Thursday, September 27, 2012

Resource for Early Childhood

Hey friends,
This week I am presenting a new presentation on "play" for early childhood at our agency. I love new topics because it gives me a new direction to research. I spent some time reading a lot of articles and found some nice little gems that I knew I had to share! 
This is the first one of many more to come in the next week:

The article is General Considerations in Working With Young Children with Vision Impairments. I love this article because it does a great job of teaching about concept development for our kiddos and its broken down into topics and strategies (that you can do, no degree required!). 

I love this article! Not only is it super reader friendly (parent friendly too!!), its got some great tips in an easy to understand layout. Save this one and share it with your team. Better yet, create a new folder of favorites because I am going to be posting some great reads that you will want to save and add to your vision bag of tricks. This is a great resource for vision professionals to share with colleagues, teams and families but it's also great for parents to keep in their vision bag of tricks to share with teams as well. Don't forget your related therapists like OTs and PTs!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Blind Cook

Have your heard about super awesome masterchef, Christine Ha? If you haven't, get OnDemand and watch her! She's amazing (and I think that is an understatement). My post this week is to highlight her. There seems to be so many things to like about her. My favorite reason? She's not a gimmick. She's totally real. She's a beautiful color palate of creativity, human and oh yeah, she's blind and the girl can cook!

This is why I wanted to share her site with everyone. I was reading her blog post about winning masterchef. I love how she described her experience! From her blog post (that I highly recommend you read...): "Yes, I had an aid on the show. Her name is Cindy. I did not know her prior to coming to L.A. To film the show. The producers hired her in order to level the playing field. And how can anyone deny that I went into that kitchen at a glaringly obvious disadvantage? Cindy was not there to give me a leg up; she was simply there to make the challenges fair on my behalf. She was never allowed to taste my food or give me advice. She could not tell me if my food was burnt or raw. I had to ask her prior to her being permitted to answer: “Cindy, is my steak black or red?” or “Cindy, is the crust on the pie pale yellow or dark brown?” or “Cindy, where on this plate is there extra liquid that I can wipe off before presenting the dish?” I had to ask specific questions, I.e. For the color of a food item and not even if it’s burnt or raw. When I needed a food processor or a mixer from the equipment room, I had to step back from my kitchen station and not touch a single thing while Cindy was away grabbing my requested appliance. She was an extension of myself and therefore I’m obviously not allowed to stir or cook or clean while she was away from my station."

I know you may be reading this excerpt and thinking "why is Robbin posting this?". Here's what was in my head--this is an awesome example of the right kind of advocacy. She consistently uses specific questions, demonstrates excellent independent living skills and she takes initiative. This is how I wish our paraprofessionals interacted with our students!! The aide was an extension of the Christine. The aide didn't cook or fix or anything to help Christine cook. Keep reading her blog post about using her aide and how she won. Just an interesting perspective on her writing and her example. Finish reading it. Here's the link:

A little housekeeping...

Hey friends,
Just a little FYI here---If you have been following me for the past year or so you will know that I always post on Tuesday nights. You will also notice that I haven't been following my Tuesday postings. Sorry! I have changed my posting day from Tuesday to Wednesday. I know, I know today is Thursday (that I am posting this, ha ha) but I have dedicated Wednesday as my new blog day! Check back over the next few weeks. It's back to school in-services from our agency which means I am writing new handouts. Keep reading friends!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Freshman College Life

Frankie & me at Camp Abilities CT 2012
If you have been following my blog for awhile now you know that in the fall I invite one of my new college students to write about their experiences. Fortunate for me, I am still in touch with all my students as they go off to college life. In November, I run a college day at a college campus and we work on the high school to college life transition. I'll have tips for that in November!  This year I am happy to have my super fave student, Frankie Ann, write for me. Not only has she been my one of my super favorites, she is talented and off to pursue her big dreams in musical theater. She was also my CIT Supervisor at Camp Abilities CT 2012 this year. Whenever I see her, I just smile! I am super proud of her and just love her to pieces!! I had so much fun going through my pictures of programs with Frankie Ann. I couldn't just pick one! 

She was my race partner at the New England Warrior Dash

My favorite mud picture :)

And lastly, a picture of us from when we saw "Wicked" up close in the
 2nd row at The Bushnell
Hey all! :) My name is Frankie Ann and I am in the middle of my second week of classes at Western Connecticut State University. I am a freshman musical theatre major and couldn't be happier with how my classes have been going for these first two weeks! 

