Wednesday, September 29, 2010

DIY: Grocery store at home

Here's the pics of the grocery store that I created at my agency for one of my summer programs this past school year.

You can do this at home, too! Although I will say I collected 'garbage' in my cubicle for a few months to get it to fill an entire large cafeteria. You can do the same thing just on a smaller scale--maybe in your living room or basement!

Here's how to do it yourself:

1. Make a shopping list based on the item you have collected. I made them in Braille, large print and a picture list (below) for my non-reader students. You can also make a picture list for early childhood age students who are just learning how to recognize items. Make sure your pictures are clear, keep a cautious eye for background visual clutter.

2. Set up your grocery store. I set things up according to categories. I had a freezer section, dairy and aisles with similar items. I made sure that all the boxes & packages were in good condition. I taped down the flaps when needed. And I made rows & stacks just like in a regular grocery store.

3. I went to a local grocery store and asked for their signage so I could make sale labels throughout the store. I made sure they were in large print to make it easier for accessibility.

4. I also asked the local grocery store for old shopping baskets. As with everything in the grocery store, these are all real objects to teach about items.
Some items that are not pictured that I also had were:
-a checkout lane (I used a long table with plastic, paper & reusable bags). I was lucky enough to get a talking register to create a checkout lane.
-endcaps with endcap-type merchandise
-aisle signs. I made them on poster board with big black letters that said what was in each aisle and section
-cutsomer service desk. It was right at the entrance to the grocery store
-most important: grocery store workers!! A few of my teachers volunteered to help out with this module so they all wore aprons (which signified that they were workers) and were placed throughout the market. The students were able to access them if they needed help locating items. They also interacted with the workers at the customer service desk and checkout lanes.
Have fun creating your own grocery store or market. Before the students went to the market, we had an O&M mini-lesson about the grocery store. I will be posting O&M links with tips about mobility in another post.
Do it at home: Create your own grocery store or mini market! Collect all kinds of items that your child likes to eat (milk containers, egg cartons, cereal boxes, juice containers, etc.). Let your child explore them. If they have vision, let them tactually and visually check them out. After you have explored your home grocery store store, get out and explore a real store!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quick Tips for Shopping Trips

Hi blogland,
Here is another of my favorite handouts that I created. Here are my favorite tips that I use when I go shopping to a department store-type with my students.

Quick Tips for Shopping
by Robbin Keating, VRT

Tips for asking for a personal shopping assistant:
 Introduce yourself and briefly explain your vision impairment. Don’t assume the person understands how to work with a person with a vision impairment.
 Plan what you need before you go to the store. Prepare a list if needed.
 Briefly explain what kind of help you will need and if you will require using a cart or basket.
 Know the brand names and specifics of what you want
 Know how to explain how to be guided (i.e. following closely or sighted guide assistance)
 Explain that the assistant will have to tell you the price, if there is a sale, or if there are similar products, etc.
 Know what your budget is and let the assistant know what you would like to spend. Keep a subtotal in your head (bring a calculator if needed).

Shopping for clothes:
 Explain that the assistant will have to tell you the price, if there is a sale, or if there are similar products, etc.
 Know your size of shirt, pants & shoes.
 Know the fabric and special features of clothes you would like. For example, cargo pants have large pockets.
 Be familiar with colors & patterns.
 Know what your budget is and let the assistant know what you would like to spend. Keep a subtotal in your head (bring a calculator if needed).

Receiving money back from purchases-
• Ask for money back one denomination at a time, for example: $5 first, singles second
• Know how the cashier is handing cash over, for example $15 dollars change means three 5 dollar bills or a $10 and a $5?
• Tell cashier politely that you need a moment to fold money
• If in a rush, make sure you sort out high denominations first (singles usually do not need to be folded therefore students can just place the in their wallets quickly)
• Use belly as a ‘folding table’ if needed

Do it at home: Role play with your child what they would say to a store worker. I tell my students that they need to always rememeber that they are dealing with sighted people and they don't get their needs.

