Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Note: Staff members from the Camp Abilities CT program are providing their insight on learning about working with children with visual impairments.

I have had the opportunity to partake in my first camp abilities this week. Before this camp I have had no experience working with kids with vision impairment. Coming into the camp I had no idea what to expect. At first, I was very overwhelmed with understanding how the camp was structured, my responsibilities, and what the appropriate way to treat the campers and their impairments. Before the training session I received a briefing of the campers and the style of the camp from Robbin, the camp director. I felt that conversation was very helpful. I didn’t get a lot out of information initially out of it, but it allowed me to understand a lot more at the official training session.
I believe Camp Abilities Connecticut was a great place for me to have my first camp. The looseness of the camp fit in exactly to my personality. I am extremely easy going and fun loving. The flexibility of the camp fits in great by allowing me to jump around and see the different councilors in action and forming close relationships with the campers. A combination of the detailed training session and the ability to watch others allowed me to pick up the basics skills and knowledge to be a productive councilor. One thing in particular that really helped me out was the conversations after hours with my peers. Speaking about different experiences people have had and how they reacted to certain situations gave me valuable information to act accordingly in a leadership position.
I have noticed a couple of the difficulties of running a camp for children with vision impairment. One thing I noticed was the grouping of different levels each of the kids where at. The different levels caused some kids to become bored quickly, and other kids had a tough time to developing the necessary skills to play the game effectively. I think if the groups were formed with kids in similar skills would make the overall effectiveness of the camp increase. Another difficulty is the reliance the kids place on friendships with the councilors and not their peers. It was extremely helpful that the camp director brought this problem to our attention. It is clear that the majority of these kids have trouble with social interaction with other campers. Discussing this problem is an important step in maximizing each child’s experience. Councilors should encourage the kids to ask each other questions and put themselves out there is extremely important to help push the kids in forming relationships with their peers.
The camp was an amazing experience. Having a background in the corporate world the camp taught me how to have fun again. It taught that there is nothing that can hold you back. After seeing these kids face their fears and doing it without the ability to see opens one’s mind to all the possibility out in the world if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone. If someone would ask me to do another camp like this, I wouldn’t hesitate to accept.

Chris Bub

Chris is the staff member on the far left, back row.

Friday, August 20, 2010

First experience with visually impaired children

Note: Staff members from the Camp Abilities CT program are providing their insight on learning about working with children with visual impairments.

Hello everyone! This is Deirdre Burke, a first year volunteer counselor at Camp Abilities. This has truly been a life changing experience for me. The night before coming to camp I was really worried about coming, I laid in bed thinking about what if I said the wrong things? What if I wasn’t able to communicate effectively with the students? This was going to be my first time ever working with visually impaired kids and I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to help these kids and give them a great week. Looking back now I realize that I had nothing to worry about. From the second I got to camp I felt completely comfortable. These kids are some of the sweetest, kindhearted, friendliest, genuine, hardworking kids that I have ever met. Throughout the week I saw students accomplish goals, overcome fears, and make new friends. I thought that working with kids that had vision impairments would be incredibly difficult but in reality these kids are just kids, normal kids that just happen to have vision impairments. They might not be able to SEE everything that other kids can see but they can DO what all other kids can do. I made great relationships with the kids by teaching them how to swim, singing to "Party in the U.S.A.", climbing the ropes course, sleeping outside under the stars, playing goalball and beep baseball, and just hanging out in our bunks. I can't sit here and make it all seem like it was the easiest thing in the world. Yes, it was difficult at times. I had to take a step back and slow down. I needed to learn to have patience because certain tasks take more time for these students to complete. I had to become more detailed in the way I described things and in the directions I gave. I didn't even know how to give proper sighted guide at first (which in the beginning of the week I was calling guide sight, sight guided, etc.) Just a couple of days with these amazing kids has really changed me. I have decided that I want to work with vision impaired children for a career. I got so much satisfaction from working with these children and they have taught me more this week than I could have ever taught them. I'm looking forward to researching careers in the field and working with Robbin! Now I have to get out there and play some beep baseball with these crazy energetic kids! Wish me luck!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wii Downloads for children with vision impairments

This is a great resource for all of you video game lovers or sports enthusiasts!
This website provides information on how to download free assistive technology for blind users to play Wii Sports Tennis & Bowling. Just remember, you need your own Wii & Wii controllers.

Check it out at: http://www.vifit.org/

From the Students . . .

Hey everybody,

My name is Savannah, I am visually impaired and deaf. I am 17 and have never been to summer camp before, until this summer and lets just say.... I wish I had come sooner. I have very limited vision in my left eye and in my right I can see half a pizza... that how the doctors put it... of course that never stopped me!

Enough about me, lets talk about camp abilities. Robbin and I had met last month at the LIFE camp (another camp for the blind or visually impaired) I had a blast and at the end of the week Robbin asked if i would be a counselor in training (CIT) and i of course said yes right away... i had no idea what life had in store for me.

After some research and a million emails I knew what to look forward to and I am really happy that i did this! I finally made a commitment to be a CIT so that I could inspire, help and share my excitement with the little ones. To be honest... i love the responsibility and getting to know all the campers.

The basic job of the CIT is to be of any assistance possible. Assist the teachers, staff, other CITs and campers. We are to help them physically and mentally, either way... we are to be their for them. Who knew that someone with so many impairments could be so kind and helpful... Oh wait...I knew! I can do anything I want to do and so can the campers.

