Habilitation (orientation, mobility and independence) training for children and young people
Habilitation is the process of helping children and young people with a vision impairment to achieve as much independence as possible in their daily lives. Habilitation training is the responsibility of your local authority to deliver.
While sighted children watch others to develop their skills, children with a vision impairment often need extra help establishing some concepts – and Movement Matters helps them do exactly that.
It’s generally best to start habilitation as early as possible, with orientation and mobility training provided continuously as the child or young person grows up and encounters new situations. By building on their skills, they’ll gain the independence to move through life with confidence.
How can Movement Matters help my family?
Movement Matters encompasses a wide range of services and information, including:
- Training to help children and young people with a vision impairment (CYPVI) move around safely and independently
- Life skills training such as handling money, preparing food and managing appearance
- Advice and support workshops for parents, carers and professionals, such as Parent Guidance Days
- Tailored programmes including early motor skills, sensory development, body awareness and wheelchair mobility for children with additional and complex needs
- Group sessions, such as living skills workshops, Early Years sessions and sensory groups
Caitlin Leigh is no ordinary teenage girl. Her two passions in life are music and judo. Caitlin also has a severe vision impairment – she was born with congenital glaucoma. Claire, Caitlin's mum says:
“It wasn’t until Guide Dogs became involved with Caitlin that we realised how much more they could offer than just the guide dog. We’ve been to their family experience days and they’ve made us aware of additional education support that Caitlin could receive. They really have been a lifeline.”
“Having a vision impairment needn’t stop you from doing anything and Caitlin is proof of this. She’s always said the vision impairment has to keep up with her, rather than the other way around.”
As well as training, we can help you understand how to support a child, who is visually impaired or partially sighted, in school, at home and beyond. We’ll also provide resources to help manage meetings with professionals and signpost you to any other relevant support services or collaborative partners.
Each of these services are delivered by our qualified Habilitation Specialists, who work to achieve desired outcomes closely with other professionals such as:
- Qualified Teachers of the Visually Impaired
- Speech and Language Therapists
- Occupational Therapists
Movement Matters empowers families, helping children and their loved ones understand that vision impairment need not be a barrier to reaching their potential.
On the night Nell Sutton was born, when visitors had gone home and the hosptial ward was quiet, mum Rachel whispered a promise to her new-born baby girl.
"It was just me and her, and I promised Nell that she would be able to do whatever she wanted to do."
When Nell was one and a half, she met Branwen Jones a mobility expert from Guide Dogs – the first specialist support the family received.
"Branwen was like a breath of fresh air" says Rachel, "just so positive about what Nell could do. She gave us all a huge boost."
Nell was showing the aptitude to begin learning how to use a cane, and she was keen to have one just like Daddy's so the work started in earnest.
Frequently asked questions
Habilitation services for visually impaired children and young people are ultimately the responsibility of your local authority (LA). To ensure locally offered habilitation services comply with the Habilitation Quality Standards, Movement Matters can be provided in the following ways:
- Contracted delivery
Where Guide Dogs delivers defined habilitation training for a local authority or school at an agreed price. This can include a family purchasing a service with a personal budget.
- Grant or trust funded work
Where Guide Dogs delivers a programme, course or service such as an Early Years group, or practical activity sessions.
- Direct delivery
Where Guide Dogs receives an enquiry directly from a family. In these cases, we will always contact the LA to:
- Let them know (all those working directly with children are duty bound to communicate with each other).
- Attempt to secure the service for the family from the LA.
- Attempt to secure funding if the LA is unable to provide the service.
It’s important we collaborate with local authority providers and other partners to ensure you benefit from the highest quality habilitation service available. In doing so, we have to be sure that we are supporting local authority services, rather than duplicating or undermining them.
Following discussions with the family, we may be able to provide time-focused, individually tailored programmes with clear outcomes, delivered by our qualified Habilitation Specialists. This could involve:
- Helping to secure a longer-term service from the LA, for example by carrying out an initial assessment.
- Raising awareness of the importance of habilitation and the expectation that the LA should provide it.
- Helping to ensure that habilitation is included in a Child’s Plan, Education Health and Care plan or Statement of Educational Need (dependent upon UK country).
We aim for our services to be consistently delivered and available to all who need them.
As well as working with children and young people themselves, we offer Parent Guidance Days in different locations around England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
At these events, we encourage parents and carers of visually impaired children to meet and chat in a safe, relaxed and comfortable environment to explore and discuss the possibilities for their child.
Parent Guidance Days equip parents and carers with a practical understanding of how they can support their child’s journey towards greater confidence and independence. Informal and interactive, these events are led by qualified Habilitation Specialists who can answer questions and point parents to further information.
What is Movement Matters and how does it help?
If you’d like to find out more about how we work together with families, carers and professionals to develop children’s vital movement, orientation and independent living skills, download our Movement Matters leaflet below. Please note: Children and Young People’s services differ slightly in Scotland. To find out more about the provision in Scotland, please download the Movement Matters Scotland leaflet.
- Habilitation Services for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment - what habilitation is and how is it provided (PDF 606Kb)
- Summary of the Quality Standards for the delivery of habilitation training to children and young people with vision impa (PDF 2284Kb)
- Delivery of habilitation training for children and young people with visual impairment (PDF 470Kb)
- Information for Commissioners - Habilitation Services for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment (PDF 448Kb)
- Family Focus Report Northern Ireland - summary (PDF 57Kb)
- Family Focus Report Northern Ireland (PDF 1183Kb)