Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hadley School for the Blind

I have another great resource for families and education teams: The Hadley School for the Blind. Have you checked them out? I love recommeding Hadley to families because they have wonderful, FREE resource classes. Professionals can also take courses from Hadley as well. They are online and correspondance type courses that usually go at your pace. They send you out materials and additional resources. I have taken the Braille class (as a refresher) and a few of their early childhood classes.

Check them out:

From the Hadley website:
The Hadley School for the Blind offers more than 100 courses in four program areas. Courses relevant to the needs of blind or visually impaired individuals, their families and professionals working in the blindness field are continually being developed and updated.

Hadley is a distance education school and delivers its courses to students in a variety of different media formats, depending on the student’s need. This custom, one-on-one service allows students to work at their own pace and benefit from Hadley’s expertise regardless of where they live.

Find out more about the individual programs:
href="http://www.hadley.edu/2_c_HS.asp">Adult Continuing Education (ACE)

High School (HS)
Family Education (FE)
Hadley School for Professional Studies (HSPS)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Camp Abilities Costa Rica

Hola! I am excited about my adventure: Camp Abilities Costa Rica!

I am excited to share with you my good news! I will be part of a team that is going to Costa Rica for a program called Camp Abilities. Camp Abilities gives children and youth who are blind and visually impaired the opportunity to discover their abilities as they get to play and be active. I love this program! Camp Abilities programs started in Brockport, New York and is now all over the country. I am also proud to say that I started Camp Abilities chapter in Connecticut last year.

Camp Abilities Costa Rica will be in March from the 16-20, 2011. I will be facilitating the vision impairment training for 30 volunteers on March 16. This is the first year for Camp Abilities Costa Rica. They have 23 students of all ages, vision impairments and abilities participating. Camp Abilities Costa Rica will be at Universidad de Costa Rica Cede del Atlantico.

I am proud to be part of the Camp Abilities Costa Rica training team. I will provide the vision impairment training for 30 volunteers on March 16. I have jumped into learning Spanish and preparing for my training. Camp Abilities Costa Rica has limited resources for programming needs for their program. I am asking for donations for resources, equipment and travel needs for Camp Abilities Costa Rica. I would like to purchase specialized sports equipment such as beep baseballs to donate for future Camp Abilities. I am also fundraising for travel needs and additional resources to support a successful camp. It is my goal to raise $600 for Camp Abilities Costa Rica. For more information about Camp Abilities programs, you can visit the main program, http://www.campabilities.org/. You can also visit the Camp Abilities Connecticut site, http://www.campabilitiesct.org/. I am the program director for Camp Abilities Connecticut.

I would appreciate a donation of any amount. I have opened a Paypal fundraising account for this program. I hope to reach my goal so I can help support a successful start to Camp Abilities Costa Rica. All of the equipment and supplies I purchase will be donated to their program for current and future use. Thank you for supporting my efforts to go to Costa Rica. I love teaching children who are blind and visually impaired. I am excited to go to a new area and train other professionals and meet new students.

Here's how you can help: Click on the DONATE button on the sidebar of the blog. It will take you to the Paypal site and you can make your donation.
Please let me know that you donated. I want to personally thank everyone who supports me. I will also post pictures of Camp Abilities Costa Rica on my blog. Feel free to contact me for additional information about Camp Abilities Costa Rica, vision impairment education or how you can be part of Camp Abilities Connecticut.

Thank you for your support! Remember, “it’s not about what we SEE, it’s about what we DO” (Camp Abilities Connecticut motto).

Robbin Keating

This is me doing archery under simulation at Camp Abilities Connecticut.
I actuallyhit the target!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Even more holiday projects...

I found another cute holiday project that I thought would be another fun one with just the right tweaking! Take a look at the picture. It's a handprint Christmas tree.

Why did I think this would be a great project? It's another project that would be a great sensory activity especially for our children who thrive on sensory activities. Art can be fun for children with vision impairments, you just need to know how to make the accomodations!

A little sensory in the mix...
Let's break it down: add sand, glitter or another texture to the paint for the hand print. One idea I had was to actually go to a Christmas tree and pluck of some needles and mix those in the paint, too. The pine needles have a great scent, feel nice on your hand and when they come from the Christmas tree, add a great connection to what they are actually going to paint.

Use a paintbrush and brush the paint onto your childs' hand. You can also use a roller. Your child may like the paint cold (throw it in the freezer for a bit right before the activity) or warm (same thing as the cold, a little warmth is soothing). When brushing, use long strokes (spice it up by adding some pressure while doing it).

For tactual defense issues....
Make the handprints but then remember to let your child get messy if they want. Let them ooze the paint between their fingers if they like! If they are resistant to the paint first, ease them into it by letting them paint yours first or letting them paint their own hands. Don't force your child but be firm about having them be involved. I like to have them touch it for at least 3-5 seconds and then gradually increase the time until they get comfortable. If they still don't want to do it, keep it hand under hand and let them do something. I have always found that if I just start doing a project right next to my students, they eventually get interested and start creeping their hands into what I am doing. Let them lead to tell you when they are ready.

Visual needs...
Use the colors that work best for your child. For example, pick a shiny red back drop for our CVI kiddos. Strong contrast always works best. When you use green, discuss with your child that Christmas trees are green and that's why we use green. Watch out for background clutter, keep your materials simple and organized. Make sure you use a defined work space!

