New device gives visually-impaired toddlers a chance to move - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

New device gives visually-impaired toddlers a chance to move

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(Photo: CBS) (Photo: CBS)

A new device is giving toddlers - who are visually impaired - a chance to move, explore, and learn with less fear and risk of falling.

For a visually impaired person, a cane is what gives them mobility and a measure of safety as they navigate the mostly unseen world around them.

However, toddlers don't have the physical dexterity or attention span to learn to use a cane effectively, so their exploration of the world around them becomes a bruising experience.

Not surprisingly, visually impaired toddlers become hesitant to move around.

"If you can't move around safely, you don't move and when you don't move, you stop learning.  It leads to language delays, motor delays, concept delays, and social skill delays," said Grace Ambrose-Zaken with Hunter College.

That was the case with little Lea Dunlap.  The three-and-a-half year old with beautiful blue eyes suffered a stroke right after birth that left her with very little vision.

"She looks sighted, but people don't understand that she could trip easily and doesn't really know where she's going," said Karen Dunlap, Lea's mother.

Too young to use a cane, but anxious to explore.  The solution?  A deceptively simple, ingenious device dubbed a toddler cane.

It has a waistband, so the child wears it right above the hips.  It's so lightweight even a toddler can easily maneuver it.

We watched as Lea took on the uneven sidewalks in Brooklyn.

Even more important than not falling is how the toddler cane helps children develop.

"Their language improves as they are less stressed out.  Their posture becomes more erect and they become more social.  It's reducing that stress of the unknown," Ambrose-Zaken added.

This  toddler cane is currently a prototype and the developers are still improving it. 

They are currently enrolling children 11 months and older with vision impairment in a study where kids would wear their canes as much as possible at home, at school, and in the community. 

For more information, you can CLICK HERE.

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