My impairments have yet to slow me down and this past week has really proved that. I so hope that I inspired everyone of these kids and taught them that they could do anything that they put their heart to! Camp abilities has inspired me and I hope that I inspire the campers. I also hope that I beat Robbin at soccer! :-)

Robbin better run this camp next summer, all who agree, say I!

Thank you, Savannah

The pictures show some of our Camp Abilities CT Counselors-in-Training, along with our camp photo.

Camp Abilities Connecticut is a sports camp program for children ages 10-14 who are blind or have low vision. This overnight camp experience introduces children to a variety of sports, including goalball, swimming, beep baseball, team building, and adventure-based activities. The purpose of the camp is to empower children to be physically active, improve athletes' overall health and wellness, encourage athletes to make food choices that support an active lifestyle, and develop athletes' confidence and self-esteem through sport and physical activity.

Do it at home: Check out the Camp Abilities CT website (www.campabilitiesct.org) for ideas for sports and for links to other Camp Abilities sites.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Family Ties

Note: Staff members from the Camp Abilities CT program are providing their insight on learning about working with children with visual impairments.

I was beyond amazed by the level of genuine interest on the part of families tonight at Camp Abilities Family Fun Night. Not only did parents, siblings, cousins, and grandparents show up, but they truly got the chance to experience the games that their blind or visually impaired children have been learning and enjoying all week long. The kids got to be the teachers, proving their sports prowess in games like Beep Baseball and Goal Ball by simply playing alongside their families to demonstrate their skills. This gave the campers the rare chance to be the eyes for their sighted parents, teaching them as the children had been taught earlier. As cliche as it may sound, this is the most rewarding situation that a counselor can experience. After working with these remarkably gifted children for a few days, I got to "see" their dreams come true. The concept of having family around sparked confidence in even the most timid of campers. Staff was eagerly introduced to family members, linking us to them, as we build a bridge between home and the camp experience.

~Amy, Camp Abilities counselor

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fun with mobility, part two

Here is another fun way for the whole family to be included on mobility skill development. Remember the game Twister? Twister is another great hidden treasure for devloping skills.

Here's how:
First, you will need the materials:
-A Twister game (I have also made a Twister without buying the game. I bought a shower curtain-type fabric from JoAnne Fabrics)
-Four different kinds of textures cut into the Twister circles. I have seen some people use the classic colors. I made mine based on textures so I have non-traditional colors like pink and orange).
-Hot glue (buy the industrial type of glue gun & glue).
-Braille labels & Perkins

Next, take your Twister board and put on the adaptations.

It is actually pretty simple once all the fabric has been cut. Once you have the circles, simply glue them onto the Twister board. Be sure to look for discriminating textures. I am showing examples of two different boards. Both boards follow the traditional Twister board colors.

You will also need to adapt the board. I included pictures of two different boards. You probably will have to adapt the spinner by bending it so it can pass over the Braille labels. You will also need to put a Braille label on each choice on the board. One of the boards pictured has a key that can be passed around to help students become familiar with the textures.

I am sure you might be wondering how playing Twister can help develop mobility skills. In a nutshell, games like Twister help children with directionality, spatial awareness, balance and it creates opportunities to learn about games that their peers play. The other bonus is that this is a great game for the whole family!

Do it at home: Make a Twister board together as a family. Plan a date to the fabric store. Ask your child to help with selecting discriminating textures. They can also make the Braille labels. Have a family game night!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fun with mobility, part one

Did you know that you can have fun with learning mobility skills? Any mobility instructor who works with children will tell you that games can be a valuable part of a lesson. I like to share games and fun activities with parents so you can see how you can work on mobility skills without it having to feel like work. Another bonus is that the games that I like to share are whole family activites. These are are things that everyone in the family can do. In fact, the more people playing, the more fun and the better the skill development can be!

One game that I like to play with my students is called Streets & Alleys. It's a game that I learned back when I was in grade school. It's a great game that teaches 90 degree turns and directions. I play it with my middle through high school students but I bet kids in primary grades can play it, too!

Here's how you play Streets & Alleys:
1. You need a large group of people to play this game. It's a great game to play with classrooms or at family reunion. 12 or more people is best.
2. Create the game board. You do this by making rows with the players. Players stand arms length apart. If you are playing with 12 players, you would make 4 rows of 3. The more rows, the better.

3.In the position where the players are standing side by side with their hands out is called the "streets" position.

4. Next, make the "alleys" position. Players make this by making a 90 degree turn to their right. The board should look the same as it did in "streets" just turned.

5. Now that you have the game board set up, you select the chaser and the chasee. This part is just like the classic game of tag where one person chases another. In Streets & Alleys, the chasee enters the "streets" and does their best to stay away from the chaser.

*You cannot run through the arms of the players. The players who are making the game board stand with their arms up as a guard rail. You cannot run through their arms,

6. The last thing you need is the caller. The caller is someone in the game board who calls the board to change from "streets" to "alleys" position. For example, you start with eveyone in "streets" position. The chasee starts running up and down the aisles (created by the players with their arms up). The chaser sets off to get the chasee. The caller can change the board at any time. It's kind of like a moving maze.

*I play this game with students of all vision levels. If the chasee is totally blind, we give them a guide to run with them. The same goes for the chaser. They can also be the caller because they are totally impartial!

I love playing this game with my students! The lovely ladies featured in the pictures are two of the best mobiity instructors I have ever had the pleasure of working with. The brunette is my best friend and co-worker, Jessica Eichfeld and the other lovely lady is also my co-worker, Terry Heyl.

Do it at home: Play Streets & Alleys!!