Use puff paint to write your childs' name and the year on it. I also think it would be fun to write their name in Braille on it, too with puff paint!

For my Jewish friends...
I thought about this for a second and thought you could make a finger print Menorah.

My little disclaimer: I don't know if this is offensive to my Jewish friends so please no offense is intended. I thought you could use a Menorah clipart but then use your fingers as the candles. As with the handprints, you can paint your finger and make the print of the candle. Then I thought you could use your thumb print as the flame (white paint for the candle, yellow paint for the flame). Not sure if it will work but it was an idea!

I'll keep my eye out for more projects!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Another fun holiday project

I saw this project at my friend's home today and had a lightbulb go off when I saw it: IDEA!! She made this super cute holiday mobile and I thought we could tweak this to make it a fun (and accessible) holiday project.

Here's how you can make it:

1. Grab some fabric of different textures and/or contrasting colors
2. Look for object to attach. I love how she used shiny oranaments (are you CVI parents thinking what I'm thinking....)
3. Get bells or anything that makes sounds to attach as well (think windchimes...)
4. Use sensory objects such as peppermints, candycanes, holly leaves that smell, ornaments with fun textures to attach.

You can hang them in a doorway, in the corner, by the door or anywhere your child can find them.

Have fun with this! Customize it based on your child's vision needs and sensory preferences. I thought this would be great for a range of our students. You can also use other colors if you don't celebrate traditional Christmas. This is a great activity for children of all abilities. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fun ideas for holiday projects & presents

Here are some of the projects we made this year at our annual Holiday Skills Day. I included the materials, directions and some pictures. My examples are just the basics, you can customize and embellish any way you like.

Just remember, as with everything, this is about process not product. Let these crafts & projects be something your family can do together (it doesn't matter what size your family is).

Be prepared especially if you have a child with multiple impairments. Nothing stresses out a mom like unpreparedness and a child with a short attention span. Students of all abilites completed these projects.
Holiday Card ideas (these can be turned into garland, too!)

Mitten Card Directions
· Mitten pattern
· Tactile paper/craft foam
· Pipe cleaners
· Card insert
· Blank card
· Glue
· Braille paper & Braille labels

1. Cut out mitten pattern (adult)
2. Put mitten on card
3. glue pipe cleaners onto base of mitten
4. put insert inside
5. Customize it!
*Instead of doing the yarn (as shown on the example picture), we glued 3 lines of pipe cleaners.

Christmas Tree Card
· Wrapping paper
· Christmas tree pattern (tall triangle)
· Corrugated board paper/tactile paper
· Blank card
· Glue
· Braille paper & Braille labels

1. Wrap wrapping paper around Christmas tree pattern to make the Christmas tree.
2. cut out small square of corrugated board (to make stump)
3. Glue corrugated board on blank paper, put Christmas tree on as well.
4. Attach any embellishments to customize
5. Place insert inside
*Christmas tree card example is with the magnet card example further down in this post...

Peace & Joy Braille Letter Cards
· Wrapping paper
· Circle punch or pencil and scissors
· Blank card
· Print tag with Peace or Joy written out
· Glue
· Braille paper & Braille labels

1. Cut out circles to make a Braille letter P or J
2. Place circles on card in the Braille cell
3. Place print tag with the work Peace or Joy on card front
4. Place insert inside card
5. Customize with any embellishments

I did the examples on regular Braille paper. We used blank cards when we made them at the activity day. I used a circle punch to make these. The students had no problem punching out their own circles. This is great for Braille readers!

I also made tags that said "Peace" & "Joy" and put them on the front of the cards.

Holiday Project Idea

Christmas Present Magnets
· Foam board
· Magnetic paper/magnets
· Wrapping paper
· Ribbon
· Bow
· Glue

1. Cut foam board into 4x7 rectangles
2. cut wrapping paper to 4x7 size
3. cut magnetic strip to place on the back
4. Place wrapping paper on foam board
5. cut ribbon to make a “wrapped present look”
6. put bow in top left corner
7. place magnet on back
8. Customize with any embellishment

Another recipe for all abilities & ages

Happy December,

As I mentioned in another post, every year I do a Holiday Skills Day with my students. It's been going now for 3 years and each year it gets better. I thought I would share one of our favorite recipes. I've had preschool age students through high school make this treat. It's fun to do and it has texture and yummy smells to make it a great sensory activity, too!

Here's a recipe for chocolate bark:
French Chocolate Bark
9 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips1 cup roasted cashews
1 cup dried apricots1/2 cup dried cranberries
(note: feel free to substitute any other toppings of your choice)

*We have used peppermint candies when making this at our activity. They have a great smell and the kids love to prepare them for cooking. Just take peppermint candies and put them in a bag. Use a hammer to mash them up into little pieces (what kid wouldn't love to do that?!)

Melt the chocolate in the microwave OR in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a rectangle. Sprinkle the nuts and cashews over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 hours until firm. A old porch may help speed up the process. Cut the park and serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Let's Bake Some Holiday Treats!

One of the best things about the month of December is all of the holiday treats!! I did cooking every Friday when I was a deafblind teacher. I loved when we made holiday treats! Next week I am doing my annual Holiday Skills Day with my students. Each year we make a craft and a treat (don't worry, I will post ideas and tips in a few days...).

