Wednesday, December 31, 2014

DeafBlind Resource

Hi friends,

How about we end 2014 with a blog post or two? I hope the holidays were fun for everyone. I wanted to share a resource that came to me from a lovely lady named Ramona Rice. Ramona has Usher's Syndrome. We were having a lovely chat one nice afternoon when she received a phone call in the middle of our talk. I watched her answer her cell phone with a device that I had never seen before. I immediately asked her what this hands free cell phone device was! She uses a device from Starkey Pro called Surflink. I asked her more about it because I was quite intrigued. She then showed me a little microphone that she could point in my direction to dial in on our conversation without the clutter of background noise. I have included information about this product. Ramona swears by it! She even told me about another device (from the same company) that helps her watch TV. I thought about several of my students with Usher's and thought about how they struggle with keeping up with conversations. I don't think this is a perfect fit for everyone but check it out. I watched Ramona (who has a significant dual sensory loss) do business on her cell thanks to Surflink.
Check it out!

Ramona coordinates some helpful resources for those who have Usher's Syndrome. You can find out more information about it here,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

CVI Target

Happy December friends! I bet everyone is on the go with holiday activities. I hope everyone has been buying up items for your CVI kits. I have been! I have also been doing a lot of work in our classrooms for CVI modifications. Here's one little project that I just finished up. I got the original idea from Pinterest (of course!). This idea came to me because the student I was making modifications for is in a wheelchair and has a head rest to support his head. I wanted to find a way to provide a good target that his team could present items without having the visual clutter in the background.

Here's the original idea and the site that I got the directions from:

Clearly the burlap color wasn't going to cut it but the idea was still gold! 
Here's how I modified it for this student:
My handsome husband and partner-in-crime did the building. It was all made out of PVC pipe. 
Easy to make! We didn't glue it so that I can take it apart and move it around. 

This is the back side of the target. I like the middle post because it allows me to hang stuff on it and use both sides of the target. 

Last I added the Christmas lights to attract his attention. He really responds to lights. Now his team can roll him up next to the target backdrop and work with him. Easy peasy and visually awesome to look at! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday Ideas!

Can you believe that we are in December?! It's crazy! I am sure everyone is set for holiday ideas but I thought I would share some ideas that I have been doing this season. These are ECC activities that can be done at home or school, December through January and can be done with kids of all abilities with a little modification. There are so many good ideas to do so I decided to include some baking/cooking as well as other type of activities. I've pinned a lot of these on Pinterest already but I thought I would share here too.  I made sure to include link to the site.
Here goes:

Another quick and easy ECC lesson for the holidays. **You can also call this Winter S'mores, HOliday S'mores, etc. if your students do not celebrate Christmas. Perfect 3 step sequence for kids who are MIVI too!
I am doing this activity this week! I love it because it is a simple three step sequence for our MIVI kids as well as something yummy and doable for our typical kids. Did you miss Christmas? How about calling it New Years S'Mores? I also experimented with different types of marshmallows and M&Ms and let my students choose (easy peasy self-determination skill). I bought mint flavored marshmallows and a variety of different types of M&Ms. I'm having the student make their own labels or they can decorate one that I'm giving them.

How to make homemade Christmas scented paint | Great for kids Christmas crafts and Christmas sensory play.
How fun is this idea for painting? This is a great modification for a lot of our kids. You could also add in O&M skills by going to the grocery store and buying the spices/scents. This makes it a complete skill! **Remember you don't have to do it all in one day---you could go to the store and purchase on the first lesson and make the paint on lesson #2**

Cinnamon Snowflakes, my kids love making these:) I think my preschoolers would too:)
I'm really excited for these cinnamon snowflakes that I am doing this with not only my students by my kids too! Find the steps here: You can always practice cutting snowflakes on paper first. This is also another activity that you can do well into January in case you missed December. 

Emma Courtney: Cute Last Minute DIY Gifts
I loved this idea as well because it allows you to incorporate some fun kitchen skills in the discussion. This activity includes all areas of the ECC! Can you see how? A lot of times we do cooking for the actual activity but what about giving a gift (think social skills! It is fun to give not just to receive--perfect lesson for our kids!). Read more about this idea:

And what about learning about all the pots, pans and kitchen utensils for the holiday? How about this idea:
DIY Sensory Activity with easy home set up. Perfect way to make children sensory aware and become better at balancing. Laughing Kids Learn
Of course there is also this popular activity:
Snowman Soup. I gave this every year to my preschool students for a holiday gift!
You can find several variations of Snowman Soup but the one pictured is from

I did this for my kids last year and it was a hit! I am suggesting for our kids because this is another awesome idea for teaching our kids about giving to others. You can expand on this lesson by not just talking about service, but about how to be a friend and how to show gratitude. This is also a great one for teens (just make the mission more mature). Use Braille or Large Print. If Braille isn't available and you need it, think about making a auditory mission and record the details.

