Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Echolocation Exercises for Blind Children

I have long stressed the importance of learning awareness techniques at a young age, and anyone else teaching echolocation as blind mobility will tell you that it is the best time to learn.  Children have the amazing capacity to lock on to new concepts like echolocation simply because they are still open to all possibilities.  If they are simply encouraged to be more aware of their senses it will lead to better awareness and improved independence later on.  This goes for blind children as well as sighted.  I think that sighted children who become aware of the concept of echolocation could, indeed benefit a lot from it, if only to broaden their horizons and give them a better understanding of all the intricacies of the world around them.

Below are a myriad of games that I've cooked up to help children improve their aural awareness, and become accustomed to listening intently and even identifying certain objects using active echolocation.  These games will be very effective even on children as young as 3 years old.  Making the games fun and engaging may be the tricky part; I've done what I can to make them entertaining, but a lot of that will fall on the iron-clad shoulders of the creative parent.  Good luck!  I would love to know how you and your child make out with these exercises.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions along the way.

  • Dodge the UFOs!
    • Have your child make a "sssshhh" sound while you move a book, or other flat object toward their face.  Try to keep the flat side of the object directly facing them at all times, and tell them to "duck the flying objects" as they approach them.  
    • Then move the object toward the right side of their head and then the left side of their head instructing them to move either left or right to get our of the way.
    • Eventually you may be able to use the palm of your hand as they get more sensitive.
  • "Which way does the wind blow?"
    • Use a book or ball and move it from left to right in front of their face.  Tell them to make a "wind" sound, which should be similar to the "ssshh" sound, and then have them point either left or right depending on which way it's going.  
    • This can also be a good exercise for teaching them the difference between left and right if they are at that age, just have them say the word.
  • What am I hiding behind?
    • This assumes your child is familiar with the environment, such as your living room or their bedroom.
    • With them staying in one place, (like on the couch or in bed) move yourself around the room and hide in different places and ask them "Where am I hiding now?"  Make sure your voice is coming from behind a certain object and you are not projecting directly toward them.
    • Hearing your voice coming from behind certain objects will help them start to get accustomed to how sound moves around a room and reverberates not only off the walls but off of, and through different pieces of furniture.
  • Which room are we in?
    • Carrying your child around your house and not allowing them to touch or otherwise orient themselves, ask them which room you are in. 
    • They may naturally want to yell or make a noise to find out.  And they may be able to use your voice to determine the answer as well.
    • Try to make a game out of it, by zooming around in circles and disorienting them as much as possible so that they have to rely on the sound cues only.
  • Find the ball in the cacti. 
    • This exercise will be for a more advanced child who is comfortable sensing objects and furniture and who has presumably developed a consistent echolocation signal or click.  It can also be done with a clap if desired.
    • Set up an obstacle course or simply move the furniture around a bit to disorient them.  And place a beach ball somewhere in the room.
    • Challenge them to find the ball without touching anything else.
  • DRUM SOLO! How many different clicks and sounds can you make?
    • This is simply a way to get them to exercise their palatal clicks and vocal dexterity.
    • They may find some very interesting sounds that are good to use with echolocation.
  • Guess which toy I'm holding
    • Choose two of their favorite toys, one hard, preferably with a flat surface, or an inflatable ball, and one soft, like a stuffed animal.
    • Hold it up in front of them and ask them to make a click if they can, or simply the "ssshh" sound, and tell you which one it is.
  • How many steps to the wall?
    • This can be done in many different environments, not just the home and is intended for children who have developed a consistent click and are comfortable with the basics.  
    • Position them in front of a flat wall at some distance between 3 and 10 feet away and have them click and estimate how many steps it will take them to be able to reach the wall.
    • Have them verify their estimate by approaching the wall.
  • Sneaky Sammy
    • Use a stuffed animal and quietly hold it just to the right or left of child's head. Have them click or say something with a lot of "S" sounds like "Sneaky Sammy's somewhere..." 
    • Then have them grab for the stuffed animal on either side.
  • Catch the fly
    • Softly rub your forefingers together and move them around in front of your child. They must reach out and grab your hand.
    • This exercise is not actually echolocation, but instead will give help them with identifying the source direction of subtle sounds which will help with echolocation in the future.
To broaden your understanding of echolocation and help your children do the same, please take a look at the Beginner's Guide to Echolocation.  There are lots of intricacies to the skill which I have tried very hard to distill into concepts that can be easily understood by everyone.  Again, please contact me with any questions or to let me know how your child is doing with these exercises.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Circumnavigating an Object

