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

Information excerpted from www.morganswonderland.com

Abstract: This article provides an update on the grand opening of Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s largest park for children and adults with special needs.

Key Words: blindness, visual impairment, deafblind, disability, accessibility, special needs, Morgan’s Wonderland, park, recreation

 

Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s largest park for online before visiting. Go to <https://registration. children and adults with special needs, will open morganswonderland.com> to pre-register. gradually, starting in February with a limited number of visitors so they can make improvements to The Grand Opening is April 10th. This is the first the park before the Grand Opening on April 10. official day of operation, and they will have fes-This “soft opening” gives the park the best oppor-tivities and special activities on that date to comtunity to continually improve upon their guest ser-memorate this historic event. Make your plans vice skills while still providing a quality experience now to visit this exceptional facility. <http://www. for their guests. Even during the Soft Opening morganswonderland.com/Morgans-Wonderlandphase, all guests will be required to pre-register Grand-Opening-Countdown.html>.

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

by Barbara J. Madrigal, Assistant Commissioner, Division for Blind Services

Abstract: This article helps parents understand the power of high expectations for their child who is blind or visually impaired, and the important role that high expectations play in preparing their child to live and work independently as an adult

Key Words: blind, visually impaired, DARS-Division for Blind Services, DBS, high expectations, self-determination, job candidate, job applicant, employer, business

DARS-Division for Blind Services (DBS) provides services that help our youngest consumers achieve positive self-determination, because we know that a strong sense of self-determination leads to personal independence as an adult. Self-determination in a child is an ongoing process because her world changes as she grows. At first, a child’s daily experiences revolve around herself. Then she starts exploring the world around her. And, finally, she sees her world in terms of her relationships with different people, events, and things.

Have you ever heard that old question that asks which came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, when we look at children, we have to ask if their world shapes their self-determination or if their self-determination shapes their world. Ultimately, we have to realize that the answer to both our questions is “yes.”

If a child who is blind or visually impaired is excused from participating in the events around him, he will see the world as a series of events that excludes him and he will probably grow up feeling the world determines who and what he can become. But, if the same child acquires strong adaptive skills and a curiosity about his world that drives him to participate in new experiences, he quickly learns that his eye condition doesn’t have to limit what he experiences and it doesn’t have to control the experiences in which he can participate. In other words, he learns that he is in charge of his own self-determination and he acknowledges that the only things that can limit his future are the boundaries of his own imagination.

Is there a key element that promotes the development of strong adaptive skills and leads to a positive sense of self-determination? Yes, and that key element is high expectations. But where do high expectations come from?

Because parents are the center of a child’s world, high expectations must start in the home. Family activities should support the child’s participation. Assign household chores and positively reinforce the child for completing those chores. Stress the importance of school and academic pursuits. Promote opportunities for your child to explore real-life experiences through sports, hobbies, and other areas in which they show interest.

As your child grows, talk to her about her interests and help her learn more about different choices. Encourage her to participate in school, community, and volunteer activities. Promote opportunities to explore different occupational choices by talking to people in various work environments.

Help your child learn to make independent decisions -- the good decisions will promote self-confidence and even the not-so-wonderful decisions will often provide important lessons about adversity and resilience.

The services available through the DBS Blind Children’s Program are designed to build a foundation of high expectations and a strong sense of self-determination in each child we serve. Transition services for older children and teenagers will build on these values and concepts. Group skills training and opportunities to participate in learning activities with peers strengthen the young person’s internal sense of high expectations and expand his or her view of the world. These experiences stress the value of self-exploration (what do I want to be when I grow up?) and the self-confidence to make good personal decisions (what skills and educational requirements do I need to be well prepared for the future I want?).

In summary, continuous reinforcement of high expectations throughout a child’s growing years supports development of a strong and very individualized sense of self-determination. Young adults who understand the importance (and rewards!) of work are in a position to seek out the employment option that is best suited to them. Equally important, an employer who is looking for a well-qualified job candidate will easily see the strengths a skilled, motivated job applicant will bring to the business goals the employer needs to achieve.

