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10 things I would never say in 2022

Updated: Oct 9, 2022, 845-244-6600, 10 things I would never say about blind toddler independent walking  in 2022, 1. Lack of visual motivation prevents exploration,  2. Bruises are a good sign of independence, so don't worry about the bruises, 3. 'Cruising' after 15 months is independent walking progress, 4. Relying on a wall for balance is 'trailing', 5. Independent exploring can wait until the toddler grows old enough to understand, 6. Gait trainers improve independence in blind preschoolers without motor impairments , 7. Being guided improves blind toddler independent exploration., 8. Blind preschoolers do not want to run independently., 9. Don't worry if your blind 3-year-old is not exploring independently 9-12 hours a day., 10. Turning circles and jumping are equally as good as purposeful walking and exploring.

Here's why
1. Visual Motivation is a myth - what blind toddlers need is a reliable mobility tool that provides haptic feedback and safety

Children who are blind do not need visual motivation - but they do need haptic feedback and safety.

The families and professionals who seek out a belt canes have children with different visual impairments, live in different states and countries, yet they share common concerns regarding their children's independent walking outcomes. The younger children’s developmental milestones were on target until age 11 months. By 16 months, none of the children born blind or mobility visually impaired motor milestones were on-target. The goal for these children was independent walking, but the most common walking strategy across all ages was ‘walks with assistance.’

Walking alone (without assistance) is considered by the World Health Organization as the terminal independent walking milestone, typically achieved by 18 months (de Onis, 2006). Ambrose-Zaken's (2022) study compared children with mobility visual impairment on independent walking milestones before and with pediatric belt canes. Before pediatric belt canes, the children (average age 33-months), were not walking or running. After wearing their pediatric belt canes, 32 participants achieved “walks well” milestone and five were running.

Little boy, tee-shirt reads wins start here. two hands hold the top handles of his belt cane as he independently marches with a big open mouth smile down the street
Jaxon, age 2 with tunnel vision, loves his belt cane

2. Bruises hurt blind toddlers - period.

Samuel Gridley Howe, founder of the first residential school for the blind in the United States, is credited with saying, “parents and friends—never check the motions of the blind child; do not even remove obstacles" which he would tumble over. "Do not too much regard bumps upon the forehead, rough scratches or bloody noses; even these may have their good influences. At the worst, they affect only the bark, and do not injure the system like the rust of inaction”. This was published in 1841 The Ninth Annual Report of the trustees, of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the blind

Families know that each of these tumbles, bruises and scrapes cause real harm. Harm on the outside and harm on the inside of the child who cannot see to avoid them. The only solution is an effective mobility tool and the pediatric belt cane is the only mobility tool that reliably protects blind toddlers as they explore independently.

3. 'Cruising' furniture after age 15 months is delayed walking

Cruising is an 11 month milestone - it is not an independent form of walking - it is a dependent form of standing and balancing. Blind toddlers need haptic feedback for balance. When they continue to rely upon couches for balance they are demonstrating a need for a pediatric belt cane.

This table indicates the typical milestones for independent walking achievement within the first year of life. There is no reason a blind toddler cannot achieve 24 months runs when provided a pediatric belt cane from the age of 12 to 15 months and allowed to wear it most of the day.

table: independent walking milestones expected age and observable characteristics, row 1 Age , observable characteristics, row 2, 10 months  stands (when holding on to something - not walking), row 3 11 months cruises (takes steps when holding onto something, row 4 12 months stands independently in open space, walks with hand-held assistance into space, row 5 15 months walks independently in open space using wide based gait, hands/arms in guard positions used to maintain balance, unable to avoid obstacles, row 6 18 months walks independently in open space using narrow gait, reciprocal arm swing, able to avoid obstacles, row 7 24 months - runs independently avoiding obstacles

4 Relying on a wall for balance is another sign of motor skill delay

Trailing is defined as lightly placing the back of the hand on the wall downward and forward at an approximate angle of 45 degrees in the anterior-posterior plane. The purpose of trailing is to maintain a straight line of travel and to local a specific objective. This video explores the benefits 5-year-old Brayden received the first time wearing his pediatric belt cane

5-year-old boy holds the wall with two hands with the caption Uses wall for balance

5. Independent exploring is essential to potty training, concept, language and social skill development

The onset of independent mobility is the “core of system-wide changes across many developing domains”. Studies comparing sighted toddler peers have shown independent walkers demonstrated more mature social engagement than crawlers, spending three times longer interacting with their mothers. Further, placing crawlers in baby walkers provided them the same vantage point as walking, but did not result in equivalent gains.

Toddlers’ milestone advancement depends on acquiring independent mobility. Providers were once concerned that wheelchairs limited the development of independent walking skills and recommended wheelchairs be a last option for children with motor impairments. “Independent mobility, in whatever form, is now often viewed as the foundation for engagement in all daily activities” and current trends are to provide wheelchairs as early as possible to children with motor impairments (Casey, McKeown, McDonald, & Martin, 2017, para. 3).

6. Gait trainers limit independence in blind preschoolers without motor impairments

A child’s motivation and ability to learn are not purely visual and neither is static or dynamic balance. When toddlers born blind or mobility visually impaired motor skill delay are due purely to their blindness or mobility visual impairment (B/MVI), they do not need physical therapy tools designed for a child with a motor impairment, they need O&M tools designed for a child who is B/MVI. A child born B/MVI who has the developmental potential to ambulate, given a pediatric belt cane can achieve independent walking beyond hand’s reach.

three images of 2-year-old Damien left with a gait trainer, middle gait trainer and belt cane, right walking just with his belt cane.
Two-year-old Damien is blind. He left his gait trainer behind once he began wearing his belt cane
7. Being guided limits blind toddler independent exploration

Toddlers who are independently walking don't want to hold your hand, and that's because they yearn to be free to explore. Exploring is learning.

Toddlers who are blind who need your hand for walking - are demonstrating to you that they need haptic feedback from a mobility tool. The only mobility tool that provides blind toddlers with reliable haptic feedback is a pediatric belt cane.

8. Blind preschoolers want to run independently

Jojo on the left is running after a remote controlled toy- on the right he is standing with his back against the wall operating the same toy. The only difference in his ability to move is the pediatric belt cane. He was 4-years-old with Septo optic dysplasia, he had a pinhole of visual information which limited him in his ability to explore freely and he had never run on his own.

Moments after donning his first pediatric belt cane, he ran for the first time. He needed no instruction, no outside adult prompting. He just ran with glee.

on the left is a picture of 4-year-old wearing his belt cane outside on a sidewalk and running full speed. On the right same boy, same clothes, safe day - standing with his back to the wall.
Jojo runs with glee wearing his belt cane

9. 3-year-olds need to explore independently 9-12 hours a day

The average physical activity levels for children are well known – and independent, purposeful physical activity is essential for concept, language, and social skill development.

If your blind toddler is not moving about in these amounts independently – with direction and purpose – they are falling behind developmentally.

10. Turning circles and jumping are not examples of purposeful walking or exploring

Turning circles and jumping in place are signs that your blind child is restricted in his or her ability to move purposefully, independently with safety through the environment. There is a limit to the number of times a child should twirl before moving to a new location. There is a limit to how long a child should stand still holding on to something, before moving on to the next thing.

Stationary, repetitive play are not signs of deep exploration & learning - the are really important indicators that signal a blind toddler/preschooler's need for you to provide them with a pediatric belt cane.

For videos that demonstrate these concepts go to our YouTube channel @SafeToddles

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