Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pura Vida! Camp Abilities Costa Rica

Did everyone wonder where I went for the past couple of weeks? No worries, I am back and better than ever! I had the opportunity to go to Camp Abilities Costa Rica. Thank you everyone who supported that effort. It was one of the best things I have ever done both professionally and personally.

I honestly sit here and don't know where to exactly start. I love working with children with vision impairments anywhere but part of my heart now belongs to Costa Rica and to the students that I met there. I was reminded that culture is no barrier when it comes to loving teaching.

If you think I am going to sit here and tell you some sad story about a child who had nothing, you are reading the wrong blog! What I will blog about are the amazing student athletes I had the honor of teaching, the colleagues I learned from and the university physical education teachers I could serve with. Pura Vida!

Here's something that did blow me away: teaching soccer to children with vision impairments. I have never thought of teaching this sport before as I (mistakenly) believed it was a visual sport. In fact, as my Costa Rican university students were teaching me about it, I sat back skeptical. I am so happy to admit that I was wrong!! So, if you a soccer loving family that doesn't know how to integrate soccer into your child with a vision impairment's life, we need to talk!!

They did soccer for two days with small group rotations. Several of the students did have one-on-one teachers but they were all taught each skill of traditional soccer. They were taught to dribble, pass, hit with their heads and knees and shoot to score a goal. They even had a soccer game! I learned so much from this soccer experience that I am teaching soccer at my Camp Abilities in Connecticut this summer!!

*Another thing that made their soccer instruction more effective than mine in the states was the soccer ball they used. I have ordered traditional jingle bell soccer balls which are very hard to hear. They used a soccer ball that was made from a lightweight aluminum-type material with beans inside. The material was then covered by a traditional soccer ball covering. It made so much noise! I am getting the resource so I can order them. I will definitely share once I get it!!
The students who attended this program were so beautiful inside and out. I made several of them and the university physical education teachers pinky promise to keep in touch with me. There is something about a program like Camp Abilities that just binds people (even when you can barely speak the language--despite studying for months! My Spanish was....mostly understandable). I am so thankful to have spent the time I did in Costa Rica.

Now I will be honest about one thing that did make me feel a bit sad. There were a few things that made me sit back and think of how grateful we are in the States (not every State but at least mine) when it came to resources. One of the students who was almost 5'10 in height was using a ski pole for a cane. Several of the students didn't have roller ball tips at the ends of their canes (which makes sweeping a broken surface like just about every street in Costa Rica almost impossible). I learned that most of them had JAWS but never heard of a Braille note or other notetaker device. I learned that most of them are using a slate and stylus to take all of their notes. They have to purchase all of their equipment from the States. That made me sad especially when my students here in CT have so much.

So here's what I decided (no dwelling on the sad, let's make a solution!): I am collecting resources and in good condition technology and materials for my dear friends in Costa Rica. If you want to be part of this, email me (

This blog post doesn't do my love for Costa Rica any justice. I can't really articulate how much I loved being part of Camp Abilities Costa Rica.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Resource You Should Read, Save, Print, Use and Share!

I did my annual training of occupational therapists yesterday. It was a great workshop and one that I am always excited to do. I love working with occupational therapists. I feel like when we combine forces, we do super amazing things! I learned so much when I was a classroom deafblind teacher.

I invite my colleagues to come and participate in these workshops. One of my colleagues presented on multiple impairments. She shared a resource that I had forgotten about. The resource is a PDF from the Ohio Deafblind Project.
On their site,/, they have a wonderful PDF called "Hold Everything: Twenty “Stay-Put” Play Spaces For Infants, Preschoolers and Developmentally Young Children With Sensory Impairments and Other Special Needs". This is a FANTASTIC resource for children who are MIVI/DB and perhaps for several children who are ASD/VI.

My colleague had another great idea. This is one for the therapists. She printed out each page and laminated each one. She hole punched it, put it into a 3 ring binder and turned it into a book! This way she can show her teams the ideas.

Parents and members of the education team should take the time to read (save, print and use...) the materials from this PDF. It truly is a great resource. Each of the "stay put" play spaces are pretty easy to make and cheap. There truly is something for all abilities including children who may have limited upper body movements.

Do it at home: Parents, select a "stay put" place for your child. Discuss it with your TVI and make one (or two...) for your home. All of our children who are MIVI/DB & ASD/VI could benefit from having exposure to these kinds of activities. The most important thing to remember is to WAIT and BACK OFF when your child is in these activities. Remember, it may take several trials for your child to get used to the activity or notice that something is there. By backing off and being quiet, you are allowing your child to explore and become aware. This is an active characteristic (exploration) and one that we want developed for our children with these unique needs.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mobile Phone Accessibility

Hello blogland,
I was given this resource by my co-worker about mobile phone accessibility. I am not sure how it works or if it is all that it says to be. Side note: I will start blogging soon about my love affair with Apple products. They are pretty darn accessible for lots of our students (yes, even Braille readers!). I recently took a group of my students to Apple and we explored the new iPod, iPad and the iMac desktop. Details soon....

But this line I am not too versed in so if anyone reading this post is, please comment and fill me in!

Here's some more details about it:
Mobile speak is a program that has a text reader and enlarges print, so that visually impaired and blind people can text and use other features on their phones. Screen contents can also be presented in Braille if the mobile phone is connected to a Braille device with a refreshable Braille display. They have a list of phones that are compatible and I am pretty sure that AT&T has the best deal. Not sure about costs but thought it was a great resource for our students. Melissa uses it and she texts, downloads and listens to music on her phone.

I also saw that they have some free trials of software and that they have an award from AFB. They seem to have a pretty extensive line of products. I would love feedback on this. I am actually going to send this over to my student technologist and few of my Braille students and have them check this out, too. All of my print readers have figured out ways to text! They all text me pretty impressively :)

As soon as I find out more information, I will post it.