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

By Michele Chauvin, President of TAPVI, Sugar Land, TX

Abstract:  The Texas Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments shares their experience speaking before the State Board of Educator Certification in October and provides an update on their organization’s business.

 

Keywords: Family Wisdom, blind, visually impaired, family organization, CTVI, SBEC, teacher certification

 

In October 2008, the Texas Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (TAPVI) had the opportunity to speak before the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) in Austin. As a mom, I shared my plea that the board should require a Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired (CTVI) to receive specialized training, including coursework and a supervised internship, before earning this certification. Currently, Texas law only requires that teachers pass an exam to become certified in any additional subjects, including CTVIs. A student who is the son of a TAPVI member also gave a personal account about the role his CTVI plays in his life. What a proud moment for his family!

These were among the statements for Item 11: Consideration and Opportunity to Approve the Recommendation that A Visually Impaired Teacher Take Visually Impaired Training in Addition to Examination as a Requirement for Visually Impaired Certification.

MICHELE’S TESTIMONY

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Michele Chauvin, and I live in Sugar Land. I am the President of the Texas Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, and I have a 7-year-old daughter, who is blind. Like most Texas students who are visually impaired, she has attended public school in our community of Fort Bend ISD. Over the years, she has worked with 5 different Certified Teachers of students with visual impairments. We have observed a variety of educational methods based on their training. It is imperative for VI Teachers to have the knowledge and experience provided by a complete training program to work successfully in this specialized field.

Like the conductor of a complex symphony, the VI teacher coordinates lesson plans between numerous teachers. Adapting materials for every assignment on a daily basis is complicated to say the least. A typical lesson plan may include a raised line drawing, a tactile picture, a real-life experience, Braille, large print, complex technology, or all of the above. Everyone in a public school relies heavily on the VI teacher for guidance, from the principal to the volunteers. If the VI teacher lacks expertise, everyone suffers the consequences of an unprepared blind person, who may be missing skills necessary for independence.

VI teachers are also responsible for several assessments. The results often have far reaching impact into a child’s future, possibly adding additional eligibilities, as 70% of VI students also have multiple impairments. Texas Administrative Code §89.1040 requires that schools must include a certified VI teacher when doing evaluations. It would be prudent to have a thoroughly trained VI teacher to conduct or collaborate on such important assessments.

As the President of a statewide parent organization, I have met many VI families across Texas. A common concern for these families is the unique educational needs of our children. Our VI teacher is often our lifeline. A teacher without complete training or experience may steer a community in the wrong direction. These parents may give up on the public school system and decide to educate their child in a private or home school setting, rather than work with someone they view as incapable. Sadly, these families often lose the support they expected from the public school system. They simply want to send their kids to school, confident they are educated appropriately every day.

Proficiency in the vision field cannot be learned by passing an exam. This wealth of knowledge is acquired through specific training, experience working with VI students in a supervised setting, mentoring and continuing education. Please consider requiring teachers to complete their training before receiving their certification as a VI teacher in Texas. This will better equip our VI teachers to instruct a variety of VI students, families, and school systems regarding the specialized needs of this unique population. Thank you for your time.

COOPER’S TESTIMONY

Hello, my name is Cooper Alexander; I’m 13 and an 8th grader at Valley View ISD in Valley View, Texas. I’m here, away from my school to speak to you about how important my teacher of the visually impaired is to me.

When I was born I was too early and didn’t weigh even two pounds. A month later I had bacterial meningitis and almost died. Because of that, I have an eye condition called Cortical Visual Impairment, or CVI, and mild cerebral palsy. I see light and dark, some colors, and sometimes shapes. Sometimes, I see less, sometimes more, it changes depending on my health, surroundings, and stress levels. I can walk pretty well, but I fall a lot if I’m not careful. I use a white cane to navigate my school and when I’m out running around.

