesight can adapt naturally, with little need for structured or regimented contrivances, to process nonvisual information and concepts into dynamic, operational imaging and comprehension - leading to functional, intentional, active movement and environmental interaction with less inconvenience to themselves and others.  In order to unfold naturally, the self directed achievement process needs intense perceptual and social input gained through active, intentional movement and mutual social engagement in order to develop.  Under development of self direction seems common but unnecessary among blind people, and often leads to passive dependence and limitation. We demonstrate and discuss conditions that foster or disrupt the development of this process, as well as methods for remediation. We show that self directed achievement is optimized by natural perceptual engagement, rather than structured skills repertoire.  We cover extensively perception based instructional strategies that foster the natural development of self direction, such as self directed discovery learning, early childhood perceptual training, fostering mutual social engagement, and achievement oriented perspectives. We discuss the critically supportive impact of early childhood perception based training (including infants and toddlers), such as cane training, Flash Sonar, and mutual social engagement, along with the disruptive impact of passively imposed methods of guidance and external direction.  We discuss access to the environment through sighted assistance in terms of mutual social engagement for the fostering of partnerships, and in terms of a support to, not a replacement of, other critical processes of self direction. FlashSonar  is an advanced  perceptual ability to image the surrounding environment in functional detail by strategically using discrete sonar signals, such as a quiet tongue click. It appears to be most inspiring and motivating in its utility for imaging complex relationships and details from a distance. We demonstrate advanced perceptual skills, including  Flash Sonar. Selected blind student assistants learn the core curriculum in a pedagogical setting under observation of and participation by attendees. Attendees learn to apply perceptual development  principals to teach Flash Sonar by first hand experience with sonar imaging, observing the curriculum taught to blind student assistants, and by practice teaching each other.  We also give specific attension to strategies for enhancing and diversifying cane use and active social engagement for very young children and newly blinded adults. We cover individualizing the curriculum to unique student circumstances. Most importantly, we have fun.





I. Purpose and Objectives: (for continuing education credit)


                A. Purposes:


                                1. Training, teaching, and public speaking experience to a small group of blind student assistants: Blind student assistants will learn the core skills of perception guided mobility to a moderate level of environmental complexity in dynamic, community contexts in a supported, pedagogical setting. The student assistants will understand how to execute all major skills. (See section III for general activities and skills.) It is expected that student assistants will be motivated by the unfolding of their new abilities to work toward solidifying and advancing their skills beyond the workshop setting. Skill mastery and advancement will occur with practice and follow-up. Student assistants will also articulate their learning and perceptual experiences to professionals, and will have opportunity to provide support and guidance to professionals to foster understanding of how to teach these skills.


                                2. Applying Perception Based Principals in a playful, relaxed way to foster natural unfolding of self directed achievement:  O&M professionals will understand the development of self directed achievement, and how to apply perception principals, in contrast to mechanical skills instruction,  to foster natural development of self direction which includes the perceptual, comprehension, mutual social engagement, and psycho-emotional processes in students toward mutually meaningful achievement of their choosing.


                                3. Integrating Perceptual and Achievement Strategies into Orientation and Mobility program: O&M professionals will understand the method and functions of perceptual directed mobility, including taction, active social engagement, and FlashSonar. They will learn how to integrate this training into their already existing program. Although there is an initial time investment in fostering these abilities, this investment is made up over the long term by improved student motivation, confidence, and overall travel performance. These factors accelerate the learning process. Instructors are not expected to master the process from this workshop. But, they will gain a solid foundation of skills, confidence, and experience to begin teaching it effectively, and to develop there own method and style of teaching with experience. Mastery may occur with time, practice, and colleague support.


                                4. Non-O&M professionals can encourage and support learning: Non-O&M professionals will be able to understand self directed achievement development and will learn strategies to help the process unfold. Positive attitudes, recreational activities, and daily activities will be addressed for daily reinforcement.


                B. Professional Development Goal: O&M Specialists will acquire the skills, knowledge, and confidence to integrate principals and methods of perceptual, comprehension, mutual social engagement, and psycho-emotional  development through the core curriculum of self directed achievement instruction to a moderate level of environmental complexity into their program to foster the natural development in students of more rapid acquisition of other mobility skills, improved orientation, higher velocity travel, greater confidence, more graceful and precise interactions with the environment, and potential to participate more effectively in a wider range of activities with greater achievment capacity.


                                1. Participants will understand the perceptual, comprehension, mutual social engagement, and psycho-emotional processes as fundamental mechanisms of self directed achievement, how these become systematically disrupted through the imposition of inadequate and maladaptive perceptual substitutions, such as the passive use of human guide and excessive verbal guidance, and the devastating long term implications of this disruption. In this connection, they will understand how these processes of the brain can naturally acquire and use nonvisual information to develop a dynamic, operational self directive process with which to interact with the world and achieve according to one's choosing.