At DBS, the summer of 2010 will offer a number of exciting learning experiences for our younger consumers. In Lubbock, the annual Project SWEEP (Summer Work Experience and Empowerment Program) will serve 20-2 youth from the Great Plains region, and in Austin the SWEAT (Summer Work Experience in Austin Texas) Program serves youth in the Austin area. During these five-week vocational programs, participants reside in the dorms at Texas Tech University or at TSBVI and gain practical work experience in a paying job in the community. The first week of both programs is devoted to developing job readiness skills, such as completing applications, interviewing skills, appropriate attire, and career exploration. During the last four weeks, participants work at paying jobs in the community. Residential staff is available in the afternoons and overnight, and many independent living skills activities are offered in the evenings.

Other areas in Texas also have summer work experience or career exploration programs, both residential and non-residential. For example:

  • Camp Dream in Dallas, an overnight summer camp that provides career exploration, portfolio and resume development, mentor-ship and job shadowing opportunities, and training in independent living skills.
  • El Paso Summer Youth Employment Program, a joint project with DRS, Upper Rio Grande Work Force Solutions and Volar Independent Living Center, provides job readiness training, paid work experience, and job coaches as needed.
  • Bay Area Opportunity Center Summer Work in conjunction with DBS provides training in completing applications, developing a resume, interviewing skills, and work experience in a chosen field of interest.
  • Austin Application Required, a joint project between DBS Transition and Region 1 ESC, provides job readiness training as well as paid work experience.

These are just a few of the work experience and career exploration programs available this summer. DBS also offers a variety of camp experiences where students can develop confidence and independent living skills. Contact your DBS Transition Counselor or Children’s Specialist for more information about summer opportunities available in your region.

These activities will promote all the critical factors discussed in this article and help our consumers acquire new skills and new information that will increase their knowledge of how their world works and how they can achieve their own personal success now and in the future!

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

By William “Bill” Daugherty, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: In this article, Superintendent Daugherty discusses “career education,” “vocational education,” and the need for young people to develop work skills and behaviors at an early age.

Key Words: blindness, visual impairment, disability, career education, vocational education, TSBVI, DARS Division for Blind Services, work skills, work interests.

 

The concept of Career Education is an outgrowth of what we had for many years called Vocational Education. “Voc Ed” was about getting the skills needed to perform a specific job, and Career Education came about to take a broader view that included student interests and more generalized job-getting and job-keeping skills. With the employment rate of adults with visual impairments alarmingly low, we all have to continue to reevaluate what we are doing in order to ensure that young people are in the best position possible to have shot at a rewarding career, a job that pays the bills, or whatever it is that allows them to do at least these three important things: 1) make a contribution to the collective work effort of society; 2) have a network of friends and co-workers that add value to our work hours and our leisure hours; and ) have your own money. I say these three things because it is what motivates me to do what I do, and it seems hold up well as I think about the motivations of those I know and work with.

Right now in my circle there is a lot of discussion about the relative values of more generalized job-getting and job-keeping skills in areas of interest (Career Education), and more specific job skill training around interests and aptitudes (Vocational Education). I suspect that the outcome of these discussions will lead us somewhat back in the direction of specific skills training around jobs that are available in the market, and that the student in question can—and is willing to—do. I believe that one of the best avenues to the loftier career (not just a job) path is actually doing something someone is willing to give you money for. In my young adulthood I had a job where I became extremely competent at cleaning toilets. From that I developed speed and efficiency and a sense of pride over a job well done. I also developed a strong belief that I did not want to make that my life’s work, although to this day I have very high regard and respect for those who do the job.

But any move toward revising how we approach preparing students for their role as a worker doing a specific job should also include what we have learned about the concept of a career—that getting paid for doing something we love is better than pay alone. And if we want to keep getting paid for doing something we enjoy, we have to attend to what is valued in the workplace. Showing up on time, organizing around tasks, and fitting into the workplace with how we look and how we act are the basic tenets around which we have organized our career education activities, The importance of these things will never change. These are not taught in shop class. And by the way, as a completely random aside, the best diesel mechanic I have ever met was a blind man whose daughter attended TSBVI. I guess it’s pretty clear that I’m saying specific vocational training and career education are both needed, and more of it on all fronts.