I'm not going to lie, I was extremely nervous to go onto college. I have gone to small catholic schools for all of my previous years of school, where everyone knew me and was familiar with my vision impairment. I was nervous for having to go up to my professors and explain to them personally what my disability is and what accommodations I need. But things could not have gone smoother. Majority of my classes are theatre related (Private Voice, Dance, Acting, Piano, etc.) But I am also taking general education classes such as Economics and Sociology which are going to have a lot more to them. I was afraid that my professors would not be willing to work with me and make the accommodations necessary for me to succeed in their class. But I was dead wrong.

I walked into my first piano class, nervous as I could be because I had never attempted piano before and wasn't sure how it would work for me because I already know that I cannot read notes on sheet music. But I am so lucky to have such an incredible professor who already had the syllabus in large print for me and who helped me to learn the basics of piano in just two classes despite my vision impairment. He told met what he would do anything I need in order to succeed in the class.

As a musical theatre major, I had to audition for the three fall shows. As a freshman, it is not common for you to get cast in any show and if you are its usually the Fall Cabaret and not one of the main stage shows. However, I was so thrilled to get a callback for lead roles in both the straight play, Major Barbara, and the musical Into the Woods. I couldn't have been more excited! I found out yesterday that I got cast in the play as an ensemble member and understudy for one of the leads!!! What was even more shocking was that I got cast over several upperclassmen who were not cast in any show.

To sum it all up- college is everything I thought it would be and more! I am learning so much about what I love most and having the time of my life! :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Student Tech Wiz

This week I am happy to blog about one of my students. He has a unique talent for technology and worked at our agency this summer in the Braille Unit.
I spent some quality tech time one afternoon with him and got some tips for acquiring good tech skills for students.
Here's my conversation with John Carnemolla, 16 years old. He was born with ROP with a nystagmus and a little light perception. 
Fast facts about John:
  • He's been into technology since 2006.
  • He got started because he had a computer and just got interested.
  • First piece of technology was a PC, then an MPOWER in 5th grade. He played games and started feeling around. He used the word processing programs, too. 
  • Skills that he has that help be successful: typing, listening, patience and good keyboarding skills--knows the commands like the back of his hand!
  • He reads the programming manuals to learn the operating systems. 
  • He started typing in kindergarten and actually prefers the QWERTY keyboard over a Braille input because it's a similar interface to a computer. 
  • He uses Bookshare a lot on his APEX. He says using Bookshare is awesome because "in 10 minutes you can get 50 books".
  • He plays chess and cards on his APEX.
Programs John likes:
  • He has a Braillenote APEX (He's like a whiz on it!!)
  • He likes the APEX because he says it's easy to use.
  • John prefers JAWS but will also use NVDA (which he taught me about the day I hung out with him). NVDA is an open source program (a freebie!) that works like JAWS-ish but is better than Word.

How do your teachers handle your technology in the classroom? 
John says it's all pretty cool. He comments that it is handy to use the email via WIFI in school and is completely electronic in school.

What skills are a must for tech users?
Keyboarding for sure! Next is good understanding of the computer. 

Got a tech question? John is definitely one of my favorite resources to hit up! He's smart as a whip when it comes to technology. He's helped me do presentations on adaptive technology with community partners. Feel free to email me and I will pass it on to him!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back to School Organization Plan

Hello my blog friends!! Happy back to school!! I am back from camp and vacations and ready to return to blogging for you. 

I did this lesson that I am posting about over the summer to help get one of my students off to a good start with organization. He was struggling with organization and that next leap into responsibility. I came up with a written organization contract that will keep not only him but his para focused on what he needs to do. 

My blog note: I am sorry the picture is hard to see. I must have saved it a million times in different locations, rotated it, etc. and I STILL couldn't get it to upload landscape!!

How this organization plan works:
  • A copy of this is handy for him to review. He can also use this as a checklist. I suggested a few different ways you can do this: put it on large index cards and laminate them then put it on a key ring, tape it in the locker, put in folders, etc. 
  • It's organized into categories so it's more of a step-by-step deal: 
    • Things that the student has to organize--The para doesn't do this at all! This is a list of things that the student must take stewardship for. You want to create this list with the student so that there is buy in and accountability.
    • What you need in your plan--This the guide for the para and anyone else on the team that needs to know how this plan needs to happen. The parents are also good people to have on this part. This is also a working list of things that the student and his para need to do. 
    • Supply list
      • Have a quick reference list of the supplies that the student needs to have ready to go. 
    • Responsibility Contract--
      • A list of what the student is responsible for and what the para will do.
Everything else is written down on this plan (see picture below). I used the student's 20/20 pen and paper so he could definitely read it.

Remember what it says at the bottom: KEEP IT SIMPLE! EASY TO FOLLOW! No more than four bullet points per section! Keep it written in a way that is not visually overstimulating (that's why I suggested the index cards on a key ring).