Cooking is a great activity to do with practically any child (or teenager) with a vision impairment. It teaches so many things and it is usually quite motivating. So here's what I am going to do: I am going to share my favorite top 10 recipes all December long! Yay!
A few things to think about before you head into the kitchen:

1. Remember that the point of this activity is to provide experience for your child. If you are not having fun and getting into hands-on style, you are doing it wrong!

2. The cooking exercise needs to be a connected activity: equipment shouldn't magically appear and then you bake. Part of the lesson needs to be going to the fridge, getting the ingredients, checking the oven, getting the bowls and spoons, etc. Also, the clean up is part of the lesson. Where do dirty bowls go? Clean the counter tops, put food back, etc.

3. Process vs. Product--so what if it burns? You've heard the expression "not about the destination, it's about the journey"? Same concept here. Let your child be involved with everything! Use hand under hand, modeling, let them smell (teach them to taste appropriately, you don't want to start a bad pattern..., get their hands in it. Go slow--have fun & take pictures!

4. Set it up for success--think about your child's visual needs. Background clutter because of a table cloth? Should we use red bowls for CVI? Large print or Braille recipes? Do you need to put some slip grip under the bowls? Lighting or glare issues? It may seem like a lot of questions, but the more you get to know about your child's visual needs, the easier this gets. I write as many possibilities as I can to include my whole spectrum of students. The one thing that I can say that every student needs is a defined work space! You can use a tray, cookie sheet, plain colored placemat, etc. but a defined work space keeps all of our students organized. I even use them with my kids when we cook!!

5. Work at your child's work level. I have done cooking with typically developing children, deafblind children, preschool age children and even children who are on the autism spectrum. Know what the realistic work potential is. If it's hard to work at the table, don't! Keep it as close to the kitchen as possible to keep it all connected. I actually put a big tray on the floor at cook with my preschool kids there because they can access it easier.

Do it at home: here's another favorite article of mine. It's from TSBVI. Here's the link: https://www.tsbvi.edu/component/content/article/104-archives/2146-get-out-in-the-kitchen-and-rattle-them-pots-and-pans
And the recipe....
Toffee Crisp
12 whole graham crackers
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi sweet chocolate
1/2 cup chopped almonds (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put crackers on cookie sheet. In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter and vanilla. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until full boil. Continue to boil for 4 minutes. Pour over crackers. Bake 10-12 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, allow to soften, spread and sprinkle chopped almonds. Refrigerate until firm.
Good luck!!

New Exciting Sports Program

Are you ready to kick of the month of December? I am!! I am so excited because this weekend is my first Sports Adventure Weekend for students 8th-12th grade. Justin, my APE partner, and I will have almost 20 students playing track and field events, beepball baseball, Goalball and low ropes activities. And if that isn't enough, we will be ending our Saturday night game play with yoga around the fire!

Stay tuned because Savannah and others will be blogging about their experiences at Sports Adventure Weekend!

The December Sports Adventure Weekend is the first of my sports/physical education clinics for students who are blind or visually impaired (in Connecticut). I will be running at least one more for middle school grades in the spring with Justin.

**Justin and I have worked out a pretty sweet program for students in Connecticut. If you are interested in starting your own Sports Adventure Weekend or Sports Activity Days, contact us. We would love to help develop a program for your area today!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Inspiration

My mom came to visit a few weeks ago and we had a great visit. It provided so much insight and reflection for me. If you didn't read my side bar, let me get you up to speed. I was raised by a single mom who has total vision loss. She was born with toxoplasmosis. She had low vision as a child and then lost the rest of her remaining vision in her teenage years. She was totally blind by the time she had me. She is, of course, the reason why I'm in this field and why I have great passion for it.

I learned a lot from my mom but not because of what she taught me directly. It's what I learned from being part of her world. As I have said in other posts, it never occured to me that it was hard because my mom was blind when I was growing up. It was just a way of life for me. I learned early on what I needed to do in order for her to understand what I was talking about.

As a professional, I sit back and observe my mom with my teacher eye. She put her cane on our dinner table and I told her to put it on the floor because I don't like "cane bogies" on my table (it's the exact same thing I tell my students!) It's not that I treat her like my students. It's just now as I have had time to learn, I realize what a hero my mom truly is.

My mom had limited skills and even more limited resources when I was a child and a teenager. We relied on good friends to help. We had limited financial resources. We didn't have a phone or nice furniture. And despite a long list of negatives, my mom was a mom first and a blind person second.

I always knew that even though she physically couldn't see my JROTC uniform or watch me at my softball games, she thought I was the best. Again, I am humbled, proud and amazed to see what she continually accomplished with such limited resources. I thought about this constantly as she was with me this last visit. I was proud that my sweet daughter chose to stay at home with her and play with her. I laughed with love when my mom reported that it was my daughter who got the step stool and helped cook lunch, washed the dishes and took care of things. I looked at my daughter and saw myself as a child standing next to my mom doing the exact same things.

I learned a lot that week. I learned about how visual memories fade. I was reminded again how different the world is for my students with total vision loss. But how brilliant my mom and my students are to have figured out how a visual world works. I am reminded to look at each step of a sequence in order to understand the whole concept when teaching. Sometimes I don't think I can articulate it for my education teams how to look at each and every tiny step in a concept. It just makes sense to me. My mom taught me.

