Monday, February 25, 2013

Our ski trip hit the news!

Michelle and Jose are our resident snowboard gurus!
They are wearing their neon orange vests and rocking some serious Blind Pride!!
 Here's the highlights from our ski trip: 10 students took to Ski Sundown, 3 of them rocked snowboarding, 4 were newbies, 1 was the only that went gun barrel and 1 was a 5 year skier that rocks! It was a great time!! Again, the instructors from STRIDE Adaptive Sports were amazing!! We can't wait to do it again!
Sam, from the posts Around Town with Sam, heading off with his guide
We made the rounds with a few journalists. Here's the link for one of the stories that we were featured in:

Remember, skiing is a GREAT sport for people with vision impairments! Grab some skis, get an experienced guide and hit the slopes---there's still snow on the mountain!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Around Town with Sam

Oh  man, I am SO excited!! Why? Because another one of my super fab students has agreed to blog with me---yay!! This is another ongoing column written by one of my students. Please welcome (drumroll......) Sam to the independent little bee!! I am excited for Sam to share his experiences "around town". Sam is one of my older students, a Braille reader, sports enthusiast and all around nice guy. 
Sam and Cody at Camp Abilities 2011
 Enough from me, now here's Sam...
     Hi, my name is Sam. I am 20 years old and live in  Connecticut where I am a student at the town High school.
     I was born with sclerocornea, microophthalmia, and aniridia. I had corneal transplants in both eyes at the age of 5. Soon afterward I developed glaucoma, and lost the vision in my left eye. After several glaucoma surgeries, I have light perception in my right eye. 

     My preferred reading mode is Braille. I started learning Braille when I was in Preschool, but hated it. My Mom remembers me throwing my Perkins Brailler on the floor. It made a dent. I'm not sure why but in second grade, I finally decided to read, and now I love it. I read everyday, especially novels, ESPation magazine, sports schedules, classwork brailled by my Para, Rolling Stone Magazine, and the New York Times. I also follow Facebook on the refreshable Braille display on my Braille Note.
     I stayed in public school until the end of 7th grade. I then went to Perkins School for the Blind because my district thought I would get good schooling there. I was there for for 6 years, I loved it very much. The hardest thing for me was being 2 and a half hours away from my parents. And my dogs. And my siblings. I liked doing sports there because all of the sports were blind friendly. Many of my teachers there were blind, which helped me learn how to be a blind adult. I still think of them as mentors.
     When I first started going to Perkins I was driven there and back. Eventually I started taking the train by myself. It made me feel free. Staff at Perkins would take me to the train. I would ask the conductor which car I was on and then I would call my Dad to tell him so he knew where to meet me.
     Moving home from Perkins was very hard. I left a lot of friends and teachers at Perkins. My town friends I knew from elementary school and middle school had already graduated. I was excited to start at the town high school because it was a new chapter in my life. Now, 5 months on, I've completed a semester at my town high school and made new friends. The academics are challenging but I'm getting used to them now. I am also getting some work experience working at the Town Senior Center.
     I am in Best Buddies, an after school club for typical and disabled kids which I love because we have a lot of social activities. I am also working out with a trainer 3 times a week. I will be starting to coach Goalball for 5th graders in another town, Greenwich. I ski several weekends each winter, I am also in the BESB Student Advisory Council. And I like hanging out with friends. But I still go on Facebkook and text old friends.
     I hope to write a lot for this blog about my experiences. If you have any questions for me comment, and I'll get back to you. Look forward to hearing from you.

Sam and Craig, a fave PE teacher at weekend programs

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Love is in the air...

Hello my friends! I am back from my wedding fun and back to blogging! Well to be honest, I am buried in the snow! CT was one of the lucky recipients of Snow Storm Nemo.  Valentine's Day is just around the corner so I thought I would do some searches around Pinterest, Blogger, FamilyFun, etc. to look for some blind friendly crafts and treats. 