Have your child tell the store worker three important things:
1) how they would like to travel (sighted guide or following closely)
2) Be clear and confidant about briefly explaining their vision impairrment (I am blind, I use a cane, etc)
3) Be clear on exactly what you need help on (I need you to read the labels...)

Lastly, stand back from your child when they are at the store. If you are close by, the worker will probably talk directly to you instead of your child. I let my students know that I am reading a magazine far away from them but close enough that I can help them if needed. Happy shopping!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Supermarket Sweep Lesson

I have played Supermarket Sweep when I do team up lessons with my mobility team. Each teacher takes a small group of students and starts in a different section of the store. Here's the basics of the game. Feel free to customize it and make it fit the needs of your students.

How to play Supermarket Sweep:
1. Divide into two groups (more if you need).
2. Make a list (in Braille or large print)*.
On the list, write down sections of the grocery store and one item from each section.
The goal of the game is for the students to go to each section and get the item.
3. Make sure that the lists are not identical (for example, one group gets French bread from the bakery while the other group has to get something different).
First group to get all the items and make it to check out wins!
*You can make a list using pictures for non-readers of any ability.
I take digital pictures of items and put it on a Word document.
I have an example of a picture list in the DIY: Grocery Store at Home post.
I truly do have a good time playing Supermarket Sweep with my students. I also feel that my students really pick up a lot of info and we all learn. This is a great game for classes and families.
Do it at home: Have a family CBI and head out to the grocery store!
Remember: start pre-teaching (or discussing) about the grocery store before you go, get prepared. Make sure your students read or look at their lists (picture of Braille/LP) before you play.

How To: Teach Concrete Concepts within the Grocery Store

Any vision professional will tell you that the vital part of teaching concepts for children with vision impairments is to use the real deal when explaining or teaching about it. That’s it—you have to use the real mccoy if you are gonna give your student an actual frame of reference about things. (There are two other critical concepts but I am gonna save that for another post—stay tuned!)

The grocery store is a treasure for all kinds of ECC skills. Here’s a sampling of skills our students can learn about at the grocery store:
1. Self advocacy
2. Mobility
3. Braille skills
4. Social
5. Daily living skills
6. Community skills

The grocery store is also a teaching place for all students and abilities. Here are my favorite concepts to work on within the grocery store. (My list can be a jumping off point to topics or starting points for teaching. You can, of course, customize it for your student).

1. Discuss what the grocery store is.
a. How does it differ from other stores like Target?
b. Is it a big place or a small place?
c. Sections of the store/layout
2. What does the grocery store sell?
a. Discuss items & specialties (bakery, deli, customer service, checkout)
3. Follow a grocery list
a. This is where you can make this a sequential teaching plan. For example, you want to make pasta so brainstorm where you would find each item.
4. Practice money exchanges & checkout skills
5. Take time to take items off the shelf or remove things from the freezer. Explore the aisles, endcaps, freezer cases, seafood section, etc.
6. Play “Supermarket Sweep” as a family or class*

These are concepts that will work for children who are deafblind, early childhood or school age. If you are going to use these concepts with typically developing older school age students, bump up the dificulty level. Give the students a longer shopping list, have them pay as independently as they can, etc.

Make sure that you do your best to teach this lesson as complete as possible. The lesson should begin before you go to the actual store. You should discuss how you are going to get into the store, pre-teach about what the grocery store is, use object symbols, have shopping lists and money in wallets to pay for transactions.

*I will give the directions for Supermarket Sweep in another post.

Do it at home: Start preparing for you community outing to the grocery store! Ask yourself: what does my child really know about grocery shopping? Remember that if you are going to have your child hold onto the cart, that you give them plenty of opportunities to interact. Nothing is learned while just walking behind a cart! Good luck!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Paraprofessionals in the PE Class

This post is from another handout that I use...happy reading!

