Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Play Tray Find

Have you read my posts on using a play tray for activities? Hope so! I love using play trays both for work and at home with my preschool-age kids. They are great for kiddos with vision impairments because they provide a defined work space. It is usually one of the first things I recommend as an accommodation for working on ECC skills. Working on trays help our kids set up their work space, understand the boundaries/orientation/spatial aspects of their work space and can provide contrast or a focal point to help with working on a task.

I also use them at home with my kids at home to contain the little pieces to items like Polly Pocket or messy things like Play Doh play. We have them in different sizes, colors and even textures! I love to use metal cookie sheets with magnet play (buy small personal ones from Dollar Tree!).

Recently, on one of my many cruises into JoAnn Fabrics, I came across these trays in the summer seasonal section. I loved these particular trays! They were unique because they were much longer than the common tray that I usually find. Plus, they have this interesting texture on them that is good enough to notice but not too much that it is distracting. I bought two--one for each of my kids. I loved the red one because right away my CVI light went off. I also liked the edging on these because they had some curve to them.

The price of these trays are $7.99 (not bad at all!) but as with most things in the seasonal section at JoAnn's, they were on sale 50% off (even better!!). These particular trays are great because they are deep enough to provide a good boundary line. See picture above--I could roll that light up bounce ball back and force without it skipping too easily over the edge.

My kids were more than happy to help me with providing visuals for this post!
You can also get an idea of the length & width of them
(especially since they cover up most of my 3 1/2 year old son!)

There are work trays available from educational providers like APH. They produce a standard work tray in yellow or black. I like to cruise IKEA and Dollar Tree to find some that are commercially available. Remember, it's not about where you buy them, it's about their function. Get creative and look for some in different sizes or that are unique. You can also put some Dycem or grip liner (also available at Dollar Tree) on them to help with keeping things in place if you are teaching a DLS skill like cutting or a task in OT.

I will post later about some great skills you can do with standard work trays as well as some trays that are produced from APH. But until then, find your child a good work tray and have some fun!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

ECC Resource for Self-determination Skills


Here's a pretty good resource from our friends over at TSBVI. This resource is the Empowered Curriculum. You can order it from TSBVI at http://www.tsbvi.edu/curriculum-a-publications/3/1029-empowered-an-activity-based-self-determination-curriculum-for-vi-students#toc.

What is it? Here's an excerpt (from the TSBVI website)--
At the heart of everything we want to teach our students lies a set of skills that helps them become successful members of our communities. Self-determination instruction is part of this set of skills, and is based on the premise that students must acquire specific knowledge and skills and have many opportunities to practice them. Self-determination involves knowledge of self and others, decision-making, problem solving, goal setting, personal advocacy, self-control and knowledge of how to interact with the environment to achieve desired outcomes.

The emergence of self-determination as a concept all its own allows us to target the specific skills that must be taught. Since students with visual impairments must often be explicitly taught skills before they can use them spontaneously, the Empowered curriculum, comprised of an Introduction and 23 Units, has been developed to guide the instruction of Self-determination skills. Also included is a disc that can used for making large print or embossed copies of the student activities.

Why self-determination?
As with all the components of the ECC, self-determination is one of those skills that develops best through experience and role plays. I learned at a social skills conference from well-known educator, Dr. Sharon Sacks, that "students who volunteer in middle school and high school were more successful at employment." Children with severe vision impairments need to expand their understanding how the world works. They need to understand that they are contributing members of their families and communities. This is an active skill to develop.

Parents, reach out to your TVIs and ask them for guidance for teaching this important skill. This is not just another thing your child has to learn. This is a vital concept! We want our kids to be internally motivated, have the skills to initiate, problem solve their own problems and be empowered to live independent.

I really like this line from the TSBVI excerpt of The Empowered Curriculum, "Self-determination involves knowledge of self and others, decision-making, problem solving, goal setting, personal advocacy, self-control and knowledge of how to interact with the environment to achieve desired outcomes." Parents, read this quote a few times and let it sink in. Many of my parents know that this skill should be developed but get lost as to how, what and where it fits in their child's life.

Need a few quick ways to provide opportunities for self-determination:
*Volunteer (even the preschool age kids can get in on this). Volunteering helps expand their knowledge of self and others.
*Problem solving: LET YOUR CHILD FIGURE PROBLEMS OUT ON THEIR OWN! I know I used all caps on this one but it's because I mean it! No immediate rescuing!! Teach appropriate question words (they need to be specific when requesting help). Let them try something and fail (it's the only way they are going to know that something doesn't work). And most important, parents and education teams, give them time to process their choices! Remember that vision is instant so immediately you and I can determine if what we see isn't right. Our students need to touch and tactually evaluate what they are doing. Get what I'm saying? I get fired up on this one :)
*Goal setting: Exactly what it sounds like! Set some goals: fitness goals, chores, homework, family goals, individual goals!
*Non-verbal emotion gauge--I do this with my quiet Braille readers at meal times. I do it when we are all sitting at the table. I ask them before I initiate the conversation, "what's the emotional climate of the table?" They answer and tell me what they think people are feeling and if it's okay to start a conversation. We point out things like: if it's all quiet after a long class, what can we assume about everyone at the table? They are all eating and are hungry. Everyone is laughing and chatting--what can we assume? Play it at dinner. Blindfold other family members, take turns and see if they can guess correctly!