Project Snowman Game. Give teams of kids toilet paper and winter accessories to have a indoor snowman building contest.
How about having some fun at your next holiday party? Do you want to build a snowman? Another fun ECC activity for students of all ages and abilities!
Everygreen Gift tags---so pretty!
Original idea from:
I thought this idea was the best match up to my tactual labels idea. You can make a tactual label for everyone in the family. It may take a bit more effort so choose easy items to glue onto labels or use ribbon (like in the picture). Can you put peppermint or nutmeg on your kids' tag? This is sensory integration and it's ECC (plus these are just soooo cute).  If you are thinking this is a great idea but too much time, turn the project into a family night activity! Each person can make their own labels as you sing holiday songs! 

 This candle project is from one of our own talented teachers, Annette Loveland. This idea is perfect because it teaches core and expanded core at the same time! Can you see how? It's also great for students that use candles as part of their holiday traditions. I loved it!

Also this is the time that I remind everyone to stock up on CVI materials!!
Grab up those red and gold beads, shiny red wrapping paper, red ornaments and Christmas lights!! I just bought 5 new boxes and I think I have to head back and buy more!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Keeping Up With Jimmy: Holiday Edition

Well hello there again everyone!!! I cannot believe the holiday season is upon us and the weather is getting colder here in Connecticut. PS I hate the winter, I am a summer girl through and through. Anyways, we are finally in our “school” schedule and am still trying to keep up with Jimmy and the cabin fever that is already starting to set in. We had a wonderful Halloween, Jimmy was Gale from Hunger Games complete with Bow and Arrows. Jimmy for the first time in his life actually followed through with carving a “scary” jack-o-lantern. Ever since Jimmy went blind I have tried to do this with him so he could feel the textures of the outside and inside of the pumpkin and every year in vain just after cutting the top and playing with the goo he is over it. What I have done to allow him to do it is let him do the cutting. I give him a little hands on hands direction so he gets the feeling of what it feels like and then hope he can follow…lol We did the same thing this year and he actually did it all on his own. As for trick-o-treating we go with friends and I let him walk to and from doorsteps with his cane and friends. They are always there for help and he loves the independence and not to mention all the candy (which may or may not be hidden from him as to slow consumption, just saying).
The next holiday we must tackle is Thanksgiving, luckily we usually have it at our house so I don’t have to worry about new surroundings and trying to navigate that. The only thing he has to worry about is maybe an addition table set up but knows where we always put and it NEVER changes. Unfortunately I have a child who doesn’t really want to help with the cooking of the meal, honestly can’t say I blame him (sorry Oma). But what I have and continue do is make him help set the table or bring things from the basement and so on. He truly loves this holiday, he is one boy who LOVES to have family around just talking and laughing. 
Jimmy helping to stuff the turkey!
After this fabulous holiday where all that matters is family and gratitude for what we have (might be my favorite) we have Christmas. Christmas is his favorite holiday as it is for most children. One thing that happens at our house is that Santa knows how to Braille. All presents for Jimmy have Brailled labels on them so he can find and locate his own presents around the Christmas tree. The first year this happened he could not believe that Santa could Braille and my simple answer was that Santa is magical so of course he can Braille, he has to be able to speak and write all the languages of the countries he has to go to so why wouldn’t he know Braille. He was quite happy with this answer.  So Santa gets the Brailler out and makes the labels, yes it can be undaunting for the amount he might need (mind you they are also made for presents from his grandparents and of course from Mom), BUT to see the smile on his face each Christmas morning finding his own gifts without assistance makes it all worth it. As the years go on Christmas shopping is becoming more and more difficult as Jimmy gets older. When he was younger it was awesome, I just bought him all the hands on toys I could and let him go wild. Now that he is getting older I am finding it harder and harder to figure out what to do for Christmas. He is almost getting too old for toys and all his friends play video games and are away from “toys”.  So as I sit here and write this all I can possibly come up with is maybe a cell phone, which he has been asking for, for years now, but even that I wonder is, is he really old ENOUGH for his own cell phone. This is when being a mom of a blind child gets tricky. I don’t want to buy him toys and make him think he is a baby any more but then on the other hand what does a 10 year old little man actually want? We can do board games, which we have and have modified them ourselves with a braille labeler but what could that BIG present be now that he can’t really use the items his friends get? And this my friends is the question I will leave you with and if you have any ideas let me know :)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Transition Lesson Plans

Hi friends,
This week I am sharing an awesome resource for teaching about transition. This resource comes from AFB's Career Connect. Go to their main page: You can find the Career Connect link under the Living with Vision Loss tab, select "For Job Seekers" from the drop down menu. Once on the Career Connect page, look to the right side of the screen and look at the "For Job Seekers" menu. There are  many choices but I want you to focus on "Lesson Plans for Teachers and Professionals" link. Click on it!