Paraprofessionals in the APE Class: A Quick How To Tiplist for Maximizing Instruction & Education
By Justin Haegele, APE Teacher & Robbin Keating, Vision Rehabilitation Therapist

Paraprofessionals are a crucial element to the art of teaching children with all disabilities. Para’s are often with their students throughout the entire school day and often know more about their students than any other person in the building. They often know things about their students that cannot be read on an IEP or researched in text books.

1. Communicate your student’s needs.
PE Tip: Once again, no one knows the students like the paraprofessionals do. When para’s come to physical education, they often know far more than the PE / APE teachers do about the students. That being said, it is extremely valuable for the paraprofessionals to communicate with their physical education staff. Physical education staff does have access to IEPs and other information on the students, but do not always know exactly what type of abilities the students have. Paraprofessionals must explain the strengths and weaknesses of their students to their physical activity staff in order to guarantee the most success possible for their students.

Vision Tip: If you are going to be with your student with a vision impairment for the entire school year, it would be a good idea to understand basic accommodations that your student needs. It also helps if you can briefly state your students’ vision (Some teachers, especially PE teachers, do not get to come to team meetings so they often miss trainings from the TVIs. Therefore, they are not “in the know” about the specifics of the vision impairment). So in a PE class if you can relate your student’s visual limitations quick & easy, it can really help a PE teacher who is not sure where to place the student. For example, reminding the PE teacher that the student doesn’t have central vision and has glare issues will help the PE teacher understand that having the student face bright light (like facing the sun while in the outfield) isn’t the most effective position.

2. Keep an appropriate distance to your student.
PE Tip: This is often a difficult task for anyone in education to do correctly. Children with visual impairments and other disabilities do need assistance with certain things, but not everything. Keeping the correct distance from your student is a tough art to master. Being too close to the student may separate them from the class and could smother them, creating a social outcast. On the other hand, being too far away from your students may not be safe in a physical education setting or may leave the student feeling alone. The easiest way to determine the correct distance to stay from your student is to ask. Usually, the student will tell you where they need you.

Vision Tip: If the teacher is going to be showing how to play a sport or skill and it is visually difficult for the student to follow, ask the PE or APE teacher what materials you can gather to bring to the student (maybe even before class). This is a reasonable accommodation that most of our students with a vision impairment have. If the student has access to the materials, it allows you to step back to allow the student to participate with their peers. You may also want to help with pre-teaching skills so that students can anticipate what will happen during the PE class (ask your TVI for more info). Pre-teaching skills also allow you to step back because students will have a preview of the concepts being taught.

3. DO NOT do activities for students.
PE Tip: Some paraprofessionals which I have worked with in the past believe that completing an activity for a student is the same as the student completing the task. That is not the case. In order to obtain the skills planned out by a program, students must complete tasks. Even though paraprofessionals are encouraged to participate actively and energetically, please do not do the task for the student.

Vision Tip: It is important to understand the teaching strategy of hand under hand instruction. Hand under hand instruction is required to help students initially understand a concept. There will be times when you, the APE or PE teacher will have to position a students’ body to help them understand the sport. However, be aware that as the PE Tip cautions, you are not doing the activity. Children with vision impairments have a strong tendency to be passive participants. Empower your students to participate at their highest level of action.

4. PE teachers biggest complaint about paraprofessionals: P.E. does not equal break time!
PE Tip: This and the next points are very connected. P.E. is not lunch. P.E. is not a break for paraprofessionals. P.E. is not social hour. P.E. is P.E. I have heard the spectrum of different complaints about para’s, from one having pockets lined with zip lock bags which will pull out chicken wings throughout a class, to another leaving granola on the gym floor (happened to me today, not a joke), to others leaving the class for thirty minutes at a time. In all honesty, P.E. teachers probably need your help more than classroom teachers. Teaching P.E. to children without disabilities is very tough in a HUGE gymnasium. Throw in children with disabilities and the task has multiplied in difficulty ten fold. This being said, please come prepared to participate. Wear sneakers, wear pants, don’t bring food or a newspaper. Get involved!

