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Perkins Endorses Belt Canes for Toddler Mobility!

Updated: Jun 29

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the endorsement by Perkins School for the Blind of the pediatric belt cane (Berg, 2020). Perkins School for the Blind is not only the oldest school for the blind in the United States, it is also a world renown resource for professionals and families of learners with sensory impairments.

Perkins endorses belt canes for toddler mobility!

Safe Toddles is honored and pleased to see the pediatric belt cane (aka toddler cane, push cane, or anticipator) used as an example on two important slides during the Perkins School for the Blind Early Connections Virtual Conference showcasing the latest innovations in orientation and mobility instruction for children aged seven and younger.

The pediatric belt cane (aka toddler cane, anticipator, or push cane) was included in the in the presentation entitled, “Let’s Get Moving: Orientation and Mobility in a Child’s First Seven Years—and Beyond!”

Berg (2020) stated that children aged birth to three years were unable to correctly employ hand-held rod canes to achieve safe mobility. She also confirmed that children with visual impairments are at risk for delayed walking. This is especially problematic because independent walking (walking at will and without assistance), is fundamental to learning. The onset of independent walking triggers immediate, significant acceleration in language growth. Infants who are walking have significantly larger vocabularies than their age‐matched peers who are not yet walking (Walle & Campos, 2014).

In her presentation, Berg included four photos of children younger than age five with canes, two were with rod canes and two were with belt canes. Her photos provided excellent demonstration of the difference in safety between the rod cane and the pediatric belt cane for preschoolers.

In the photo of a child walking holding a rod cane, any O&M specialist would be able to spot that he is not using the rod cane correctly and is therefore unsafe.

A COMS can see this child is not safe walking with rod cane

The way to tell is you can see that he is out of step with the cane tip. In layman's terms, the tip of the cane is positioned ahead of the leading foot. It needs to be in front of the trailing foot (the one that is next to take a step). This means that his cane tip is not checking the path of his next step and so he will have no warning of what is to come. Since children who are blind and mobility visually impaired cannot see the path ahead they need mobility tools checking the path for them.

In order for children who are blind and mobility visually impaired to walk independently, safely and with confidence they need to rely on mobility tools to provide them with essential safety information. They need to know if there is a drop off, a toy or a wall in front of them. The way his cane tip is pointing, he will not have any warning and would bump into any obstacle that were there, even though he is holding that rod cane. Thus, Berg's picture confirms the preschool child is using the wrong mobility tool. He needs to either use a rectangular cane or a belt cane.

In her remaining photos, the children are walking with adults. The first photo is of a child wearing her belt cane and holding onto her reverse walker for balance. She needs her hands to use her walker for support. She also needs cane arc safe mobility because she is mobility visually impaired.

By sharing this photo, Berg clearly communicated the advantage of the pediatric belt cane for this three-year-old. The preschooler does not have to choose between cane arc safety and balance, using a belt cane with her walking frame enables both her needs to be met.

Cane arc safe mobility and balance support

Berg's next photo shows a boy with a rod cane being helped by an adult. The adult is leaning over the child to control both of the child’s hands. The adult is holding the child's arm to make sure his hand remains against the wall. The adult is holding child’s other hand and his cane, to make sure he uses the cane correctly. The child is completely dependent upon the adult. He is shielded from most incidental learning opportunities indicative of a preschool child.

For example, he cannot hear anything behind him and he is not able to start and stop walking at will or change direction. He must go exactly the direction the adult wants him to go. He is not walking independently. If the adult were to let go, because of his age, it is unlikely that he would be able to maintain proper cane arc safe mobility.

Adult controls the cane for the preschooler

In Berg's belt cane photo, the child is being guided by an adult by one hand, her other hand is lightly resting on the belt cane frame. This child has full cane arc safe mobility, because her belt cane provides continuous, reliable haptic path information. She also has efficient orientation, by following her guide’s lead.

Three-year-old girl who is blind has full cane arc safe mobility

Berg pointed out that the belt cane (aka anticipator, push cane, or toddler cane) is teaching the three-year-old child who is blind to “identify the difference between the sidewalk and the grass”. No matter what happens, if the child maintains contact with the adult or let’s go to explore on her own, she will be able to move about with consistent cane arc safe mobility.

It is easy to understand why Perkins School for the Blind sees the importance of sharing this new tool with their families.


References

Berg, A. (2020, June). Let’s Get Moving: Orientation and Mobility in a Child’s First Seven

Years—and Beyond! Talk presented during 2020 Early Connections Virtual Conference,

Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA.

Walle, E. A., and Campos, J. J. (2014). Infant language development is related to the

acquisition of walking. Dev. Psychol. 50, 336–348. doi: 10.1037/a0033238

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