When my daughter was born, I decided to use a front facing pack to carry her around. They are great for many reasons, and my husband and I have vowed to by all our friends the Baby Bjorn as we absolutely love that one particularly. Unfortunately, my daughter has out grown it now and we’re looking into a back pack for carrying her around in addition to the stroller. WE liked the aspect of being able to hold her close to us, and how the pack allowed her to experience a lot of physical movement and be more a part of the environment than a stroller ride does. AS blind parents, these front baby carrying packs are great too as they allow us to carry her and use a cane easily and get on and off public transportation a little easier than with a stroller. Anyway, given the fact that I’m always thinking like a teacher, I had a little epiphany when I started using one with my daughter as an infant. So, here are some benefits I’ve thought up as to how a front carrying pack could be beneficial for use with blind babies. (By the way, This idea applies to any of the carrying packs, slings, or wraps on the market which hold your child in an upright position.)
1. Provides Movement and Stimulation
As I mentioned, one of the benefits of these carrying packs is that your child can feel the sensation of movement as they move with you. This provides them with a lot of stimulation which is always great for any baby, but can be particularly good for your blind child since they get less stimulation in a sense because they are not experiencing visual stimulation.
2. Provides an Opportunity for Parent Verbalization and Concept Teaching
If your child is riding on your chest, you may be more likely to talk to them than if they are riding in a stroller or sitting in a swing or bouncy seat across the room from you. There is a great deal of research on how important parents talking to their children from an early age is. It helps so much in language development, and overall brain development. While you are carrying your child, you can describe for them what is going on around you. Since your child cannot take in the environment around them visually, they need you to tell them what is going on around them and to describe things to them. You may be thinking, “What good is this going to do for an infant?” But, I really believe this can be a valuable thing for your child even from an early age. This practice can help your child to start making connections between things they feel, smells around them, sounds they hear, and words you use. There are so many great examples of this which I want to share, but I’ll save them for another time.
3. Provides a great Method for Early cane Exploration
I’m a fan of some of the teachings of Joe Cutter, an orientation and mobility specialist who specializes in pediatric O and M. He wroete a book entitled “The Teaching Cane” which I highly recommend parents of young blind children read. The idea for this is that parents (referring to sighted parents mostly) get an adult size cane which they can use to role model techniques for their child. One of Cutter’s suggestions with a teaching cane is that parents can hold the cane while their child walks between their legs and holds on to the lower part of the parent’s cane. This way, the child can feel the cane as it is manipulated by the parent and experience the feedback the cane gives from the environment. Then, later the child can practice these things with his or her own child size cane. . (I will refer to the idea of the teaching cane more in future posts.) I really like this idea and think it could start even before a child can walk. A parent could carry his/her child in a carrying pack while walking around the home or neighborhood with their own adult size cane. While doing so, the parent could place the child’s hand on the cane handle from time to time as they walked. I think facing outward would be best as it simulates the most natural position for using a cane, but even if a child was facing you’re chest, you could still put their hand on the cane handel from time to time to allow them to feel its motion and the feedback from the cane tip. My daughter started grabbing onto my cane Handel from a very early age. She loves canes and always wants to grab them and play with them. Once she was bigger and I started carrying her facing out,(about six months or so) it was a lot easier to show her things with my cane and I would let her tap it and swing it from time to time when we were playing. She really enjoys doing this and now plays with a cane her own size in much the same way.
Like I said above, this was just an idea I got one day while using my own cane and carrying my daughter around, so I don’t really have any great anecdotal info to back it up, but the concept has merit. I’d really be interested in hearing your feedback on what you think and if any of you have or will try this.