                                2. Participants learn to apply perception based principals to engage brain mechanisms to foster natural self directed achievement even when it has been disrupted. These include stimulus sensitization, stimulus clarification, stimulus comparison, and stimulus association. The critical role of early intervention to help students learn to self direct are emphasized, including early cane training, Flash Sonar, other assistive devices and strategies, and mutual social engagement.


*                             3. Participants will learn the scientific basis of nonvisual environmental access through touch, hearing, and mutual social engagement. These include necessary perceptual and psychological variables, and necessary environmental variables for optimal performance.


                                4. Participants learn the differences between passive and active environmental access, including passive and active sonar, and the advantages of using discrete sonar signals, including tongue clicks and other signaling strategies when appropriate. They learn how to teach and produce sonar signals that are effective and inconspicuous. The neurological basis behind appropriate cane length, early cane training, and mutual vs. passive social engagement are also addressed.


                                5. Participants will understand the practical uses, strengths, and limitations of various nonvisual environmental access strategies including Flash Sonar and use of the full length cane with preception cane strategies. These may include issues in figure ground, velocity, environmental conditions, and psychological factors.


                                6. Participants will understand the perceptual imaging process and experience the perceptual adaptation process for themselves through structured, successful blindfold experiences including practice of FlashSonar and tactual access.


                                7. Attendees will observe and experience the core curriculum of fostering major processes of self directed achievement, with expectation that they will be able to foster these skills in an individualized program.


                                8.  Attendees will learn strategies for fostering natural development of the three major brain components - perceiving, acting, and thinking.


*                             9. Participants will be exposed to a variety of perception based approaches to cane training, including extended cane length, alternative hand and arm positions, open palm grasp, glide techniques, and early childhood cane training, as well as cane use in combination with other adaptive mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, support canes, walkers, and crutches.


*                             10. Attendees will receive direction toward fostering perception based self directed achievement in students with additional involvements which may include orthopedic, other sensory, cognitive, communication, or other impairments.


                                11. Participants will be exposed to perception based, achievement oriented approaches to natural self direction, including gain perspective, no limits thinking, self directed discovery, constructivist education, and promotion models, in contrast to models which may be more prescriptive, deficit,  and limit oriented.


                                12. Participants will understand the psychological impact of extended environmental perception in terms of confidence, autonomy, self image, neural stimulation, and social efficacy. In this connection, they will understand the differences and implications of deficit based or pathology focused instructional models (which tend to foster passive dependence), vs, gain based instructional models (which tend to foster self directed achievement through strategic interdependence).


                                13.  Attendees will be exposed to relaxed, playful approaches to the instructional process, and will experience how these approaches tend to foster natural development of self directed achievement generally more quickly and fully than structured, regimented, or prescripted approaches.


II. The workshop Includes:


                A. Extensive written and video materials provided for review and practice prior to the hands-on workshop. These cover:


                                1. Comprehensive overview of the self directed achievement process including the impact of early perception based intervention.


2. Video demonstration of Flash Sonar and perception based training, and what students can learn to do with it.


                                3. Self exercises to stimulate a sense of echo perception for attendees.


                                4. Theory and explanation of Flash Sonar, tactual perception, and mutual social engagement - scientific basis, what can be detected, environmental variables, passive dependence vs. strategic interdependence.


                B. Attendee participation in sonar exercises and experience, with guided practice teaching each other basic, sonar directed movement exercises.


                C. Extensive work with a small group of blind student assistants. These are selected before the workshop. They are taught how to do Flash Sonar in front of an audience of professionals, and they assist in presenting information and guiding professional development by articulating their experiences. They will be active participants in teaching the audience how to facilitate development of this and other self management abilities. The majority of this work will take place outdoors in the community.


                D. Real life demonstrations of advanced perceptual and self management abilities.


*             E. Program individualization: special issues covered may include hearing and other impairments, very young or very elderly students, resistent students, family issues, aversive environments.


                F. If desired, an optional, comprehensive assessment write up for blind student assistants that addresses perceptual and self directed achievement issues, and a proposed program plan for continuing their perceptual and self directed achievement development.

Please click here for samples and explanations of our Achievement Process Profiling.




                A. A preliminary day prior to the first day's practicum presentation to attendees is recommended to allow the workshop instructor to settle in, review training environments, and prepare exercises and activities. We highly recommend arranging to meet the student assistants during this time if at all possible, as this greatly facilitates rapport and smoothness of the instructional process. Some organizations have found it useful to schedule a warm up/introductory  presentation  on this preliminary day.


