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Independent mobility skills for students aged 12 - 18

The Seeing Eye Dogs Youth Program provides an opportunity for students who are blind or have low vision to strengthen their orientation and mobility skills outside of their school curriculum. 

The program is a practical introduction to Seeing Eye Dogs, allowing young participants to gain hands-on experience and explore whether a Seeing Eye Dog is the best fit for their lifestyle or future mobility needs. They will be paired with a Seeing Eye Dog during two school holiday camps, learning how to work with and care for a dog guide. 

Other benefits include social interactions with peers, development of independent living skills, and the use of technology. Career education is supported through discussions and practical sessions on what young people may need to consider when entering the workplace with a dog guide.

Participant eligibility

  • Youth program participants must be: 
  • Aged between 12 – 18 years old and legally blind or have low vision that impacts their mobility
  • Willing to attend camp independently from family and be responsible for a Seeing Eye Dog for three days at a time
  • Able to independently navigate their daily school environment. If a teacher’s aid or additional support are currently used for this purpose, the goal would be to reduce this 1:1 support as independent mobility is increased
  • Able to perform self-care tasks independently, such as bathing and administering any medication if required 
  • Have access to a device to participate in monthly group online sessions 

Parental or family support will also be required to participate in the program. Ideally students should be currently travelling on one or two age-appropriate routes outside of school, or working towards this with the support of an Orientation & Mobility specialist.

Youth program structure

The program requirements feature a combination of 1:1 mobility training, online group learning sessions and social interaction at two on-site camps during a year. Interstate students are welcome and will be present from student pick up/drop off until departure. 

1:1 O&M training

  • A minimum of two hours per month of orientation training with the participant’s O&M instructor of choice. If you don’t have an O&M, we can discuss how Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs can support the participant

Monthly online group session topics

  • Building orientation skills
  • Independent travel skills
  • Understanding of dog care, animal welfare and having a dog guide
  • Building concepts about road crossings, landmark and environmental cues
  • Practising independent problem solving
  • Applying dog training
  • Gaining knowledge around self-advocacy

Residential school holiday camp

  • Two mandatory camps are held at Kensington, Victoria, during the April and September school holidays
  • Held over three days and two nights
  • These camps will consolidate and build on skills taught in online group sessions 
  • Provides the hands-on experience of working with and caring for a dog guide 

Safety is a priority during residential camps. All Seeing Eye Dogs staff hold current police and working with children checks and are responsible for the safe supervision of participants at all times. 

Outcomes of the program

The aim of the Seeing Eye Dogs Youth Program is to increase independent mobility skills with a cane while empowering students with the understanding of what other mobility options are available. 

During the program, a participant works with a Seeing Eye Dog. At the conclusion of the program, a detailed individual assessment is undertaken with the participant to determine their mobility needs and goals. Some students may make the informed choice of not wanting to proceed with dog guide mobility, or require further O&M training to address identified development areas before this option is suitable. 

If a student is deemed to be suitable after an assessment to be matched with a Seeing Eye Dog, they will be added to the current waitlist.

Register for your child

Ready to register your interest?

To register your interest and discuss NDIS funding for the Seeing Eye Dogs Youth Program, please contact us to discuss your child’s individual goals and participant placement.

Enquire for your child