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Fall 2008 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Elisa Sanchez Wilkinson, Mom and Family Resource Specialist, Project for New Mexico Children and Youth Who are Deaf-blind

Abstract: The author walks the reader through current literature on the process families go through when they learn their child has a disability by relating it to her personal experiences.

Keywords:  Family Wisdom, deafblindness, grief process, adapting  

 

In our everyday lives we often wonder why some things make us happy and some things make us sad.  It is the fulfillment of dreams and expectations that makes us happy.   It is the loss of a way of life or of a dream that makes us sad, possibly even grieve.  I am the mother of two beautiful children.  My eldest child has dual sensory impairment and ambulatory issues.  I grieve about many things.  Do you?

I was watching the television show, Bridezillas1. I saw women who were typically nice, reasonably likable people turn into crazed, frenzied women with no regard for others feelings.  I was amazed at their transformation.  Why would a nice person change so drastically?  These women have expectations of exactly how their wedding day is supposed to be.  They have dreamt about the dress, the flower arrangements, the decorations, and the cake ever since they were little girls.  To then have a wedding that may not live up to their expectations is beyond reason.  They become a person they, themselves, would not recognize.  Why?  Because dreams are powerful.  Fulfilling a dream means being successful and happy.  Anything less means shattered dreams, disappointment, and sadness.

Loss and grieving are such complex emotions. This has become an interest of study for me.  The loss of dreams/expectations is part of our everyday lives.  So, that means that grieving is also a part of our everyday lives.  So, how can these emotions be so foreign to us?  Why do we try to repress grief when allowing ourselves to grieve may be as healthy for us as exercising?  Dr. Ken Moses, PhD., a noted psychologist in the area of crisis, trauma and loss, has stated that people’s dreams can be shattered, even dreams that we are not conscious of having.  Having children with perfect health, or living until we are old and dying in our sleep are a part of life that many of us expect to happen.  What happens when those expectations are not met?  We grieve.

Grief is profound.  It is life altering.  It happens everyday to everyone over situations many of us don’t even realize.  The other day I was taking my son out to lunch.  I was going to take him to a little deli that is delicious.   When we got there, the deli was in the process of closing…for good.  I was so disappointed.  He was not ever going to taste the best meatball sandwich in the entire city of Albuquerque.  It was an experience I wanted to share with him that is not going to happen.  Yes, this is trivial compared to other losses in people’s lives yet it reminded me of what people often say to me regarding my son, “…he never knew what it was like before, so he really won’t miss it.”  You see, my son has a below the knee amputation, this is the ambulatory issue he lives with.   A procedure was done to save his life as a newborn, but with life altering complications.  A catheter was placed in an artery and because of poor circulation in a premature baby, he threw a clot. After weeks of intrusive procedures nothing could be done.  At four and a half weeks old, with pulmonary problems, my son experienced a below the knee amputation.  Many people have said this to me, “…oh, well, he’s never known anything different so he’s okay.”  Right?  Wrong!  Every time I think about the limb my son has lost, even if it was to save his life, I grieve.

How does a family react to the birth of a child that is different, a child who is not typical, a child with special needs?  Ask a new dad who has already gone out and bought the little baseball glove and is dreaming of being his sons little league coach someday. Talk to a young mother who has carefully packed away her wedding gown in the hopes that someday her daughter will want to wear it.  When the baby is born and he or she is born with a disability, the future is unknown.  Dreams are shattered.  The grieving has begun. How does a husband react to the loss of his wife, of many years, to a disease that slowly robbed him of her?  The grieving continues.  What does a person do when he/she loses a job that is desperately needed to support the family?  The grief is real.  The stories go on, so does the grief.

