U students learn to teach blind children

By Jaime Winston

Stephanie Rasmussen knows what it’s like to teach blindly.

She started working with children with vision impairments in 1983 at the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, and this summer she will be teaching a course at the U called Orientation and Mobility for students who wish to follow in her footsteps.

Rasmussen describes the class as a “hands-on, practical learning experience” where students will learn how to teach visually impaired children about travel.

The Orientation and Mobility class will focus on concepts like sighted guide, which involves a visually impaired person holding onto the arm of a sighted person and walking around different obstacles.

They will also learn to ask for things while blindfolded and learn about using senses other than sight to get around, such as using their sense of touch through using canes and tactile maps.

Bobbi Lee Blood, a freshman music major who is blind, said that her teachers have taught her what it is to be an equal.

“I had some hard times when I was treated badly, and I had some good times as well,” Blood said. “Without both, I would never know just how lucky I am to be an equal.”

Rasmussen often works with children who are very young and co-dependent, and she said it makes her proud to see them grow into independent adults.

“I feel rewarded everyday,” she said. She feels most satisfied when she hears a child say, “No, I’m fine. I can do it myself,” after offering them help.

Janice Day, a professor in special education, said there are numerous opportunities for professional growth in the special education department. There is also high demand for teachers.

She said that when many people become teachers, they don’t consider working with sensory impairment.

“More teachers should consider it,” Day said. “Eighty percent of what we learn is through vision. To see others learn without it is?amazing.”

The class is a one-week, two-credit course, from June 26 to 30, and Rasmussen said it will be a high-intensity course.

Orientation and Mobility is one of several courses offered in the sensory impairments specialization in the special education department at the U through which students can train to receive certification for teaching children with vision or hearing impairments.

Stephanie Rasmussen

Skyline High School senior Fernando Blanco learns important cane and travel techniques from Stephanie Rasmussen. Rasmussen is teaching an Orientation and Mobility course at the U this summer in which students will learn to teach visually impaired children to travel.