Presented by Nancy Pinkerton, Habilitation Specialist
The important points to consider when you are guiding a young person with visual impairment, you need to say their names so that they know you are speaking to them and tell them your name so they know who they are speaking to. It’s also important that they are taking your arm when you’re guiding them rather than you taking their arm. This is important because they need to be anticipating what’s coming up. It also gives them more control and then they can let go of your arm if they feel uncomfortable and if they don’t feel that they are safe and this is important for when they get older and they’re maybe asking for assistance out in the public with other people. If they’re used to people taking their arm then they won’t know there’s something wrong if somebody’s taking them somewhere they don’t want to go.
When you are ready to guide the young person you’d offer your arm by saying would you like to take my arm and put your elbow in next to their arm. Then allow the young person to take your arm and they would hold just above your elbow using a pincer grip and pincer grip is like holding a cup so like this with your hand on the back of the arm. This is the standard grip for older children. When they are younger you would start off, when they are really little and they can’t reach your arm, you’d start off by holding hands. The guides arm should be held in close to their body to give the young person maximum feedback and security.
When guiding a child or young person they should be half a step behind you. It’s important to walk at the child or young person’s pace. If you are walking too quickly for them, you will feel a tug on your arm or if you’re walking too slowly they will not be half a pace behind and they are not getting enough warning for what’s coming up. It is important for the guide to pause when there is going to be a change such as a change of direction or gradient, kerb or step coming up so that the young person can anticipate that something different is about to happen. The child or young person should be used to being guided on either side and it is important when you are in an outdoor environment for the child or young person to be positioned furthest away from the road to ensure their safety. So this means that there are some times when it might be necessary for the child to be on the other side, so in order to do this there is a technique called changing sides and it is important that they are given this verbal prompt and the term changing sides, so they know what they are expected to do. The guide would also reinforce this by putting both of their arms back, the child will then trail from one arm to the other and then resume the standard grip on the opposite side. Now in order to teach this when a child is young and they are first learning the guide would trail behind the young person so they understand what this feels like.
When guiding a child or young person it is important for the child or young person to be listening to the sounds in the environment so they understand where they are and what’s going on around them. The guide can draw their attention to certain things by asking them what they can hear, what they can feel and what the environment is like but it is important for the guide to allow lots of listening time while they are walking with the child or young person. The child or young person really benefits from sighted guide assistance so that they can be safe and take in as much information about the environment and their surroundings.
Read our Introduction to Sighted Guide.
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