5. "We don’t normally recommend a cane for children this young."
Why is this statement problematic?
More and more, children who are blind or visually impaired are given a
cane as soon as they can walk. In younger children, the cane fosters independent
exploration which piques curiosity and in turn, encourages more exploration.
The cane enables children to walk without fear or hesitation, and with no
more collisions than others their age. It fosters age-appropriate confidence
and independence and increases safety. The introduction of the cane should
not be determined by age, but by a formal orientation and mobility evaluation.
By kindergarten, average cane users are able to walk with confidence and
understand and carry out proper cane etiquette in the presence of others
and in close quarters. The longer children go without the use of a cane,
the more likely they will develop inefficient adaptive strategies (such as
foot shuffling) and will view the cane as more stigmatizing than helpful.
Possible Responses for Parents/Advocates
- “We notice Anya walks with hesitancy and fear. She has also had a
few nasty bumps and falls. We think a cane would be a great help to her.
We would like to work together with you on helping Anya learn proper cane
use and become a more safe and confident traveler.”
- “We have read articles that talk about how much young children learn
when they can move independently and explore. The articles also suggest that
early cane use reduces fear and promotes motor development. We realize this
approach may be different from the way you were trained and represents another
point of view. However, we hope you are willing to consider this information
and to conduct an assessment before we make a definite decision.”
- “We are not only concerned that Gabriel move safely but we are also concerned
that she can get around like the other kids her age. How will the other kids
view her as an equal if they have to lead her everywhere?”
- “We understand that you were trained not to give a child Paulina’s age
a cane. However, we need to discuss what is right for Paulina. We think
she is ready for a cane and definitely needs one to move about safely on
her own. Instead of using pre-cane devices (such as push toys), we feel it
is more appropriate for Paulina to learn how to use a cane in different situations.
Of course, she will be expected to use it in a safe and appropriate manner.
We think it is important to work with an orientation and mobility specialist
to complete an appropriate assessment and determine how best to begin working
on her cane skills.”
Read the Law
Collabortive effort between the
National Center on Severe and Sensory Disabilities
and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
Copyright © 2008 National Center on Severe and Sensory Disabilities
Copyright © 2006 National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities
Permission to use for educational purposes granted.