[blindkid] introducing a cane

Rene Harrell rjharrell at gmail.com
Fri Jul 22 23:38:10 UTC 2011

My daughter was severely developmentally delayed (no communication, no
talking etc. etc.) when she was four as well. She came home via adoption at
4.5 and we put a cane in her hand about three months later. Our progression
was a slow but steady one. Our first step was to get her used to holding it.
I would put it in her hand, and she would just as quickly drop it on the
ground. I would calmly and cheerfully pick it right back up and put it right
back in her hand. She would drop it again, I would pick it up again.... you
get the point *wink. This went on for months. I didn't stress about it, but
I didn't give up either. I just figured that just as water eventually carves
a canyon through rock, eventually she would grasp the point that she needed
to hold her cane....and low and behold, she did start to take it and hold it
when I gave it to her.

The next challenge was dragging. She would hold it and then just let it drag
behind her. Once she was consistent on holding it, then I started to address
the dragging with a simple "Cane in front Clare!" as I repositioned her cane
in front of her. We repeated the same cycle that we did to get her to hold
her in cane at all, with her dragging it and me saying every few minutes
"Cane in front!".

Then when it was in front of her, she wouldn't touch it to the ground. We
did switch to a heavier cane in order to encourage her to keep encouraging
her to touch to the ground, and it did work.

Really, Clare's biggest leap in cane skills was only when she had the
cognitive ability to figure out "Hey, this thing is pretty useful!" She
needed to make that leap on her own. I did everything possible to put her in
the position of having the opportunity to figure that out by making sure she
had a cane and it was in a position to be useful, but until she had that
lightbulb moment, she really was just going through the motions. I wish,
wish wish I could remember exactly how old she was when she made that leap,
but I think she was around six. I remember very vividly when she did so----
she was deliberately using her cane to try and figure out a flight of stairs
in front of her. I was thrilled. From that point on, I had to do a lot less
cajoling, though she definitely still has technique issues.

And I will fully admit, in the beginning, we had a lot of swinging the cane
up in the air (especially when angry, and then it would hit me right in the
face when I was least expecting it!), and a lot of passive resistence,
not to mention mouthing and all kinds of inappropriate behaviors, but I am
glad we persisted. Clare was not going to magically realize that a cane was
useful unless she had concrete experience that proved it was useful for her.
She wasn't going to get that concrete experience without having a cane in
her hand. It wasn't all pretty and it certainly wasn't textbook perfect by
any means, but over time it absolutely proved a positive benefit for her.

Truthfully, I wouldn't worry about what type of cane right now. The whole
purpose is work on the most basic cane skills--- holding a cane, putting it
in front of you etc. etc. We were able to switch Clare to an NFB cane full
time without any issue once she was really using it for its functionality.

Good luck!
Rene H.
On Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 10:09 AM, Susan Vorsanger <svorsanger at yahoo.com>wrote:

> Hi, I know many of you have had much experience with kids & cane use...  My
> son is almost four but severely developmentally delayed (no talking, very
> limited communication).  At my strong encouragement his O&M instructor is
> going to start working with him with a cane.  (Some background:  I have
> tried for a loooong time to gently introduce him to an NFB cane, but so far
> he’s shown no interest at all & only wants to put it in his mouth).  I was
> wondering if some of you had any thoughts about the following:
> -          His O&M instructor strongly recommends a cane that comes up to
> his chest, but I know the NFB canes are longer.  Can someone tell me again
> what the rationale is for the longer length?  Do you think there would be
> any harm to starting him out with a shorter length?
> -          She wants him to use a cane with a ball on the end so it doesn’t
> get stuck.   Do you think there would be any harm to trying this kind for a
> while since I haven’t had luck with the other cane yet?
> I am really glad to have some help encouraging my son to use a cane, but I
> want to make sure we’re taking the best approach possible.    Thanks! --
> Susan
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