My mom found out about ECI when I was 2 months old, because they told her at the hospital I would be blind, have cerebral palsy, and mental retardation. As you can see, I’m pretty smart and this is why: she has told me she and Dad were desperate to find some way to help me. ECI sent out Mary Ann Foster to look me over and decide how best to start. From the time I was 6 months old, Miss Mary Ann has looked out for me. I don’t remember any of the early stuff, but Mom said she did lots of vision stimulation activities with me and tried to help me interact with my surroundings. I know she must have helped because I’m an all A student now.

It’s hard to tell you in this short a time what Miss Mary Ann does for me each day, but I’ll try. She started me on Braille by the time I was 3. Because I am a Braille student, she has to see me at my school a lot. By 1st grade I had a type of Braille note-taker and all my books were brailled. By 3rd grade, she made sure I was reading contracted Braille so I wouldn’t fall behind the other kids. Now, she makes sure I have audio textbooks as well as the Braille, because there is a lot of reading! In 2nd grade she started teaching me Nemeth Code for math. It’s a special Braille code just for advanced math, and it’s hard. She gets me the technology I need to succeed in my classroom. I have a Braille note-taker that I write on and read from, a screen reader for my computer and tons more equipment she had to know how to teach me.

She has teacher worksheets brailled for me, math papers fixed so I can feel the diagrams or shapes so they make sense to me. Once, I needed the elements chart and she made sure I had it early, so I could start memorizing them. If we use maps, she makes sure I have them and in art class she helps the teacher understand what would be a good way to teach me. Miss Mary Ann sits with me in math and science sometimes, because it’s easy for the classroom teacher to forget I need more description, or because there are changes that need to be made at the last minute so I can understand the lesson. That happens all the time, and she always knows how to help me. She takes a lot of classes at Region XI and X so she will know what might help me.

On top of all of that, even when she’s seen me hundreds of times that month, she will take me to an event like Sports Extravaganza or a Mentor night at the American Foundation for the Blind center in Dallas because she wants me to be an independent, regular kid. She say’s that means I have to go to college and get a good job.

If Miss Mary Ann had not learned Braille, or Nemeth code I wouldn’t have gone to Space Camp a couple of years ago, be the president of my 4-H club or be here talking to you, because I couldn’t do the work. All kids deserve a great teacher like her, and we shouldn’t give them anything less. Please make sure all teachers of students with visual impairments get the training they need to help kids like me. Thank you for your time. Do you have any questions?

TAPVI.ORG Website Is Parked!

If you have tried to visit our website lately, you found that the site was not working. Our website is temporarily parked. We own the domain (name), but the company who hosts the space wants us to change our site builder, re-entering all our info, and is increasing the rates. Our Webmaster is looking into this issue. Hopefully, the site will be back up soon. We have had this website for a few years, and we intend to keep it.

 

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

By Cyd Frazier, Founder of the North Texas Albinism Community

Abstract: A parent of a child with albinism tells why and how she began an albinism group in North Texas.

Keywords:  visually impaired, albinism, low vision

 

On November 21, 2005, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Grayson Guy Frazier.  He was born with Oculocutaneous Albinism Type 1 (OCA1)—big words that basically mean he is lacking pigment in his skin, hair, and eyes.  He has an acute sensitivity to light as well as low vision.  We see a pediatric ophthalmologist, genetics doctor, dermatologist, and vision therapist on a regular basis.  Already my baby has had a four-muscle eye surgery and will be undergoing another eye surgery in the next coming months.  Albinism is genetically recessive, thus making it rare—1 in 17,000 people have some form of the condition.  And Hollywood seems to portray every individual with albinism in a sinister and evil light.

After a few years of trying to cope and reach out for help, my husband and I joined a national organization called NOAH—the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation.  In October 2008, I called the NOAH headquarters and asked them if they had a local chapter in Texas that my family could join.  I was told that none existed, which instantly prompted me to ask, “Well, how can I change that?”