Joint TSBVI/DARS-DBS programs like SWEAT (Summer Work Experience In Austin Texas) are excellent ways to help young people prepare for work, but if participation as a teenager in programs like these is the first significant exposure to work skills and behaviors, then that’s very late in the game. It’s best to start early with chores at home. Doing them regularly is more important than what the child is actually doing. Watch carefully for interests and aptitudes and build upon them. I’m imaging that a few of the successful visually impaired document shredding entrepreneurs we’ve met over the years who now have their own businesses all began with actions around the home (rip!) that might not have been initially viewed as productive. As with my toilet cleaning experience I alluded to earlier, I’m a big fan of everyone starting with work that is not glamorous, but is instead sweaty and dirty and maybe even boring. Learn to do it well, and you may find you like it; you may also find that your success can be applied to something else you’d rather be doing.

 

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

By: Joe Paschall, Athletic Director, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: Physical fitness and recreational activities are important for individuals with visual impairments. Suggestions for activities and modifications to support access are discussed.

Keywords: visually impaired, fitness, physical education, recreation.

Almost any fitness or recreational activity can be I will begin by discussing fitness. This is an area adapted for individuals with visual impairments, of concern for many young people and adults with and some don’t require any adaptations at all. visual impairments. There are many ways to build Several items to consider are accessibility to fa-physical fitness. This can be done at home, in locilities, equipment, and transportation. One way cal gyms, and other community facilities. Work-to support success in this area, is to research ing out at home is difficult for some individuals. these transportation and accessibility issues be-However, making the workout environment more fore attempting to participate in activities. interesting or entertaining can help the workouts.

Music or television can keep people engaged. Consistency is another important factor; having a routine schedule will help tremendously.

Many fitness activities can be done in the home. Stretching routines are the easiest. The individual needs only a mat. The routine can last from 0 to 40 minutes and stretch most parts of the body. Stretching also reinforces awareness of range of motion. Some individuals are amazed at how their bodies can move. Having a therapy ball is great. There are many hand and arm motions which can be done with a ball which can help increase your heart rate. Hand weights can build muscle tone. Sometimes people are concerned about muscles becoming too large. Doing a twenty-minute workout with light hand weights can tone the muscles, but not increase mass. Yoga, is another activity that is not intense, but has many benefits. Yoga can release stress, which in turn will help physically through relaxation exercises.

Most communities have local workout facilities. In local workout gyms, as long as the individual with a visual impairment is oriented to the equipment and facility correctly, he or she is able to work out successfully independently. However, I have heard some instances where these individuals are denied access. Being properly trained may help this challenge. Most communities have walking trails in their local parks. They are usually easy to access. Finding a walking partner is usually not difficult. Having this type of commitment helps both partners keep to their activity schedule, and helps them stay healthy.

When choosing recreational activities for youth or adults with visual impairments, the sky is the limit. I have taken students scuba diving, rock climbing, ice skating, water skiing, snow skiing, cycling, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, golfing, bowling, and many other activities. Only a few of these need minor adaptations. The key to success is advanced planning and exposure to equipment before attempting the activity. I have drafted lesson plans for many of these activities and would be happy to share them with anyone interested. If you would like, contact me via e-mail at <>.

In closing, providing these opportunities for individuals with visual impairments just takes a little extra work and creativity. However, the outcome can help these individuals gain self confidence, and a multitude of additional benefits.

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

Lyn Ayer, Director, Oregon Deafblind Project

This article was originally published in the Oregon Deafblind Project newsletter, in the Summer 2009, Fall 2009, and Winter 2009 issues.

Abstract: The author discusses the importance of “wait time” as a strategy to encourage communication and participation when interacting with individuals with deafblindness or multiple disabilities.

Keywords: deafblind, blind, communication, pause, wait time.

Have you ever thought that our lives are made up of a series of pauses? We need to pause when we cross the street, or do a crossword puzzle, eat or drink, sing or dance - or just THINK. A PAUSE is also a major “tool” to ensure that children with deafblindness or multiple severe disabilities have the opportunity to understand, to respond, and to be motivated to listen.