If you are comfortable discerning a relatively large object in front of you, such as a car, you should attempt circumnavigation.  This will help you orient, and re-orient yourself to the object as you circle around it.  Try to locate yourself a relatively safe distance from it.  Something on the order of 4 - 10 feet away.  Now simply walk around it, keeping it in your "echolocation scope" at all times.

Try to keep your distance the same.  If you start getting to close it should be clearly louder, but if you start moving further away from it, it can be very hard to tell until you have lost sight of it altogether.

Also, see if you can navigate 360 degrees around it and end up right back where you started.  Keep in mind that if there are flat objects on the object you can use those to identify your orientation with respect to the object, however, if there are flat surfaces, that also means that they will be at an angle to you at some point so the response from the object will seem to fade when you are in particular orientations.  Learn to judge the distance to the object with that in mind.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

COMING SOON: Free Echolocation Audio Course!

It is my ultimate goal to provide echolocation training tools to those in need, those with a yearning for more independence, who might not have the resources or relationships to get the help they need to live the life they want to.  I believe echolocation can tremendously help millions of blind people around the world to realize their dreams and become more confident and lead a completely fulfilling life.

That is why I am putting together a 7-day echolocation audio course to teach the basics of echolocation and help you on your way to a successful practice.  I am building the audio course now and will be launching it soon for everyone to download.  The course will be entirely free and while it is only an introductory course, it will cover a LOT of material to get you headed in the right direction, literally!

So keep your eye out for this exciting new course!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Edge Finding, Edge Tracing and Shape Identification

Recently I had someone ask me about seeing shapes with echolocation and that he was having trouble doing so.  He could see distance - tell if something is in front of him or not - but was not able to tell what the object was.

This is a great question and something I realized I have somewhat glanced over on this blog.  It's important to note that you will most likely NOT see shapes when just getting started.  If you are sighted, like this person, or blind and only use echolocation as a guideline for determining your generic environment, you have got a ways to go before you will actually be able to distinguish shapes.

Echolocation should be trained one little step at a time.  If you can sense distance or at least have a feeling whether or not something is in front of you, the next step is "edge finding".  Locate the object until it drops off.  There's the edge!  Keep training that however, because you'll notice that the edges come into focus better and better over time.  Move the position of your head back and forth over the object edge and really try to identify where the exact edge is.  It's good to do edge finding on hard, flat objects with crisp lines and nothing in the background such that the signal is completely different on either side of the edge.  A doorjamb is a good tool for edge finding.

The next step should be "edge tracing".  Once you can easily identify an edge, you should work on following that edge to circumscribe an object.  This can be practiced on a parked car, dresser, furniture, trash cans, etc.  Continue to practice edge tracing until you are comfortable with it.  Each time you do this exercise your brain is building new neural connections and making it easier for you to identify edges and certain shapes.

Eventually, with this progressive practice, you may be able to see entire shapes at a glance, but I think that even very adept, blind from birth, echolocators still sometimes struggle with seeing full shapes.  Instead they might see edges, one at a time, and have to piece them together over the course of a few clicks.

Free 10-Minute Audio Lesson: Learn the Echolocation Click

Learn echolocation clicks with a free audio lesson
Learning how to click is one of the first steps to becoming an effective echoloator. This lesson provides clicking samples of a variety of different clicks and descriptions of when they might be most useful. This lesson has been used by O&M instructors all over the world.

Despite popular belief, it's easy to make your clicking quite subtle or unnoticeable even in quiet settings. There are many different clicks for different situations. I explain all of these in great detail and give examples of where, why and when they can and should be used.

Get your free lesson now:

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