How do we deal with it?  The Four Stages of Adaptation is a method of understanding where a person is emotionally, some of the issues they are dealing with in that stage, and how to be more comfortable with where he or she is.  The four stages are Surviving, Searching, Settling In, and Separating.  Every person is an individual and can move through the stages in his or her own way and time.  It is empowering to know that there is no wrong way to adapt.  A person can move into a new stage and then move back into a stage they may have been in previously.  They actually have more of a circular quality than a linear one. Nancy B. Miller, Ph.D. M.S.W. wrote this in the book, Nobody’s Perfect – Living & Growing with Children Who Have Special Needs.2

The Four Stages of Adaptation are very real.  Surviving is what you do to keep going when feeling completely overwhelmed because something totally out of your control has taken away your child’s equal chance at life.  Searching is a stage where you are looking for answers for your child.  You will probably have periods of Searching during your whole life with your child.  There are two kinds of Searching, outer and inner.  Outer Searching is looking for a diagnosis or services while Inner Searching is trying to find your identity as the parent of a child with special needs.  Settling In is another stage when the frantic pace of Searching lets up.  You begin to choose your battles and balance your child’s schedule and your family life.  Not only has your Outer Searching subsided for a while, but more importantly, your attitude about it settles down.  Separating is a normal, gradual process that occurs in tiny steps throughout childhood.  When a child has special needs, the process may need to be altered or slowed down.  Extra parenting may be required— you may have to initiate separation, plan it, find it, and make it happen.  Letting go on your part is also necessary.

My son is 15 years old now.  I move consistently between Inner Searching and Separating.  I have protected him, taught him, and always tried to foresee any obstacles in his path.  I have my dreams for him and his future; yet, I struggle with the need to “initiate separation and let it happen.”  I have to find my identity as the parent of a child, turning into an adult, with special needs.  As I look back on all the obstacles we as a family have overcome, I realize that I can adapt my dreams to match and support his.   It won’t be easy but nothing worth having ever is.  Will I still grieve?  Of course, every time I see the obstacles he will face for the rest of his life.

In a way, I felt like the brides that envision a perfect day; I wanted my life, and the lives of those I love, to be perfect.  My perceptions of “perfect” have changed.  Grieving is part of my life and so is adapting to what comes my way.  I wish I could tell those brides that the wedding is just one day. It’s the marriage you want to last a lifetime.  Perfection is an illusion not worth grieving over if it is not achieved.  Happiness is in learning how to adapt.

1 Bridezillas, where brides go from sweet to certifiable. (WEtv, Sunday 9/8c).

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Taken from Nobody’s Perfect - Living & Growing with Children Who Have Special Needs by Nancy B. Miller, Ph.D., M.S.W., adapted by Laura J. Warren, Pilot Parent Family Resource Center, The Arc of the Capital Area, 1/96.

 

Fall 2008 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Travis Dafft, Student, Houston, TX

Abstract:  A high school student who is deafblind shares his experience attending a dance sponsored by a local church.

Keywords:  Family Wisdom, deafblind, community based services, inclusion, recreation, social

 

A note from mom: This article is written through Travis’ perspective through a process we routinely use.  He chose individual phrases and words for this article on his own.  For example, we would come up with an idea that fit into the specific part of the storyline and present Travis a choice about what to write.  After it was written, he would be asked if it was okay.  If Travis responded “yes,” the sentence would stay in the article.  If he said “no,” then we would begin the process of making choices again.  While it is a lengthy process, we are finding that Travis not only has a wicked sense of humor but now he really has a voice.  Instead of being talked about, he engages with people.

Thanks to TWUMC, Special Blessings Ministry Team, Lisa and Nino Thompson, Debbie and Kevin Glass, Willie and Gayle, George and Christine Givens and all the parents and high school volunteers who made this a special night for all.  While on vacation in Indiana, Travis has shown his pictures and told his story to many people. It has even encouraged his friend Amanda to speak to her pastor about holding a special prom at her church. It is amazing the change two smiling faces can bring to this world.

Most teenagers look forward to the spring when the big event takes place in their lives…PROM.  Every year, The Woodlands United Methodist Church holds a “Special Blessings” prom and this would be my first year that I would be able to attend.  I never thought this day would come, especially after all the medical crisis I have had lately.  But April 12th was approaching fast and I still did not have a date for the dance.

As I lay in my hospital bed, I decided to ask a friend, Skye Givens, to join me at the dance. My mom and I were a little worried because Skye is 10 and I am 17 and maybe her parents wouldn’t let her go. So my mom asked her mother if it was ok to invite her.  Ms. Givens was excited and said I could ask Skye to go to the prom as my guest.

