How do you get from A to B when you can’t see? Part 2

When Cody was 3 years old, he started Orientation and Mobility lessons (O&M) with a certified and trained instructor.  It involves orientation – knowing where your body is in space and where you want to go, and mobility – how to get there safely, effectively and efficiently.  It teaches how to use your senses to become aware of what is around you, spatial concepts (objects continue to exist even when you don’t feel or hear them), searching skills, independent movement, sighted guide (when you hold on to somebody else’s elbow who can guide you), protective techniques (like using your arms as a bumper when you lean down to pick something up), and cane skills (how to use a long white cane).

O&M involves understanding what “left”, “right”, “behind”, “in front”, “around”, and other such words mean so they can be used to guide you.  It involves locating and using landmarks to help you figure out where you are.  Some landmarks Cody uses are pieces of furniture, changes in flooring, following the edge where the grass hits the pavement with his cane, trailing the walls to find a particular doorway or physical reminder of where he is,  stepping stones in the yard, etc.

He also uses audio landmarks like fans, music sources, the sound of traffic, and even more ambiguous sounds like changes in sound deflections.  This more complex form of audio cue is called echolocation.  Echolocation is also used by bats and marine animals. You give off a sound and by listening to how it deflects on objects around you, are given cues as to your environment.

There are some who use echolocation to ride bikes and skateboards completely blind.  It seems to be innate for those without vision, but can definitely be crafted and exercised to become increasingly effective.  Cody naturally uses echolocation regularly.  He often is chattering and singing to himself while he navigates around the house, outdoors at a park or in the yard.  He uses the deflections to give him information about what is around him.  We will be walking down the sidewalk along the side of the street when all of a sudden Cody reaches out when we pass a parked car. He can “hear” it as soon as we approach, it is amazing to me.  We will be in a new environment, walking towards a wall or even a short fence and Cody will anticipate it, I know this because he reaches out to find it as we draw near.  He can hear when we approach an empty space or when the wall ends.  I hope to find more sophisticated training in echolocation for Cody as he gets older.

Here Cody is mapping while he does his usual chattering for enjoyment as well as echolocation.  Cody maps areas by repeatedly walking along a route back and forth.  In this way he memorizes and fixes routes in his mind to recall for future.  He does this with or without his cane, at home, outside, in other peoples’ homes and at school.  Once he has learned a route he can navigate it very quickly and efficiently, sometimes even running!  See how he uses his left hand to trail the perimeter:

 

Here Cody is at his Orientation and Mobility lesson with his instructor at the new school he will be attending next year.  They go there already once or twice a week in order to prepare him for next year. He is here learning his route from his classroom to the curb where the school bus will drop him off and pick him up.  The instructor patiently lets Cody go at his own pace so he is independent.  She gives him small cues along the way.  He has been taught to move his cane from left to right in front of him as he walks.  Here he is learning how to find the edge of the grass in order to help him stay on the sidewalk and walk in the right direction.

 

Cody began learning to use his cane at 3 years old but it has taken many years to reach the level he is at today.  For many years he had no interest in the cane, he didn’t understand it’s power and relevance in his life.  It was only about 2 years ago that it really clicked, and he really understood how empowering it is and how it opens up his world, his independence, his ownership and control over his own mobility, enabling him to get from A to B.  Because, as Cody continues to teach me, it is not all or even mostly about the destination, but about how we get there that counts.

 

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Cody can walk with his cane independently but often likes to hold hands as well or hold your arm/elbow as he walks in unfamiliar places.

How do you get from A to B when you can’t see? Part 1

When Cody was a baby, he never crawled.  We knew it was important for development, so we tried various ways of getting him on his hands and feet in the crawling position (suspending him with a wide blanket across his middle while in crawling position) but he didn’t like it.  Of course, it is understandable why as a blind baby Cody would not crawl.  Crawling occupies his hands meaning he can’t use them to feel in front of him. Crawling leaves his head exposed and vulnerable to obstacles unseen.

He bum scooted though, and quite enjoyed it.

When he started walking at age 2 years and 5 months he walked with his arms and hands extended in front of him.  He was not taught this, it was instinct.  I wish I could find video of it to show you, he was amazing.  I could watch him walk forever, I was so enthralled by him. It took a long time of encouragement (sometimes forcing) before he understood and was motivated to walk.  Once he got it though, he was thrilled!

Another way he loved to get around was on ride-on cars and toys. These were brilliant!  He could sit down and use his feet to feel the ground and propel himself, while also being able to move as fast and bumpily as he could manage over curbs and through depressions and down little hills, all the while knowing that the ride-on toy would hit the obstacle before him – acting as a natural bumper.

This I have video of:

 

 

 

Oh my.  Those were wonderful moments.  Independence in movement, definitely an on-going learning challenge for Cody.  I am so grateful he has the opportunity to learn and grow in this area.

More to come!

P.S. 10 points if you can guess what song Cody’s singing in the second video! 🙂

Perceptions

“There are things known and there are things unknown and in between are the doors of perception” – Aldous Huxley

One by one we open these doors, learning about our world based on what we perceive through them as we make our way down the hall towards knowing.  The doors are many, and some need to be stepped through over and over.  I have heard and read over the years that 75%-90% of our learning as a child is through vision.  That means the vast majority of our perceptions, leading to our knowing, is due to what we see around us.

Cody’s perceptions, leading to his knowing and understanding, come from his senses of hearing, touching, tasting and smelling.  What a small sighted child first sees in one glimpse, will take repeated exposure and explanation, within context and with creativity and sometimes great difficulty before Cody will begin to grasp what this sighted child saw in that moment.  And even then, due to how Cody perceives, his understanding and knowledge will always be different…different in a way those of us with sight could never understand.  We as sighted people may never believe his understanding of a bird taking to flight, or the grandness and shape of a mountain, or the vastness of the sea could be adequate or complete without the benefit of sight, but then again…is there a “right” way to understand?  Is there a “right” way to perceive?

I showed Cody today how the rest of us were decorating Easter eggs. He was so excited to come to the table and help.  As soon as he felt the hard boiled egg, he started to become very upset.  When Cody is upset, he bounces up and down on his seat, bites his hand and screams.  Often this reaction means his expectations were not met and he is trying to regulate himself in order to deal with this dichotomy.  I always then mentally list the possible unmet expectations.  Often I don’t realize what it is until much later, or even another day.  It took me about 8 hours or so to figure out what it was today.  I realized I used the word “Easter egg”…”Cody, do you want to come help us decorate Easter eggs?”.  To Cody, “Easter egg” so far has really only meant one thing; the plastic pull apart colourful eggs you buy to be filled with candy and hidden during an Easter egg hunt. Therefore, to Cody, “Easter egg” means “chocolate or candy”.  Peeling the hard boiled egg and putting some salt on it to have him eat it did not help either…hard boiled egg and chocolate are really not comparable!

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With a battery operated beeper placed beside each large plastic egg to act as a sound cue, Cody was able to search around the backyard later and find his true “Easter eggs”!

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