Motivating a Blind Toddler to Walk
Blind Babies May Walk Later
My blind toddler loved to explore, but she cruised for a year before being willing to let go of the furniture or the wall. She went everywhere, as long as there was something for her to hold onto. Getting her to the point of letting go was a huge challenge for her early intervention teachers and me. It finally happened when she was two-and-a-half years old.
She loved to cruise around the kitchen cabinets, crawl over to the island, cruise around that, then crawl over to the patio door. One day she discovered she could walk to the kitchen island from the patio door as long as she held onto the draperies. It was quite comical, and since I was getting ready to replace the drapes, I let her do it.
She used that technique of getting around for about a week, then one day she let go and walked from the door to the counter. She made it and was so excited! We had a huge celebration!
It is not unusual for blind children to take their first independent steps at age two or even three. The earlier they can walk, the more they can explore and learn about their world, so there are advantages to pushing this process along.
Here are some strategies you can use to help motivate your blind toddler to walk.
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Musical Baby Stroller - Great for Walking! Fun for Blind Toddlers!
Babies and toddlers with visual impairments will find this doll stroller fun! Not only is it very stable, it has a musical feature which blind children will enjoy.
Your child can push the toy around while the music plays. Your little one is sure to get many months of enjoyment and learning from this toy!
How to Determine if Your Blind Baby is Ready to Walk
Your child needs to have a strong body and good balance to walk. She will not be able to walk until her muscles and nervous system are developmentally ready. Here are some cues that your child is ready to walk.
If your baby is not yet doing these things, then provide many movement opportunities, such as dancing with your baby, carrying your baby in a sling, playing Row Your Boat, doing baby sit ups, tummy time, working on crawling and practice sitting up. If your baby seems delayed in these milestones, talk to your pediatrician or early intervention program. Your child may qualify for physical therapy to help get her ready for walking.
- She stands while holding your hands.
- She bounces while she is standing.
- She can stand without holding onto anything.
- She can rise to a standing position and get down without any help.
- She reaches for a dropped item on the floor while standing.
- She cruises around holding onto the wall, furniture or other objects.
Plenty of Walking Practice is Important for Blind Babies
Blind Children May Need More Time and More Practice Than Sighted Peers
Let your child practice walking while holding onto something. This builds the child's strength and gives her confidence.
When my daughter was learning to walk, we would take long walks with the stroller. Rather than ride in the stroller, my darling would walk along behind it and hold onto the basket while her dad or I would walk behind her and hold onto the stroller handle.
She also loved to push her highchair around in the kitchen. Fortunately, we had bought one with a wide base and a low center of gravity, so this worked great.
Provide your blind child with plenty of push toys, such as doll strollers, and preschool shopping carts. If the toy is too light and tips over, weight it down with books or canned foods.
Push Toys to Motivate Your Blind Baby to Walk
These push toys give your child practice walking while holding onto something.
Children Like to Walk Toward Something
Children are often motivated to walk toward something or someone. Blind children are no exception. My daughter's first steps were from my husband's hands to mine. This was six months before she took those steps across the kitchen floor! Try to set up situations where you baby can go from one person to another, or arrange for her to take a step to get to something she likes such as food, music or light. You can also line toys or interesting objects along a surface such as a table top or sofa to encourage your child to take steps and find them.
Toys to Motivate a Blind Toddler to Walk
There are many toys that appeal to blind toddlers. Look for toys that are multi-sensory in nature. An interesting texture encourages a blind baby to explore. Music and other sounds attract a blind baby and help teach cause and effect. Some toys have a scent quality which can be appealing as well. Try to involve many senses when it comes to your blind baby's play!
To use a toy as a motivator for walking, select a favorite toy that your child can see from some distance or use one with sound cues, such as a song that appeals to the child.
Practice Walking Outside
It is Important for Blind Children to Walk on Uneven Surfaces
As parents of blind children, we need to give our little ones lots of opportunities to explore the world. Often blind children walk inside buildings and on sidewalks, but get little experience walking on uneven surfaces such as grass, gravel, mulch, sand and other surfaces encountered in nature. This is important at every age, but it is especially true for babies, toddlers, and young children as they develop their sense of balance.
Your child also needs a lot of exercise to build her strength and fitness level in order to be able to walk. Often blind children develop low muscle tone which makes it hard for them to achieve their motor milestones. Lots of opportunities crawling, climbing, bouncing and swinging will help your child develop her strength and balance in order to walk independently.
A daily trip to the playground to play, walk on mulch and practice walking up the slide, across the swinging bridge and through the grass will benefit your young blind child tremendously.
Give Your Blind Toddler Bilateral Support
A blind child often feels insecure walking in open areas. It can be disorienting, and there is nothing there to grab if they lose their balance. Providing a blind baby with a place where she can get bilateral support can help motivate her to walk faster.