I made a special invitation asking Skye to do me the honor of attending a “Royal Evening” with me at the church. Her parents called and said she would love to go.

Now the real work began. Mom told dad and me that it was our job to get my tux and her flowers. Dad was ready to go to the mall but mom said we had to wait until we knew the color of Skye’s dress.  While Skye and her mom were shopping for her dress, a friend of mine Sky Hoake, gave me his old tux that he had outgrown. It was a perfect fit.

Finally Ms. Givens called and said that Skye would be wearing a yellow gown. Dad and I ordered a yellow cummerbund and bowtie from the internet. He asked mom if I needed shoes but mom said I could wear my black shoes that fit over my braces.  Then it was off to the flower shop. The clerk helped us pick out a pretty flower design, and I paid for it.

Dad and I went to the mall to get me some special cologne for the big night. I smelled over 12 scents before I picked the most expensive Gucci cologne. Now I was ready.

April 12th finally arrived; I spent the afternoon getting dressed. My sister came over and we took a lot of pictures. I gave mom a special flower for her to wear. Then it was off to meet up with Skye.

When we arrived at the church, there were a lot of friends all waiting to greet us and take our picture. Skye and I got our crowns and sashes proclaiming us to be King and Queen. We had a short ride in a horse drawn carriage to the entrance of the hall. We were introduced by the court jester and then the dance began.

Mom and Ms. Givens were sure that it would be a short stay because Skye and I are both Deafblind and don’t handle noise very well. Our parents thought that we would last one maybe two songs at the most.  As the night progressed, I never left the dance floor. Mom helped me dance at first, then she showed two very nice high school girls how to move my chair and they were my partners for the rest of the night.  Skye danced nearby with her special helpers and we had a blast.  My first prom was a huge success and I can hardly wait until next year.

Fall 2008 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Christine Givens, Parent, The Woodlands, TX

Abstract:  A mother shares her daughter’s experience attending a prom specifically designed for young people with disabilities.

Keywords: Family Wisdom, deafblind, community based services, inclusion, recreation, social

 

On April 12, 2008, our church, The Woodlands United Methodist Church (TWUMC), held a formal dance for area Special Needs teenagers and their guests.  A total of 50 teenagers arrived at the church to experience a “Royal Evening”.  They were Kings and Queens who were presented with crowns and personalized sashes.   As the teens arrived, they were escorted to the south entrance where they embarked on an early evening carriage ride.  The carriage, which was pulled by two decorated Clydesdale horses, delivered them to the main entrance.  They were again escorted to an interview area where the “Court Jester” was simulcast onto the big screens in the banquet area.  He made lively conversation for all to enjoy and then introduced the arriving “Royalty”.  Pictures were taken and a meal fit for royalty was served.  The Kings and Queens were then entertained by a local DJ and danced the evening away.

You might be asking, “Nice article – but what is it doing in Texas SenseAbilities?”  Well, this story focuses on two particular young people who attended the dance.  What was so unique about them is that King Travis Daft and Queen Skye Givens are both deafblind and have multiple disabilities.  What a spectacular pair they were on that brisk April evening.  Travis arrived handsomely dressed in a black tuxedo with matching yellow cummerbund and bowtie and Skye arrived in a beautiful yellow gown with a matching wrap. Our Special Blessing Ministry Team at (TWUMC) made some very special arrangements to meet their unique needs.

Let’s back up to the day that Skye received an invitation from her friend Travis to come as his guest.  Skye is only 10 years old and Travis is 17.  First, we convinced Dad that his little girl, Skye, was growing up and opportunities to socialize will be coming her way.   This was a very exciting time, and Skye needed something to wear.  Honestly, as Skye’s mother, I was a little perplexed about the proper attire for a formal dance, and how do we even go about finding a dress????  I mentioned the invitation to Skye’s Recreational Therapist, Kristin Schultz, and without any hesitation on her part, she immediately responded “we’re going dress shopping,” and that’s exactly what happened the very next week. Skye was a trooper and Kristin was leading the way, determined that we were going to try on as many dresses as needed to find just the right one.  (It only took 12 dresses for Mom to decide that dress number 2 was really the perfect one for Skye.)

