Where do I begin?
Goal: Wear the belt cane all day, every day.
For children with mobility visually impairment or blindness (MVI/B) the belt cane is the same as a light bulb for sighted children, because it shows them the way. Therefore a child with MVI/B should wear their belt can as often as a sighted child has light (sun, lamp).
Because path information is essential for children with MVI/B, the belt cane becomes the same as an essential piece of clothing. The child puts on the belt cane in the morning and wears it till bedtime.
There is no benefit to children with MVI/B walking without the tactile path information provided by belt canes. It is not that difficult to understand, all children need to feel safe to thrive, sighted children thrive in the light and children with MVI/B thrive with tactile path information.
CHILDREN 15 TO 24 MONTHS OF AGE
Question: Should I wait until my child is able to walk?
Answer: The child with MVI/B who is age fifteen months and older may be hesitant to walk because he or she has limited or no visual path information. Transitioning from standing and cruising to walking across open space is helped by wearing the belt cane.
Question: Should I wait until my toddler stops crying?
Answer: The child with MVI/B who is age fifteen to twenty-four months may react to wearing the belt cane simply because he or she does not understand what is happening. Young children cry, and it is important to help them through the change without losing the benefit of the belt cane.
Here are a few tips to working through the tears:
First, feel confident that the belt is not causing any discomfort, check the belt to make sure there is nothing extra and that it fits well, not too tight (see above belt settings).
Next, feel confident in your choice that the child with MVI/B needs to wear the belt cane because they need to have tactile path information, because they can't see well enough to have visual path information. Nobody benefits from walking in the dark.
Finally, remind yourself of incidents that have occurred when the child with MVI/B moved about freely without the belt cane such as tripping, falling, walking slowly in an awkward manner. Those reasons can give you the strength of conviction you need to proceed.
Lesson strategies for lessening belt cane defiance:
A. Adults can make putting on the belt cane about what's next- we're getting dressed to go to breakfast, to go outside to play, to find your favorite toy. It helps to be very specific, name the toy, the room, the location and the specific activity. Instead of saying over here, go there, come here, let's go there- we say "come to me, let's go to the toy shelf and get the puzzle, follow me to the kitchen to get some ice cream.
B. When you first put the belt cane on the child there is no need to change anything else, you can just add the belt cane to current activities. To achieve the goal of wearing the belt cane all day every day, the child will wear the belt cane during all activities including seated ones.
a. Yes, you can continue to guide the child.
b. Yes, it is fine when the child just wants to stand still.
c. Yes, please allow the child "bang" the cane.
C. Once the child is wearing the cane, begin communicating the value of wearing the belt cane. Adults can use something to tap the cane frame, and help the child find and bump into things with it, bang it against walls, find people, toys, carpet, floors anything. These activities often stop the crying and start the fun as these activities will communicate the value of the cane in a way that words can't.
D. The more the child wears the belt cane the more they will rely on it for confident travel. It is not good to take the belt cane off in response to the child crying. We should try to avoid rewarding crying behavior. Adults have to be the ones in control. For example, there is no saying "no to wearing seat belts" and the belt cane is a safety device just like a seat belt, it prevents bodily harm. It is best to try to keep the belt cane on thru the tears, provide rewards through fun and action.
To be clear: The reward should not be to "do this and then I'll take the belt cane off" instead it is "come with me to find your toy and I will play with you." Or "come with me to the kitchen and I will give you some chocolate ice cream".
E. This age group responds well to distraction- distracting the child with toys and activities. The less said about the belt cane the better- that means all activities are about going to play, to have fun, to get a treat (like a cookie) and when the frame of the belt cane locates objects before the child's body does, you say, "hey, let's see what you found." Name the object, help the child find a way to touch it. It is OK to move on without touching objects too.
F. Sometimes crying is a control seeking behavior e.g., children with very little control find crying is a great way to control a new experience. However, that means that crying prevents them from learning new things. Children with MVI/B need tactile path information to thrive and they are too little to be allowed to stop this important new experience, learning to wear the belt cane.
To be clear: Toddlers do not know enough about the benefits of belt canes to make an informed choice. Toddlers can't choose to reject something that they don't have any experience using.
VIDEO EXAMPLE If you'd like to see that in action - the videos of Matias, blind and two years old, on the website show him learning to wear the cane through the tears. His parents distract him with music, toys and through distraction he begins to learn the benefits of tactile path information, he does stop crying and starts having fun.