Using verbal and physical prompts to teach the use of a long cane to a student who is visually impaired and has additional severe disabilities



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Texas Tech University


Orientation and mobility is the task of teaching persons with visual impairments to move independently, safely and purposefully through the environment. Traditional orientation and mobility techniques, and traditional methods of teaching those techniques, do not address the needs of those persons who have severe developmental disabilities, in addition to their visual impairments. A single subject, multiple treatment design was used to determine whether adolescents with severe visual impairments and severe developmental disabilities could be taught, by means of verbal and physical prompts, a modified cane technique that would allow them to travel independently in a familiar indoor environment.

The subjects were four female high school students, between the ages of 17 and 21, who were severely visually impaired and had severe developmental disabilities. Intervention occured in a hallway in each subject's school. The subject had a functional purpose in travelling the route. Subjects were provided with canes of the appropriate length, with marshmallow tips.

Interval recording was used to determine the percentage of time, during each session, that the subject was exhibiting the target behavior. In the baseline and first intervention phases, the target behavior consisted of holding onto the cane while walking the route. In subsequent phases, the target behavior was modified to include grasp and positional components. When the subject dropped her cane, held it with an inappropriate grasp, or moved it out of the prescribed position, a verbal or physical prompt was given. Generalization probes were taken over a different route, with a different intervenor. With each subject, the intervention resulted in an increase in the percentage of intervals in which the target behavior was exhibited.

The study established that the verbal and physical prompts were effective in teaching four adolescents, with severe visual impairments and severe developmental disabilities, a modified diagonal cane technique that would be functional for them in travelling independently in a familiar indoor environment.