Depth perception. For children with Albinism, one of the most difficult aspects of their visual impairments is depth perception.
Is the step up or down, or is there even a step at all? Is the tree two feet in front of me or two hundred?
In early childhood this causes difficulty when children learn to walk and cannot see steps or drop-offs when they encounter them so, instead, they stumble over or down them.
After watching Liam stumble down our ONE single step at our front door or at the ONE step at our back door, I knew that we would have to figure out a way to make the steps visible to him, or we were going to have more than a few smashed noses and scraped up hands. One step should be simple, what happens when he encounters several? Since the problem was seeing the steps all together, we decided if we could make the edge of each step stand out to his eyes we could teach him that there was a step there.
The first idea that struck us was duct tape.(Go figure right?)
Duct tape comes in many colors, some of which are neon colors which glow bright in any light. So we purchased a roll of neon green duct tape and used it to make the edges of the steps sharp to the eye. The first time Liam noticed it he stared at it in bewilderment for a long time, squatting down to touch it several times before deciding to proceed through the door. He had definitely noticed the tape, now all we had to do was coach him on how to step up and down the step like you would any normal toddler and hold his hand for assistance. “Step” we instruct every time he comes near it and he will pause and look down at the line, edging closer to it, and then carefully lift his foot to maneuver up it or down it. At first he would knock his toes into it gently feeling how high or low it went before moving down or up it. Then once he had memorized our steps he felt more confident in walking right over to it and stepping down it.
The bright green line tells him a step is coming when he is walking forward and where to stop. Now we don’t even have to warn him of the step because, as he approaches the line, he stops and looks for our hand to help steady him as he steps. It has helped tremendously to use this method at our house (and Gigi’s) to teach Liam that a step is present and for him to proceed with caution. Hopefully it will continue to protect him from his previous injuries he was getting from stumbling up our down the steps the old way.
If only all the steps everywhere could be lined and made this easy!
Here are some pictures of our improved steps, and our Superman trying them out.