Saturday, July 31, 2010

Free computer games for children with vision impairments

I found out about this from our assistive tech guru.
Here are three sites that offer free games for children with vision impairments:
All games are free to download. They are sound based games and do not require special software or hardware for your PC.
This site has 5 free games that are available.
This site offers 3 free games that are audio-based and easy to play.

Check out the sites and tell me what you think!

Do it at home: Do you know how to use your child's screen reader programs? It's a worth while lesson to learn. It can be very useful to know how to use the basics of your child's technology. Have your child be the teacher!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Camp Abilities

Hi everyone, I am excited to share a link to the Camp Abilities Connecticut site. Camp Abilities is a camp that provides traditional camp experiences for children with vision impairments. They have Camp Abilities across the country. This year, they have Camp Abilities in Alaska, Brockport New York, among other cities.
On the Camp Abilities Connecticut page, you can find the links to all of the other operating Camp Abilities across the United States. This is a great camp! I am so excited to launch this program in Connecticut.

At Camp Abilities Connecticut, the age range is entering 5th grade through entering 9th grade. We have 5 Counselor-in Trainings (CITs)who are legally blind. Our CITs will be mentoring our younger campers.

The link to Camp Abilities Connecticut is The site is a work in progress right now. It has lots of good information but no pictures just yet. We will have pictures up and running when we start camp on August 15, 2010.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI)

Do you know about Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)? CVI is the fastest growing visual diagnosis today. It is a unique visual impairment that requires a specific understanding of its characteristics and teaching strategies.

This is the first of many posts for CVI. I feel that it is important that education teams understand the unique features of CVI. There are specific strategies and simple accomodations that teams can make to help students with CVI use their functional vision better. It is important for you to know that the information I am giving you is just the tip of the iceberg. I work with TVIs who have undergone hours of training for CVI.

Check out this page on the APH website. It's all about CVI:

Do it at home: Does your child (with CVI) have a space in your home (and at school) that is ideal for their viewing needs? For example, do they have an area that is free of visual clutter where they play or do activities? If not, think about creating a space!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Early Intervention Team Resource

I was reflecting the other day after a home lesson with an early intervention team about some ideas I shared with them. I thought about how important it truly is for all members of the team to understand how unique a vision impairment is. It is my experience that the field of vision impairment is the one area that intervention teams lack the most information on.

I was fortunate that when I did early intervention, I was part of some awesome teams of professionals. I am grateful for all the knoweldge I acquired from working with OTs, PTs, SLPs and fellow early intervention workers. I also know that it was extremely important that I help my team understand how vision impacts all areas of development. It was also something I did initially with families. In fact, I do that to this day when I work with families and teams. The first question I ask is: How does your child see? If it is an older child who can talk for themselves, I ask them directly to explain what they see. The next thing I do with families is explain how vision works and how it impacts development.

I came across this article that I found on TSBVI a few years ago when I was first starting out in early intervention. This is a great resource for early intervention teams. It explains the basics of how vision works, suggestions for activities and a snapshot of services that a child with vision impairment needs.

Read the article at or follow the link,

Do it at home: Read the article and then highlight if there are items that you don't understand. Take your questions to your TVI. Also, look at the activity suggestions and pick one. You would be amazed at how well these activities work for a variety of children, not just those who have a vision impairment. Happy reading!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Community Based Instruction (CBI), part 1

I love doing activities with my students that is outside of the box. This year for my summer programs have been no exception! I turned our large cafeteria into a market, complete with a talking cash register, customer service desk and actual baskets that were given to us from a local grocery store. It was so much fun!!

Now, I know what most of you are thinking: you can't turn your house into a full blown grocery store! I know you can't and I don't expect you to even think of doing it. I was collecting my co-workers garbage for months and I thought I could possibly be turning into a hoarder!!

But you can do something! So here is part one on "how to" get out in the community and teach. I teamed up with mobility to review the O&M factors about navigating in a grocery store (mobility posts will be coming shortly, stay tuned!!).

