Hesperian Health Guides

Other orientation skills

Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!

Make a giftMake a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.

HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Blind > Chapter 11: Helping Your Child Know Where She Is (Orientation) > Other orientation skills

To become independent, a child needs to learn to walk in new places and to follow directions. These activities may be difficult for your child to learn and may frighten her at first. It may also be difficult for you to give directions that she can follow. You can be a better teacher for your child if you:

  • try the activities with another adult first. Blindfold each other and practice all the steps. Talk about how you can make the instructions clearer.
  • then try teaching a child who can see. Blindfold the child and lead her through the same steps that you tried with an adult. Pay close attention to her reactions so you can find ways to reassure and encourage her.

To help your child follow directions

With her
back against
a wall, ask
her to turn
to one side
HCWB Ch11 Page 111-1.png
touches the
(quarter or
HCWB Ch11 Page 111-2.png

When your child is comfortable walking by herself, teach her how to make turns.

...she is
the wall
HCWB Ch11 Page 111-3.png
...she is
facing away
with the
shoulder to
the wall (3/4
or almost a
full turn),
HCWB Ch11 Page 111-4.png
...she is
facing front
again (full
HCWB Ch11 Page 111-5.png

Encourage her to pay attention to how her feet move as she does this. Gradually she can move away from the wall and practice on her own. Remember to be patient. Your child will need a lot of practice before she can make turns on her own.

To help your child learn to walk in a new place

These activities will help your child learn about:

  • landmarks (any object, sound, or smell that is always in the same place).
  • clues (objects, sounds, and smells that give good information but are not always in the same place).

These activities should be done in the order they are described here:

  1. First, play a game in an area your child knows well. Tell her you have put some things in her path, and see if she can get past them without slipping or falling. This will help her feel more confident about trying to walk in new areas.
  2. an older boy speaking to a child as she walks ahead of him.
    Good, Celia. You got around that rock safely.

  3. Then let her hold on to one of your fingers and walk a step behind you through a new place.
  4. HCWB Ch11 Page 112-2.png
  5. As you walk, help her identify landmarks and clues. Be sure to teach her about any dangerous landmarks, like a river or a street.
  6. a woman speaking to a child as they stand near a gate in a fence.
    This gate is a good landmark,Celia.
    The chickens are a clue to where you are. But remember, chickens move around so they won’t always be here.
  7. When she feels comfortable in that area, walk through it again — only this time walk backward, in front of her, and talk to her while you are walking.
  8. illustration of the below: a woman walking backward while talking to a blind child.
    We’re just about to go through the gate now, Celia. You can tell because the path gets rocky.

  9. Finally, walk behind her while she describes what is around her.
  10. illustration of the below: a woman walking behind a blind child who is talking.
    Be patient. It takes a long time for a child to feel comfortable walking alone in a new place.
    Here are the rocks. The gate comes next.
    That's right, Celia! You have a good memory.
  11. When your child is confident, give her directions starting at a known landmark and explain where to go from there. Do this for very short distances at first, then gradually increase the distance.
  12. illustration of the above: a woman giving directions to a blind child.
    You start from this doorway to take Papa his lunch, Marina. You’ll go under the big tree, where it gets cool. When you step into the sun again, take a quarter turn to the right. There you’ll find the path to the field.