My other favorite moment of my mom's visit was watching my almost-5 year old guide grandma and her little brother across the street. I told my girl to hold on to both of them as tight as she could! It has always been my hope to share with my children the love I have for my students. They come to several of my student events and play with my students. But I think this visit and this moment I'm writing about built a new bridge.

They played in the big yard at our apartment complex after they crossed the street. I have to admit, I was reluctant at first to let my mom take care of the kids alone. I feel ashamed but I couldn't help but wonder, what if something happens? But then I stood up, reviewed everything with my kids and mom and let them go. I watched them play from my apartment. My mom held her cane up and let them run under it. I remember this game with such tenderness. I played this very game with my mom, too. Then I watched her play freeze tag and my kids circled around her with excitement; just like I had when I was a kid. And to make me proud again, they didn't run away or take advantage of her blindness. They played with her as if she could see them. But then again, she can.

I know that it is hard for my parents at times as they learn to navigate the unique needs of their children who are blind or visually impaired. Blindness is a unique disability. It cannot be compared to Autism or cognitive impairments or deafness or anything. I'm in this field to make a difference because blindness is not about what you cannot see, it's about what you can do. There are wonderful, brilliant strategies for teaching all children with a visual impairment. It doesn't matter if it is a child that is a Braille or large print reader, deafblind , CVI or has autism spectrum disorder/visual impairment. As professionals, we are constantly learning from our students (and our families).

I hope as you follow my blog you will feel empowered. I hope we learn together. I am thankful for my students, my colleagues and most importantly, my mom. I'm proud to be her daughter.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cool Facebook group

My students created their own group called "Who Says Blind Kids Don't Kick Butt at Sports?!". I L-O-V-E it! I am so proud of them for helping everyone change the way kids who are legally blind and visually impaired are viewed by the community.

Check out the group on Facebook. Many of the students will be participating in the Sports Adventure Weekend for 8th-12th graders on December 4-5, 2010. Justin, our APE guru, and I are leading a great team of PE instructors and students for a sports-packed weekend.

You can also check out several of the Camp Abilities websites for more information about how to incorporate physical fitness and rec & leisure for children with vision impairments.
www.campabilities.org or my fave, www.campabilitiesct.org.

I will also be running a Sports Adventure Weekend for primary grades in the spring. We need to get all of our kids active! If you need help with ideas, post your questions so I can help!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Free Descriptive Movie Feature on Toy Story 3!

I am sooo excited to share this! I was having a Toy Story 3 date with my kiddies (we had Toy Story mac & cheese, dino Rex nuggets and the movie, yay!). I started the movie and right away it had a prompt to select if I wanted English descriptive titles. I got excited, descriptive movie for free? I selected it to check it out and yes! There it was! I heard that sweet narrator's voice describing the fireworks going over Cinderella's castle!

Just in case you are not tech savvy, there are two ways of selecting this feature:
1. It automatically prompts you to select what language you want the movie to play in. It says 'English Descriptive Language' (that's it!!)
2. Go to the menu feature and select the languages. You can also select it there, too.
I am so excited that Disney included this feature! It has been difficult to find descriptive movies for kids. Have fun listening to Toy Story 3 this holiday!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Books I love...

I am so excited to share this idea with everyone! I'm gonna show you how you can make super cute storybooks for your family. Check this out...

I have been using this company to help me launch my Family Literacy Project. The focus of the Family Literacy Project is to use personal family stories to empower family activities and family time. I have been doing it with preschoolers and thought about how I could use this for my students and their families.

Have you ever noticed that the things they make for children with visual impairments are usually pretty bulky and not cute? I have. In fact, whenever I make things for my students I make sure that they are stylish (without being visually overwhelming, of course). I like to put flowers or baseballs to decorate the labels and items I make.

Here are some fun ideas from my Family Literacy Project:
Swatch books-
-Use a swatch book to make sequence books. For example, a “how to” book on following directions. Each page uses a picture with written directions of each step.
-Make a book for a specific topic: Nature book that can go out onto the field during a science lesson.
-A portable dictionary of pictures, themes or words.
-My fave idea with swatch books are to use them as pre-teaching tools for my low vision students. I show pictures of each step or of each place that we are going to visit.

Playing cards (Not just for playing anymore!)-
-Make a custom made memory game
-Each card can be customized to have a family or school fact printed on it!
-Make your own sight words
-Hole punch them and use them as sequence cards. You can add Braille labels and make them accessible, too!

Storybook ideas:
· Teachers can make a community books specific to the school community. Use pictures of the town police and library buildings to teach about the community.
· School rules/policy books. Make a book about what it’s like to be part of your school using pictures of your centers, teachers and school yard.
· Teach language by taking pictures and putting the words in different languages (you can highlight the different languages using different fonts, sizes & colors).
· Communication dictionaries: feelings & emotions, manners, basic requests, etc.
· Concept books: weather topics, science, community, yearbooks & art books—plus much more!