                B. The workshop will cover a 2 or 3 day period, depending on the amount and depth of material to be covered. seven to Eight hour days are recommended, assuming two 15 minute breaks and an hour lunch. Student assistance may require longer break times, as the perceptual development training can be quite draining. Additional, success oriented  blindfold experiences will be provided to professional participants throughout the workshop, to include practice teaching each other and learning basic perceptual skills.  The lecture/seminar portion of the workshop will be provided outside the practicum portion by extensive written and video materials with simple practice exercises. Questions about this material will be taken during the workshop.


                C. No more than 20 attendees is generally recommended for the practicum  portion of the workshop, as much of the workshop will take place in the community and public establishments, and large numbers of people can be cumbersome and awkward.


                D. One or two evening seminar presentations, instructional sessions, or private consultations may also be scheduled. These may include presentations to family groups, brief instruction with interested students, or professional consultations. An unlimited number of participants are welcome to attend any seminar presentations delivered outside the practicum portion. These may include discussions about applying flash sonar or other perception based  self management development to specific students or special circumstances.


                E. If student assessments and proposed instructional plans are requested, these will be written up and provided two or three months after completion of the workshop.


IV. FLASH SONAR ACTIVITIES AND REQUIREMENTS: This is a general outline of activity areas, together with environments found suitable for each activity. This is a rough sketch based on skills to be learned, not necessarily the order. Not all activities are always necessary. Also, some activities may be incorporated into games or other movement activities.


                A. Sonar Cue Awareness: This activity just involves flat panels. The student stands still, and orients on the panel as it is positioned in different locations around the head. A wall may be used, where the student moves with respect to the wall. A large, flat wall with at least 3 meters of open space before it is helpful. These exercises can be done indoors in an auditorium setting.


                B. Interior Corner Detection: This is simply an activity to learn to find a corner. A corner is needed with at least 3 meters of clear space before it. This may include detection of alcoves, such as an entrance alcove. This can be done in an auditorium setting.


                C. Crossing a large room diagonally from corner to corner. The student crosses through a room from one corner to the diagonal corner. The student must maintain orientation to the two corners while traversing the room, even while negotiating obstacles. A square or nearly square room at least 10 meters across is preferred


                D. Finding a Pillar or Tree and Circling it: This involves locating an object in a broad, open space. This object can be a pole, pillar, or tree. The student is asked to circle the object, and return to its beginning by establishing points of reference. This can be done in an auditorium setting if support columns exist, and if there's space around them. If not, this must be done outdoors, typically using trees in a park, or outdoor support columns at a college or school, or poles on black top, or playground equipment.


                E. Moving Among Obstacles While Maintaining Orientation: parked cars (parking lot), game of ball, hide and seek, sword play, and/or laser tag among obstacles in park or on school ground, may be played on grass or black top.


                F. Traversing Open Space Toward an Objective: moving toward a building or large wall across open space, and maintaining orientation. Need a large park or play area or parking lot (at least 15 meters) with large wall or building.


                G. Crossing a Residential Street: using street cambre and echoes from opposite side to guide movement, locates opposite curb.


                H. Moving Along Aisleways: A store (toy store, hardware store, department store, or grocery store) with tall aisleways (grid pattern preferred). Student moves along aisleways, makes turns, finds intersections, returns to starting point.


                I. Object Identification: outdoor environment with highly varied features - objects that are tall, short, wide, narrow, bushy or sparse, solid or dense. Schools/colleges with varied landscaping tend to fit these needs - containing trees, bushes, fences, walls, hedges, poles, planter boxes and retaining walls, awnings, steps, etc.


                J. Perception of Environmental Layering and Layout: perceiving multiple elements in the environment, classifying and identifying them, and perceiving their relationships.


                K. Self orientation to a new area: selecting a number of objects, keeping track of where the objects are relative to each other and to a point of reference, returning to the point of reference; re-locating each object that was found.



ADMINISTRATIVE PORTION (for coordinators):


I. Preparation (these steps are ideal, but we realize that logistics may not always make them feasible):


                A. The blind student assistants are pre-selected from your area according to a screening process, found later in this sample outline.


                B. An intake questionnaire may be provided to the student assistance and returned to us to provide us with some information to help us prepare a suitable instructional experience for them.


                C. Some time should be taken before the workshop to meet the student assistants, prepare specific materials and exercises, investigate environments and areas for teaching, and coming to understand the students' learning styles and interaction, priming them for auditory training, and building rapport. This can happen during the preliminary day.


                D. Meeting the student assistants can happen on the morning prior to the first presentation if travel arrangements are difficult for the student to come the previous day. An initial meeting may also be arranged by phone.


II. Materials and Equipment:


                A. All attendees should have access to a blindfold and long cane. Attendees will be working in pairs or small groups, so blindfolds and canes are only needed for half the number of attendees at any given time. However, some people like to go off on their own to experiment.


                B. Blind student assistants should arrive to the workshops with a cane.


                C. We will need 10 flat panels. These can be anything - serving trays, file folders, box lids or large container lids - about 12 by 12 inches (roughly 30 by 30 CM) or larger. They don't need to be square, they can be circular or rectangular.