Of course, Mom had to do the trial run for fixing hair and dressing just to be sure we didn’t have any snags on the “big night”.    Skye’s grandparents and several of our neighbors came to give Skye a “paparazzi” send off, complete with flashing cameras and well wishes from all.  Of course Dad was the proudest of all and he shared some heartfelt words before we left.  (I wish I had thought to ask someone to take a picture of his face when he saw her all dressed up for the first time.  She looked beautiful.)

Kristin and I met Travis and his parents, Teresa and Gary, at the church.  Skye and Travis exchanged flowers.  Travis and Gary had picked out a yellow corsage for Skye, and Skye helped design Travis’ yellow boutonniere.  You could not have found prouder parents at that moment. So many plans and special arrangements had taken place and now the evening was in full swing.

Our Special Blessing Ministry Team had thought of every last detail to accommodate their needs.  Travis and Skye arrived just in time to be the final carriage riders for the evening.  Volunteers were ready to lift each of our Royals into their Cinderella carriage, and ready at the other end with wheelchairs in hand to get them resettled.  Cameras and videos were in constant use to help tell their story.  Once they arrived for their interview, the Court Jester welcomed them and announced their arrival.

They posed for some pictures and went right to the dance floor where they enjoyed dancing to the classics – The Chicken Dance, The Conga, The Cotton-Eyed Joe, The Train Dance and YMCA to name just a few.  Of course the dancing was made complete by the parents and Kristin who maneuvered the wheelchairs expertly across the dance floor and attempted to keep up with the various hand signs and arm motions.  Beforehand, Teresa and I both felt that if they could just make it through one or two songs, it would be a success.  Well, our young party animals danced almost until the end.  They had a great time!

As I write this article there are so many people to thank for making this evening so successful for these two young friends.  We extend our deepest thanks to TWUMC, the Special Blessing Ministry Team, the many volunteers who assisted with the decorations, pictures, etc., of course the parents and Kristin, the surrounding community and all who heard their story before and after the dance.  It doesn’t matter that our kids have issues, we still want them to have those “awesome moments” that none of us will ever forget.  Skye and Travis’ experience touched so many lives during this time and we’re all thankful to God for their special spirits.  Their stories have opened the door to talk to people who are unaware of deafblindness and multiple disabilities.  Countless pictures have been sent to family and friends and anyone who wants to hear—I generally have pictures with me so I’m ready.  What’s even more amazing is that their story continues to touch hearts.  Who knows – possibly next year somewhere in the US another deafblind couple will be attending their prom for the first time.

As you finish reading this article, I hope it encourages you to look at those individuals in your own life who are deafblind and make sure that their stories and “awesome moments” are shared with others.  In fact, share with as many people as possible.  Remember – Travis and Skye created change.

Fall 2008 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Lisa Crawford. Texas Hands & Voices Co-Founder

Abstract:  Learn about Texas Hands & Voices, a new chapter of the national organization which is dedicated to supporting families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing with information and resources so they can make the best choices for their child.

Keywords:  Family Wisdom, hearing impaired, deaf, family support organizations

 

Since May of 2007 a handful of parents and professionals have been working towards establishing an official Texas chapter of Hands & Voices, a non-profit national organization dedicated to supporting families of children who are deaf/hard of hearing with information and resources so they can make the best choices for their child. Hands & Voices is non-biased about communication modes or methodologies, and we believe that given good information and support, families can make the choice that is right for their child. We are parent-led but open our organization to professionals who are interested in a family/child-focused approach to service delivery. Our motto is “What works for your child is what makes the choice right.”

In the last 18 months we have succeeded in creating a Texas chapter website and have worked towards expanding our network of parents and professionals across the state. We are actively involved in a state effort to improve newborn hearing screening procedures and follow-up and have also been asked to provide a parent perspective to a state-wide collaborative group examining Deaf Education in Texas.  Over the summer we worked with DARS/ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) to increase awareness about resources for parents related to hearing loss.