“Rests” are pauses in a piece of music -and these can vary in length, some being simply take-a-breath-type of pauses. Without these, the music will sound different and will be really difficult to play or sing -like stringing together a wholelotofwordsinonelongsentenceorseveral. Difficult to read or understand! So the “silences” - or pauses - provide meaning and sense. Dance is comprised of movement -and PAUSES between movements. And then we have this button on our equipment – (pause) – and we know how to use it.

With a child who has deafblindness or multiple disablities some of the reasons we need to pause are:

  • To give a child time ADDITIONAL TIME to take in what was “said” in the first place - AND to allow this to happen uninterrupted
  • So that there is time for a response (from the child), no matter how subtle it is
  • To encourage the child to be a part of this “conversation”
  • To find interests in common — and therefore, motivator.
  • So, train yourself. PAUSE!

IT’S A MATTER OF TIME

Have you ever “lost your voice”? It’s a frustrating experience. Here are some of the things that happened to me:

A pause in speech is used to achieve some “effect”. We pause because we are trying to gather our thoughts and match these to what we are saying, or to emphasize a point, or to give listeners a chance to absorb what we are saying. Having a conversation with someone who talks non-stop is not just annoying, but we will probably not understand the communication. We need to think, breathe, leave a gap where another person can “jump in”. We also need to be aware of how to pause in the right place, and how long to pause — since these vary between languages, cultures, or even areas of a country such as the USA.

  • I could not respond when someone addressed me – not in a conventional way
  • I tried to “mouth” words – but most people around me couldn’t lipread – and either misunderstood me, or did not get what I was saying
  • I gestured and waved my arms more than usual – and also attempted to put body language and facial expression to better use
  • I looked for a pen and paper – but found that people around me wouldn’t wait for me to write things down
  • I lost control of many things around me – like checking the kids, sharing with my husband what happened during my day, ordering pizza over the phone
  • Most of all – I found that I wore down the patience of those around me!

Each one of us is so accustomed to running around and doing things quickly, that it becomes difficult to slow down, and to WAIT for someone who cannot keep up. It would have helped if people around me had:

  1. given me more TIME to express what I was trying to express
  2. allowed me to use alternatives and taken the TIME to understand these
  3. Given me TIME to chat – via the written word (inevitably slower… whether hand-written, or on a computer).
  4. Understood the “time = patience” formula!

Transfer what happened to me to a child who is deafblind or has multiple severe disabilities – and you will find that issues are not that different:

  • A child may not have conventional speech or language - but the urge to communicate is embedded in our very being. So - take time to learn how a child communicates - or teach a child how to do this.
  • STOP and watch - and see if you can detect subtle, and not-so-subtle communications - the blink of the eyes, stilling of the body, lift of a single finger, a smile or frown, a bounce or a stomp.
  • A child may have an unconventional system that is being used – objects, pictures, touch cues – and we need to tap into these and make sure we use them – even when it takes more time.
  • Provide the child with more “control” just by waiting for a response to each thing you say – or do. Being able to participate in the give-and-take of a conversation provides satisfaction.
  • STOP. Take TIME. PAUSE. Learn PATIENCE!

PAUSES IN MASSAGE

Anyone who has been trained in giving infant and child massage, or instructing parents on how to do this, will know how important pauses are in this routine. Before the routine begins, there is a sequence of events – and pauses:

  • The child learns that s/he is transitioning from what they were doing – to the massage routine. The person tells the child this through voice, sign, gesture, or other cue.
  • This cuing may need a pause after – or even a repetition of the same information, while the child is being moved to the location for massage.
  • Then, from the child’s viewpoint, there is a longer pause – while the massager makes sure that everything is in place – clean sheet or blanket for the floor, massage oil, towels, aromatherapy materials (for some), music (for some). This is “mental” prep time for the child as well!
  • Then the massager “asks permission” of the infant or child. For some children, the massager may just put oil on her hands, rub them together, and be sure the child is aware of her doing his.
  • Another short pause - for the infant or child to process this information and to respond. If the experience has been enjoyable in the past, there will be a response after the pause! Usually it is a “happy” response.