The lesson plans cover a variety of topics related to transition, work, social skills, etc. Today we are going to click on the "Social Skills" link (see below):

Once in the topic, there are a variety of lessons that you can use! You can customize them to fit your student's needs. 

Each lesson has a section where you can clearly identify how this topic relates to an IEP goal, how to start the lesson, exercises and discussion topics. One thing that I really like about this is that these lesson plans have the access that multiple members of the education team can use. Guidance counselors, general education teachers, vocational instructors and parents can all access what the TVI is teaching. 

Transition skills can play a vital part of the education needs of youth with vision impairments. Transition planning starts at age 16 but we often see it as early as age 14. Transition falls under the career education section of the Expanded Core Curriculum. For several students, transition means meeting with the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor to discuss post high school plans. VR counselors can be invited to IEP meetings. There is a nice, easy read on what transition is on the site teaching students with vision impairments,
I feel like we put a lot of front loading effort into transition teaching. This means that we teach a lot about how to get a job, career shadowing, resume writing and tips for interviewing. An area that I feel like we are not teaching strongly enough is how to keep a job. How do students learn how to be good long term employees? Do our students know the difference between having a career and having a job? I believe that we need to make better efforts in these areas. The Expanded Core Curriculum helps with these areas! Independent living skills, compensatory skills, social skills, assistive technology, orientation and mobility and of course, self determination all directly relate to this!! So let's start making sure that we are consistently teaching ECC skills instruction as we address transition.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Have you played Left Center Right?

Hi friends,
Sorry I have been out of the loop this past week. We have been celebrating Halloween like crazy (it seems like we have been nonstop for the past week!). I am back and this is the first of three new posts that I have been waiting to share. This first one is about a fun new game I learned about while making some new TVI friends in Nebraska a couple of weeks ago. The game is called Left Center Right. It's not a new game but it was new to me. This fab classroom TVI uses it as motivation for her students. They have to get all their work done, quiz review, etc. on time in order to play LCR. She introduces it at the beginning of the school year and then slowly fades herself out of the game play so that it's just her students.

In case you were like me and had never heard of this popular game, here's an overview that I found on 
LCR, short for "Left, Center, Right", is a very simple game. Yet it has acquired many fans from all over the world. It is played with three dice and a handful of chips, but it can provide excitement. Yet the fact is in L-C-R there is little strategy involved. Once a player sits in on a game, the outcome is left entirely to the three dice.

... is an excellent game for young children. This seems incongruous, but played with chips, children are continuously confronted with the imperative to pass one or more chips to either the right or to the left. They learn the distinction quickly playing this fast paced game.

This TVI also swaps out the provided chips with larger plastic coins because they are easier to manipulate for her students. I like that she has it on a tray (defined work space!!) and uses a cup for rumbling the dice. She didn't have to make any other modifications to the dice as most students could tactually figure out what was rolled. 

You can buy this game for about $13 almost anywhere. This TVI gives them out as Christmas presents. That's a fun stocking stuffer! I loved this game the moment she started describing it to me. This isn't just a game, but is a great tool for teaching ECC! Is your brain listing all the areas of the ECC? Lead of with recreation and leisure but what other areas you can incorporate into a lesson? I won't give away all the answers but there's several of the nine areas that you can incorporate. I even added Left Center Right into our family game night rotation! My family loves it!

Monday, October 20, 2014

White Cane Day 2014 Highlights

Happy White Cane Day Highlights! We had a great celebration here in Utah!!
Here's our 2014 White Cane Day t-shirt:
 Our activities? We headed out to the community and invited the community to learn about White Cane Day as well as reviewing stores in the City Creek Mall. Don't just read the highlights, make notes for your future celebration!

Thanks to our mobility instructor, Kari, we had a challenge to collapse and open a white cane. My son took this challenge personally and challenged every person he could find! 
 We had a community outreach table where you could get your name in Braille, see a regular print book and then its Braille counterpart, trivia and all kinds of fun stuff to learn about. 
 Thanks to Guiding Eyes puppy raisers, we had 5 stellar future guide dogs celebrate with us!

