Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tactual books, part one

This is a topic that I am so excited about! I love creating tactual books for my students. I especially love making experience books with my students who are deafblind. Experience books are also great for early childhood level students. This posting is great for students with a variety of abilites and age levels. This posting is the pre-teach lesson for the "how to" of creating opportunity for literacy. Please read this article! I have linked it through TSBVI (however, this is a reprint from Teaching Exceptional Children). There are some tips and tricks to learning how to make tactual books so it's important that you have the understanding.
The article is "Creating and Using Tactile Experience Books for Young Children With Visual Impairments" By Sandra Lewis, Associate Professor and Coordinator, Program in Visual Impairment, College of Education, Florida State University, and Joan Tolla, Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Tift and Irwin County Schools, Georgia.
Article link:
Do it at home: Read this article! After reading, write down your impressions and start thinking about what kind of books you want to create. Don't kill yourself thinking about how you are going to make the book :) I often find that parents and education teams over think how to make experience books. Just start with an idea. Keep reading the posts about how to make experience books. Happy reading!

Friday, June 18, 2010

TSBVI Independent Living Assessment

Dear parents and teachers, I am often asked to come and assess students for independent living skills. Many parents are not sure what they should be doing or where to start with getting their children to develop greater independent living skills.
The first step to learning how to help your child become more independent is using the Texas School for the Blind Independent Living Assessment.
The Texas School for the Blind Independent Living Assessment is a comprehensive checklist of independent living skills. The skill topics include sections on self care, social competence and play and leisure. The topics are sub divided into categories such as grooming, food management, clothing management, problem solving and planning and physical games/sports. Each section is organized by age. The youngest age group is birth with most skill ages starting at age 4. It’s not too early to get started!Ask your TVI about obtaining a copy or look at the for ordering information.
Parents and teachers can use the assessment for continuous evaluation. It is not meant to be a one-time assessment. This assessment is a great way to track skill success and help students maintain age appropriate skills. I refer back to the checklist to help determine what I should start with when working on a skill.
This assessment is beneficial to parents because it can act as a guide for what skills need to be developed to attain greater independence. Parents, students and TVIs can work together to fill out the assessment. It should be reviewed regularly as children master skills.
I encourage all my families to use this resource. It is parent friendly and easy to use.
Do it at home: I also encourage you to look over the skills and think about ways you can incorporate the topics into everyday life. All of my students are encouraged to have 20 minutes of daily living skill practice a day (that equates to at least 3 chores per day!).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vision Impairment in my Life

As soon as I tell people that I was raised by a single mom who is also blind (with additional disabilities), people always ask :"Wow, was that hard?" My reply is always the same, "No". It wasn't hard, it was difficult but it wasn't hard. I know my answer sounds a little crazy but let me explain why.
My mom loved me and I knew it everyday. That's the only reason why it wasn't hard. My mom couldn't help me with my homework. She never went to watch me play softball. There are lots of things she didn't do. But none of that matters. She couldn't see anything I did. She lost the remainder of her vision before I was born. This is the point I want families of children with vision impairment to understand: My mom didn't see anything I did. She was limited visually and with resources so I didn't have a lot of awesome things. However, she really did see it all. She was so proud of me that I always felt like she could see whatever it was I wanted to show.
Sure,there were challenges. But, the challenges weren't daunting. I learned early on in my life how to talk with my mom; how to help her see what I wanted to show her.
That is what parents can learn: how they need to talk, communicate, with their children. I'm gonna post more about what it was like but for now, this is a good start!
Do it at home: Take a moment and think about activities you like to do with your child that truly make you happy. Think about the activities where you honestly forget that your child has a vision impairment. Write those activities down then go do them!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Calendar or Schedule Boxes-These rock!!