Vision Tip: It is always important to remember that what we, as professionals, model for our students is what they understand about things. So, if you are not as strict about PE class as you are about Science, our student will pick it up and develop a lazy or misguided understanding about PE. Children with vision impairments struggle with physical activity. Most lead very sedentary lifestyles. It is not your responsibility alone to increase physical activity for your student but as the person they will work with the most, you have a lot of influence. PE time is an awesome opportunity for our students because it has the most tactile experiences they will have throughout the day: running, jumping, catching, walking, ready positions---the opportunities are endless!

5. Enjoy your physical education program.
PE Tip: Enjoying your physical education program will benefit both your student and yourself. When the students know you are enjoying yourself, it allows mental ease and less stress for students to enjoy themselves. Knowing that the activities are fun and interesting gets students more excited. Students can tell in the voice inflection of a paraprofessional while walking to physical education whether or not they enjoy it, regardless of whether or not they are lying. If you enjoy the gym, chances are the students will as well. Not to mention, a physical activity program can be very beneficially to the paraprofessional. People around the world pay thousands of dollars a year to join gyms in order to be physically active. Paraprofessionals are getting the same activities for free. In addition, studies have shown that people who are physically active have more positive dispositions. Listen, participate in phys education with your student, and enjoy it!

Vision Tip: PE can sometimes be a student with vision impairments worst class. Paraprofessionals have a unique opportunity to help change that. There may be sports or skills that are too visually demanding which can lead to frustration and depression (they can’t keep up with their sighted peers). The paraprofessional needs to be alert to this. Challenge yourself to create fun any way you can in the PE class for your student! Learn how to describe the game when they are unable to fully participate. Keep them in the loop. Don’t allow them to zone out during PE because they can’t see something! If you notice that your student is struggling continuously, tell your TVI. Help your TVI know the weak spots so that the TVI can help the PE teacher. And like the PE tip encourages, enjoy a period of the day that you can get out and PLAY!

Monday, September 13, 2010

5 Tips for Independent Living Skills

Here is a copy of the handout that I live to give my parents about encouraging independent living skills:

Take 5 for Independent Living
by Robbin Keating
Vision Rehabilitation Therapist

Independent living skills are essential for students with vision impairments. For many students, getting started and practicing are the most challenging obstacles. Parents play an integral part in facilitating an independent environment. It is important to remember that your encouragement and enthusiasm can make a difference in the attitude of your child. Here are my top five suggestions for getting off to a good start with independent living skills at home:

1. Take an honest look at how independent your child is.
a. Parent question: What could my child do without my help?
2. What is the realistic level of independence for my child?
a. Parent question: Does my child have the capability to perform age appropriate skills?
3. Commit to step back from helping with everything
a. Parent question: What is one thing I am doing for my child that I can STOP doing for them?
4. Set a specific goal for independent living
a. Parent question: What is one specific thing my child can START doing? Hint: Cooking lunch for themselves? Selecting clothes?
5. Practice, practice, practice!
a. Parent question: Am I enforcing 20 minutes of daily living activities 4-5 times a week? Does my child have a regular set of chores?
As parents, you have a great responsibility for your children. If you feel that you need more help in this area, consult your teacher for the visually impaired.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Double Up 4 Vision--Tandem Bike Ride & Fundraiser Event

I got this via email at work and thought I would pass it along. I didn't coordinate this so please reply with questions to Lighthouse International in NYC. If you are in the area, this looks like a great event!
Lighthouse International is pleased to announce its inaugural event Double Up 4 Vision – Tandem Bike Ride and Walk Fundraiser, pairing people with and without sight on tandem bikes to share the experience. To learn more about this event, please visit
Please help us spread the word by passing the attached flyer along to your network of family, friends and colleagues. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please feel free to contact me at the office number listed below.