I realized that when there is a need in a community, action speaks louder than words.  I went straight to work to organize an albinism community in North Texas.  I contacted the local Lion’s Club who generously agreed to donate their facility for our meeting at no cost and NOAH sent out my invitations to members in the area through the mail and e-mail.  I also asked my son’s doctors, caseworkers, and therapists to help spread the word.  A few weeks, phone calls, and e-mails later, I had effectively put together an initial meeting for a local albinism community.  As a mother of a young son with OCA1, I realized how much I needed local support.   I quickly found out that I was not alone.

The response from my invitation surpassed my expectations.  Everyone that contacted me was excited about the prospect of a local albinism community, and attended the initial meeting on November 2, 2008 with high hopes.  Everyone wanted to pitch in and make this dream a reality.  It seems that all my efforts paid off in spades.

Reaching out to others with albinism and meeting other parents whose children share my son’s condition has made all the difference in the world for me and my family.  We have a support group now.  We have people to talk to that understand how we feel and the challenges we face.  We now have a community on which to lean.

I want to invite others to join us.  We are planning a Bowl-a-Thon in February and a mini conference in the summer of 2009.  You can contact us through our Yahoo Group at: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dfwalbinism>.  You can also e-mail me directly at <>.  We hope to hear from you soon!

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

, go to <http://www.sfsu.edu/~cadbs/News.html>

Abstract: A parent describes how she prepared her family before moving into a new house in another community. The steps she took resulted in a smooth transition for her child with deafblindness.

Keywords: family wisdom, transitioning children with special needs, deafblind, multiple disabilities, cultural competence

 

Many years ago when I left Mexico to come and live in the United States, the move happened so suddenly that I didn’t stop to think about what it implied. It was during Christmas vacation and the worst part was that I wasn’t aware I would be leaving so soon. I did not even have time to say goodbye to my classmates and friends. I arrived here to a totally different place—a different culture, a different language, and different people. It was very traumatic and scary, and I felt anxious trying to adjust to my new environment.

A couple of years ago I made another change in my life— my family and I moved from Los Angeles to Riverside, which is about 50 miles to the east of L.A. When we were looking for the house it never occurred to me that this would be a big change for my kids, especially for Norman, my 8-year-old who is deaf-blind and has multiple disabilities. Right after we found the house we wanted and knew exactly where we were going to live, I suddenly remembered all that I had been through years ago when I came to the U.S. Deep down in my heart I was concerned about Norman; because of all of his special needs this move was very likely to have a great impact on him.

Keeping in mind the fact that the move would be a challenge, my husband and I started to plan a transition to make things easier for Norman. We knew there were factors working against us like timing and distance (timing because it was during school session, and distance because the new house wasn’t around the corner from our old house but instead many miles away). Nevertheless, we were excited about the move.

When designing our transition plan we considered all the factors involved, such as home environment, school for our daughter, school program for Norman, etc. We then asked ourselves, How can we do this? How can we make sure this transition works? And the big question—How can we make sure Norman’s new school program is the right one for him?

First, we did not move right away to our new house. We decided to have Norman stay in his old program for the remainder of the school year (since it was almost vacation) in order to minimize the number of changes in his life. We thought this might make him confused with so many things happening at the same time. We chose instead to visit our new home as often as possible. We even spent some weekends at our new place, exploring and getting familiar with the new home, the neighborhood, and we also visited the new school.

Soon after, I visited the new school program and met the person who would be Norman’s new teacher. I explained to her all about Norman’s needs and asked how she felt about having a child with deaf-blindness in her class. I inquired all about other related services, and the possibility of meeting with the one-to-one assistant before school started. The next step was to take Norman to the classroom so he could meet his new teacher and she could meet him.

When the school year started, I went with Norman to school for the first few days. Even though we had all met before, everything was kind of new for Norman as well as for his teacher and one-on-one aide. Me being there in the classroom and showing the school staff how to communicate and work with Norman made everything much easier. Norman didn’t feel that I had just left him there and the teacher didn’t feel so lost. Shortly after that, his educational team and I met to discuss all the information related to Norman.