I have learned that most of my parents want to have their kids do something in the store but a variety of factors puts a damper on things:
1. Time and patience--if it is unfamiliar, our kids will move slower. A lot of times parents are doing their best to squeeze in a few moments of teaching. Another thing is that I have learned that parents are always good parents but not always good teachers. No offense parents, but sometimes you are not the best teachers and it is frustration all around. If you are going to get into "teach mode", get into full committment. Tell your children that right now you are teaching so no whining!

2. Lack of understanding with skills--A lot of times I observe that parents do not fully realize all the the splinter skills that go into teaching a concept especially if the child has a significant vision impairment. Remember parents, it is not as easy as "just doing it". Vision allows you process so much information at lightening speed. Lack of vision means that each and every tiny step or part of the process has to be learned and then strung together.

3. Not understanding the importance of really letting your child do it--When going to any store (or anywhere for that matter...), the independence piece starts way before getting to the actual store. It's about the planning, the pre-teaching and the anticipation of what and how to do things. This includes typically developing kids with vision impairments, too! All of our kids need to be prepared; some just need more or less time. My point is that I frequently observe parents hovering or just completely stepping back (without any kind of support) with their kids. For example, if your child isn't prepared to get the gallon of milk, then you can't expect them to get the gallon of milk. I see parents just take a huge step back and leave their kids dangling. Or, hovering next to them and prompting them after .5 seconds.

Does any of these things sound familiar? Before you can go out into the community and learn, you need to be prepared. Kids (especially teenagers) get anxious, embarassed, frustrated and flustered. I love community lessons with my students. I do them with all ages of students. Look for part 2 to help you get on your way to successful lessons in the community.

Do it at home: If you have been reading my other posts, I bet you can anticipate what's coming next! Look over my top 3 reasons why community lessons bomb and see if you can identify yourself in any of them. Take a moment and reflect on how you teach your kids. Write down what you want to do, brainstorm with your TVI or O&M if needed and start preparing for getting out into the community!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Audio descriptions at Disney theme parks

I got this email at work from another TVI....thought it was interesting.
Disney Theme Parks Provide Unprecedented Access Features for GuestsThis Sunday, June 27, Walt Disney World will begin offering guests who are blind or have low vision a first-of-its-kind service, audio description of outdoor areas. WGBH's Media Access Group teamed with the Disney Parks staff to produce these descriptions, which are delivered via a small handheld device that fits in the palm of a guest's hand. Description of outdoor areas is just the latest feature to make the parks more enjoyable to guests with disabilities, and joins audio description of over 50 attractions (also produced by WGBH), captioning on handheld devices for moving attractions, amplified audio, and Rear Window in theater-based attractions. The outdoor audio description will be available at Disneyland next year. Much more information, including a sample of the description of Main Street USA, at this link:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tactual books, part 2

Did you read the article from the Tactual Books, part 1 post? I hope so! It's a great article. Now we are on to part 2: I will show you how to make a tactual or experience book.

Step One: Find a topic. Keep it simple. I like to use 3 pages in my books. You can use more based on ability level.

Step Two: Design the page layout. The layout should follow a sequential order from the activity. Check out the example from the book I made with a deafblind student. We made a book about the pool party we had.

The first thing we did at the party was put on party necklaces.

Step Three: Text and tactual item layout. Select items that have meaning from the activity. Keep it simple. For example, if you are doing a book about the outdoors, select a leaf or a stick (if you played outside). I used the party necklace because everyone wore one at the party.

The next thing we did at the party was going swimming. I stopped by the Dollar Store and picked up a water toy to touch while in the pool. I cut part of it to use on our page.

The last thing we did was have dinner together. I used a small plate from dinner.

The easiest way to make these books is to get the materials at a local office supply store that does binding and finishing. I use 110lb cardstock for the pages and the back vinyl cover (for both the front and back) and then get it bound. You can also use cardstock and binder (just 3 hole punch the paper).

These books are meant to be used so keep it sturdy but low cost. They also get bulky and that's okay. Other materials for these books are tape, Braille labels, Braille writer/Perkins. I'll post pictures of other experience books as I make them. Last tip: these should not take a long time to make. I usually can make an experience book in about a half and hour after the lesson. I like to make them for cooking activities, family projects, outdoor activities, etc. They are also a great way to pre-teach about a lesson.

Do it at home: Make an experience book!!