Ahh, calendar boxes...They are also known as schedule boxes and they are my absolute favorite strategy for children with multiple impairments or deafblind. I have found such great success by using calendar box systems.
What are calendar boxes?
Calendar box systems are a system for helping provide tactual objects that help students understand time concepts. They help children anticipate what's to come and what's finished. I believe in calendar box systems. They work! I have seen it work over and over. I have seen it work for children who have profound vision and hearing loss as well as having a cognitive delay. I have seen it work for children who are DB and have physical limitations. I look for calendar box systems as soon as I walk into a classroom.
I have two articles that go in depth about calendar box systems. One is from NFB and the other is from TSBVI. I thought I would include the NFB one so I wasn't show favor to TSBVI. The truth is, TSBVI has great resources and the article I have linked is from Robbie Blaha, an awesome educator in our field.

This is the first of many posts about calendar box systems. This is post one. I want you to take a look at the articles and get a feel for it. Next posts will get into some ideas about setting them up and what they look like in a lesson.

In case you don't look at the articles (please do though, worth your read!!). I wanted to share an excerpt about why you should be using calendar box systems. This is from Robbie Blaha's article on calendar box systems, Let Me Check My Calendar:
Why use a calendar system?
"There are a number of reasons a calendar system is often recommended for a child with deafblindness. The calendar system provides emotional support to the child in the following ways:

It provides the child the security of knowing what is going to happen next. Because of the sensory loss the child experiences, he/she may miss natural cues related to future events.
It gives the child things to anticipate. Looking forward to a fun event can lift the child's spirits and help him stay connected with the world outside himself.
It alerts the child that an unexpected change in routine is going to occur. Having the opportunity to prepare for a change often makes the change less stressful.
It allows the child to participate in decisions about the days events. This gives the child a sense of control in his/her life.
Another very important reason a calendar is used is that it helps in the development of communication skills in the following ways:

It allows the child to talk about things that have happened in the past or will happen in the future.
Using the calendar format and symbol provides the child and you with a mutually understood topic for dialogues.
A calendar is also invaluable in developing time concepts because:

It provides a clear way to represent the passage of time which helps teach the child beginning time concepts (past, present, future events).
It aids in teaching more advanced time vocabulary such as "wait", "later", "afternoon", "morning," "day", "night", etc.
It provides an individualized time piece for the child that is easy for him to understand.
It prepares the child to learn more abstract and traditional time pieces (watches, datebooks, etc.)."

Some pictures of one particular calendar box system:

Do it at home: Read the articles on calendar boxes!! Then, take action! First, assess if you child can handle a few calendar boxes or if you need to start with a now and finished box. Most children need to start with 1 or 2 boxes or just the now and finished box. Your TVI is a great resource for this. Ask your TVI to help you get started! I will post Calendar Box Systems Part 2 shortly to help you get started on your next step!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The beauty of Albinism

Did you check out my weblinks and see this one for Positive Exposure? Check out Positive Exposure. It's a site from a photographer who has taken beautiful pictures of people with Albinism.
Save this site to your favorites if you have a child with Albinism; particularly if they struggle with the negative experiences kids with Albinism can encounter. I love these portraits!! I think the artist does a great job of capturing the beauty of Albinism.

A little bit about Positive Exposure (from their site):
Positive Exposure, founded in 1997 by former fashion photographer Rick Guidotti, challenges the stigma associated with difference by celebrating the beauty of human diversity.
Positive Exposure also supports the Tanzania Project & Under the Same Sun. Take a moment and check both sites out.
Here's the site information:
Positive Exposure:

Check out Under the Same Sun:
The last site is NOAH.

They are a great resource for information, family events and support.
Their site is

Do it at home: Get involved with a support/family/child website that is for your child's vision impairment. Check out what's available in your area. Many groups for specific vision conditions have regional or local chapters. The more you know, the less alone you are!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