I have found that I can add Braille labels to almost any of these projects. Plus I can make them in large print. The one thing I really like about making things with this company is that I can save and share the templates that I make! All my projects are archived and are professionally produced. I got hooked and now this is my fave new hobby :)

The best part of this being my hobby is that I can sell it at a discount price! FYI, I do this on my own time and not part of my professional job. If you would like to order anything, email me and I will help you get the workshop pricing. The website only shows the retail price.

Not only are these great little finds for making customized books for my students, I have also scrapbooked all my years as a deafblind teacher and made a scrapbook with no mess or trips to the scrapbook store!

These projects look like they are time consuming but they aren't! You simply upload pics, drag and drop them into your templates (or you can start from scratch)

Some pics of demo products:
(I didn't include student projects because I don't like to publish
student projects without consent from families)
Playing cards that be customized by the card

Wire bound books

Scrapbook pages, 5x7 book & calendar

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Communication Boards

I came up with the idea of Communication Boards because I have a student who is on the Autism spectrum and is visually impaired (ASDVI). She is actually blind from birth. I have had a wonderful time working with her and her beautiful family. It is amazing to watch her learn. I use a lot of strategies for working with children who are deafblind with her. It has been interesting to learn about Autism and how cogenitally blind children with it learn.

My student uses Now, Next & Finished boards (see pictures from another post) with great success. I wanted to keep her communication going forward. In addition, I am working with her speech & language pathologist (SLP) for her communication needs. I wanted to help with her turn-taking skills in a conversation.

I decided to suggest to her classroom teacher that we use scripted language so that my student can anticipate the conversation needs. Sorry if I am not explaining this well. I am not a SLP :). For example, her teacher, therapist or paraprofessional always begins the conversation with the same language. Next we teach my student what to say. Then the teacher takes a turn and says something. My student completes her part of the conversation.
There are also symbols for each therapist or teacher. The symbol is the same one/very similar that is used in her schedule boxes. The student takes the symbol at the beginning of the conversation/activity. At the end of the activity/work time, my student takes her symbol and puts it on a designated "finished space" and uses a structured conversation to help with communication needs.
I had the classroom teacher print out the structured conversation on the card and laminate it. The reason the structured conversation is printed on the card is to make it easy for therapists to know exactly what to say in the conversation. Laminating it helps with the durability of the Board.
My student uses an assistive tech (AT) device to help verbalize her part of the conversation.
Check out the examples:
This is the finished side of the Communication Board. The structured conversation is printed for the therapist to read. The green paper is textured carboard paper. It designates where the finished location is. At the conclusion of the activity, she places it on the paper.
Bottom picture:
This is the Now side of the Communication Board. The structured conversation is printed on the card. It also includes what my student is supposed to do and what her response is.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Savannah Says...

Here is another post from one of my students & her perspectives on life with a vision impairment

The topic is on dating and social life-How easy or hard is it to make new friends? How does your vision impact you making new friends? What kinds of things have you done to help get passed your visual limits when in a social situation? (like going to a party that has dim lighting or being outside late when there isn't a lot of light)
What's your thoughts on dating? Do you feel like your vision holds you back? How do you get around it (the vision issue)?Does your syndrome ever get in the way?

Honestly I have not been interested in dating or boys, I have yet to go on a date. I am aware that it may be tricky... doesnt bother me though! Making friends is also tricky... I find myself making friends with adults or teachers, easier then making friends with my classmates.

Frankly I think it is TCS [Treacher Collins Syndrome] that makes it harder, not my vision imparment. But when I do go out with friends like to basketball games, I dont catch much, half the time I dont relize that our team scored until the buzzer goes off. When we goto the movies I cant see nearly as much in the dark as I can in day light, so menuvering is harder. Other instances are when my friends and I are meeting at the mall and I cant see them across the food court! Thats when a cell phone comes in handy. When I goto a friends house at night and we play outside or whatever, luckily all of my friends are aware of my limits and are always there supporting me and helping me out where ever they can or when ever i let them help me. I dont generally ask for help from my mom or grandma, I actually get alot of support from my sister and girl friends. There are ALOT of obsitcals in the way... but there is always a way around them... wether you just jump or destroy the obsitcle. If theres a will, theres a way.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Adaptive Tech Tips, Part Two

What Happens When Your Adaptive Equipment Fails in College?
by Dennis Gallant, Rehab Technologist

Think about your FRIEND!

F. Make Friends;
when you're high-tech devices fail, and it will be when, not if, and probably at the worst possible time, it is important to have friends in the right places. In this case, the right place means the same class as you are in, since they will be able to take notes if necessary, read homework assignments to you, as they will be reading the same material for their work as well, and generally offer assistance to you in your time of crisis. Of course, it is important to have made these connections well before the crisis hits; so good planning is essential.

R. Keep a Recorder Handy; is always useful to have a backup option such as a tape recorder handy to take notes and take down your thoughts for assignments when other methods such as using an electronic notetaker fail. A recorder can capture lecture material and can help you take notes back in your dorm room on either a braille writer, yes they are a great backup option, or large print paper. Recorders can also come in handy during study sessions and for taking down assignments when other high-tech devices fail.

I. Introduce Yourself to Your Professors; it is important that your professors know who you are before you need to call them up in a panic to ask for an extension for some important homework assignment. If you have developed a working relationship with your professors before a crisis occurs they will be more open to working with you to accommodate their assignments in order for you to work around your technology failure situation. If you wait until the assignment is due and you need to ask for an extension before contacting your professor the odds are far less likely that he or she will be as receptive to your situation. It always helps to make a connection with someone before you ask them for a favor.