Thinking about what was best for our children—along with all the planning, time, and effort—made this transition a success. We finally moved into our new home. Norman is progressing in his new program without any major complications. In addition, our daughter likes her new school, too. And they even got a dog named Buster.

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

By Rene Harrell, parent
Reprinted with permission from Future Reflections, Fall 2007
Published by the National Federation of the Blind

Abstract: A parent posts her thoughts about raising a child who is blind with additional disabilities. She reflects on how her own expectations impact her child’s learning.

Keywords:  blind, children, parenting, NFB, disabilities

editor’s note: Some great conversation threads appear on the <> listserver sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Occasionally, parts of those conversations have enough substance, detail, and insight to stand alone. Such is the case with the remarks below by Colorado mother, Rene Harrell. Here is Harrell as she describes her struggles to untangle the threads of cause-and-effect for her child who has multiple disabilities:

 

From: Rene Harrell

To:   NFBnet Blind Kid Mailing List, (for parents of blind children)

<>

 

Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2007

Subject: Re: What do you REALLY believe about blindness?

This is a great conversation. I’m so glad to see this on here, because I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately.

Our daughter has multiple disabilities, which had made untangling the threads of “why” she can’t do certain things hard for us as her parents. Why wasn’t she verbally on par with her peers? Why the certain persevering play behaviors? Why was she lagging in certain motor skills?

She is adopted and came home to us at the age of four, so we also had the transition from her foster home to a whole new country and new language to throw into the mix.

I haven’t had the chance to attend any NFB events, though I would dearly love to make it to a national convention. As of yet, we’ve never had the opportunity to meet any other children who are blind. I’ve struggled to figure out what is a blindness issue, what is a mental retardation issue, what is an autism issue, and what is just unique to Clare. But this list has been a wonderful resource, and two beliefs have really anchored me in this journey:

  1. Blind children should have the capacity to achieve on par with their peers. In Clare’s case, this means that she has the capacity to achieve on par with children who share her other disabilities but are sighted; and
  2. Our job as her parents is to encourage and foster every milestone of independence that she has the capacity to achieve.

Truly believing these two things has been a transformative process for me. I can’t say I always believed them in my core. I’d dress her and change her and put on her shoes and always have her hold my hand; and we never made any steps towards anything more. And then, when we really started to believe in these two core principles, we began to expect more out of Clare. Since her developmental and cognitive age hovers around age two, I took a good hard look at my two-year-old son and started taking stock—and started to push.

Clare will be six in September and is only now beginning to talk. She has a vocabulary of about fifty words. But with a little assistance, she is now dressing and undressing herself. She is not potty trained but she can take off her diaper, put on a new one, and then wash her hands with just a little prompting (obviously these are the “clean” diaper changes). She can brush her teeth and her hair. She can feed herself with a spoon and a fork. She can navigate our house. Now when we go to the playground, I take her on a tour to show her where all the equipment is and then push her to do it herself.

She initially fought every single one of these pushes. (Whew! We had some major meltdowns of disappointment and frustration.) But then we got the wonderful chance to stand back, watch her blossom, and see the pride she has in herself when she finds she can achieve. Each time she’s risen to reach a new expectation, it’s shown us that we will never know her true capacity unless we are stretching her to grow. And we gain more and more confidence to challenge her when we see the positive results that come from encouraging her to figure out how she can do things for herself instead of needing things done for her.

She rides a tricycle now, and she is playing T-ball in the three-year-old league with her brother at the local YMCA, as it is her cognitive age. (We didn’t tell them she was blind.) We’ve shown her where the T is, how to figure out where the ball is on the T, and how to swing the bat. The only help we give her is to have someone at the bases shouting so she knows where to run, and they have to do that for all the kids anyway. She’s in gymnastics with peers her own age (either her dad or I stay with her to help her follow directions).

Each time a new task comes up, I ask myself how much of this can she do on her own? We are now working on different fasteners, such as buttons, zippers, laces, etc. She can’t zipper entirely on her own, but if I get it started, she can pull it up the whole way. She can’t buckle herself in her car seat, but if I thread the top fastener together and tell her to “push,” then she can click it in on her own.