We strive to help parents become knowledgeable about their child’s educational needs and legal rights and hope to continue to grow and provide training and support to parents across the state.

As this is being written, we have a Hands & Voices event planned in Grapevine, TX on November. 15th. Families in the DFW area will socialize with other families and learn about self-advocacy skills that can help their children be successful.  Check our website for more information on future events.

The national Hands & Voices website, ,is full of great articles and information about many topics related to hearing loss.  The Texas website, , is geared toward providing information specific to Texas.  Please visit our website and consider becoming a member. Your support helps us continue our efforts and, with your membership, you will receive the quarterly national publication, The Communicator.

If you are interested in getting our Texas Chapter quarterly newsletters via email, please go to our website at www.txhandsandvoices.org and submit an email request with your contact information and your area of interest.

Fall 2008 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Bobbi Siekierke, Parent, Copperas Cove, TX

Abstract: A mother shares her daughter’s commitment to helping others through donating her hair to Locks of Love.

Keywords:  Family Wisdom, deafblindness, volunteerism, giving back, Locks of Love

 

It was finally time!

After two years, Katy’s hair had once again grown long enough to meet the minimum requirements needed to make another donation to Locks of Love.

Locks of Love, headquartered in Lake Wake, Florida, takes donations of ponytails and braids and turns them into natural-hair wigs, also called hair prosthetics.  These prosthetics are given to youngsters in need of hairpieces to cover their scalps left bare by disease or medical treatments, such as chemotherapy.  The public, non-profit organization provides the hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children, under age 18, in the United States and Canada.  For more details on the organization and how to make a hair or monetary donation, visit <http://www.locksoflove.org>.

Katy Easler, now age 20, first got the idea to donate her hair roughly six years ago when her then-intervener, Kathy Hefner, donated some two feet of hair to the cause.

For nearly three years after Kathy arrived at school with her new hairdo, Katy would only allow her bangs to be cut. Each time she went in for a trim, Katy asked that her ponytail be measured.  By the time the summer of 2005 rolled around Katy’s mane had grown long enough to provide a 12-inch donation and leave her enough tresses for a cute pixie cut.

As soon as the padded envelope of hair was taken to the post office, Katy started talking about growing her hair again for another donation.  So she was delighted when her hair was long enough this summer to pay another visit to Miss Debbie at Classy Cuts and Styles in Copperas Cove. The salon is one of dozens across Texas that have agreed to follow the steps needed to properly cut hair. A list of participating salons in each state is available at the Locks of Love website.  The ponytails or braids must be secured with bands and placed in a plastic bag. The hair can not touch the floor. Miss Debbie does not charge clients who are donating their hair to Locks of Love.

When asked why she wants to cut her hair and mail it to Florida, Katy signs, “To help the sick girls get wigs.”  Posted on the wall of her bedroom are two sets of photographs printed from the Locks of Love website; one shows a gallery of hair prosthetics recipients and the other photos are of people, like Katy, who have donated.

This school year Katy, who is deaf-blind due to C.H.A.R.G.E. association, is sporting her new look on the campus of the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin.  She is attending the Transition Program as she prepares for her life ahead.  It’s a safe bet that her life ahead will include growing out her hair, once again, to help other girls and boys who are suffering with hair loss.

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

by KC Dignan, Ph.D.,
Professional Preparation Coordinator, TSBVI Outreach

Abstract: The TEXAS FELLOWS programs, recognizing those who recruit vision professionals,  is growing and changing.

Key Words:  Blind, Visually Impaired, teachers, TVI, COMS, recruitment

 

The Texas Fellows program is a unique opportunity to recognize the work Texans do to increase VI teachers and O&M specialists.  Research and experience has long shown that the most influential recruiting activity is talking to someone about being a VI professional.  Finding a good future VI professional takes time and persistence, 2 years is common.  The Texas Fellows program recognizes the work of anyone who has taken the time and effort to ensure that students with visual impairments have a qualified VI teacher or O&M specialist.

