I broke my ankle this week. Just a slip on the ice and gravity did the rest. I am using crutches to get around, and am doing pretty well, but what annoys me is this: while I am up on my crutches, I can’t use my hands, and so can’t carry anything. I never noticed before how much carrying of things I typically do. I carry the newspaper into the house, I carry the coffee to the desk, I carry my book to my couch. I think maybe I typically carry and walk more often than I just walk.
Coincidentally, while I am obsessed with carrying things and how hard it is to do so right now, I had a call from a PT who said that the child she supports needs a communication device that he can carry independently. Let me clarify: The PT wants the child to carry and use the communication device simultaneously and independently. That is her top priority. The child is three years old and has a fairly unsteady gait.
Let’s think about young children and carrying. I can park outside of my neighborhood elementary school and watch as kids walk in every morning. About a fourth of the young ones have a parent with them, carrying a lunchbox, or a backpack, or an art project. Another fourth of them are pulling rolling backpacks. The remaining half have regular backpacks. Exactly none of them are walking and carrying something. Are we holding the child who uses a communication device to a higher standard than all of the other children?
I wish that I could use my crutches and carry something at the same time, but I can’t, so I am using the supports available to me. I have learned to sling a bag over my shoulder with the newspaper or the granola bar. I can ask someone to bring me the coffee, or the newspaper, or the whatever. I currently have special needs, and am using accommodations. It is okay.
Back to the child that the PT called me about. I personally think that greater harm can come from not providing appropriate communication supports than can come from this child’s lack of independence in walking and carrying and talking all at once. These options all make sense to me:
- A person (parent, educational assistant, teacher, peer) can provide support by carrying the device and putting it where it can be used. For a child on the floor, the device can be on the floor. For a child at a desk, let’s put it on the desk.
- A rolling backpack can provide independence if it is manageable. And the child can have a signal or symbol to use to ask for assistance in removing the device from the backpack if needed.
- In the long term, we can set a goal for greater independence if that is important to the stakeholders. In the short term, let’s provide a communication device of the highest caliber for communication right now.