ECC Resource Search Engine

Have you had a chance to check out information on the ECC? Still unsure what topics are covered? Check out the RECC, the Resources for the Expanded Core Curriculum site at TSBVI. There are many good sites that explain the ECC and this is definately one of them.
Take time to look through it. Do your homework on the ECC. It was designed for children who are blind or visually impaired. The ECC is a critical part of your child's development no matter what their cognitive abilities are.
Although I feel ECC knowledge is important for all parents and education teams, I especially want parents of children who are visually impaired or have low vision to pay attention to the ECC.
Children who have low vision or, for lack of better words, appear to be "sighted" have a special challenge with their vision. The fact that they appear to "see everything" puts them in a place where people mistake what they can or cannot see. Most low vision kids struggle because they aren't totally blind or totally sighted. Some like to "hide" and pretend they can see everything while others struggle to accept their limitations. The ECC still applies to these children as they have to learn the self-determination and self-advocacy (among the other ECC skills).
You will read this over and over again from me, the ECC is a partnership between the education team and the parenting/home team. It is important for you to be aware of these skills. Take time to get your ECC education on!
Do it at home: Look over the ECC curriculum with your child (if age appropriate). Together, learn about the concepts and the skills so you can start to look at how you can apply it in everyday life. Remember, if you do not teach your child about what it means to be "their own advocate or to advocate for themselves", you can't expect them to do it. Use the words, know the lingo and have fun learning together!


Literacy Kits

This is a great literacy ECC resource from two TVIs that I work with. Lisa Pruner, TVI preschool & Catherine Summ, TVI school age created these literacy kits.

Are you looking for creative new ways to work on Expanded Core
Curriculum (ECC) skills at home with your child? These kits, which are appropriate for early elementary school children, each include a story (in both print and Braille) to be read together, a list of story-related questions to discuss with your child, a list of suggested follow-up activities, and props and materials necessary to
carry out the activities. Each kit also includes a journal for sharing your
child’s experience with the kits in either print or Braille.

Check out these awesome literacy kits:

*Toni’s Topsy-Turvy Telephone Day by Laura Ljungkvist. Toni tries to
invite a few friends to a party, but when her phone message isn’t clear,
things get confusing very quickly. This kit includes a variety of
telephones to explore, as well as suggestions for ways to improve phone
skills, both for pleasure and for safety/911 skills.*

- *Madeline Says Merci: The Always-Be-Polite Book by John Bemelmans
Marciano. This delightful book emphasizes the importance of good manners in
a pleasant, kid-friendly story. Kit includes note cards, paper, tactile
stickers,etc… for writing thank-you notes.*

Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London. The classic story of Froggy
and his struggles getting dressed appropriately to go outside. Kit includes
articles of clothing which use many different types of fasteners, as well as
related questions and activities.

- *Easy As Apple Pie: A Harry and Emily Adventure by Karen Gray Ruelle.
An easy to read chapter book about a brother and sister making apple pie
with Grandpa. Suggested activities include sorting apples, going on an
apple picking trip, and, of course, making apple pie. Kit includes a recipe
for apple pie, measuring tools, rolling pins, Play- Doh, talking timer, and
pie plates.

*Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst.
Alexander (the same one who had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day)
can’t seem to save any money in this sweet, funny story. Kit includes
several types of wallets/change purses, Metro Cards and old bus tokens, a
talking calculator, and lots of change for counting and sorting.

Do it at home: Make a literacy kit for your child! Start small with just a few items that accurately represent topics in the story. This can be adapted for children of all abilities. These are also great for children who are MIVI/DB! Remember, your kits don't have to be pretty looking. They should be functional and easy to replace in case something gets broken. Good luck!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fun labels

I found this resource at the back section of Parents magazine. The resource is called "Stuck on You" and they are a company that makes a variety of fun labels. I like them because they make labels for clothes (the tagless T has become an enemy to my students...). They are super cute (and have iron on labels!). I like them a lot. I only have one caution: watch out for contrast issues. Remember your childs' visual needs when placing an order. You don't want to pick something that doesn't have good contrast and/or visual clutter.
Check out the site:
Do it at home: Look at your child's clothing and ask yourself: do they have a system for matching their clothes? If your child is of the age and the skill to be selecting and matching their clothes, then they should be doing it! If they can't, think about developing a system or getting some labels. If all else fails, remember that everything matches jeans! (You can also email me for some tips!)

