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Out of Sight Teaching LLC

Out of Sight Teaching LLC

Remote Orientation & Mobility

January 14, 2021

Introduction to Building Cognitive Maps

In order to independently orient themselves to their environment, individuals who are visually impaired are taught to systematically build maps in their head. It is often referred to as building a cognitive or mental map. This is a process that is introduced at a young age and is expanded upon as one proceeds through life.

Something I have observed over and over again through my years as an Orientation & Mobility Instructor is the importance of having strong cognitive mapping skills. You can have fantastic mobility skills, but if you do not understand the environment you are traveling or do not have the ability to independently orient
yourself to a novel environment, independent travel is going to be a struggle.

Building strong cognitive mapping skills starts during early intervention and is built on as one proceeds through life. It start with first gaining the skill, then learning to apply it. With time, one will be able to independently orient oneself to novel environments which leads to an independent life.

Throughout remote instruction, with the help of an amazing intern, we have spent much time building our students' cognitive mapping skills. My next few blogs are going to concentrate on some of the successful activities we used. They will range from the early years all the way up to the time of independent, novel travel. This particular post will start with a concentration on the introduction of building cognitive maps.

Find That Object

3-5 cups
multiple objects
1.) Put 3 objects in a row on table in front of student.
2.) Teach the student to scan objects from left to right. Have the student feel and identify each object as they scan.
3.) Foster the student to build a cognitive map of the order of the object.
4.) Put cups over the objects.
6.) Ask student to find specific object.
7.) Repeat steps 1-6 with different objects. As the students masters mapping out 3 objects, add 4, then 5, etc.

Doll House

doll house
toy people or animals

1.) Teach the student to scan the doll house from left to right, top to bottom. Discuss which rooms they come in contact with as the scan.
2.) Foster the student to build a cognitive map of the doll house.
3.) Have the student put doll/animal in specific rooms.

Take it one step further:
Present the student with a different doll house and see if they can independently scan the doll house and build cognitive map.

Going on a Bear Hunt

Have the student listen to the youtube video, We're Going on a Bear Hunt. Feel free to have them act it out. Each step of the trip, have them verbally tell you the route they have taken so far. Example
tall wavy grass, big river, mud, cave. At the end, review the entire route and then build a tactile map of it.

Take it one step further: Have them reverse route.

Dora the Explorer

During Dora the Explorer, Dora and Boots typically go on some sort of mission. They use a map and plan a route. They talk about this route continuously throughout the show. See below.

Have student listen to video, build a cognitive map of route/trip and build a tactile map. During the episode, Dora will ask questions about route. Pause the video and see if they can answers, questions.

Once students have an understanding on how to build a cognitive map, it is time to apply the skill. Read next week's blog to see some ways to teach students to apply these skills to real life.

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