I’m probably rambling incoherently right now, but this listserver has really challenged me to reframe how I think about blindness in light of my daughter’s other disabilities. I always thought I had a positive attitude about what blind people could achieve, until I was confronted with a child who seemed so incapable of doing absolutely anything. And “blame it on blindness” syndrome runs so rampant that it was hard not to get sucked into believing that everything she couldn’t do was because she was blind.

We had one doctor, God bless her, who finally looked me in the eye and said flat out, “There is nothing about blindness that would prevent your daughter from talking and don’t believe anyone who says that.” This really kick-started us to begin forcefully advocating against those who want to blame blindness for our daughter’s other challenges in life. And since then, her quality of life has dramatically increased.

So THANK YOU all on this listserver, because you’ve been such an encouragement!

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

By L. Kathleen Sheriff, Parent and Texas A&M University Educational Psychology Graduate Student, Willis, TX

Abstract:  Transition from high school to college can be a challenge for students with disabilities, particularly for students with multiple sensory disabilities.  A mother shares the journey of her son with CHARGE syndrome excelling at the challenge of meshing medical fragility with his sensory disabilities to achieve academic success and independent living at Sam Houston State University.

Keywords: Family Wisdom, deafblind, transition, independent living, college, CHARGE Syndrome

 

I never dreamed I would see the day Chris would enroll in college, but I always planned his education as if he would attend post-secondary schooling.  Early on in Chris’ life I noticed he had intelligence, but he was years behind his peers socially and academically due to his multiple congenital disabilities.  He was born with CHARGE Syndrome even though we did not know that in 1982.  We only knew he had multiple congenital anomalies presenting him with major health challenges.  Education was always secondary to his health-related concerns.  It has been a delight to watch him grow developmentally, academically, and socially since entering college several years ago.  He is now a junior at Sam Houston State University, majoring in Technical Theatre.  This is the story of Chris’ courageous series of transitions from high school to his current independence as a student at SHSU in Huntsville, Texas.

Chris graduated from Klein Forest High School in Houston, Texas in 2002.  What a celebration we had!  Seventy-five people graced our doorstep to say congratulations to him and place money on his money tree (a silk decorator tree) in our den.  Chris placed a sign on the tree that stated, “Dad, you said I’d graduate when money grew on trees! Hang your money here.”  Everyone who saw the sign laughed and then as Chris expected, hung bills and checks on the tree.  When asked at that time what he wanted to do, he stated he wanted to attend community college at Tomball College taking classes leading to a paraprofessional certificate. His goal was to assist in the local deaf education coop. Advocating and charged with excitement, he enrolled in a certificate program at Tomball College.

During his first year post-high school, Chris volunteered in a public special education preschool class several days a week while he attended classes at Tomball College.  He lived at home, and my husband Steve drove him to his college classes and to volunteer at the elementary School, since Chris can not drive due to his vision and hearing disabilities.  Chris attended this same school as a preschooler.  Though he could speak orally as a young adult, he was able to use his first language, sign language, with the students.  The special education teachers Chris volunteered with befriended him and welcomed him into their classrooms.  They were very supportive and trained him in workplace social skills while on their campus.

Recognizing a need for a college study group, Chris and several classmates met to help each other with class assignments. I read his texts with him and listened as he read to me.  I shared scenarios from my classroom and sometimes allowed Chris to volunteer there. He connected the material he was learning in college with the programming he was a part of in his volunteer preschool class.  The next thing I knew he was volunteering to teach typical preschool children at our church on Sunday mornings.  He was definitely charging forward toward his goal of working with children in our local community. Chris completed his certificate program, but was not offered a position to work for the district where he volunteered.  I was disappointed for him because I knew he had worked very hard and wanted to be a paraprofessional in a preschool classroom.