E. Start Your Assignments Early; for one thing it takes you longer to complete an assignment when compared to your cited classmates and if there is a problem with your adaptive equipment by starting the assignment early you will have more time to figure out a solution before the important term paper is due. Starting assignments early is also great to do because when others are scrambling at the last minute you will have a much less stressful time knowing that the assignment is done and if something were to go wrong you have time to figure out a solution. N. Not All Your Eggs in One Basket; as you plan your schedule of work for each class, remember to back up information so that it will be accessible to you if you're high-tech equipment fails when you most need it. This may mean you need to plan ahead so that additional copies of important material are available to you and not stored on one notetaker. It also may mean that you have a braille writer handy for emergencies and if you are a print reader have an extra magnifying glass available for those times when you're electronic magnifier goes down. However you work out the details, it is important to have thought about backup plans before the crisis hits and not to keep all your hopes for success on one piece of equipment.

D. Don't Forget the Disability Resource Office; in many cases the personnel at the disability resource office can be of great assistance when you're high-tech equipment fails. They often can provide you with backup equipment in their adaptive Tec labs or can help you to complete assignments by assisting you directly or connecting you with others who can help you to get the work done. They are familiar with the special needs and requirements of persons with various disabilities and are used to working with students in times where there usual study methods have failed either because of a high-tech failure or a last-minute assignment that is a challenge for one who is visually impaired.

Adaptive Tech Tips

How to Choose and Get the Most Benefit
From Your Adaptive Technology
By Dennis Gallant, Rehab Technologist


B. Be Informed; learn about what is out there in the world of adaptive technology keep current by sharing information with your friends and by using such resources as podcasts that are created by and for blind technology users to keep the blind community up to date about current and future adaptive Tech products.

E. Start Early; the earlier you can start to use and become comfortable with different types of adaptive technology the more comfortable you will be with using it as part of your school experience. It is best to become familiar with what adaptive technology works for you, in which situation, before entering high school so that once in high school, you can focus your attention on studying the material rather than trying to study and become familiar with new technology at the same time.

S. Say What Works; don't be afraid to say what works and what doesn't work when asked to evaluate different types of adaptive technology. You are the only one who knows what will work for you, and what you will really use, so don't be afraid to give your feedback to teachers and others who can use your recommendation to provide you with the best equipment.

M. Make Time; take time to become familiar with and comfortable with the adaptive technology you have been given. Many times it takes a while to become comfortable with certain types of equipment, including electronic notetakers that can take months to fully explore. It is only when you become comfortable with the adaptive technology that you have that you can use it in a natural and relaxed manner as it was intended.

A. Make Teachers Aware; tell teachers about the strengths and limitations your adaptive technology provides for you in the classroom. Let them know how your equipment helps you with some tasks and how it may have limitations on what it can do for other activities. It is likely that many teachers have not seen the specific type of adaptive equipment you have and do not really understand how much it helps you, or does not, and they may think that you are now capable of doing more than the equipment is designed to do.

R. Be Realistic; have reasonable expectations of what adaptive equipment can and cannot do, recognizing that no one piece of equipment is designed to do all things and that, at best, adaptive equipment can help make some tasks easier but it is not the perfect solution and it will still mean that you may have difficulty in some areas in the classroom.

T. Take Care of the Equipment; treat all your equipment carefully as it is often very expensive and if it breaks or becomes damaged you will be without the benefit of the equipment for a period of time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mobility games for preschool children.

This is a great resource! It's from the Texas School for the Blind (TSBVI).

Orientation and Mobility: Preschool Style, By Cecelia Quintana, COMS
Article link: http://www.tsbvi.edu/textbooks/afb/kit/tkit48.htm

This link also includes another great resource:
We're On The Move! O&M Games for the Very Young Child
Presented by
Linda Lyle, M.A.Cecelia Quintana, M.A., COMS
AER International ConferenceJuly 14-19, 2000Denver, CO
Download an RTF version of the games (for printing) - o&m.rtf (257k)

Monday, October 25, 2010

DIY: Theme Boxes

This is a super fun project that you can make and customize for your child. They are called theme boxes and I have provided several of the ones I have made in this post.

What are theme boxes? Theme boxes are great ways that you can teach about how items come together and make a concept. I saw another deafblind teacher make something similar to this a few years ago. The one she made was like picture number one (the winter clothes theme box). I expanded the idea to using simple box tops and adding items in it.

You can use these theme boxes as a way of pre-teaching or reinforcing lessons that teach about these items. For example, the car box has items related to getting into the car. They teach about the seatbelt, car keys, music CD---all things that happen while riding in the car.

Make one (or two or three...) for your child today.
Instuctions & specifics below:
Winter Theme Box-
You can also do this for the other seasons as well. Put all the items into one box. Discuss with your child about winter, cold weather, etc. You can read a book as well that discusses these objects. Allow your child to dress up in the items. You will notice that I included a variety of each of the items. You can also incorporate math, community and other skills into this lesson.

As with all projects, customize the theme boxes to fit your child's visual needs. I included some contrasting bright red & yellow so my students with CVI can participate as well. *Plus red & yellow are good contrast colors--many of my students can see them.

