General advice

Perhaps you know someone in your personal or professional life who finds it difficult to travel or find their way independently. This section provides a set of pointers designed to help you to support someone to become more independent in their ability to navigate.

General areas to work on

  • Social skills : Do they know how to ask someone for help?
  • Emotional control : Stress has a negative impact on our ability to navigate. Are they able to manage their emotions in unforeseen stressful circumstances?
  • The highway code : Do they know how to work out where they should cross the road, and when they can cross the road?
  • It is just as important to note that carers (parents and professionals) need to also address their own fears because they can influence the person’s attitude towards independent navigation and travel.

Important points when training navigation skills

  • Identify good landmarks : Good landmarks are fixed, salient and unique. For example, a car isn’t a good landmark because it might move. Objects like wheelie bins aren’t good landmarks because sometimes they are on the pavement, sometimes they’re not, and they all look the same. A house or a specific shop are examples of good landmarks.
  • Break the route up : Learning a route is more efficient if the person can learn to decompose it into sections, and to identify the landmarks within each section. They can then learn to associate each landmark with an action: e.g. “At the bakery I turn left then at the chemist’s I turn right”. It is also important that they know the sequential order of the actions.
  • Learning the return route :A person’s perspective changes when they travel a route back to the start. This can introduce difficulties in orientating. Therefore, it is important to think about this in advance, and prepare the individual. For example, if part of their route involved travelling from the bakery to the chemist on the way there, they need to reverse this sequence on the way back, so that when they reach the chemist, their next goal is to get to the chemist
  • Managing unforeseen circumstances :Before going out in the real world alone, it is important that the person knows how to manage unforeseen circumstances. For example, the road that they normally travel along might be blocked by road works. In such scenarios it is important to set-up alternative strategies :
    • Can they find another road is they have sufficient knowledge of the environment or if they know how to use a map?
    • Can they ask someone ins a nearby shop to help?
  • Support systems : Support for each person can be tailored to their level of ability and their needs. Examples include::
    • Visual support
    • Written support
    • A map
  • Work on the person’s ability to generalise their knowledge and abilities :the person needs to be able to use their knowledge and abilities in different situations (new environments for example).