 I organized our students to award three awards: Customer Service, Vision and the Orientation and Mobility Award. They had to fill out criteria sheets and have some good group instruction lessons before selectively handing out the awards.

 A new group of guys came by for the white cane fold challenge:

 We offered food for our event but in order to have a snack, you had to put on the simulators and even grab a white cane (thanks to our mobility instructor for the idea!)

 Here's our busy tables teaching the community about White Cane Day.

We even made it into the local news:

All in all, we had 5 hours of community awareness and mobility instruction for White Cane Day 2014! It was another successful year. I can't wait for next year!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

White Cane Day 2014

It's almost here: White Cane Day will be here in two days! It's celebrated nationally on Wednesday, October 15. I would love to hear what everyone is doing to celebrate. I will be celebrating in Utah this year with my new students in downtown Salt Lake City. This year I'm having my students become a "blindness expert panel" and they will be reviewing establishments and rating them on how blindness friendly they are. I have made up some awards and thanks to my colleagues, we have a checklist of items to rate our places. We have our t-shirts and our theme, too. This year it is "White Cane + Me = Independence". We will also host our community outreach table with lots of fun trivia and activities about our blindness community.  How exciting, right? I will be sharing some highlights of our community event. I can't wait to see how everyone else is celebrating White Cane Day 2014. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Keeping Up With Jimmy

Hi friends, I am happy to start a several post series about being a mother of a child who it totally blind. You already have already met the mom. Thanks to Kristi and her amazing son Jimmy* for again guest blogging for me. I have recently done some parent conferences and I feel that hearing "the word" right from a parent's mouth is more effective than hearing it from mine. I have empathy but Kristi has the true experience. A lot of times we hear from parents that have a child with multiple impairments. There is a great community out there for parents who have kids that are MIVI and I have personally learned a lot from them. But what about these typical kids who are in the general education class? Kristi is here for a bit on The Bee to help shed some perspective on her crazy adventure of keeping up with her son Jimmy.

Hello Blogging World, my name is Kristi and I am a parent of a VERY active almost 10 yr old blind child. Jimmy was born sighted but at 2yrs 2months Jimmy was diagnosed with bi-lateral Retinoblastoma. A childhood cancer of the Retina. At the time his left eye was just about 100% tumor and his right eye had 3 tumors in it the biggest being in the 6 o’clock position. At this point the doctors told me that he was blind in the left eye because he also had a detached retina. Through the course of a few years Jimmy had gone through external beam radiation, cryo and laser treatments, and a brand new procedure called Inter-Arterial Chemotherapy (since then the name has been changed to ophthalmic artery chemosurgery) basically the doctors took the smallest catheter they could find, feed it from Jimmy’s groin all the way to the eye artery and fed chemo directly into the eye artery; retina re-attachment surgery, and cataract removal. During all of this Jimmy would have check-ups with his doctors starting at every 3 weeks and we are now at the point that he only sees his doctors 2 times a year with an annual MRI. During the duration of these procedures Jimmy lost more and more vision and is currently left with only slight light perception. I know a lot people cringe at everything Jimmy has been through but as we have lived through it I can understand. Personally I never cringed, the moment the doctors told me the cancer had not left the eye orbit (eyeball) I knew deep down in my gut that my son was going to be fine and we would work through any of the side effects he might endure. When the day finally came that I was told he wouldn’t regain his vision unless there was a miraculous breakthrough in full eye transplants I knew what needed to happen. I chose, to some, the road less traveled and made the decision to treat my son like a normal child with very little restrictions. I am very lucky because all that Jimmy has to deal with is his blindness; he has nothing else against him. To date Jimmy has participated in weekend and weeklong sleepover camps, learned to ride a two wheel bike, skateboards, scooters, waterskies (religiously), runs to the neighbor’s house to play with his best friend, and if I let him walk around the block. Jimmy travels with a cane except at home and places he visits on a regular basis, I don’t know if this is the right way to do it but for us it works and allows Jimmy to feel a little more normal than always having his cane. Don’t get me wrong it can be frustrating at times to remember that my son is even blind. I’ll talk to him like he is sighted and he looks at me and is like “uhhh mom? I can’t see remember?” I hope through this I can shed some light on how we as a family have gotten to the point we are and how I hope to navigate the next few years as Jimmy enters his teenage years. Stay tuned as we try “keeping up with Jimmy”.

