Despite blindness, Jessica Laurie has ventured from the tiny town of Springfield, New Hampshire, to the big city of Providence, Rhode Island, where she is now a junior at Providence College.
Her guide dog Otis has been by her side the entire time. Many sighted people do not realize the complexities of working with a guide dog. For example, the guide dog does not automatically lead the way. The blind person still must know where he or she needs to go and memorize the routes, including precise distances, key landmarks and potential hazards. In time, the guide dog can become accustomed to familiar routes and may not need explicit direction at every turn. In the guide dog world, this is called “patterning.” A well-trained guide dog is also always alert to obstacles and dangers for the blind person they are serving — such as doorways, curbs, stairs, drop-offs and traffic when crossing a street. People who are blind also need to learn the “patterns” of adaptive skills they need to achieve their goals. As a child and teen, Jessica received help from the New Hampshire Association for the Blind in mastering Orientation & Mobility skills required to qualify for training in using a guide dog. When Jessica began college, we again helped her prepare, including learning her way around her new campus and other independent living skills.