Friday, June 4, 2010


This is the first of many posts on literacy for children with vision impairments. Literacy is
often a topic that presents struggles for parents because making things accesible can be a challenge. However, it doesn't have to be! There are lots of resources for bringing literacy to children with vision impairments.
This is an excerpt about accessible books & a list of resources that a preschool TVI put together. I loved it & wanted to share! Here's the article (written by Y. Locke, TVI):
Online resources for electronic books come in a variety of formats. Electronic books are books that are accessed through the computer and can be produduced through the computer and can be produced in large print, Braille and/or audio format. Some of these resources are free, and some purchase of individual books. Check with your local library to find out about their electronic book resources. Some resources to check out:
-Accessible Book Collection,
-Book Share,
-One More Story,
-Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired,
-Tumble Books,
Do it at home: Check out some of the websites from this post. Take a moment and ask yourself, is literacy a part of my child's life? Think about your answer and then take action. Need help getting a start on literacy? Contact your TVI (or keep reading my blog for more ideas!)

Let's Get Cooking!

I love this article from TSBVI. It's a great cooking curriculum with easy to read ideas for parents. Why is this article so great? Because it is written for parents! It's broken down by age and provides the "how to" for each age group. As usual, sometimes the age grouping doesn't apply to each child. So if you have a child with multiple impairments, look through each age group and find ideas that work for your child.
Keep in mind this little idea: These articles have two purposes. One, to provide helpful information. Two, these ideas should spark your brains with ideas on how you can modify ideas to fit your child's needs.
Here's the info: www.tsbvi/Education/hey-whats-cooking.htm (if the link is not good, go to Type "cooking" into the search box. The name of the article is "Hey! What's Cooking!).
Do it at home: Find one thing from the article that you think you can do and DO it!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Need help incorporating the ECC into everyday? Here's some help!

I have a resource for parents & families that struggle with incorporating the ECC into everyday life. It's called the Everyday Experiences Calendar and it's made from APH. The calendar has an activity that is easy to do everyday . The activities are from the ECC. I love this calendar because it takes the planning hassle out of the way. Do it for a few weeks and it will help you tune into how to incorporate the ECC into your day.
The calendar is designed for early childhood to about age 8. I also think it's pretty useful for children who are MIVI/DB. You could also use this as a base just to get you started with ideas.

There are two versions of the calendar. One is a big binder that allows yaou to write down and has lots of ideas, etc. The other is a small, more traditional sized calendar that you can post on a wall. I prefer the smaller one because it is just not as bulky but both are awesome.
Here's the link to APH to buy (I would talk to your TVI and see if they can get you one before you look into doingn it personally.): Type in "calendar" into the search box, scroll down and you will find it.
Do it at home: Next time you do laundry, bring along your child. If they are small, put them in the empty laundry basket (make sure to label that the basket is 'empty') and then pull out the warm laundry (towel loads are the best loads) and cover your child (as they tolerate it). Now describe what you are doing. It's a great sensory activity and it teaches the concept in real time. This appropriate for preschool age/early kinder & MIVI/DB.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Teaching functional tactual skills--a great article to read!

I have one of the best articles for teaching functional tactual skills. It's kind of a lengthy read but it is packed with super awesome information. It's one of my faves to hand out when I work with education teams especially occupational therapists. The article is Feelin' Groovy: Functional Tactual Skills. If you have an OT who needs a little "vision impairment education", I highly recommend this article. I also love this article because I think it has great insight for working with children who are MIVI/DB.
Question: do you know what "functional tactual skills" are? Although there are many ways of describing this, the most user friendly way to describe it are these are skills that are part of daily living skills. For example, cleaning a table, folding clothes, etc. are functional skills. Tactual means touch. Students with vision impairments can be and mostly are tactual learners even if they have some usable vision.
Here's the link. It's from the Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired See/Hear Newsletter (a gem of info can be found here!!)
Try it at home: think of 3 things at home that your child interacts with. Then ask yourself, what do these items tell my child? How does your child take in their information? There will be lots of posts later on object symbols and tactual learning. This is jus to get your brains thinking...