Saturday, January 30, 2016

Nike Flyease...For our kids, too!

Have you heard of the line of shoes that Nike put out for kids with disabilities? They came out a bit ago but I thought it was a good idea to share it because I was worried that people in our community haven't heard about them.

Here's the story behind the Flyease:

I learned about them from our awesome friends, Kristi and her son Jimmy. Jimmy can't wear them (yet) because they were not available in his size.

Why Flyease? Check out this great article:

**Read this first before you go and buy these**
It is important for our kids to learn how to tie their shoes. It can be a very difficult skill to master. I have taught the (sometimes dreaded) shoe tying lesson several times. It requires concept development, fine motor skill work, practice and a cookie for stress! Encourage our kids to master this!! Work with your occupational therapist on this. However, we do have a population of students that cannot master this skill for a variety of reasons. It's tough to find slip on shoes as our kids get older (especially in high school). It's also really tough to find cool shoes for our kids (again, especially high school age). 
The price point is a little higher than a lot of parents would like to pay. They are about $100-$130. 
Here's the link for the most current offerings of the Flyease from Nike:

Monday, January 18, 2016

Color Up Your Windows

We have a long hallway that are all glass in our school. I wanted to find a way to provide some "life" to our walk that would be effective for our students. I loved the idea of stain glass but with the intricate design of it, it just ends up as visual complexity for most of my students. I kept looking for the beauty of wallpaper but not the complexity. 
Then I found Wallpaper for Windows and it was an answer to my prayers! 
The "wallpaper" has nice bold colors that are quite visible for my low vision students. The wallpaper is designed to work with the sun so it doesn't wash out color. In fact, it enhances it!

It comes in both a see through and matte finish. It is so easy to put up!! All you need is spray bottle, soap and water. 
Our boring glass hallway now has some fun life to it. I purposefully did not duplicate anything so that my students could use items for landmarks (O&M). Teachers can easily tell students to meet them at the red circles or blue squares, etc. 

I also loved the wallpaper because it gave my students with multiple impairments something to look at as they are wheeled through the hallway. These students can stop at different windows and have something fun to look at. 

You can also teach concepts like in/out, big/small, up/down, etc. with the different pre-cut patterns. 

I luckily have a whole glass hallway to color up but I thought it was worth sharing for any classrooms, bedrooms, etc. for students. It's definitely given my students something fun to look for, use as an attention getter for their vision and fun to gaze at. 
Here's the link to Wallpaper for Windows:
**The pictures don't do it justice. The colors are so bold and fun! It's not that expensive to buy so take a chance and order some :)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Easy Play Kitchen Accessibility Ideas

How many of our little ones have a play kitchen in their classroom or homes? Kitchens are a really fun creative imagination place for kids. It's also a great opportunity for independent living skills. A lot of times it can be limiting for our students especially those with very limited or no vision. Here's one that was in one of our classrooms. It's quality built and is fun....for kids with a lot of vision. I decided that this kitchen needed a definite upgrade so that our students with limited or no vision could play with better accessibility. These are quick fixes, easy to do! Just grab your glue gun and pipe cleaners and plan a trip to Goodwill. 

Play kitchen for preschool

First, head to Goodwill and look though their kitchen section. I actually found most of these at a store called Deseret Industries (DI). Deseret Industries is similar to Goodwill or Savers. I had good luck there. I was able to find all kinds of interesting cooking utensils and tools. Check out the pic below. Note: the items in the picture are small little utensils, pans, etc. They are not full size at all.

I found all kinds of fun metal options. I like the metal because so many things are plastic and this gives some variety. My favorite find was the old school vegetable steamer. How fun to experience concepts like open/closed, empty/full, big/little, cause & effect and water play. I also found this tiny little pepper grinder. It was fun to replace the pepper with something else (i.e. scented sand) and let those little hands turn the crank. The little metal bowels and cupcake pans were fun, too.  Goodwills are also perfect places to find small sauce pans which are perfect for little hands to cook with! You can also find little soap dispensers, cups, slotted spoons and all kinds of options for kitchen fun.  
One of my talented preschool teachers, Annette, gave me a great idea to add to the kitchen: real food! As in boxes of rice, macaroni, etc. or cans of vegetables, soup, etc. Stock your kitchen with real items and then work them in to a lesson when possible! You can find a toaster (and obviously never plug it in!) and "cook" with toast during centers then during another time, cook real toast (or waffles) and eat it! You can also do letters (T for Toast!). 

