ROCKVILLE CENTER, NY (CBSNewYork) – A toddler’s world can mean endless movement.
But for the visually impaired, it can be a world of frightening obstacles that can ultimately affect the child’s development.
CBS2’s Jessica Moore shows how the gift of a special stick can change the lives of these young players.
Jorge Alcantarez is only 3 years old, and hopes the device will change his life. This is a special cane developed for children aged 1-5 years who are severely blind or visually impaired.
“Safety is all about learning,” said Dr. Grace Ambrose-Zaken, professor of navigation and mobility at Hunter College.
She is one of the developers of a toddler’s cane.
“When you feel safe, you build confidence in yourself, you start exploring nature, interacting with the world,” she said. “When they put it on, it immediately announced ‘clear path, go.’ Then it tells them ‘something’s in my way,’ I stop, I’ll be back, I’ll investigate. “
The cane, developed with City College, looks simple enough. There is a belt to hold toddlers in place and it’s lightweight for easy movement, not difficult for young children to use with traditional sticks.
“You may be born blind, but then you start not achieving. The first example is movement, conceptual language and social skills, ”says Ambrose-Zaken.
Jorge’s father is grateful that this important opportunity has been given to his son.
“I try the best for him. I pray every day. I have to be patient, ”he said.
The family is currently homeless and the cane has been donated. They cost $ 625, but are free to families in need. About 1,200 toddler sticks have been launched so far.
“Give the child a chance to be independent. Give them freedom. Give them the chance to live a life, ”said Tara Olson, an occupational therapist with the Blind & Blind Vision Service.
Olson says she sees a lot of promise in young Jorge to master the toddler stick.
“He needs the chance to have a better life,” said Jorge’s father.
And hopefully, with the new cane, the path will be a lot easier for this boy.
Donations help pay for canes for families who cannot afford them. Click here to learn more.