Recent graduate recommends closer collaboration between practitioners and personnel preparation programs.
Article Type: Column
Subject: Physicians (General practice) (Practice)
Author: Connors, Elyse
Pub Date: 10/01/2011
Publication: Name: Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness Publisher: American Foundation for the Blind Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American Foundation for the Blind ISSN: 0145-482X
Issue: Date: Oct-Nov, 2011 Source Volume: 105 Source Issue: 10
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 272077502
Full Text: As a newcomer to the field of orientation and mobility (O&M), having graduated five years ago, I have been welcomed into this community with open arms and without reservation. The O&M community is full of caring and self-sacrificing individuals who are willing to invest themselves in the lives of their students and consumers. I have been mentored with enthusiasm and care, and I have felt fully integrated into the O&M community, even with my lack of experience. Likewise, I have been invited into the lives of the students and families I have served. It is with great joy that I have received these gifts of community. O&M is a wonderful vocation and I am thankful to be a part of it.

In the midst of this gracious community, however, I have been struck by the defensive position that is often taken by its practitioners. Early on I learned that I would need to be able to justify the amount of time my student would require for O&M services; now I can quickly point to position papers and research to justify such decisions. I see others in O&M assume a defensive position as they seek to protect the scarce dollars allotted for O&M services. ! was prepared for adversity of this nature during my schooling, and I quickly assumed the defensive position as I entered the workplace. What concerns me, however, is that when I spend my energy defending, there is little left for envisioning and planning. I forget to dream about what can be when I am focused on protecting what I have.

For this reason, I was so inspired by the leadership in New York that was, and is, fighting for licensure. I often look for opportunities to press on with this endeavor--not simply to promote our own profession, but because the visibility and credibility will better serve our consumers. I surround myself with others who will also help generate the energy needed to carve out a more prominent position for O&M, vision rehabilitation therapy, and other rehabilitative services.

I have been thankful too for the opportunity I have had to continue my education. My master's degree program prepared me with foundational material, and helped alert me to questions and evolving challenges facing the discipline. While working in the field, I have grown in my ability and confidence in the art of O&M and in how to solve problems creatively. I continue to look for more concrete teachings and research findings, however, as I encounter new environmental challenges or when I work with students with disabilities in addition to vision impairment. A deeper and broader foundation is necessary for our profession to determine best practices for addressing the evolving needs of the community of people we serve. I look to the universities and the growing research base to continue to help answer questions as they arise. It is imperative, however, that those of us working in the field must inform university preparation programs of the challenges we encounter every day, thus guiding their educational approach. A close working relationship between O&M practitioners and the university programs will strengthen our profession and allow us to achieve more together.

Elyse Connors, M.A., COMS, CVRT, faculty specialist, Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, College of Health and Human Services, Western Michigan University, 1903 West Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo MI 49008-5218; e-mail: .
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