The Outreach Program and Curriculum Development are pleased to announce a new third way to recognize Texas Fellows. The recognition now happens in these three ways:

  • The Texas Fellow and their candidate’s names are published for a year in this newsletter.
  • Texas Fellows and their candidates are recognized at statewide events sponsored by TSBVI.
  • And now, Texas Fellows receive a $50 gift certificate good towards any publication from TSBVI Curriculum Development!

This gift certificate can be used on any publication from the internationally well-known source for classics, such as TAPS, or innovative publications like Empowered, the new activity-based self-determination curriculum.

For more information on how to enroll in the Texas Fellows program, call KC Dignan (512-206-9156) or visit the Professional Preparation homepage on the TSBVI website. http://www.tsbvi.edu/pds/index.htm

See the current TEXAS FELLOWS in the Bulletin Board Section on the following page…

 

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Kay L. Clarke, Ph.D., TVI, COMS.
Written for the Ohio Center for Deafblind Education
Reprinted from the Introduction of the Hold Everything! booklet:

Abstract:  Hold Everything!, is a booklet that provides parents and educators with “stay-put” play spaces for children with sensory impairments and other special needs.

Key Words:  blindness, deafblindness, Hold Everything!, Ohio Center for Deafblind Education, stay-put play spaces, Lilli Nielsen, Active Learning, self-initiated exploration.

“Stay-put” play spaces are play environments that:

  1. include high interest, multi-sensory materials that appeal to a variety of young children, with and without special needs;
  2. have parts that are anchored down in some way so that young children can keep track of them and do not have to rely on adult help to retrieve them;
  3. facilitate and encourage repeated, self-initiated exploration of materials;
  4. are easily adaptable to match individual children’s strengths, needs and personal preferences;
  5. may be used individually or with other persons; and
  6. are inexpensive and easy to make or to put together at home or school.

Lilli Nielsen’s Active Learning philosophy and materials have contributed greatly to the development of these “stay-put” play spaces (see the Resources section on page 43). The premise of the Active Learning approach is that ALL children are capable of interacting with the physical environment around them, no matter what their level of cognitive, motor or sensory abilities may be.

The key to promoting self-initiated exploration lies in structuring the physical environment in ways that children can use their unique abilities to exercise control over the environment. For example, a child who is blind may be unable to visually explore his play space, but may use his hands to find objects that are anchored in place so they won’t roll away when bumped. At the same time, a child who is unable to reach out her arms to grasp an object may be able to use her mouth to explore the qualities of an object that is hanging within reach of her lips.

Adults, then, must be willing to step back and allow children time to discover, problem solve and explore on their own. For some children, this may be the first time in their lives that they have been able to initiate actions independently, without adults coaching them or manipulating their bodies.

Keep in mind that not all “stay-put” activities presented here will be a good match for all children.  Pick and choose activities for a particular child that seem to be a good developmental match and that may pique the interest of the child. The activities may also be modified to better fit the abilities and interests of each child and his or her family.

“Stay-put” play spaces provide children with opportunities to practice and develop a variety of skills.  The booklet provides a reference chart that identifies the major skills targeted for each type of play environment. The specific activities that are set up within a play space will, of course, determine the actual skills practiced.  Use your imagination and prepare to have fun!

Kay L. Clarke and the Ohio Center for Deafblind Education have published Hold Everything!, a booklet based on a workshop by the same name that aims to provide parents and early childhood educators with 20 initial ideas for developing “stay-put” play spaces for infants and young children with sensory impairments and other special needs. It is hoped that the readers of this booklet will use some of these ideas and go on to develop additional creative approaches that will encourage self-initiated exploration, play and learning.

This booklet (English & Spanish) may be downloaded and printed at no cost: Hold Everything  (English), and !Agarra Todo! (Spanish).  Hard copies of the booklet (English only) may be ordered by going to The Ohio Center for Deafblind Education.

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Suzy B. Scannell, Education Specialist,
Region 4 Education Service Center

Abstract:  this article reviews the InFocus with Low Vision Kit and the book, Ben and Buzzy’s Busy Days and other materials included in the kit.