Have fun teaching self-determination! Always remember, teach skills in isolation but practice them in the real world!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

From my students...about not getting a driver's license

I posted another question to my students: how do you deal with not getting a driver's license. I hope that every parent reading this softens their hearts on this topic. This has got to be on the top three most difficult trials for teens who are legally blind. Getting a driver's license is a right of passage for teenagers. I got mine at 16 and I didn't even have a car to drive! So when can't get one...it sucks! My heart is tender for every time one of my low vision students get asked about it and I can see the look on their faces.

But as with every big trial, it's about how you handle it. Yes, it totally sucks that my students can't get a driver's license. No, it is not the end of the world. It's easier said than done to just tell your blind teens "not to worry about it". Parents, this is your time to step up. I know you work, have schedules, etc. but this is the one area that I would encourage you to step up and really support. I have several students who can't attend things because their parents don't drive them.

This is a topic that I can't learn about from other professionals. I took it to my students to teach me. I love their honesty, frustration and positive outlook. I love learning from them!

The rest of the blog is written by my awesome students. Hope everyone reads, learns and enjoys! (Sorry about the formatting. It was hard to copy from Facebook)

Robbin Keating:
I need your help writing another blog post! Here's the question: What advice do you have for parents about helping their kids with vision impairments deal with not getting a driver's license? How are you guys dealing with this?
May 31 at 10:16pm · Like ·

Savannah Carmack: Well, i actually just got my non drivers license and my mom made a big deal of it and it was almost as exciting as getting a real license. I think that any parent should know that their kid will talk to someone, It may not be them but we always find a way to make ourselves feel better.
May 31 at 10:29pm via Facebook Mobile · Like

Leah Bourassa: I agree with savanah its difficult for both the parent and child yet you get through it theres other ways of transportation especailly good friends just think on the postitive side
May 31 at 10:36pm via Facebook Mobile · Like

Brendon Field: This one is a toughie. For one thing, parents need to be completely committed to driving their kid around so they never are forced to miss anything for that. They need to reassure them that not having a car doesn't prohibit them from getting a job or attending social events. It also helps if you don't move to the middle of nowhere. Thanks mom and dad.
June 1 at 5:42am · Like

Gwen Vartanian: Parents should help the child to look at not being able to do certain things in a positive way. Like driving, they won't have to pay, worry, and deal with driving costs. It's better for the planet!!!! It decreases driving death rates.etc. change the child's point of view from all the negatives into positives.
June 1 at 2:31pm · Like
Savannah Carmack: Yes i agree with brendon, the 1st thing 2 cross someones mind is that if u arn't able 2 get ur license then u hav no life.... Not so, i hav a mom, grandma, older brother, plenty of cousins and friends that hav all kindly offered 2 drive me somewhere. It makes the whole situation better and let humiliating.
June 1 at 6:23pm via Facebook Mobile · Like

Savannah Carmack: And LESS humiliating.
June 1 at 6:24pm via Facebook Mobile · Unlike · 4 people

Robbin Keating: I love the answers but I still have a question about how do YOU guys deal with this sucky part of teenage years? How do you get through not having a driver's license?
June 1 at 10:00pm · Like

Leah Bourassa: well it is sucky yet you put your head up belive in the friends you have that do drive and family wish it was you behind the wheel and keep on pushing through
June 1 at 10:02pm · Like

Savannah Carmack: hm... idk, I kinda just deal with it..... :-D
June 1 at 10:05pm · Like · 2 people

Brittany Bacote: well i think that you should keep your head up high and keep gong you will get throug it. Do not let anyone put you down jus keep puushing through it and people that love you can help you out. people alway told me to turn your negitive into a postive note.
June 2 at 7:42pm · Like

Brendon Field: Get through it, um, it honestly pisses me off to no end. I constantly feel like I'm helpless and part of my freedom as as a legal adult doesn't exist. It's just one of those things where you have to learn to bite the bullet.
June 2 at 9:42pm · Like

Robbin Keating: Brendon, I love your perspective. It IS hard, no question about that. However, you have to think location as well. Once you get to college, public transportation will be a different outlet for you. It's tough being legally blind and living in more country areas like your town. Plus, you never know. You may meet a hot girl who ends up being your gf and can drive you guys!! It's hard though, love your honesty!!
June 4 at 2:55pm · Like · 1 person

*Feel free to comment or email me a question for my students to comment or answer. They love writing for me and usually ask when they can do it again! Most of these students also participate in my Big Brother/Big Sister Project and mentor younger students with a vision impairment.