Now for the massage process itself:

  • The first massage stroke incorporates a pause too. The massager places his/her hands on the child’s body and just “rests” there for a second of two.
  • The massage usually begins with one leg – and several different strokes for the one leg. There is a brief pause between each stroke. After all the strokes for the one leg are done, there is another pause while the massager just holds the child’s leg without doing anything. This pause will indicate to the child that that leg is “done” – and the massager will be transitioning to the other leg.
  • The massage continues to the other leg, each arm, abdomen, chest, back, face – and each segment has the same or similar sequence for pausing.
  • When the massage ends, it ends like it began, with the last stroke incorporating a pause – while the massager “rests” his/her hands on the child’s body.

Massage would not be the same – or have the same benefits – if the pauses and rests were not a part of the sequence. It cannot be rushed through. The pauses are really important because of their communicative value as well.

THE CONCEPTS OF “WAIT-TIME” AND “THINK-TIME...”

The concept of “wait time” as an instructional variable was invented by Mary Budd Rowe (1972). The “wait-time” periods she found were periods of silence that followed teacher questions and students’ completed responses that rarely lasted more than 1. seconds in typical classrooms. She discovered, however, that when these periods of silence lasted at least seconds, many positive things happened to students’ and teachers’ behaviors and attitudes. Courtesy of Joni Courtney from the Arkansas Deafblind Project. Complete article at: http:// www.atozteacherstuff.com/pages/1 4.shtml

PAUSES IN ROUTINES

Build pauses into routines that are “scripted” for the children you work with! This works like a road-map, when you take into consideration the signs along the way that say “stop” or “yield” or something similar. The pauses that are scripted should:

  • Be part of a natural routine—where a pause can become a natural prompt
  • Include an embedded communication routine
  • Involve peers and others
  • Begin with the pause time needed – and be faded to shorter pause times
  • Be motivating to a child – and make him/herfeel included and successful.

Arrival time routine:

Gina gets off bus.

Stacie greets her and pauses.

Gina responds with a lift of her right hand.

Stacie cues her, “Let’s go!”. Pauses.

“Are you ready?” Pause.

Gina rubs wheel of wheelchair to say “OK”.

Stacie pushes wheelchair.

They meet the “greeter” (a classmate) at the door.

Greeter offers a Hi-five. Pauses with hand in position where Gina can reach.

Gina, “Hi-fives” back.

Greeter opens door and Stacie wheels Gina inside.

Stacie turns Gina around to face greeter again and says, “Thank you, Beth”. Pauses.

Gina says “thank you” by hitting her switch.

Stacie takes Gina to the classroom. Pauses at the door.

Gina reaches for “greeting switch” and says “Hello, I’m here” as she goes in.

Gina pauses — and someone in the classroom responds, “Hello Gina!”

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

Reprinted with Permission from AER Report, Vol. 24, No. 1, Spring 2007; pp 1 -19. Copyright 2007, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: This article is a compilation of a listserv discussion among teachers of students with visual impairments about working with paraprofessionals. The contributors encourage open communication, comprehensive training, observation and demonstration of skills.

Keywords: visually impaired, paraprofessional, educational support

AER Report Editor’s Note: The following is a portion of an AERNET listserv discussion originated by Missy Garber, Ph.D., Director of the Professional Preparation Program for Teacher of Children with Visual and Multiple Disabilities, Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

The goal of this electronic mailing list exchange was to gather suggestions from the field regarding strategies for working effectively with para-educators who serve students with blindness/visual impairment. The list of suggestions will be used as a starting point for further discussion with graduate students working towards certification as TVIs, and it is but one component of a personnel preparation grant objective aimed at enhancing preparation of TVIs in the area of effective collaboration with paraeducators (Online Specialized Personnel Increases Through Collaborative Efforts, funded through Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education grant #H 2 K0 22 9).

Dr. Garber received six responses, posted them to the list, and asked for comments or additions. A supplementary post was offered by Ayala Ballonoff, MS ED., CTVI, Teacher of Blind/VI, Wallingford-Swarthmore School District who is a PCO graduate and OL SPICE advisory board member.