Chris’ best friend Jay came by to visit during his Fall 2003 holiday break from Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas.  Jay convinced Chris he could be successful at TSTC.  He also told him about a staff member at TSTC who helped students with accommodations.  I arranged for a campus visit, even though my main concern was the three hour distance Chris would be from us if he enrolled there.  Chris did enroll at TSTC where Jay was, moved into the dorm next to the office area, bought books, and began classes in January of 2004.

His first schedule consisted of technology courses combined with developmental courses in reading, writing, and math.  Steve and I drove to Waco every 10 days to check on Chris, bring medication, shop, and pick him up for medical visits in Houston, though we located an excellent cardiologist in Waco to monitor his aortic valve replacement.  His counselor handled modifications for classes, and the dorm staff looked after him.  The campus nurse had him come to clinic regularly for blood pressure checkups, and to just chat with him about his health and diet.  He ate in the dorm and kept food in a small refrigerator in his room.  He had the internet and a cell phone for contact with us.  The laundry was across the hall from his room.  Maintenance staff put a light switch door bell in his room, so a light flashed to tell him someone was at his door in case he could not hear the bell.  He rode a church van to a local church on Sundays and became active in a college ministry.  These friends began to pick Chris up for Bible studies and parties.  Chris introduced them to us, and we attended several church services with him so we knew who to contact if he had a need before we could get to him in Waco.

The third semester Chris attended TSTC, he and a friend rented a small house.  The friend agreed to cook meals and drive Chris as needed in exchange for free rent.  One evening, Chris cooked a frozen pizza himself and left the gas oven on. Symptoms of CHARGE syndrome for Chris include a lack of the senses of smell and taste. When his roommate arrived home, Chris was very ill due to gas in the house. We drove to Waco, where his roommate had helped him survive the evening by taking him for medical care. He recognized he needed to be closer to home, and we absolutely did.  Chris loved TSTC, but the drive was exhausting for us, and after three successful semesters there he felt ready to transition and charge forward to a four year school.

Chris had good grades at TSTC and applied to Sam Houston State in 2006.  He was accepted, and moved into an apartment with his sister Amy who was a student at SHSU.  The counseling center helped with class modifications, and the medical center monitored his medical needs and contacted his Houston cardiologist for him. Amy cooked meals and drove Chris wherever he needed to go.  Slowly, he began to learn to cook.  Yes, the stove was electric this time.  He joined a local church behind his apartment complex and walked there for college ministry activities.  Amy eventually left SHSU, and Chris moved into his own efficiency apartment alone in Huntsville in 2007.  He walked to classes and church friends or theatre classmates drove him places when weather warranted.  Steve and I attended church with him on Sunday mornings and met his friends and the staff there.  Once again, he had made friends with adults who respect and admire his drive toward independence, and were willing to participate in helping him achieve it.

After Chris suffered a stroke in Huntsville, Steve and I moved from Houston to near Huntsville in order to be near him. In Spring, 2008, Chris had a serious surgery and returned home for six months to recuperate.  He returned to his own apartment just a few months ago to charge forward once again, living independently.  His apartment amenities include a van for transportation, a washer/dryer in each apartment, a large flat screen television, and free internet service.  What more could a guy need, right?

Steve returned to college and now attends classes at SHSU. He and Chris have lunch together several times a week, we attend his church several times a month with him, and I clean his apartment with him twice a month.  He is learning to cook simple meals and finds he enjoys using a crock pot to make dishes that last for several days.  He does his own laundry in his apartment.  I still tutor Chris regularly, and he knows to give me advance notice when he needs help with assignments.  Quite often the only help he needs is with inferential writing and new vocabulary.  Steve and I still help manage his finances since he lives on his disability money, college grants, and college loans.  He is learning to manage credit cards and balance a checkbook.

Chris recently openly shared that he is aware he will always need to live close to family.  His current plan is to graduate from SHSU and work for his older brother Nate, who is an assistant producer for a theatre in London, England.  Nate says he welcomes that day.  His younger brother Patrick lives in New York City, and has also offered for Chris to live and work for a theatre there near him.  We are proud of Chris’ tenacity and honored to be related to him.  Our family is charged and charging forward to help Chris transition into the independent man he desires to be with his own opportunity for living life to the fullest.