The car box:
You can use this as a pre-teach opportunity to read with a "places I go book". I found the car seat straps at a local REI. I could buy them by the foot. Notice that I used red & yellow to include the visual needs of my CVI students. The large buckle on the red strap was also purchased from CVI for about $5, the small one on the yellow strap for about the same. The other yellow carseat buckle is a replacement buckle I bought from Burlington Coat Factory in the Baby Depot dept. for about $7. I included car keys, old CDs as well. The car keys I got for free at Home Depot. I asked for their damaged keys. They are not pictured but the keys I used for this is a car key (with the black casing on top), small key (for a lock) and regular keys (for a home).

Bathroom/dressing box
Note that I used real objects. You can open the wipe container and explore the wipes. There is lotion in the bottle. That is an actual diaper.

This one is also an example of how I use shiny red wrapping paper to highlight the box. I did this primarily for my CVI students. Notice that I did not do the entire bottom. I only did the edges to highlight what I wanted my student to see.

*The holidays are around the corner, I hit up the Dollar Tree and buy in bulk shiny red wrapping paper!

Eating tray
This is a great pre-teach tool for setting the table as well. Again, I used red and yellow as my contrasting colors.

-All of these items are attached using string, velcro (or hook & loop), or draw string type of cording. I found a way to attach them so if they get tossed, I could still find them.
-Each project cost about $8 to make (except the car one) or less. I looked for items that were common use items and put them in the box.
-I recommend using the wrapping paper for students with vision as it highlights where they should look.

These are just a few of the ideas. I presented this at the last parent education event so I do have a handout that I made. I will do my best to post it but these are the pictures from the handout.

Do it at home: Make your own theme box! You can make it for older children and use a paper box (like the winter clothes theme) or you can make it on a box top. I like to enhance the activity by reading a story and using the items to pre- & post-teach or by taking it to the actual activity. Collect your items & get started today!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ski Fun

Did you know that skiing is a popular sport for people who are blind or visually impaired? It is!

If you are in Connecticut, check out Ski Sundown. We took our students there for one of our Teen Escape trips. Our students had a blast! There are also great ski locations in Vermont & Maine. Skiing is a great sport for children with vision impairments and it is something the whole family can do.
Here's the contact information for Ski Sundown, Ski Sundown supervisor--860.379.7669 x219

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mobility resources

Here are some mobility resources provided
by Chris Tabb, COMS

Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (RVIB) also publishes a great resource manual. I only have it as a PDF that I could not upload.
Here is the ISBN information so you can get it on your own:
"A guide to orientation and mobility for young children with vision impairments "
Nicola Misso
First Published 1995, This revision January 2005
National Library of Australian Cataloguing-in Publication data:
ISBN 0 949390 41 0
Information & Referrals Unit, RVIB
557 St Kilda Road, Melbourne 3004
E-mail: iru@rvib.org.au

Community opportunity from Perkins

Summer 2011* Taglit-Birthright Israel trip

Perkins School for the Blind is thrilled to announce
a new partnership with Routes Travel: Amazing Israel

Taglit-Birthright Israel offers the gift of first time, peer group, ten day educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults. Over 230,000 young adults from 52 countries have already been the recipients of this gift.

Routes Travel: Amazing Israel has been chosen by Perkins as the Trip Organizer because of their experience with specialized trips, such as one last summer for young adults who are wheelchair users. Next summer we will offer a trip for Jewish young adults who are blind or visually impaired, high school graduates and between the ages of 18 to 26.

Activities may include:
 Visit historical sites and museums
 Participate in lectures and discussions
 Stay in a Kibbutz
 Traveling with Israeli young adults serving as soldiers
 Hiking, rafting or other outdoor activities
 Archeological dig
 Experienced tour guides
 Making new friends

The gift covers airfare from departing city (to be selected on east coast); hotel, transportation, most meals and trip programming. Groups of 3 or more from a COSB school or alumni association may be asked to provide and fund a guide.

For further information and to request a pre-application in order to be considered for this summer’s trip, please contact:
Beth Caruso, Director of Perkins Outreach Services ~ 175 North Beacon St. Watertown, MA 02472 ~ phone 617-972-7434 or Beth.Caruso@Perkins.org

Routes Travel Birthright: www.amazingisrael.com
Taglit-Birthright Israel: www.birthrightisrael.com

*date to be announced later this fall

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Quick mobility tips

Here are some quick & easy mobility tips from Chris Tabb, COMS (Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist).

As vacation times from busy school schedules are arriving soon, here are some suggested activities that will develop concepts and skills for independence that families can do together:

Take a trip together that includes the use of public transportation. Examples include: visiting New York City and traveling on the subway, city bus, train, and/or taxi while there; as a local option, many cities and towns in Connecticut are served by public transportation on a regular basis, and others have Express Service.

Go to the grocery store with your child and have them travel to the end of the aisle on their own to retrieve a favorite item for the cart. If you both are comfortable going further, to aisles “beyond arms reach”, this really provides for practicing skills of independence and problem solving in a safe environment. If parents need to stay connected with their child, two-way radios can provide the ability to be apart and still be “in touch” for reminders and questions.

Tactual Books Again!

