Habilitation Specialists (sometimes referred to as Mobility Officers) are the professionals trained to assess a child/young person’s (C/YP) needs. They devise bespoke training programmes. Habilitation Specialists teach C/YP who are vision impaired the concepts and independent life skills that sighted children learn through watching and imitating.
Because C/YP with significant vision impairment is unable to learn in the same way as a sighted child, important developmental milestone skills may be missed. In order for children who have a sensory loss to be able to have the same opportunities as their sighted/hearing peers they need to be taught these skills and concepts in a ways that have meaning for them.
Skills taught in different ways
While children are small they need to develop an awareness of their own bodies and an understanding of the space around them. For example, a child with sight learns to crawl because they are motivated by wanting to reach something. They see others standing and walking and are encouraged to pull themselves up using the furniture. When a toy drops they gradually gain an understanding of where it has gone. Learning these concepts is important because it informs them about the world in which we live and how things work and what different words mean. This learning can still take place for a child without sight, if the skills are taught in a different ways.
Developing these foundation skills is particularly important if a child has other challenges to overcome. For example, multi-sensory impairment (deafblindness) or other complex needs.
Advise parents and carers
Habilitation skills need to begin as early as possible. The Habilitation Specialist will be able to advise the parents and carers about different strategies and teaching techniques. As the child gets older the training will become more complex and the Habilitation Specialist will probably need to be directly involved in the teaching.
Lessons may include long cane training, road crossing strategies, techniques for travelling on public transport, cooking, managing money, shopping, requesting and refusing help and keeping safe etc.
Keeping the child/young person safe
Risk management aims to keep the child/young person as safe as possible during habilitation activities. We work closely with parents to ensure they are happy with the programme the Habilitation Specialist has planned. The Habilitation Specialist will also give parents regular feedback about their child’s progress.
The Habilitation Specialist monitors the overall habilitation programme for each child/young person on a regular basis. They will contribute to annual reviews and planning meetings as required.
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