Guidance and mobility are fundamental skills for the development of autonomy, which are particularly relevant in the case of people who are blind or have reduced vision. Among other things, these skills facilitate the use of the cane and other important technologies for travel, as well as the enhancement of self-awareness and recognition of the environment.
In this article we explain how we can stimulate the orientation and mobility of blind people and what is the relevance of these functions in psychomotor development.
Orientation and mobility
Orientation and mobility are two psychomotor processes of fundamental importance for our development and our autonomy. Psychomotor processes include elements of two different but interdependent orders: elements of the psychological order and elements of the motor order.
The first are those which concern the processes necessary to carry out actions, to perceive and interpret global phenomena, to plan actions, to make decisions, etc. The latter are those which have to do with the motor system, that is to say with our voluntary and involuntary movements, our balance, our posture, our limbs, among others.
The two commands they are linked by the participation of our senses: Touch, smell, taste, hate and vision. So, depending on how the latter works, our psychomotor abilities can also work in one way or another. Psychomotor skills, orientation and mobility are processes related to our body awareness. Specifically, orientation is the process by which we use our senses to establish position and relationship with objects in the world. And mobility is the ability to move between these objects.
Sensory pattern, orientation and mobility
As we have seen, the participation of the senses is fundamental for the development of orientation and mobility, and in the event of total or partial absence of vision, their stimulation (that of the senses) becomes even more important. Likewise, as these are fundamental skills for the development of autonomy, the development of orientation and mobility acquires particular importance in the case of blind or visually impaired people. In fact, these are two of the skills that play an important role when training in the use of the cane and other supportive technologies.
Beyond being the fundamental acts to move from one place to another, orientation and mobility they give us the opportunity to organize and familiarize ourselves with the world through physical contact, to know where we are and where we are going.
How to stimulate orientation and mobility of blind people?
Stimulating the orientation and mobility of people with blindness depends on many factors which may be different depending on the needs and circumstances of each person. For example, the process may be different between an adult who has acquired blindness and a child who is born blind.
In the latter, orientation and mobility can be pre-stimulated by thick and fine motor skills, as well as by the acquisition of different concepts. Indeed, until the age of 2-3 years, the child will be ready to begin his process of displacement. In the case of adults, the process may not require motor pre-stimulation, but it does. a restructuring of the perception of space in relation to the body itself.
Likewise, blindness in many cases does not present completely, but partially, or with reduced vision, and in these cases the stimulation strategies may also be different.
In any case, it is not just a question of skills and processes, but orientation and mobility are two needs that the same person develops themselves, by physical contact with external elements. In this sense, professionals or relatives who wish to facilitate the process of autonomy must be aware of and respectful of the rhythms of each person, as well as be flexible in the face of the individual need to explore and locate – corporally.
In general, some dimensions that can be stimulated to promote orientation and mobility of blind people are body diagram, concepts related to space and time, concepts related to the environment or the city. , fine and gross motor skills, and sensory perception.
All of them are part of psychomotor skills, are related to each other and have the common characteristic that they allow us to connect our body to the material and semiotic elements that surround it and place it in a certain position.
1. Body contour
The body diagram is the representation that we construct and acquire of the body itself. It refers to both its parts, its functions and its movements. It includes the personal exploration of the bodily and its relation to the external elements.
It also involves a social element, as the acquisition of the body map corresponds to the social norms that tell us what it looks like and what parts of the body are, and which allow us to establish different relationships with ourselves. And also with external objects, because they allow us to establish spatial relationships, identify stimuli that we recognize are not part of us.
2. Spatial and temporal concepts
Spatial concepts are those that allow us to establish patterns of relationship and position. They refer to surfaces and terms by which we can refer to them. They are also related to concepts such as size, distance, height, quantity, weight or volume; and with concepts like left-right, up-down, recognizing one side or the other.
We know that there is a development of spatial concepts such as categories of position, shapes and measures when the person has established an idea of a reference point and systematic search patterns by hands. This usually happens from 2 or 3 years old and can be stimulated later.
In the same sense, notions like yesterday, today, tomorrow, day, night, among others, favor the spatio-temporal appropriation of the environment and the localization of one’s own body within it.
3. Environmental / urban concepts
Spatial concepts are basically the names of the objects around us. It is above all important reinforce the recognition of the most used objects. They also include concepts related to what exists in the immediate environment. For example, elements of the environment, such as the floor, room, hallway, traffic lights, cars, etc.
It is a question of identifying the elements leaving the environment, to learn what are the places and where they are found, then to establish routes or sequences which connect all these elements between them. the same this makes it possible to identify obstacles and generate avoidance tools (Protection techniques).
From there, the walker can identify a trace that directs him by a specific trajectory or route, then update his positions in relation to the signs on the path and finally use general concepts about the space.
4. Thick and fine motor skills
This is to promote elements such as posture, gait and balance, on the one hand, and skills related to handling small objects, which helps to estimate distances and coordination. Coarse motor skills and fine motor skills are essential strengthen cognitive processes as well as the perception of one’s own body and understand their relationship to large-scale external objects.
Depending on the age of the person, they can perform many different activities that promote these skills, and they can range from riding a tricycle and climbing small counts to participating in a physical activity. complex.
5. Sensory perception
Sensory stimulation is of fundamental importance because it allows us to establish points of reference and to distinguish the different stimuli of the environment as well as the relations with it. More specifically in the case of the ear, it is important to take into account concepts such as identification, discrimination, tracking and detection of “sound shadow” areas.
In the case of touch, it is important direct experience of the skin in contact with objects, Although there may also be an intermediate contact (for example, recognizing a fruit with a fork). The senses of smell and taste can be stimulated by the discrimination and identification of different stimuli, even the most everyday.
- Martinez, C. (2010). Orientation and mobility training: must be completed. Accessed June 21, 2018.Available at http://www.tsbvi.edu/seehear/fall98/waytogo-span.htm.