Sunday, July 17, 2016

Outside Water Fun for Kids with Vision Impairments

Blind child sliding down a water slide on the grass
A blind student slips down a water slide on the  grass.
Hope your summer is off to a great start! My summer has been flying by with camps and programs for my students. We have had some real scorcher days here in Utah during camps. During one particular camp, it was SO HOT! The students and staff were in need of something to jump start them from the heat. I ran to Walmart and purchased a ton of water play items with the goal to teach them (or refine skills) for water play! 
Water play is a staple of summer fun and our kids love to be in the mix just as much as any other kid. I saw how this could be a great Expanded Core Curriculum learning opportunity! I grabbed my physical therapy assistant and some of my PE folks and worked a lesson plan. 
It is easy to overlook that even in fun activities like water play our kids require some explicit ECC teaching. But there are some tips and tricks that we reviewed to make sure that our kids got the biggest bang for their buck during water play this summer!

Concepts to teach for water play fun (based on the ECC):
1. Give a quick pre-teach of items: Before we turned on the water, we gave students the opportunity to just check out what was available for play. This included 'seeing' the layout of the slip slides and the different water guns. 
A blind girl feels her way around the water slide to understand it.
A blind child feels the water slide to understand the length of it. 
Blind child has her teachers helping her slide down the water slide.
Providing tactual support for a blind child learning how to slide down the water slide
2. Ensure students have the motor skills down to execute play gracefully and appropriately. This sounds really technical but this just means that children (especially those that have the most significant vision impairments) truly understand how everyone else is slipping down the slip & slide. A lot of times our kids don't know the motor planning for getting the momentum down the slide or how to initiate it. We did a few test runs with several of our students so that they had killer slip & slide skills (see picture above)

3. Have a designated area for water play toys. I know this sounds silly but there's nothing more frustrating for our kids than not knowing where to get the goods! We made a designated water station (next to a landmark) so that our students could easily locate the toys. I bought a variety of water launchers (not guns) for about $1-$5 at Walmart. *I looked for the ones that had the brightest contrast of colors for visual efficiency. I also looked for different grips, sounds, etc that would be the most appealing. Good news: all of them are appealing for our kids!*

3. 'Shooting rules': I gave each student about 5 minutes to check out the water shooters. Then I gave them target practice with lessons and guidelines on how to shoot. We gave everyone the "belly target"  to keep the water off the kids faces and a safe place to shoot water (especially because I am not fond of being shot directly in the face!). 
4. Choosing your water slide: I went with the H2O Go slide for it's easy visual efficiency. See the pictures from above and you will notice the strong contrast between the blue and orange. We had the students slide down the orange path (in between the blue). I also liked this one because it had a nice defined start and stop location. I know that it may appear that I am reading in too much on selecting a slip and slide for kids but the little things do matter especially when you don't have any vision.  Side note: once the kids got really comfortable, we faded all the support and cueing because it was no longer needed. I like to front load instruction for our kids so that they are set up for success in any activity. 

Can you spot all the areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum from this fun activity? 
We covered many including:
*recreation and leisure
*orientation and mobility
*independent living skills
*compensatory access
*social skills development

All in day's work!

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