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

By Jose A. Z. Martinez
College Graduate, Texas State University at San Marcos

Abstract: A college graduate shares his tips on being a successful college student.

Keywords:  Family Wisdom, blind, college, self-determination

 

When you make the decision to attend college as a blind student, you may feel as if it is going to be over whelming. And not just because of the class work, but you may find yourself asking, “how am I going to do this?” This question is not uncommon for a decision of this magnitude. I attended Texas State University at San Marcos and graduated with a public relations major. Prior to going off to college, I had very few opportunities to prepare myself for what was coming. But I attended college prep classes and also talked to current blind college students. I took what I learned and applied it, learning other important information along the way.

In today’s world it is very difficult to function without knowledge of technology, and college is no different. So it is very important to focus on learning the screen reader and notetaker of your choice. It is always smart to have a reliable way of taking notes just in case your technology fails, such as Braille. So being efficient with the slate and stylus may be an option. Professors expect the work to be done on time, so being prepared is important.

Once you choose your preferred school, one of the first things you should do is familiarize yourself with the campus, either by going to the campus before classes start and learning the layout on your own, or getting some O&M lessons facilitated through your DARS counselor. If you can do both, that would be very beneficial. This way you can learn the different buildings where your classes are going to be as well as important landmarks like the library and student center. There is nothing like knowing exactly where you are headed on the first day of school to help with the anxiety of a new campus environment. If you are at a University it may be difficult to learn the whole campus with a couple of O&M lessons, but you should learn enough information about the layout to help you build on what you know for future semesters.

Once you have a firm grasp on the layout of the campus and where your classes are going to be that semester, you should then approach your professors to talk about the course work and also to address any concerns that they may have about a blind student being in their class. Although technically the professor can not stop you from taking the class, it is a good idea to talk to them and see if there needs to be any adaptations in order for you to get the most out of the class. Also, remember the professors have control of your course grades, so it’s best to be on the same page with them at all times to avoid any misunderstandings.

Another important situation to be prepared for is searching for a reader to assist you in completing class assignments that you are not able to access. You can advertise for the reader position in the university’s newspaper, or you can work with the professor and advertise for the reader in that particular class. If you choose the second option, you may have better luck, because the individual would have the same reading assignments as you. There are other forms of advertising for the reader position that you can utilize aside from the ones mentioned above, such as bulletin boards, facebook, disability offices, and even word of mouth, just to name a few. As far as choosing the best candidate, that is a personal choice, but make sure you pick someone who will be professional, reliable, and will be of help. If you generate a lot of interest, be prepared to go through an interview process to weed out individuals that may not be what you are looking for. Having a reader may not always be necessary, but if you are planning to get one for a class, make sure to talk to your DARS counselor about the process and regulations that need to be followed for using reader services.

After your academic situation is in place, you should look for groups or student organizations to join. There are many different organizations, and always something for all tastes. You can find a list of current student organizations on the university’s home Web page. This would be a great opportunity to meet and get to know students with the same interests as your own. The social atmosphere of college life is a once in a lifetime experience and you should enjoy it.

Attending college is not for everyone, but if you feel college would benefit you in accomplishing your long-term goals, there is no reason why you should let blindness stop you from getting there!

Winter 2010 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Excerpted from www.globalexplorers.org home page

Abstract: This article describes Global Explorers, a nonprofit organization that provides a comprehensive educational travel experience for students of all abilities and backgrounds.

