From the moment Eddie began to willingly carry the long white cane, he has been a bit confused about its purpose. Some days he carries it 2-3 inches above the ground, he may be seen swinging it like a flag, or even pounding it into the pavement like a club. The concept of “sweeping” is mainly used when verbally prompted to do so. Mostly, it’s this attachment to his arm that he knows to take whenever he leaves the house…but doesn’t seem to know why.
Before he was on his feet, we were taught to put items in his hand that would extend his reach into the environment. He was given wooden spoons, and similar items, and encouraged to reach out and tap objects or textures he wasn’t able to visually examine. As soon as he was walking, the cane was mandatory, and orientation and mobility (O&M) instruction really started moving along.
The thing with Eddie is that he does have pretty good travel vision. He looks out of the left corner of his eye, and his peripheral vision is pretty functional. He even has a red ball on the end of his cane that seems to attract his vision and we’re hoping will help with his cane skills. Eddie seems to rely on vision more than his cane, but he isn’t completely confident with his method.
For example, when he transfers from pavement to grass, he stops at the line of transition and will wait for somebody to grab his hand to move forward. He just started using his cane to tap the “new” ground, but still doesn’t rely on it to take that next step. Moments like this confirm that even though he isn’t using his cane exactly right just yet…he certainly needs it and needs to know how to use it.
Last week, he participated in an Easter Egg Hunt, which I’m sure many of your children did as well. There were sound sources (APH Sound Balls) placed next to piles of eggs, and the kids were encouraged to find each sound, and then select an egg from that pile. Eddie’s O&M teacher went with us, and even she was excited about his cane usage.
As soon as we exited the vehicle, Eddie started sweeping his cane on the sidewalk without any verbal prompting. It was almost like he knew he’d have to use that cane…so he better warm it up. Once we arrived near a pile of eggs, he used his cane to sweep the grass and locate the eggs. Once he heard the cane tip hit plastic, he bent over and picked up the egg. He was using the cane as an extension of himself…just like he’s supposed to do!
Even though he surprisingly wasn’t interested in the eggs or candy for long…and he only wanted to pick up each of the sound balls…he had a pretty good time. The whole event was worth the effort just to see him use his cane in a functional way. These glimpses of success open up more opportunities for his future. The better his cane usage…the greater his independence. Moving him towards more independence is my ultimate goal. Even brief events, like an egg hunt, will help him get there.