Opening up the world: early childhood orientation and mobility intervention as perceived by young children who are blind, their parents, and specialist teachers

Bronwen S Scott

EdD thesis, conferred in 2015

Orientation and mobility (O&M) is a key domain within the expanded core curriculum (ECC) of skills for children who are blind or have low vision. Although the O&M profession in Australia was established in the 1970s, children have historically been denied opportunities to learn long cane mobility techniques at a very young age. This study explores the development of O&M intervention with children in Australia, discussing the influence of philosophies and pedagogies emanating from both the United Kingdom and the United States.

O&M intervention, including long cane mobility, is examined from the perspectives of children, parents and vision education teachers within an Australian early childhood education context. The presentation of individual experiences and stories are rare within the O&M literature, and this study provides new understandings as to how O&M within the early childhood context is perceived and understood. Using an interpretive interactionist approach, which draws heavily on symbolic interactionist theory, the study captures the experiences and perspectives of fifteen participants toward early intervention O&M. Data were gathered from semi-structured interviews, with children’s written stories, archival video and document material used to support thematic findings.

Findings indicate that, for parents and teachers, perspectives toward O&M intervention changed over time as young children demonstrated competent and responsible long cane mobility techniques. The long cane was seen as a natural extension of the child’s body, allowing independent access to all areas of learning and full participation in family life. Teachers and parents identified the importance of professional cooperative action in developing a shared language and goals supportive of O&M intervention, which subsequently extended into children’s inclusive education settings. The findings indicate that early O&M intervention can facilitate current Australian early childhood education learning outcomes, and is an essential domain within the early childhood ECC. The study also suggests the O&M profession look toward new ways of understanding how individuals who are blind perceive and travel through their world.

Supervisor: Dr Lesley Scanlon and Associate Professor David Evans