But now back to the kitchen itself. How about those darn painted on burners? How do you cook on that?! Grab those pipe cleaners and heat up that hot glue gun!! I used some bold color pipe cleaners for my burners. I simply glued on the pipe cleaners (grab a craft stick or something that can help you press on the pipe cleaners. I totally burned my fingers off!). The next thing I did was grab some black pipe cleaners. The problem with this "stove" is that nothing is defined--not the burners, not the cooking space, nothing! This creates a problem when we develop concept development of what a stove actually is. The black pipe cleaners were used to actually make a defined stove top. The other part of our kitchen set that wasn't really defined was the oven. This was an easy fix thanks to my APH Carousel of Textures kit. I grabbed a silver shiny whole piece of paper and hot glued that to make my oven door pop. 

You can add more modifications if you would like but these quick fixes were enough to include all of our kiddos with vision impairments without a lot of hassle. The hot glue is also easy to take off in case your kitchen set needs to go to another teacher.  Let's get cooking!

Play kitchen for a blind kids classroom
Easy textures added to the play kitchen for kids  who are blind or have vision impairments

Friday, January 15, 2016

The student that changed my life

I received a call on Christmas Eve letting me know that Kyle Hardy passed away. I've kept it private, only sharing it with a few friends, because the grief is quite strong. But then I thought about how much Kyle truly is one of the most influential people in my life and I wanted to honor him. I wanted to share my tribute to Kyle now that I am ready to share this with all of you.
I am sure many people passed by Kyle throughout his life with thinking that he would not be famous. That he would not influence teachers, students, paraprofessionals, parents and countless others in the education field all over the country. He did though. Every time I instruct in the classroom, consult with a teacher, present at a conference or spend individual time with a student, Kyle's influence can be felt. He's at the heart of all my teaching over the last 10 years of my career. His picture sits on my desk and I look at him almost everyday. I look at his smile and remember that I probably blew on his face to get that one of a kind smile for that picture. He thought it was funny if you blew on his face. 
Lots of people credit me for bringing the world to Kyle. That may be true. I see it differently. I credit Kyle for taking a chance on me. I was a new teacher with decent sign language skills. He was game for anything I put his hands on---and it was a lot of crazy ideas! We have played rugby, roller skated, became jump rope champs, jumped, crawled, climbed on so many things I can't keep count. We have cooked, read books, sang songs, gardened, did a ton of art, science and math lessons, learned break dance moves, talked about girls, went to Church together, shopped at Gap---everything that could be done, we did it!
I learned countless important concepts about educating people who are deafblind from Kyle. I especially came to appreciate the power of language and how it can bring to life anything as long as you can pair it with words, signs, touch, feeling. How grateful am I that some pretty cool Deaf people taught me their language. How grateful am I that I could share the world with my hands holding Kyle's. 
I've not been Kyle's day to day teacher for some time now. I haven't talked with him everyday but the distance never broke our connection. I can't express how special I feel that he never forgot me. His mom could sign my name sign and he would know it was me. Not a bird or a chicken but Robbin. I feel his mischievous, funny, smart, fierce spirit every time I sign 'yes' on a student's shoulder (just like Kyle likes it). I think about him every time I read with my kids (because he loved to read with Darlene and me. I especially think about him more recently when I read The Napping House with Abigail). I think about him every time I watch a student with a walker, every time I talk about keeping students feeling like the cool kids ("What's up dog?" is my favorite Kyle expression), every time I teach I think of Kyle because he was THAT awesome.

I know that everyone who has ever been my friend or sat in my office or asked me why I like to teach kids with vision or sensory impairments knows that I always talk about Kyle first. Everyone I have ever met since I met Kyle Hardy knows Kyle because he was, he is, that big part of my life. Kyle didn't have kids of his own. But my son is Rexten Kyle, named after Kyle Hardy. I see so much of Kyle in my son. Rexten knows that he is named after "my Kyle". He knows he has some big shoes to fill, a model man to look up to because of who Kyle was. 
I know Kyle is in a better place. How could I not be happy for him now that he is at peace? I feel like I'm just gonna have to walk behind his spirit now. Walking behind him the same way I have for years, or next to his walker, or behind him with my hands supporting him at his shoulders or waist. He was at the lead. His hands stretched out, checking things out.