Thanks in advance for joining us in this wonderful celebration of what people with vision loss CAN do!

Rowena Saunders, MSOL
Vice President for Volunteer Resources
Lighthouse International
111 East 59th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022

Office: 212-821-9405
Fax: 212-821-9687
Mobile: 347-573-3752

...On coping with my vision impairment, a students' perspective

Hi all,
I recently asked one of my students, Savannah, to share a little bit about coping with a vision impairment. She has low vision and is a large print reader. You can read more about Savannah in the August postings. She has accepted the invite to be a regular contributor to my blog on vision impairment topics, Expanded Core Curriculum and regular teenager thoughts.

I asked her a few are her thoughts:

Alright lets see if I can summarize.... It (My vision impairment) usually hits me at times such as.... when I am at a sleeping over and my friends want to do something silly like play man hunt in pitch black... I cant see a thing and the flash light can make a glare or make me see halos. Other times might be.... when I read, I read alot but I have to find the perfect position or else there wont be enough light or to much of a glare and my arms get tired because I have to hold so high up and so close to my face so I could see it. Also being 17, alot of my friend are getting their permits and it kind of stinks that I wont be getting mine and cant really talk to them about it. Those are the most common instances.

How do I cope with it.... hmmm... I am very flexible so I hardly ever get frusterated, I find myself constantly making jokes and my family is always supporting me. My 11 and 10 year old cousins already told my that as soon as they get their licences they will drive me anywhere my little heart desires! lol. Then when I get lucky and can see something that my grandma cant see because she doesnt have her glasses... she laughs and says oh yeah the blind one can see it! Either way I am always eating oreos! lol

So today was my eye appointment and lets say... I wasnt nervous at all because I dont ever worry about my vision, then when the eye doctor told me all the numbers and such I just let it roll off my back because I am not worried and I know that I can do this! Afterwards I tried out some equipment and tried out a scope, i was able to read from a far and that was what a person with 20/20 vision would have been able to read.... I was sooo excited and so proud of myself I could hardly stand it!
So as you can tell there are alot of ups and downs to being visually impared.... its not a problem for yours truly, Savannah Simon! lol

Thursday, September 2, 2010

APE Webcast from Perkins

I am excited to share another APE resource! This resource comes from Perkins School for the Blind. It's a webcast by Matt LaCortiglia, PE teacher from Perkins. I like his webcast because it comes with a Power Point that you can download and it's an easy workshop for PE teachers who haven't had any experience with children with vision impairments.
I will also post the information about ordering inexpensive jingle balls to help with accommodations for some popular balls sports played during PE.

Check out the webcast:

Do it at home: A helpful thing for (APE) teachers is a vision profile. A vision profile is a quick bulleted list that describes what your child can and cannot see along with other important information (such as glare issues, motor coordination, CVI issues, etc.). When teachers feel like they understand, they are more empowered to actually do something that will benefit both teacher and student.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Adaptive Physical Education (APE)

Greetings blogland!
I am really excited about the new topic I have to blog about: adaptive PE (APE)! I recently partnered with a great APE teacher, Justin Haegele, at Camp Abilities CT. Justin is an APE teacher in the NYC public schools. He also is the director of Camp Abilities Alaska. I wanted to reach out more to the recreation & leisure parts of the ECC especially physical fitness and APE for my students. As luck would have it, I met Justin!
I asked him to put together a Top 5 Resource List for easy & quick accommodations for APE for children with vision impairments. His article is below. As with everything, give credit where credit is due. This article is written by Justin Haegele, APE teacher. Feel free to use by make sure you site him!

Look for more APE postings this week!!

