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Motivating a Blind Toddler to Walk

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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.

Photo property of the author. All rights reserved.

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.

  1. She stands while holding your hands.
  2. She bounces while she is standing.
  3. She can stand without holding onto anything.
  4. She can rise to a standing position and get down without any help.
  5. She reaches for a dropped item on the floor while standing.
  6. She cruises around holding onto the wall, furniture or other objects.
Give your blind baby plenty of practice walking while holding onto something.

Give your blind baby plenty of practice walking while holding onto something.

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

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

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.

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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.

Blind toddlers need opportunities to walk on uneven surfaces

Blind toddlers need opportunities to walk on uneven surfaces

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.

Blind children may enjoy walking with bilateral support.

Blind children may enjoy walking with bilateral support.

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.

Prepare for your blind toddler to be upset when you insist she walk and do other tasks independently.

Prepare for your blind toddler to be upset when you insist she walk and do other tasks independently.

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

Thank you for stopping by! I hope you found some helpful information. I love to receive comments, suggestions, tips and questions. You do not need to register with Squidoo to leave a comment on any of my lenses.

© 2011 Frischy

Please Leave a Comment - Do you have a tip for helping motivate a blind toddler to walk?

gottaloveit2 on December 19, 2012:

Excellent article. A must read for anyone with a blind child. I hope you post this on bulletin boards to find people who need this information.

MaggiePowell on May 17, 2012:

0h wow...I remember that cruising stage...and then the walking. Must have been so special to see your daughter take independent steps.

grannysage on May 17, 2012:

Incredible advice for parents who are raising a blind child. I must admit I would not have thought of doing these extra things to encourage independence. Great lens.

andreaberrios lm on May 17, 2012:

Beautiful lens and beautiful girl!! Blessed*

AngryBaker on January 31, 2012:

love the squeaky shoe trick!

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on January 31, 2012:

Back to visit again...liked it the last time before i was an angel...Now I'm giving it a blessing. You're a terrific Mom!

Johanna Eisler on January 27, 2012:

I would like to give huge hugs and the highest of praises to the wonderful parents, grandparents, siblings, hospital staff, and all who teach blind toddlers to walk. The words you wrote were so enlightening - but the videos provide the real education and go straight to the heart. There we can see the precious little ones learning to navigate the world safely and independently, and we hear the voices, encouragement, teaching, and love of those who help them gain that independence!

How I wish I could like this more than once! You truly deserve to be on the front page!

hirephp lm on January 27, 2012:

wonderful it's a very very motivated lens thanks for sharing good job

Liajoe on January 27, 2012:

Hello Frischy, very inspiring and motivating, you must be very proud of yourself and your daughter. Thank you so much for sharing!!

sheezie77 on January 27, 2012:

Very nice lens! thank you for sharing!

nikyweber on January 27, 2012:

awesome lens! Squidlike!

Julia Morais on January 27, 2012:

Wonderful and inspiring lens. Now I know why some blind adults seem so confident about getting around, while others don't move till someone holds their hand.

writerkath on January 26, 2012:

Hi Frischy! How incredibly motivating and inspiring! I am so glad that you have taken the time to develop this lens - terrific resources, along with support for any parent who may need to help a child who is blind learn to navigate the world.

I know this sounds awfully naïve, but I truly had not really thought about the challenges that a blind child might have in learning to walk! The videos that you shared are uplifting, and will surely help others!

I love your energy and passion. I wish I could "Like" this page and Bless it a hundred times... Lots of hugs to you! :) Kath

WhitU4ever on January 26, 2012:

What a wonderful lens! I know it is not the same, but I have a horse that is blind in one eye. He is was shy of turning in the direction of his blind eye until working with him. He has since learned to trust my leading and doesn't flinch as long as he can hear what is coming. Your story sounds similar, and I am amazed at your dedication to this topic. Thanks for sharing your story!

anonymous on January 25, 2012:

Returning to congratulate you on receiving front page honors on this beautiful page, wish I could bless it again!

RazzbarryBreeze on January 25, 2012:

I also am amazed at your daughter's success. What a beautiful lens... Thank you for your story.

Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on January 23, 2012:

Please add my congratulations to those of others in having your lens featured on the front page. I often wondered how blind babies could be taught and I really enjoyed the videos showing this. Thank you.

Angel blessed.

jseven lm on January 23, 2012:

Congrats on the front page! Well deserved subject for the front page and angel blessed!

megabu717 on January 23, 2012:

Impressed by your sweet daughter, your parent love and your great lens.

Wonderful job. All the best.

Tamara14 on January 23, 2012:

I truly admire your strength and parenting accomplishments and I thank you for sharing that with the rest of us in such an excellent way. Your daughter is blessed with a parent like you. And this lens is blessed by a Squid Angel :)

djroll on January 23, 2012:

I never gave much thought to a blind person needing to learn to walk independently. Thank you for this insightful lens. Among other things in your lens, I was impressed with the shoes that encourage children to walk.

MariePalmer LM on January 14, 2012:

Great lens, children with disabilities are only differently-abled.

Marina K on January 14, 2012:

This lens was very interesting and informative. I haven't had any contact with blind people, but I've learned a lot from your lens!

DeclutterDiary on January 13, 2012:

You have a huge task but love manages to sustain us through our difficulties. You've got all the best information -- I love the squeaky shoes idea!

anonymous on December 05, 2011:

You have expanded my heart even more by this very loving and caring lens. Bless your big heart of gold.

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on August 30, 2011:

What you shared is so important. I would not want anyone to suffer for lack of having gained the independent living skills that bring such a sense of confidence. I learned a great deal here. Thank you.

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on August 25, 2011:

I just want to say your daughter is beautiful, and you are a great Mom for having the patience and knowledge to help your child become independent. Congratulations on the purple star...and your blessings, they are well deserved!

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on August 25, 2011:

Very informative! This is good information for parents of blind children.

Monika Weise from Indianapolis, IN USA on August 25, 2011:

What inspriational children! I really enjoyed this lens.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on August 12, 2011:

Back with a blessing for this very helpful web page. It will be featured on You've Been Blessed.

hsschulte on July 30, 2011:

You do have excellent advice on parenting children who are blind.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on July 17, 2011:

Thank you for smoothing the way for other parents and blind children. Your experiences are valuable and well-expressed.

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