I love having mobility training every week. It's something I've needed for years. I had to fight for this for a long time. I'm getting the training now and it's going quite well.
I've been trying to work out a route I can walk in my neighborhood for a little exercise. The "L" path turned out to be too much to start with. It's time to take a step back. I need to slow down and do just a little at a time.
This week, I've been practicing walking down the one street in front of my home. It's the shorter of the two street. There are only two driveways to cross. The good news is that I can do it to make it down to the corner. That's something to celebrate. The bad news is that I can't seem to make it back to my house again.
Oh, I almost get there. It's the neighbor's driveway that messes me up every time - but only on the way back. Either I end up exploring to his house or almost walking out into the street. One time I hit his car. It's bewildering to always mess up in the same spot. If I can make it across going to the corner, I should be able to make it across coming back. Yet it never works.
Today's goal for my mobility lesson was to identify the problem and brain storm to solve it. As I waited for the interpreter to arrive, my teacher went out to examine the driveway in question. She even took my white cane with her so she could approach the area as I would feel it with the cane.
We came up with two things. First, the lip of the driveway is a bit easier to feel on the outer part closer to the street. This could explain why I can follow it while going one way but not the other. We tested the theory. I used my cane to follow the outer lip on the left while coming back home. I still got messed up.
That's when we figured out the second part of the problem. After I cross a driveway, I feel for a line of grass on both sides. That tells me I've found the sidewalk. I can proceed without worrying about wandering into the street. But lo and behold, there's only grass on one side of where this driveway ends. There is a little dirt area and a walkway up to the house. No matter how much I scan, I won't find grass on that side because there isn't any.
I think I've been crossing the driveway on track, or nearly so. But when I can't find grass on both sides, I assume I'm off and begin searching. That leads me to becoming totally lost. Understanding the nature of the problem helps me come up with a solution.
I try to follow the more pronounced lip on the outer part of the driveway. It is so subtle, though. It's hard to stay with it. My teacher told me if I lose the lip, I need to stop at once and find it again. Most of the time, I don't realize I lost it. I still think I'm following it but I'm not.
One time I made it across without losing the lip. I barely moved my cane to the right. I kept it right over the crack as I walked. It got me across but it's not a good strategy. When I do that, I'm not scanning across my body. I could walk into something or trip over the neighbor boy's bike. It's too dangerous to move forward without properly scanning the entire area.
I worked on it more. I just have to practice to stay with the lip and recognize if I lose it. I'm doing better with it. I also identified a distinct landmark right before the grass line starts that will help me know I really am approaching the sidewalk. It's just a bump where the driveway lip is a little uneven. It's not much but it's a reliable clue.
I got to test that theory in practice. We stopped to talk just after I crossed the driveway. Talking is a tricky situation. It's a distraction that makes it easy to lose sight of your location. After talking for a few minutes, I set off to walk again and realized I didn't know exactly where I was. I had turned my body around some and wasn't sure which way was forward anymore.
"Wait!," I cried, before anyone could try to help me. I felt around with my cane until I found a line of grass. Was it the right area that led to the sidewalk or would it take me out to the street? I moved my cane to the pavement until I felt that bump. I was then able to get onto the sidewalk and walk back to my home with no trouble at all.
As part of this mobility lesson, we also talked about different types of canes and tips. I've been using what is called a marshmallow tip on my cane. My teacher let me try a bull dog tip and a rolling tip and showed me a ball tip. I liked the rolling tip. It gives me more sensitivity about the structure of the ground below me and it moves well. We decided I need a new cane that is a little longer. My teacher left me a cane to practice with and she will order me a new one.
So, it was a good mobility session today. Next week we will tackle the rest of the "L." That sidewalk is longer with five driveways to cross and some gravel. I always love a good challenge. Bring it on!