Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Looking to the Future: What Do Young Blind Children Learn When Traveling with Dogs?

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Looking to the Future: What Do Young Blind Children Learn When Traveling with Dogs?

Article excerpt

Each day in our professional practice, new questions arise. Many of us easily answer many of these questions based on our past experiences: we may consider what worked with other students or clients or remember what we were told in a professional training program many years ago. Sometimes our questions are outside the scope of our experiences, and we need to ask colleagues what they think, or we look for an answer in a journal, or on a blog or web site. Once in a while, a question arises that is truly innovative, and neither colleagues nor professional literature yield a solution. It is at this point that the professional becomes a researcher, and the result is action research that uses real experiences to gather information to answer an unknown question.

This feature of Practice Perspectives offers an action research project that helps us better understand the developmental and cognitive skills that may enable young children to effectively use dogs as travel companions. Author Mary Tellefson is careful to distinguish her project from the independent use of dog guides by adults. It is logical to believe, however, that early exposure to dogs as travel companions in a project like this one might help children understand that dogs with harnesses can help people travel, and that such projects may encourage families to consider whether dogs might be appropriate options for their children when they are mature enough to travel independently.

During a closely supervised, 30-minute "harness walk," seven parents walked with their blind child along a structured course. In most cases, the children also used a cane for travel during the walk. Families were prepared in advance to observe their child's reactions and to consider the advantages and disadvantages of using a dog while walking. …

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