                D. Same as above, but about 9 by 9 inches (around 23 by 23 CM). These can be paper plates, container lids, etc)


                E. Same as above, but around 5 or 6 inches on a side (around 15 CM) - about the size of a CD case or a bit larger.


                F. 3 or 4 large containers - salad bowls, pots, large jars - roughly a gallon (4 liters) volume, or larger.



III. Additional Considerations:


                A. We recommend that the hoasting organization arrange press coverage. We typically find that the impact of the workshop on student assistants and attendees is very compelling. The press typically finds student progress to be remarkable and very noteworthy. Press has always been very positive, with a favorable affect on public relations for both the hoasting organization and World Access for the Blind.


                B. Depending on the situation, we may be able to provide trainings in multiple languages, and we are experienced working through interpreters.


                C. The student assistants should ideally be present throughout the entire workshop so they receive explanatory information, and to help and interact with attendees. However, it is acceptable to take breaks if necessary.


                D. We may ask a volunteer to videotape some or all of the workshop. Copies of any video will be made available to you upon request.


                E. We may request a computer and projector to show video material.


                F. For the student assistant screening recommendations, please see below.


IV. Alternative workshop formats may be negotiated on a case by case basis. For example, Our 3-day Workshop delivered to The Vermont Association for the Blind required one day to be spent with just their instructors without blind student assistants present. Then, the instructors divided into two groups to north and south of the state, and the two workshop instructors divided to work with each group for the remaining two days. Other formats are possible.


v. Our Fees:


                A. Fees may range from $500 to $1500 per day. Our fee requirements are individualized on a situational basis depending upon group size, location, number of workshop instructors, length of workshop, and other variables.


                B. Ground and air travel are paid upfront by the hosting or sponsoring party. We make every effort to minimize travel costs by combining engagements in a given region or locale to share travel costs, and by using the most affordable travel options within reason of time and convenience.


                C. Lodging: Formal lodging is not required; domicile accommodations are generally more than satisfactory. Ideally, we would be able to stay in or near the home of the student assistants, as this offers an opportunity for improved rapport, and the ability to address snags in learning should they arise. This, however, is by no means required or expected. A modest meal perdiem may be requested.


                D. If it is requested, we will include a written achievement process profile for any student assistants who participate in the workshop. This is a comprehensive, formal assessment that can be submitted as a formal document for educational or rehabilitation planning. The report documents all findings and their implications, and lays out a set of recommendations and plans for development over the next 2 to 3 years. This plan includes unlimited Email and up to 12 hours of telephone follow up consultations over the next 3 years. For a sample of such an assessment, please click here.


                E. Two to three hour evening presentations if desired may be included.


                F. We are happy to arrange more in depth instruction, private sessions, or expanded services in addition to the workshop. Fees may be negotiated on a situational basis. These may be provided by the private parties or third parties requesting the service.


                G. Depending on the extensiveness of our travel time, complexity of travel logistics, and incidental travel expenses, we may request upfront an added contribution in support of these added arrangements.


VI. Transactional INFORMATION:


                A. Payment may be mailed by check, bank transferred, or paid online via Paypal or credit card. All information related to making paymment can be found here


                B. For transactional matters contact:


                C. Our tax id: 33-0936778




                A. Contact Us


                B. Please find professional testimonials, and workshop media pieces


                C. Please review the science behind our approach


                D. Please see our approach in action


                E. Please find our workshop instructors' qualifications and credentials


 Student Presenter Screening and Qualifications:


This screening will provide information to allow selection of a small group of blind student assistants to assist as presenters in a perceptual development and FlashSonar training workshop. The circumstances of presentation will be rigorous. We will be "performing" in front of a large, diverse audience under time constraints with little rapport or preparation. It will be imperative to be able to foster a productive learning environment under these rigorous conditions. In order to maximize the likelihood of a successful experience for all concerned, we have applied selection criteria according to our experience with students of many types and all ages. These represent ideals, but we can be flexible around these ideals as necessary.


The student assistant should -

                A. Want to participate whole heartedly.

                B. Be totally blind or with minimal light perception for at least 1 year for kids, 3 years for adults.

                C. Be at least 8 years old.

                D. Have mild or no known involvements in addition to blindness.

                E. Be outgoing and not self-conscious.

F. Evidence good physical and psychological stamina.

G. Be fairly easy-going and good-natured.


Modifications to these criteria may be considered on a case by case basis. As this workshop will be conducted in a spontaneous fashion across multiple environments, our selection is made with the goal of minimizing possible hiccups and maximizing effectiveness given many unknown variables. Students who appear temperamentally compatible and similar in ability to each other are likely to be selected. They will likely need to be within a year of each other in age for children.