Key Words: blindness, low vision, optical device, visual skills, InFocus with Low Vision Kit, Ben and Buzzy Bee, visual efficiency, Suzanne Scannell, Karen Crone, Dr. Randy Jose

 

Meet Ben, a bee with low vision, his brother Buzzy, and their Mother, Beatrice Bee. Coming soon, the InFocus with Low Vision Kit, available through Region 4 Education Service Center, is a kit of materials to assist TVIs and COMS as they instruct young students to develop visual efficiency and to use optical devices.  The kit includes a children’s book, Ben and Buzzy’s Busy Days, an activity book, Ben and Buzzy’s Busy Book, the Teacher’s Guide, and near and distance training charts.  The same characters appear in all materials.  Some TVIs and COMS may recognize some of them!  Look for Miss Natalie, Ben’s teacher, and Dr. Randy, a kindly old buzzard!  Students become familiar with the characters, which assists with successful learning and refining of visual skills.  The children’s book has wonderful colorful pictures and tells the story of a bee with low vision, illustrates some of the behaviors typical of children with low vision, helps prepare young children for an eye exam, and introduces optical devices to students.  Every page has a lady bug pictured somewhere on the page to encourage scanning.  Multiple opportunities to use vision and reinforce basic concepts are included in the story and graphics.  The activity book affords many opportunities for students to practice near visual skills.  Tasks vary in difficulty from simple to complex and include matching, dot to dot, word searches with differing contrast, mazes, coloring pages and some other surprises.  Both the children’s book and the activity book are suitable for all children in early elementary grades.

The Teacher’s Guide instructs TVIs and COMS to work with students to learn and increase visual skills of localization, fixation, tracing, scanning and tracking using the near and distance charts and picture cards included in the kit.  Suggestions are offered for additional activities to practice skills and for data collection.

Written by Suzanne Scannell, Karen Crone and Dr. Randy Jose, the InFocus with Low Vision Kit is scheduled for publication in early spring, 2009.  The cost of the entire kit is $180, and includes the Teacher’s Guide, near and distance training charts, 3 copies of Ben and Buzzy’s Busy Days, and 5 Copies of Ben and Buzzy’s Busy Book.  Currently available for purchase separately are the children’s book, Ben and Buzzy’s Busy Days ($20.00) and activity book, Ben and Buzzy’s Busy Book ($25.00).  A little bee told us these would be great gifts!  Shop  the Region 4 Store at: or , or by  phone at 713-744-6302.

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Beth Dennis, Blind Children’s Consultant, Division for Blind Services

Abstract:  This article provides information about summer camps.

Key Words:  blind, vision impairment, recreation, summer camp

 

You might think it’s still winter, the holidays were just yesterday, but it’s time already to think about summer activities and summer camp.  Many summer camps have already mailed informational brochures and applications, and application deadlines may be as early as mid-April.  The most popular summer camps fill up early, and some camps operate on a first come first served basis.

Residential summer camps provide students excellent opportunities to learn new skills and practice old ones.  In addition to just plain, old-fashioned fun, students develop confidence, independence and social skills.  Some camps offer shorter camp sessions or day-camp programs for younger campers who are not yet ready to be away from home for an entire week.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Be aware of camp deadlines. By Spring Break, make sure you have made a final camp selection.
  2. Call early (January or February) to request a camp application form. Some forms take longer to complete and may require a medical release signed by your child’s doctor.
  3. Talk to other parents, teachers of the visually impaired, DARS-DBS children’s caseworkers, or transition counselors about the camp you are considering for your child. Visit the camp’s website or, if possible, consider a visit to the camp in the off-season.

In January and February, the Division for Blind Services obtains updated information from camps in Texas that have served campers with visual and other impairments.  Please contact your DBS Specialist or your local DBS office for camp information:  <http://www.dars.state.tx.us/dbs/DBSoffices.asp>.   DBS does not maintain a list of all the camps in Texas, and the inclusion or exclusion of a camp should not be considered an endorsement of any particular camp. When selecting a camp, parents should visit the facility, meet the camp director or counselors, and talk to parents whose children have attended the camp in past years. Each camp has its own special attributes and no single camp is the “best” for every child. Trying to match the needs of your child with a camp that will meet those needs should be a leading consideration. Careful research will ultimately result in an informed decision to find the camp that is the “best” for your child.