*I wrote that Jimmy is amazing. I mean that but I also want you to know that it has nothing to do with his blindness. Jimmy is just a cool kid, period. Everyone who meets him loves being around him because of who he is. The blindness? Well, that's just icing on the cake--he is a pretty cool blind kid I have to say.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Check The Voice Blind Auditions!

Check out The Voice on Monday, Sept. 29th
because a seriously talented blind guy auditions!
His name is Blessing Offor and I have had the privilege of working with him.
I am excited to see what song he chooses to audition with.
Check him out!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Our Girl Just Got a White Cane!

I am SO excited about this announcement: there is a white cane for the American Girl doll!! AG the company didn't add this hot little accessory themselves but an etsy store did! Woot! Woot! I am not a fan that the description on the seller's site says "disabled vision impaired therapy" (but that can be changed--we just have to keep working on changing the language of our community...). Thank you for posting this. I was perusing my usual rounds on my fave sites and saw this post.

The white cane is only $10 and it is just all that and a bag of chips! 
It looks so real and I am just over the moon excited about this!

Here's where you can buy the new must-have accessory:

The etsy store is CuteAsADaisy
Here's her seller description: This listing is for one cane for the blind or visually impaired that fits an American Girl type 18" doll.This blind cane is inspired by my daughter who is learning to use one and loves to play with her dolls and has enjoyed being able to teach her dolls to use one too. It's great therapy for a girl or friend of someone going through a life style change. It has a simple ribbon to go around the doll's wrist, is made of plastic and sculpey. This item is for the blind cane only.

I'm even going to buy my daughter's a white cane just to support this store and my own personal charge to eliminate the stigma of the white cane. 
I am so proud to say that our girl has a white cane!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

From the East to the West

Hi friends,
I have big news! my family and I moved to Utah this past August. It was a difficult decision but exciting decision. I loved Connecticut. I LOVE my students!! It nearly broke my heart to tell my students that I wouldn't be there at the next program. For six years and a half years I have worked next to brilliant, talented teachers who have been more than supportive for me personally and professionally. I have developed tremendously as a professional while in Connecticut. I met amazing people who became my partners in creating amazing programs. It has been nothing short of awesome to watch my students mature, grow up and take on the world. I know that new students will always come but these students in Connecticut are my students. They have a special place in my heart. 

So onto my new adventure in Utah! I am so excited to be with the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. I am the Expanded Core Curriculum Coordinator with USDB. It's great to be in a school, out with teachers and still running programs. I am finally starting to get settled so back to blogging  it is! I have several new posts to share so see you soon!!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Color Happy at Camp Abilities CT!

I have done a lot of super fun things with my students but this past August at Camp Abilities 2014 was hands down one of the best things I have done at camp. It started with the custom Carolina blue sunglasses that read Camp Abilities CT on the side. Next was the 75lbs of colored corn starch that I ordered. Then it was matter of planning with my team--what would be our route? All of this was in preparation for the first ever Color Happy Camp Abilities CT run!!
Holy cow, this was a BLAST!!! We lined up our guide runners for our cane users. We manned our color bomb stations. My student interns proudly took the last color bomb station. All of camp put on their white shirts and our run was on!
The colors were bright and fun to see for our low vision students. Our Braille readers got to touch, throw and bomb each other and got into the fun, too. Everyone at Camp Abilities CT was getting color happy :)

My interns and me. What a great time!

 All of our kids wore protective sunglasses. We did want to make sure that protective measures were taken. We did monitor to ensure eye safety. Our students that wear glasses wore these over their glasses. And you have to admit, the glasses are just plain out cool! How fun were these for our students to take back after camp to wear with their friends?!

 Here's Gissell (from last post) and me (with baby Abigail) at the run. 
I am SO proud of this girl!
Our fearless Camp Abilities CT  leadership team--what would I ever do without these guys?

 Why a Color Happy Run at a camp for children with vision impairments? Because it's a RAD thing to do! This was a great opportunity for our kids to get involved with something popular that their friends and family are doing. Running is a terrific lifelong activity for our kids to be involved with. 

 We also gave each person their own color bomb packet for our big party at the end of the race. We had a gauntlet that everyone ran through as we finished the race. 
This was just a total blast! I can't wait to do it again!!
You can do this, too! We ordered the color cornstarch from Hippie Powder and the glasses were custom made from 4Imprints. We planned a clear trail and assigned guide runners and supervisors throughout the course. All of our color bomb stations colored our kids as they ran past. Then we just had fun and bombed each other at the end. Let me know if you do one. I would love to see pics!