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Summer 2006 Table of Contents
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I Can Do That!

By Sharrie Lyon, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Sweetwater, TX

Abstract: A teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) describes teaching strategies she used with a challenging young student in the primary grades. The student’s attitude and determination to learn, combined with the efforts of his teachers and positive experiences with peers, helped him achieve far more than expected.

Key Words: Programming, blind, visually impaired, TVI, Braille, Mountbatten brailler, reading, math, independence, self-confidence, motivation, behavior, PPCD

I think every teacher wonders at times if she can do the things she is expected to do with a student. As a TVI I face this issue over and over again with each new child I serve. I remember thinking about one child in particular, “Can I really do this? Can I take the knowledge I have gained and pull this child up to where he needs to be?” Talk about being scared! Being a brand new TVI, I did not have a lot of experience to pull from.But, I decided to just take one day at a time and dove right in. 

The child I was working with was very headstrong. He definitely knew what he wanted and that was for me to leave him alone. Anything I asked him to do would set off huge tantrums. Not the easiest child to work with, but mine to teach. I started by giving him choices in the work he did. If he was reluctant to make a choice (not an option) and started to tantrum, I just waited him out.

I made a simple tactual calendar system that helped him to transition to different activities. He liked it! He began to look forward to the activities and to school. By the end of the year in PPCD he was attempting to track tactile lines as he pretended to read. He knew all but two or three letters in Braille. He was enjoying school so much, he would cry to come to school even if he was ill.

The next year he went to kindergarten. We worked on reviewing all the letters, learning numbers and punctuation marks. Then suddenly he was reading! If you asked him to complete an assignment, he would say, “I can do that!” And he would.

Math was his favorite subject. Any new concept he was taught, he could do in his head. He was enjoying the abacus, and learning to add money. He loved learning the clock. Analog or digital, it didn’t matter to him. I decided to try Nemeth Code with him, with absolutely no problem! After he learned to drop down on the Perkins Brailler, all I had to do was ask him where he thought a Nemeth number would be on the Perkins and his fingers would find it. I thought Nemeth was supposed to be hard to learn. In this case it was both easy for me to teach and easy for him to learn.

He learned the addition, subtraction, and the equal signs quickly. He had no trouble reading his math problems and he was happy to answer the problems using his Perkins Brailler. We worked on learning to add money and identify coins. He enjoyed the work and was satisfied when he had the right answers.

One morning, walking into the classroom, I looked for my student and couldn’t find him. All the students were in the floor in groups of 3 to 4 playing center games. He was sitting in the floor with 2 to3 other students playing a center game that I had modified. The students in his group were helping him play by showing him how to hold his cards so he could read the brailled words.

He was learning to use the Mountbatten in class. He enjoyed the feed back from brailling the letters and having the Mountbatten talk to him as he brailled. It helped make brailling easier and a little quicker. Using the Mountbatten, he began learning whole word contractions and thought it was fun. The Perkins and the Mountbatten became just another part of the class.

First grade was different. The pace was faster with a lot more work to be done in a short period of time. I felt the most important area to work on was independence, and that meant learning to put his paper in the Brailler independently. I was able to learn a tip from a gentleman visiting our district. His advice, hole punch the paper on the left side to help orient the paper. “This will help him to put the paper in by himself”, he said. I tried it; with practice I could see a big improvement in this skill in a short amount of time. By January, he was putting the paper in independently but still needed help straightening the paper so it would roll in the Perkins. Not bad, lots of progress in a short time, but we still need to work on it. 

Reading took up a lot of the time during the morning. He was doing well, but I was looking for a way for him to participate in the AR program and get a reward for hard work at the same time. I tried the Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic Program with digital talking books. After he had read several AR books in Braille, and if he had all of his other work completed, he would read a digital taking book and take an AR test on it. He had as many points as the other good readers in the classroom. I placed his Braille books and digital talking books in the library so he could check out books just like the other kids.

One of the other students in the classroom told me, “When I’m done with my papers, I sit here and listen to Devin work. He’s cool”.

At times he would ask me, “Did I beat the other kids?” as he read through his assignment. In fact, he did beat the other kids at times. Wow! What a hard worker this kid was. Of course, his hard work made extra work for me. I was having trouble just keeping up with the amount of Braille he needed.

When I think back to our beginning I see such a tremendous change in this student. Now he is so willing to try new things. He is confident and determined. There is nothing he doesn’t think he can learn to do. This attitude is what will take him far, very far I hope.

I want to see this student go on to college. I see him getting a job, making friends, having a family, and enjoying his life. I think he can do anything he sets his mind to do. More importantly, he thinks he can do it.

Not every student I teach will make such great strides. Some children will challenge the knowledge I have and send me back to my books and mentors to learn more about what approach he or she might need. But even when I am faced with new challenges as a TVI I will remember what I did with this student; his success made my job feel easy. I know that just like my student, much of what I can accomplish with a child depends on my attitude.Just as I try to motivate my student to believe they can do it, I need to believe that I can, too.


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Last Revision: September 1, 2010