Key Words: blindness, visual impairment, disability, Global Explorers, travel

  • Global Explorers is a mission-driven nonprofit organization, unique in the student travel industry. They are a nonprofit organization driven by their passion for sharing the most educational and life-changing travel experiences available. As a nonprofit, their programs offer a comprehensive, responsible travel experience designed to genuinely enhance the lives of their participants in the most meaningful way possible. Their nonprofit commitment is a promise that:
  • Education is always the guiding principle. Read their Core Disciplines for details.
  • They give back to the communities through service, cross-cultural exchange activities, and financial and technical support.
  • They will never cut corners or sacrifice quality for financial gain.
  • They are committed to helping students of all abilities and backgrounds experience the natural wonders and cultural diversity of our world.
  • They can receive grants and donations to support and offset the costs of their programs. Your group can receive tax-deductible donations from your community to help contribute to your program fees.
  • They are governed by a talented Board of Directors consisting of experts such as teachers, principals, travel experts and scientists.
  • Volunteers contribute thousands of hours of work to support their mission.
  • Every staff member, volunteer, guide, and scientist with Global Explorers cares deeply about the mission and shares their dedication to positively changing the entire student travel industry.

This is no ordinary student travel experience. No other travel organization requires extensive educational preparation prior to travel as well as a follow-up service leadership project after travel. Their interdisciplinary preparatory curriculum prepares students for travel with lessons on leadership, service, science and culture -- all with an eye towards responsible global citizenship. This nationally recognized program content, developed in partnership with experts and input from such organizations as the Peace Corps, the Jane Goodall Institute, the Center for Creative Leadership and the World Wildlife Fund, comes alive through hands-on activities while traveling. A service project in country helps students discover the impact they can have in the world. Science transforms from abstract classroom lesson to concrete experience when the students practice ethnobotany in the Amazon or conservation biology on the plains of Africa. After traveling, the group comes together to coordinate a follow-up leadership project, exercising the skills acquired during travel in service of their own community. These programs have been featured on ABC Nightline, ABC World News Tonight, The Travel Channel and CBS Sunday Morning.

When you join Global Explorers, you join a family. Travel connects people through experience and Global Explorers strives to understand your unique needs, challenges, hopes and aspirations. From the moment you sign up, Global Explorers will help you with everything from fundraising to packing lists and curricular questions to follow-up service, with a goal to make every step of the process as easy, warm and welcoming as possible.

Winter 2010 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

Here is your winter reminder about summer camp. Yes, I know in some places there’s still snow on the ground and you haven’t put up your holiday decorations, but now’s the time to plan for summer activities. 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, TCB 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 camp 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: . 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.

Winter 2010 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Linda Johnson, Transition Consultant, Division for Blind Services

Abstract: This article provides hints for youth looking for summer employment.

Key Words: blindness, visual impairment, disability, summer employment, Texas Workforce Commission, DARS Division for Blind Services, Transition services

 

You say you’re at least sixteen? You’d like some work experience? And you’d especially like a little money in your pocket?

That first summer job can cause some tummy jitters, but this first trek into the world of work is also exciting. Here are some resources and ideas to help you along the way.

First of all, contact your DBS Transition Counselor who will have much more information, local resources and contacts to help you on your journey. The DBS Transition Program assists young people who are blind or visually impaired to make an effective transition from secondary school to adult life and the world of work, and to make informed decisions about their future goals.

Consumers and their families are provided with opportunities for career exploration; opportunities to gain work experience while in high school; training in skills needed to achieve their goals; feedback about the consumer’s current academic, vocational, and independent living skills; and adaptive tools to achieve their goals.

Next, find your local Texas Workforce Center, , and register with the Youth Employment Specialist. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the state government agency charged with overseeing and providing workforce development services to employers and job seekers of Texas. For job seekers, TWC offers career development information, job search resources, and training programs. Services are provided on a regional level by 2 local workforce boards. This network gives customers access to local workforce solutions and statewide services in a single lo-cation—Texas Workforce Centers. Many local workforce boards develop programs specifically to provide summer employment opportunities for youth. Primary services of the Texas Workforce Commission and our network partners are funded by federal tax revenue and are generally free to all Texans.

To find out more about youth services available with Texas Workforce, go to: . And for lots of resources and information about employment and youth with disabilities, go to National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth: .

I wish you a very profitable and productive summer!