In Honor of White Cane Day 2016: What to Do When Your Child Refuses the Cane!

collage of children using white canes, and the slogan Keep Calm, It's Just a Cane

As the parent, family member, friend, or teacher of a child with a visual impairment, I’ll bet you feel enthusiastic over "White Cane Day" which we celebrate every October 15th. There’s something special about the cane, that’s for sure.

  1. We are proud of the youngster who has a visual impairment.

  2. We are excited about the white cane and the independence it represents.

  3. We are thankful for the protection the white cane offers.

Yes, white canes and White Cane Day have a way of invoking our emotions.

Your Child’s Emotions and the White Cane

School-age children and teens also have emotions stirred up over the white cane.

  1. They usually feel embarrassed at the attention the cane evokes.

  2. They usually feel it’s a nuisance because "they don’t need it."

  3. They usually feel angry because it symbolizes they are different.

If this describes your child, you are oh so not alone. Just listen to Allie, who has Peter’s Anomaly, describe her quite-unwanted cane.

What to Do When the Cane is Refused

So, what is the recommended approach when a child refuses to use his or her cane?

  • Ask why he or she doesn’t want to use the cane. Don’t tell him his reasons are silly or unsubstantiated; just listen and understand, putting yourself in his or her shoes.
  • Ask if he or she thinks there could be a good situation to use the cane.
  • Let your child know you will give him or her increased independence as cane use increases. (This is true of all parents and children. As children demonstrate consistent safe travel skills and road safety, they can play more independently.)
  • Introduce your child to others his age with visual impairments who also emotionally struggle to use the cane.
  • Introduce your child to others with visual impairments who understand the importance of cane use.
  • Allow your child to decorate the cane.
  • Have your child name the cane.

Lastly, as Joe Strechay described, you have to give your child room to fall. When a child or teen realizes it’s better to use the cane than run into objects or fall off a curb, he’ll be convinced a cane is a tool worth using…and celebrating!

What other recommendations would you add to the list? We’d love to hear.