There is a need to tackle another aspect of preschoolers' tears, the lack of tears in response to collisions. The reason Safe Toddles is advocating for children who are mobility visually impaired or blind to wear their belt canes is because they are too little to use long canes for safety.
Babies, toddlers and preschoolers are also too little to know that their experiences are not the norm. Children grow up believing they are the center of their universe and the universe is the same for everyone.
Children five and younger are also dependent upon the adults to protect them from harm.
The unfortunate outcome of growing up mobility visually impaired and blind is unavoidable collisions. Toddlers and preschoolers who cannot see the path ahead are destined to collide with obstacles. There might be one toy in the middle of an otherwise clear carpet and somehow the blind child would miss all that empty carpet to tumble over that one, unseen toy. What happens next? A chorus of “I’m sorry” or “watch out”.
The worst might actually be when a two year old who is blind is happily walking and chirping and suddenly hits her forehead against the wall. Lost in her own joyous world, her happy state transforms into an unhappy state with loud crying, protesting the pain she feels from that unexpected crash in the safety of her living room. Her father rushes over to soothe her, “I’m sorry, you’ll be OK, I'm so sorry”.
Yet, perhaps worse still is the three-year old who is blind and when she crashes into the wall with her forehead, she is silent. She doesn’t cry, because she has learned this is normal. And the five-year-old girl who is blind and, walking without a cane, suddenly trips over a curb. She immediately tries to reassure everyone that she’s OK, it’s normal for her to trip. Her life has been filled with these sudden, unexpected collisions…after all isn’t yours?
Blind children grow up believing that it is normal to have no ability to predict or avoid collisions with stationary objects – this is the opposite of the experiences of sighted children.
Sighted children increasingly become more and more sophisticated in their visual-motor coordination. By two-years of age, sighted children can run avoiding obstacles with ease. For most blind children, at three years old, they are still said to be “cruising.”
Cruising is a term used for babies transitioning to toddler abilities. Toddlers start walking by first cruising, that is walking holding on to the couch. Letting go of the couch happens by fifteen months.
At fifteen months, sighted and blind children let go of the couch and have a wobbly wide based gait and can’t avoid obstacles. Three months later, sighted children can walk and have developed the visual-motor coordination to avoid obstacles. Children who are mobility visually impaired and blind are still holding on to the couch and have no visual ability to visually avoid obstacles so they continue to collide with them.
Thus, a two year old child who is blind and is crying because she collided without warning (collided, because her disability prevented her from being able to slow down, put up her hands, or flinch in the face of oncoming collisions); becomes that three year old who simply understands that life is unexpected collisions, and one doesn't cry about normal, common experiences for which there is no solution, except to sit down.
For three-year-olds who are blind and mobility visually impaired, the only way to avoid collisions is to avoid walking, avoid letting go of the couch or a parent's hand.
The belt cane changes the lives of toddlers who are mobility visually impaired and blind by providing them with a way to detect obstacles in their paths. The belt cane allows them to experience the confidence of moving with information about the path ahead.
When the cane collides with obstacles, it is not their body or their foreheads that take the hit, its the cane. When the belt cane collides, then the child who is blind can turn and find a clear path.
The belt cane takes the brunt of the collision, the toddler who is blind or mobility visually impaired takes the information, learns to process it and grows in confidence with every knowledgeable step.
The belt cane is confidence to go.