I wanted to include more examples of tactual books to give everyone ideas for all the possibilities of things you can make books about. This example is a sample book a TVI who teaches MIVI/DB made.

She made this by replacing the pages from an APH Braille book. She also printed on Braille paper and then put the Braille underneathe the print. We used APH soundcards on the very last page to coorelate with the print/tactual pages.

This tactual book is an "All About Me..." book. Ask your TVI for 3 soundcards and the soundcard holder page and make your own book today!!

Now, Next & Finished Boards

Did you read my post on calendar systems? If you didn't get a chance, that's okay---I have included the link in this post. For this post, I included pictures of a 'now, next & finished board' communication system. I created this set for a child who is on the autism spectrum & is congenitally blind (ASDVI).

This is the first thing I want you to think about: how does my child understand time concepts? Do they understand the concept of 'now'? Time concepts can be difficult to teach and learn. Many educators use a 'finished/all done box system. (I will post more about finished boxes in another post). Finished boxes are great except they only have one problem: they only teach the concept of 'finished'. You also need to teach about now and next to make it a sequence.

Here's what I want you to read: "Let Me Check My Calendar" by Robbie Blaha

Sometimes using a complete calendar system is too much for a child. That is where now & next systems come in to play. They teach the foundation to learning how to use a full calendar system. Here is an example of how to make a now & next system.
The Now & Next boards:

I put a different texture over the finished board to help my student distinguish it
from the now & next boards.
There is a Braille label over the words 'now' & 'finished'.
(Font issues are not a factor for this student because she is not a print reader. I just wanted it to look cute. If font size and type was an issue, I would have chosen an easy to read font like Arial)

I used Velcro (or hook & loop) for attaching items.
I used a wide strip on the actual board to make it easier to mount item.

Objects for Now & Next boards:

-Foam board (can be purchased from an art supply store or JoAnn Fabrics)
-hot glue gun
-Fabric (for finished board)
-Velcro (or hook & loop)
-paper & Braille labels
(I also used a sturdy board to mount some of the objects to)
(keep in mind: symbols should be an actual representation or part of something from the actual activity. For example, the toothbrush represents toothbrushing. I found an item that looks like a tray to represent table work since the student uses a tray when working at the table.)
-I always get two or more of each symbol in as a backup.

A few tips about using now & next boards or calendar box systems:
-They are meant to be used to before and after an activity to reinforce time concepts or to pre-teach an activity.
-It is important to use consistent language and to use them consistently throughout the day.
-Give wait time for children to process. Encourge them to initiate activity. Follow their lead.
-Calendar box systems/now & next boards should be used naturally as part of activities. Write yourself cheat sheet notes to help you with language and what to do.
-Consult with your TVI for tips and strategies.
-Encourage your classroom teachers to use calendar box systems/now & next boards throughout the day at school.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Beepball tutorial from APE teacher & Camp Abilities students

I am happy to post the link to the first of hopefully more APE tutorials. This one is the beep baseball tutorial. It is lead by Justin Haegele, APE teacher. Beepball is a fun activity that our students play. It's also rad to get the whole family, classroom or even the neighborhood in on a game. We did it for family fun night at Camp Abilities and had a blast.

Basic equipment for playing beep baseball:
--large cones/standard beepball bases
--APH soundsource or other auditory sound source
--a batting tee
--beepball baseball

Check out the National Beep Baseball Association for more information, http://www.nbba.org/about_game.htm

Check out the beep baseball tutorial featuring Justin & the Camp Abilities counselor-in-trainings, http://www.youtube.com/editor

Grab a bat, a blindfold and some friends and have some fun!

DIY: Fall/Halloween Fun Literacy Project

I had this idea today while I was at the pumpkin patch with my two preschoolers. Some concepts are hard to learn about in a book. There are several of them and one of them are pumpkins. I live in New England and every time this year, dozens of families flock to pumpkin patches and buy a variety of pumpkins to decorate their front yards & front doors. It is not uncommon to recognize the true presence of fall by noting all the pumpkins and bales of hay or cornstalks everywhere.

How do we bring the seasons and the items of the seasons to our students? Well, you can start by reading a fall or Halloween book. Then pile the family in the car and head out to a pumpkin patch and spend the day or at least the afternoon exploring the patch! I know that this is possible for everyone as I lived in Las Vegas and did this very project with my students who were deafblind.

APH has a fun pumpkin book that was a favorite in my classroom. The book is "The Littlest Pumpkin". In the book, they talk about the leaves on the vine for the pumpkins and lost of fun things. While at the patch, feel each of these and bring some home. You can make an experience book of the whole event!!

Do it at home: Take a moment and make a plan to learn about fall season activities. Pre-teach about heading out for your adventure by reading your fall book ("The Littlest Pumpkin")--you make have to read it a few nights to help set a foundation. Head out to the patch and collect items that are found in the book. Here are some ideas: hay, cornstalk, pumpkin vine leaves, corn kernals, pumpkin seeds, etc. If you get a pumpkin, make sure you get a small one, too so you don't have to lug a big, heavy pumpkin onto your child's lap to discuss. Make an experience book about the specific things you did at the patch or farm. Let your child place the pumpkin in its spot so they know where it goes in your home. You can also carve it and scoop the gutts out, bake the seeds and clean it up---a complete project!! Happy fall to all :)