Saturday, February 19, 2011

About pre-cane skills

What are pre-cane skills and how can I help?

Jessica Eichfeld, M.A., COMS

Orientation and Mobility Specialist

You don’t need to be an Orientation and Mobility Specialist to begin helping you child with O&M skills. As a parent/caregiver there are many skills that you can establish and practice with your child on a daily basis. In formal O&M training, the O&M Specialist typically teaches specific skills before placing a cane in a child’s hand. These are called pre-cane skills. These skills are trailing, protective techniques, purposeful movement and the use of a pre-cane. Let’s break these skills down into simpler terms:

Purposeful movement is basically having an end goal to a movement. Moving for a purpose! For example reaching out for a toy, a cup when they are thirsty, or their mother’s voice, all of these actions show purposeful movement. At a young age we are primarily motivated to move by sight. We see the world around us and we want to explore. It is extremely important that you teach your child that there is a world outside of themselves. Start simple! Use musical items as mobiles for infants. Use a favorite toy and place it at arms reach rather than handing the toy to your child, let them reach out to it, caution this may take some patience. Set up a blanket or rug on the floor and put the toy in a corner and have the child scoot or crawl towards the toy. Have a small basket of toys (only with a few items) in the living or family room in the same location. First time basket is set up there let your child explore the area and the items that are located near the basket. It is best to have the basket by some items that can be used as landmarks (something that is unique, permanent, and tells the child where they are) such as the couch or the corner in the room where the fuzzy rug is, for example. Let the child move towards that area freely. These are huge steps towards an independent little traveler.

Trailing is a technique that blind individuals use to help keep them orientated to their environments and helps them find certain locations and/or landmarks. The individual will glide their hand out in front of them along a wall or furniture. You can play a scavenger hunt where you put some items along the wall and your child has to find them and put in their “discovery basket.” Or you can place different textures for them to fell along the wall. Sticky tack works well for hanging objects and does not leave marks on the walls.

Protective Techniques or “safe hands” can be used when your child is walking in open space without a wall or furniture to trail. You want your child to hold their hands up in-front of them preferably protecting their head. Encourage your child to use “safe hands” when they are approaching an obstacle.

A Pre-cane can be a simple push toy, toy shopping cart or a hula hoop. The use of the pre-cane helps the child understand that walking with something in front of them protects them. That is a barrier between them and an obstacle that can hurt them. They will learn that when the pre-cane hits something they need to go around or move the object. You may see your child walk more confidently without holding a hand. This not only allows them more independence, but builds confidence in their abilities!


  1. Hi, I was wondering where I could find a pre cane for my daughter? One of the groups that come to our house to work with us and my daughter suggested we get one, but I don't know where to go. Please help. Thank you so much in advance!