Five Simple Solutions to Including Children with Visual Impairments in your P.E. Class
Justin Haegele, APE teacher
Casey is entering his tenth year as a physical education teacher at a public elementary school. He is very passionate about his job and that passion translates into good teaching in a positive learning environment. His administrators have noticed his ability to teach and are giving him more responsibility with his classes. One responsibility is that Casey will now be teaching an inclusion class with children with visual impairments. This will be the first time since he will teach a child with a visual impairment since his college education. Even though Casey is a good teacher and is passionate about teaching all of his students, he is unsure as to what he can do to include children with visual impairments in his physical education class.
The previous situation is not uncommon in school districts across the country. Physical education teachers are often asked to teach children in inclusive environments with very little training other than one class or field experience in college. For seasoned instructors, that could mean ten or more years of teaching without a child with a visual impairment in their class. Even teachers like Casey, who are valued because of their passion and ability to teach, may have difficulties figuring out how to modify activities for children with visual impairments to be successful. The following are five simple solutions for physical education teachers to include children with visual impairments in their class.

1. Verbalize your Instruction
Physical education teachers regularly instruct using large body movements and visual modeling. Physically displaying a movement and having a group of students follow along is an easy way to teach general education students most physical activities. Visual modeling is not an effective teaching method for children with visual impairments. In order to include a student with a visual impairment, without completely changing a program and alienating the student from their peers, the physical education teacher should verbalize each critical movement while modeling it. Verbalizing each movement will allow a student with a visual impairment to follow along with their classmates throughout activities. For example, while demonstrating a correct push up, the instructor should verbalize the beginning stance, the push up movement, and the ending stance while demonstrating.

2.The Use of Sound
Many activities in physical education classes include running to or throwing an object at targets which are a distance from the participants, such as a 10 meter dash or shooting an arrow. Since children with visual impairments may have trouble with objects from a distance, P.E. teachers should consider using sound sources to reinforce the targets location. Sound source can come in many different forms such as a purchased sound device, a wireless doorbell, or another person clapping their hands. The sound should be lined up directly with the target. Additionally, the instructor should tell the student whether the sound source is located in front of or behind the target.

3. Change / modify your implement
The base of most activities taught in physical education use equipment such as balls, short or long handled implements, and targets. When including a child with a visual impairment in a P.E. class, instructors must consider modifying equipment in order to improve its visibility. Equipment which is dark in color or lacks contrast from the environment may be difficult for children with visual impairments to use. Physical education teachers should consider different ways to make equipment more visible by changing to a brighter colored implement or using neon tape or paint. Adding sound to a piece of equipment, such as a bell, is another way of modifying equipment to accommodate the needs of children with visual impairments.

4. Peer Buddy System
Physical education teachers cannot work with one student throughout their classes without alienating them from the group. Using a peer buddy system will ensure that all students in the class will understand activities without the need of one to one instruction. A peer buddy system consists of pairing each student in the class with a partner whom they will work with in physical education (NOTE: Do not simply assign a buddy to the child with a visual impairment or it may alienate them from the class). The peer buddies can work together to learn activities and participate in them as a pair.

5. Disability Sport Activity
Creating a disability sport activity in a school is a great way for physical educators to teach activities which are both fun and meaningful for children with visual impairments. Physical education teachers can create units on Paralympics sports for visually impaired athletes such as Beep Baseball or Goalball which the entire school can play. Creating units such as these will broaden the teacher’s knowledge base as well as create disability awareness to children without a disability in inclusive classes. One natural transition for physical educators to consider is to follow a baseball unit with a Beep Baseball unit. In this instance, children with and without visual impairments will have an opportunity to compare and contrast the two sports.

Using the previously mentioned simple solutions, Casey now feels more comfortable teaching children with visual impairments. He is creating a baseball/ beep baseball unit for all of his students to play throughout the next month. During the baseball unit, he plans on using a neon colored ball and having sound devices at the bases when each player is batting. He is also planning on splitting his class into peer groups when demonstrating the batting stance, a time where Casey knows he will verbalize each movement from the beginning position to the follow through.