Whether pushing a child in a stroller or wheelchair, there is an appropriate time and place for passively transporting a mobility-dependent student. Emergency evacuations such as fire or tornado drills are one example. Typically, adults are good at providing safe and passive transport at these times. However, if we over-provide this service at other times during a child's day we may be robbing him/her of multiple learning opportunities. Strategies to engage a student's interest, attention and participation are easily applied when we clearly understand the benefits of doing so. This document is intended to give parents and professionals ideas for turning passive transport into teachable moments, regardless of a child's developmental age/stage.
Principle: The ability to anticipate or predict what is about to happen to one's body is clearly a quality of life issue. The inability to anticipate is likely to keep a child in hyper-vigilant mode. This agitated state can be expressed through irritable behavior or can cause a child to shut down his/her sensory system altogether. Sleeping is one way to escape a fearful or unpredictable world. The ability to anticipate can be linked to psychological safety. Only psychologically safe environments or worlds motivate interest, attention, movement and participation.
Strategy: Use verbal, physical and object cues to communicate to a child that s/he is about to be handled or moved into or out of a stroller or wheelchair. Allow the child appropriate processing time before following through with adult action.
Example: a firm touch to both shoulders at once could indicate that an adult is about to pick up or reposition the child. While giving that physical cue, the adult says, "Up, up. I'm going to pick you up. Get ready. One...two....three..." Tell the child where s/he is being taken. Announce your arrival to the location.
Communicate to the child where you are taking him/her. Object cues can be used to represent an activity that takes place in a specific location. Example : When child recognizes a real object as a predictor or cue for a specific activity, use the object cue to communicate your intent to move the child to the location in which the activity takes place.
Refer to Calendar Systems Brochure.
Principle: Familiarization comes before orientation. As sensory experiences become familiar, they eventually lead to thinking about those experiences. As characteristics of space become familiar, concepts are developed.
Principle: "Joint attention" with influential care givers is what motivates children to participate and learn.
Principle: When the child is thinking, the child is learning. When the adult is thinking, the adult is learning.
The phenomenon in which a child is "here" and then is "there" with no expectations for processing the in-between is called the "travel fairy syndrome". When children do not process their movement through time and space, because they are under someone else's power, familiarization to the environment is thwarted. Without familiarization, orientation is impeded. Many children in wheelchairs and strollers experience the travel fairy daily. When we push them from one location to another passively, without engaging their brains, we are missing teachable moments.
Travel by stroller or wheelchair can be used to:
1.practice an object communication system
2.build tolerance / anticipation for movement and change
3.explore the environment through sound, smell, movement, touch, taste
4.reach out to touch things (use hand-under-hand rather than hand-over hand)
5.observe what your child is observing and providing a meaningful tactile experience with what has been observed
7.make choices; "We stopped. Do you want to GO?"
8.learn to identify common environmental features such as doors, doorknobs, door plates, walls, floors, trees, fire hydrants, etc.
9.reinforce / practice / teach "left", "right", "stop", "go", "wait" etc.
10.increase tactile exploration
11.use smell, wind, temperature, time-distance awareness as environmental cues
12.tactually orient to the environment; practice adaptive movement of the hands ie: open / close doors, turn knobs, push handles, push elevator buttons, engage/disengage wheelchair locks (if appropriate), hold something in her lap,
13.develop concepts as a result of being exposed to real objects
14.identify familiar sounds and notice unfamiliar sounds
15.listen for specific sounds
16.anticipate a shift in air current when turning a corner
17.use calendar or scheduling systems to promote spatiotemporal development and communication
When encouraging a blind child to use his/her hands for tactile exploration, use hand-under-hand rather than hand-over-hand as a way of inviting, but not forcing participation. Many blind children develop tactile defensiveness as a result of the way adults handle their hands.