Pediatric Devices are Made to Fit Children’s Abilities

The first known dedicated wheelchair was invented in 1595 for Phillip II of Spain. By 1956, motorized wheelchairs were being mass produced. Now there are pediatric motorized wheelchairs made so that children who are three years old can operate them independently. Wheelchairs are essential for people who cannot walk.

Wheelchairs replace the function of the legs with wheels. They are bulky, they do not traverse stairs, so modern architecture has been changed, by law, to accommodate wheelchairs.

Three year old boy operates his electric wheelchair.

The first electric hearing aid was created in 1898. It used a carbon transmitter, so that the hearing aid could be portable. Hearing aids assist the function of the ears, by amplifying sound by taking a weak signal and using electric current to make it a strong signal. Overtime hearing aids have improved to include infant hearing aids.

The earlier the child receives hearing aids, the better. It is possible to be fitted with hearing aids within the first weeks or months after birth. Although hearing loss happens in the ears, the real effect is in the brain. It is the brain that makes sense of sound and so, the brain must be stimulated to develop.

Seven week old babies can benefit from hearing aids.

The first long cane was invented in 1945. It was made for veterans with mobility visual impairment and blindness (MVI/B) who refused to believe that walking around crashing into walls was the best the US army could do for them. They were right.

Long canes replace the safety function of eyes by substituting tactile feedback. There are two white cane types: The rod-shaped cane and the rectangular-shaped cane.

Rod-shaped cane: This is a single rod with a grip and a cane tip that is lightweight, usually white body with red stripe at the base and a black grip. In order to get effective, tactile path information using the rod-shaped cane; the user holds it in the hand and sweeps it back and forth, one step, one swipe. While most adults can learn to swing a cane in a rhythmic fashion very easily, these canes can be very challenging for very young children, older adults, and anyone with hand or wrist injuries including arthritis. It typically takes less than an hour for an adult to learn to sweep a long cane correctly for safe mobility. For those who are unable to rhythmically sweep a long cane for safe mobility after an hour of instruction, they can push a rectangular cane in between lessons.

Rectangular cane: The second design is a rectangular shape, often called an adaptive mobility device (AMD). The rectangular cane is an all white rectangle with black grips. The shape offers a built-in cane arc, in other words, the user just pushes the shape ahead, no sweeping necessary. Rectangular AMDs are sold by the same retailers who sell rod-shaped canes.

Pediatric canes are needed because infants, babies and toddlers are not mature enough to use rod-shaped canes or rectangular AMDs. The baby is not mature enough to sweep the cane back and forth with each step and babies let go of anything in their hands after a few steps. There is no mysterious ability of babies with MVI/B to walk without path information.

Babies and toddlers with MVI/B need safe mobility the same amount (or more) as adults. Some have misinterpreted toddlers with MVI/B inability to use rod and rectangular canes to mean that they don't need tactile path information. The logic goes something like this, if babies with MVI/B needed path information they would keep holding the cane. This has led to an instructional algorithm that suggests just holding the cane will one day lead to safe mobility, even if it isn't working right now...

These assumptions about babies with MVI/B are causing harm, because babies are not responsible for themselves; they do not dress themselves, they do not change their diapers and they do not strap themselves into their car seats.

Babies and toddlers depend on adults to keep them safe. Nobody says, well, he won’t strap himself into the car seat so forget it…as least, if they did, they risk getting a ticket from the police or worse...

Babies with MVI/B are babies and need adults to keep them safe. The problem we need to solve is, how do we keep them safe and still encourage independence? Babies and toddlers with MVI/B need need a pediatric cane- a cane that doesn't have to be operated correctly or be kept track of by the user.

Pediatric belt canes use the rectangular shape: The belt cane is a developmentally appropriate mobility tool for toddlers with MVI/B, when worn, the rectangular shape of the cane offers a reliable cane arc and enables very young children with MVI/B to experience consistent tactile path information.

Toddlers with MVI/B receive the benefit of tactile path preview because the base of the cane frame maintains contact with the floor two steps ahead of their intended path. Toddlers with MVI/B cannot forget their belt canes because the top of the frame is connected by magnets to a belt that is worn about their waists

Twenty-month old boy who is blind wears his belt cane in a mall.

The pediatric belt cane is a mobility tool that enables babies with MVI/B to safely experience the freedom to explore independently.

Like a wheelchair, some people find Safe Toddles' pediatric belt canes to be bulky and tricky to use when going upstairs. But also like a wheelchair, to the user, the advantage of wearing the belt cane outweighs any minor inconvenience.

The belt cane stays two steps ahead of the wearer and provides consistent tactile path information. Babies and toddlers with MVI/B learn to depend on their belt canes. The pediatric cane allows them to build confidence in themselves as they explore independently without direct bodily collisions.

Although vision loss happens in the eyes, the real effect is in the brain. The brain must be stimulated to develop, but bodily collisions are the wrong type of stimulation. The brain does not learn well when it is worried about the next bodily collision. The belt cane allows the brain to anticipate obstacles and to make sense of sensory information that arrives in a less jarring manner. When babies move about wearing their belt canes they learn about space and time. They are also allowed to decide what they reach out to touch and explore with their hands, and what they rather bang with their cane shafts.

Babies with MVI/B are able to make sense of tactile path information in a way sighted children would not be able to do and do not need to do. Pediatric belt canes are devices that help babies with MVI/B to achieve what they're capable of achieving using the abilities they have.

Toddlers who are MVI/B should not be expected to wait to be old enough for safe mobility, like car seats and drawer locks; safety devices need to be made for them.

That's what the pediatric belt cane has succeeded in doing.