Play Ball and Teach Sound Localization to Blind Students

17 Jul
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Liz Wisecarver, MA, NOMC

Liz Wisecarver, MA, NOMC

Liz earned her master’s in Orientation and Mobility from Louisiana Tech University after attending the adult training program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She currently lives in Oxford, Miss. and teaches cane travel to public school students.

Blind people and those who teach cane travel must learn to pay attention to the environment beyond the tips of their canes. We must listen to traffic, people around us, music from nearby shops, echoes caused by our tapping, and sometimes even a GPS. Sound localization is the ability to identify the location of a sound and determine its distance in space. Students can improve their localization with practice.

There are several ways to help students develop sound localization. The cane travel instructor may have the student stand near a busy street, point toward approaching vehicles and answer questions about the location of sounds in the environment. But children—especially younger, active children—may get bored with this sort of top-down approach to learning.

In my years of teaching, I have found that children learn more easily by playing a game. Many important cane travel concepts, including sound localization, can be taught using accessible athletic balls with bells or rattles inside.

Take the student to a quiet, open area such as the gym or empty hallway. It’s most fun when all players wear sleep shades and use canes. Start by asking the student to clap or speak so you can hear where he is located, then, roll the ball to him. He should hear the ball and stop it from rolling away. Encourage him to find the ball with his cane. If the ball rolls away, teach him how to find it by sweeping the cane in a wide arc and walking in a grid pattern to make certain the entire area has been searched. Clap or speak so he can tell where to roll the ball to as well.

Once the student rolls and catches the ball a few times, have him kick the ball on the floor and follow it. The idea is to keep the ball rolling without letting it stop. Let him practice tossing or punting the ball. If you have a basketball, he can find the net with his cane and practice shooting a basket.

You will be surprised how well most kids respond to playing simple games with the noisy balls. I have fond memories of rolling the rattling soccer ball back and forth in the hall with young kids, kicking it around the dark apartment with my STEP Program boys and seeing blind teenagers run and kick a ball completely uninhibited for the first time.

Unfortunately, many blind kids do not get the opportunity to run and play like their sighted peers. Playing simple games with ringing and rattling balls may spark an interest in goal ball or other adaptive sports, which they had never before considered. Students will improve not only their sound localization, but also gain confidence and improve their perception of blindness.

The following two tabs change content below.
Liz Wisecarver, MA, NOMC

Liz Wisecarver, MA, NOMC

Liz earned her master’s in Orientation and Mobility from Louisiana Tech University after attending the adult training program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She currently lives in Oxford, Miss. and teaches cane travel to public school students.

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