A good place to start is a narrow hallway where your child can grab the wall if she starts to fall in either direction. If the hallway is too wide, you can make it more narrow for her using boxes filled with books or plastic totes containing out-of-season clothes. Another possible location for this is the area between the sofa and the coffee table. Just be sure to cushion edges for those inevitable spills your baby is going to make.
Stop Bringing Things to Your Toddler
Make Your Blind Child Go Get Things
This can be hard for parents and grandparents, but when we do things for our blind children that they can do themselves, we participate in making them passive. Of course, it is easier for our children to stay in one place and have some sighted person bring them everything they need. Who would not want this kind of royal treatment?
The sad fact is, when we treat our children this way, we handicap them by making them into passive blind people who lack crucial life skills, have no confidence in their own abilities, and who wait for sighted people to take care of them. This behavior doesn't seem so bad when the child is two or three years old. When the child is eighteen or twenty we see just how horrifying it is when the young blind adult has an "I can't" attitude and lacks the skills to make his way independently in life.
When my daughter was a baby, I met a blind adult who had been treated this way her entire life. Although she was around 40 years old, her mother always took care of her and did everything for her. Very basic things she should have been able to do for herself, she could not. When her mother died she was utterly helpless and could not find her way from her chair to the door because she was so dependent on her mother., She did not know what to do except sit and cry, and wait for some sighted stranger to have pity on her, so that is what she did. It was horrifying to me as the mother of a young blind child, and I determined that I would not leave my daughter in this kind of situation.
It is still difficult to always make her do things independently. It is faster for me to do things for her or to help her do something rather than wait for her to struggle through, and often in life we are in a hurry. The school bus is here and she is trying to figure out which way her socks go. We are late for an appointment and she is taking the tiniest steps it seems possible to make. Allowing extra time helps, but I don't pretend that I always do this perfectly.
Make a rule of not doing for your blind toddler what he can do for himself. If it is time to eat, insist he come to the kitchen under his own power, whether that is crawling, walking or cruising. When he gets to the kitchen, if he is able to get himself into his chair, insist he do that. Let him do what he is capable of doing rather than mom doing it for him.
When you are going someplace with your child, do not carry him if he can walk. Do not put him in the stroller or the shopping cart. If he can walk, insist that he do it.
This can be difficult at first, because we get into the habit of doing things for our children when they are babies. Sighted children usually start declaring their independence around age 18 months and say, "I can do it myself." Blind toddlers often do not go through this stage and do not develop an "I can" attitude unless we make them.
Expect some loud protests from your blind child about these increased expectations. His protests arise from the fact that life is easier when Mom does all the work, as well as his belief that he is incapable of doing things for himself and is dependent on you to do for him. If you are consistent and let him know you have faith in his capabilities, he will develop a sense of his own mastery and ability that will serve him well throughout his life as a blind person.
One challenge for parents as they start implementing this rule in their child's life is, "How do I know if my child can do this task or not?" obviously, we do not want to be cruel and insist a child do something they are not capable of. The rule is: If your child has ever done it, he has the skill.
I am not talking about insisting your child walk if he has never taken his first steps. I am not talking about making your child walk from his bedroom if he has only ever taken a handful of steps from Mom's hands to Dad's hands. But, if your child can get off the sofa and get himself over to the television when he wants to hear better, then he can get off the sofa and get himself to the kitchen when his lunch is ready. If this is the case, then we need to insist he do it and not go pick him up because it is easier or because he cries and has a fit while waiting for us to do it for him.
Squeaky Shoes to Motivate Your Blind Toddler to Walk
Aren't these adorable?! I love them!
These squeaky shoes for toddlers may be all the motivation that your child needs to get moving. The shoes contain a tiny squeaker that makes a noise every time your child takes a step.
They were probably invented to help parents locate children who get away from them as soon as their back is turned. Parents of blind children do not usually have that problem! But, we do often have to work extra hard just to get our babies to move out into the world and explore.
Squeaky shoes very often will motivate a blind toddler to take steps, and before you know it your child might just get away from you when your back is turned. Yay!
Blind Babies Walking
The age when blind babies reach milestones such as walking varies widely, but if you ever had a question whether or not your blind child could become an independent traveler check out these videos!
More Information about Blind Toddlers Walking
- How to Teach My Blind Two Year Old to Walk
A message board at the American Federation of the Blind where parents share their experiences helping their blind children learn to walk.
- Orientation and Mobility for Babies | Wonderbaby.org
Wonderbaby has some terrific suggestions for Orientation and Mobility activities you can do with your baby, even before she begins walking. Be sure to check it out!
This Lens was Awarded a Purple Star on August 25, 2011
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© 2011 Frischy