A few easy modifications for the classroom V-Day fun:
*Ask teachers to have the kids in their classrooms put their V-Day mailboxes in the same location at their desks. Usually mailboxes are made up of paper bags or boxes. Tape them to the same place at each desk (i.e. on the right side of each desk).
*Remind teachers to tone down the visual chaos! Sometimes V-Day gets a little visually overstimulating---hearts, candy, ribbons everywhere are just a visual nightmare. This can be especially true when crafting or baking. How do you know if it is overwhelming? Pay attention to your kiddo!! Look for them showing signs (verbally and non-verbally) that they are overwhelmed by things. 
*Put forth the effort to add some Braille to your cards. Get some Braille labels or just put them in the good ol'Perkins and put each classmate's name in Braille. You could even use some Braille to make a V-Day riddle! Have the sighted peers 'decode' and figure out the Braille on the card. 
*As with every holiday or event in the classroom, PRE-TEACH! Give our kids a heads up on what the special events are so that our kids can anticipate what's going to happen. 
*When crafting for V-Day, you may need to think about some contrast. As with most things for our kids, put a dark placemat (or play tray) underneath to provide some contrast. Dycem can also help, too. 

Are you a parent or a classroom teacher that's not sure what are some good activities for children with vision impairments? The activities and treats I found cover just about all of our kids. I think almost every one of these can be done for early childhood up to teens including kids who are MIVI (which includes DB and ASD/VI).
Here's some fun activities and recipes that I have found:
*Valentine Heart Button Craft. Here's the link:
Valentine Heart Button Craft for Kids
This particular craft is geared towards younger children. I also thought you could vary the size of the hearts, put the paper on chipboards or foam boards (more sturdy). Good for early childhood up through primary grades in school age, MIVI kids too (as long as they don't swallow buttons). You could make this a 3-step sequence: first, paper--next glue--last buttons. The white glue on a dark red paper also creates a nice layer of contrast to follow the glue line. Make sure you put buttons in easy to access storage. The blog suggest cookie tins. 

*Egg Carton heart. Link:
Egg-cellent Heart Art
You can trend this up (like the picture) for older kids (teens) or it's also something that younger kids can do too. I think our MIVI kids can do it too with a little support from a teacher/parent.

*XO wreath. This was available on Etsy for purchase but I also thought it would be a good craft for us to make as well.
XOXO Decor - Berry Wreath - Kisses and Hugs - XO - Holiday Wreath - Valentine's Day Decor
Another one that is doable for our range of kids. You could also add some fragrance to the mix to wake up the sensory input as well. The "O" may be a little tricky. I think you could go to the store and buy the "O".

*Valentine Chex Mix. Link:
Valentine Chex® Mix (1/2 Recipe)
Another fantastic cooking project that is simple and easy. It's also another good one that can be made into a 3 step sequence: First: candies, Next: Chex Mix, Last: Sprinkles (or your last step could be the baggie that you can package them). You could also add another 3 step after you "prepare the food" (the steps I just wrote). The next round of 3 steps could be the 'vocational sequence': First: food, Next: package, Last: label. In case I was confusing:
'Cooking Sequence': First: candies, Next: Chex Mix, Last: Sprinkles. You combine all ingredients into a bag and shake (most kids love this step).
'Vocational Sequence': First: food, Next: package, Last: label
For kids with kitchen and cooking skills you can have them prepare the peanut butter mixture. You may have to substitute the PB mixture. You might need to try something like almond butter.

*Valentine's Pop Box Treats. Link:
I thought the Pop Box was a great idea for teenagers or tweens. 

You guys know I blog about doing peppermint bark at Christmas but I never thought about doing it at V-Day! What a great idea!! This is awesome for any ability or age!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

News & A little break for this Bee

Hi friends,
I am sorry that I haven't posted this past week. My big news is that I am getting married (tomorrow actually)! Yay me!! That means that this Bee is on vacation for a few days. I couldn't just leave you hanging though. A colleague, Matt, at work sent around information about the Braille Touch app. It has been released and is available in the app store.  The free version is very limited but gives you a good idea of how it feels to use the app. The upgraded version ($14.99) allows you to email, text, tweet or copy and paste what you type. Matt has found the app to be very intuitive and faster than the QUERTY Keyboard. Also, when using the app with Voiceover, you don’t need to double tap the keys. 

One of his Braille reading students tried it out today and loved it. The student even figured out how to type on it almost instantaneously (before hehad even finished explaining it to her). Pretty cool, huh? Thanks Matt for the tip!!