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.

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:

Your email address is not shared with anyone.