Considerations for Cane Travel

Written by   Joe Cutter

Concept of Tool
Implement used to accomplish a task, usually hand held (spoon, scoop, shovel, push toy, hula hoop, cane, etc.).

Protective and detective device that facilitates movement. Types include long canes, support canes, and folding canes.

When Do I Start?
1. When the child has a sense of his or her own body in space and is ambulatory (adaptations can be made for non-ambulatory children).

2. When the parents are supportive of the child moving in larger spaces with this adaptive tool.

3. When the child's safety, efficiency, and confidence will be facilitated, as well as his/her quality of movement.

Family decision, with the central question being: Will the child's independent movement be increased (facilitated) by the cane?

Consult OT and PT 
When consultation is needed, information gained from these professionals will assist the 0&M instructor with teaching proper positioning and handling for that specific child. (Often dependent upon child's muscle tone, balance, fluency of motor movements, and wherever their source of control for using the cane is.)

What to Expect from the Child
Initially, movements of the cane and body will be exaggerated until practice makes for more effective motor schemes. Children typically want to check out what the cane is hitting by using their hands. A change in cane position demands a change in thought. The child's age and stage of development—as well as the parents' expectations—will drive the curiosity, purposeful use, and skill proficiency with the cane.

Characteristics of the Cane: What Can It Do? 
The cane is a tool that performs many functions. It can inform, explore, inspect, detect, protect, and, most of all, facilitate getting to know and moving in the world. To illustrate, the cane is more than a "windshield wiper" on the world. It is the "steering wheel" that can be manipulated to where the traveller wants to go. It is "headlights" giving preview of what's ahead. It is the "bumper" protecting from unexpected encounters. It is the "antennae" receiving resonance information from the sound space world. It is the "tires," adjusting to the terrain and providing a smoother, more stable "ride." And it is the "sideview mirror" giving peripheral protection, whenever the traveller needs to circumvent an object. Like the car, the cane is as effective as the "driver," who is vulnerable to speeding and must obey the laws of the road. But mostly the cane gets you where you want to go.

This fun analogy was used to punctuate the varied uses of the cane.

Thinking of fun, what child is not fascinated by a "stick?" It "connects" the child to the ground in a way that is fun. When walking, it seems natural to hold a stick and "touch the world." Therefore, it is the most natural thing for the blind child to be using a cane.

Additional Info

  • Topic: Cane Travel and Mobility
  • Age Group: Early Years