About orientation and mobility specialists
An orientation and mobility specialist is a university-trained professional who works with people who have:
- low vision or blindness
- conditions or disabilities with related vision problems – for example, cerebral palsy, diabetes, stroke or brain injury.
Orientation and mobility specialists teach people to use all their senses – sound, touch, smell and feeling – to notice what’s around them and where they are (orientation). They also teach people how to move around safely and find what they’re looking for (mobility).
Orientation and mobility specialists can advise people on mobility aids like canes, smart technologies like GPS, and specialised apps for people with low vision or blindness.
Orientation and mobility specialists work with people at home, school or work and in the community, including playgrounds, shopping centres, road crossings and public transport.
Orientation and mobility services are available throughout Australia from not-for-profit organisations, private providers, and some state and territory education departments.
If your child has health or development concerns, health professionals like orientation and mobility specialists are there to care for your child and help you understand your child’s condition and treatment. With the support and expertise of these professionals, you can help your child thrive.
Why your child might work with an orientation and mobility specialist
If your child is blind or has low vision or limited mobility, your child might work with an orientation and mobility specialist to build skills for:
- understanding where their body is in space
- understanding what’s around them
- choosing which way to move.
An orientation and mobility specialist will:
- assess your child’s functional vision and their orientation and mobility skills
- make a plan for aids and programs that will best support your child’s mobility needs now and in the future
- review your child’s plan and skill development regularly, especially when your child needs to learn to move around new places – for example, starting secondary school.
Your child might see an orientation and mobility specialist as part of a team of health professionals, including occupational therapists, physiotherapists, optometrists, orthoptists, doctors and teachers.
You don’t need a GP or other referral to see an orientation and mobility specialist. But these professionals can help you decide about seeing an orientation and mobility specialist and help you find a service that’s right for your child. The Orientation and Mobility Association of Australasia can help you find an orientation and mobility service.
Before going to an orientation and mobility specialist
Before your child goes to the orientation and mobility specialist, it’s a good idea to think about things like the following:
- Why you’re going: what goals do you have for your child?
- When to start: it’s never too early to start working with an orientation and mobility specialist – even before your child can walk.
- Appointments: can you make the initial appointment yourself?
- Waiting lists: how long will you have to wait to see the orientation and mobility specialist? Waiting times can range from days to months. It’s OK to ask to see someone soon if your child needs urgent support – for example, because they’re going to a new school.
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment? For example, can you identify what your child can do independently, what they need help with, and what gets in the way of their independence?
- Costs: many orientation and mobility services are funded through the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Private service providers charge fees that might be covered by plan-managed and self-managed NDIS plans.
- Locations: most orientation and mobility specialists will come to your home or your child’s school for the first appointment.
You might want to talk about these and any other issues with your GP before your child sees the orientation and mobility specialist. You could also ask the orientation and mobility service when you make the appointment. It’s a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don’t forget.