WORKING EFFECTIVELY WITH PARAEDUCATORS TO MEET THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS: SUGGESTIONS FOR TVIs FROM AERNET SUBSCRIBERS

Compilation posted by Missy Garber:

  • Make sure the paraeducator has an opportunity to read the student’s IEP.
  • Provide inservices for school staff and classmates and include a discussion of issues related to independence for students who are visually impaired.
  • Schedule sessions in which paraeducator observes you working with the student.
  • Be clear with the paraeducator about your expectations for your students.
  • Provide training to paraprofessional in Braille, especially as it relates to interlining assignments.
  • Provide training to paraeducator in relevant technologies as well as how to seek and use technology support.
  • Pool your knowledge with the paraeducators. He or she has day-to-day knowledge of a particular student.
  • Schedule sessions with paraeducator in which she demonstrates her way of presenting activities to students.
  • Request that the student’s IEP team provide justification for the need of a paraeducator.
  • Approach the assignment of a paraeducator as temporary.
  • Develop with the IEP team an independence plan for student. Review each subject area of inclusion and student level of need for support in each area. Use targeted goals for independence-building.
  • Invite the paraeducator to attend workshops, training sessions, and conferences with you.

WORKING EFFECTIVELY WITH PARAEDUCATORS

Posted by Ayala ballonoff, msS. ED., CTVI:

Some weeks ago, Missy Barber posted a list of suggestions for working with paraprofessionals. Paraprofessional training is something I’ve given a lot of thought to, and I imagine every TVI and special education teacher will need to address in some form. I looked over the suggestions and wanted to add some thought on the topic.

I actually started in education as a paraprofessional, and I’ve met, worked with, and observed many through the years. In the best case scenario, a paraprofessional can be your right hand, right arm and right brain! In the worst case, a paraprofessional can be like the last person on the island with you on Survivor! Her are some suggestions based on my experiences:

  • Meet with the paraprofessional early in the year, or before school starts. Listen to their concerns, experiences and review their job description. Present your expectations and address their concerns.
  • Find out what, if any, other staff responsibilities they may have and how that will impact the VI case load. In various schools, paraprofessionals are assigned to lunch duty, bus duty, other direct work with students, bookroom and other office-related tasks. You may need to get clarification from the principal or department head on the paraprofessional’s availability.
  • Find out if there are any union-imposed restrictions (or building or district restrictions) on what the paraprofessional can do.
  • If possible, give the paraprofessionals their own desks.
  • If there is undesirable work to be done, work with the paraprofessional to get the job done. Let them see that is is not “beneath you” to do such things. If you work with young or multi-handicapped students, let the paraprofessionals see you get down on the floor with children, get wet, dirty or be physically active with the kids.
  • Discuss with the paraprofessional your expectations for contact with parents or other staff who are not directly involved with the student. Parents who are interested in their child’s progress may ask the paraprofessional about progress, concerns, etc. Make a plan for how to communicate with parents. Review any written correspondence between paraprofessional and parents. You might create a multiple-choice checklist, or other teacher created tool for interaction between paraprofessional and parents if problems persist in written communications.

Selected Resources

Ten Issues to Always Consider When Intervening for Students with DeafBlindness

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

By David Wiley, Texas Deafblind Outreach

Abstract: This article provides a framework for analyzing ten common issues a teacher, intervener, or caregiver must address when effectively supporting a student who is deafblind. Questions are provided to help guide a team in planning the best sensory access for the student in all environments.

Key Words: , deafblind, access, vision, hearing, tactile

A primary role for those intervening with a student who is deafblind is to make accommodations to provide the best possible access to information, spaces, and materials. These accommodations should be planned in advance for the best visual, auditory, and tactile access. This planning is most effectively done as a group including teachers, interveners, related service professionals, the student, family, and other caregivers.

  • During advanced planning, write strategies that will help the student be more successful when each of the following basic issues are considered, taking into account vision, hearing, and touch:
  • physical space – qualities of the room and activity area;
  • positioning – where the student, instructor, and materials should be;
  • materials – how teaching materials look, sound and feel;
  • devices and equipment – adaptive aids used for sensory impairments;
  • orientation & mobility – knowing where you are, and getting around;
  • communication – getting information from, and giving information to others;
  • trust and security – feeling supported, connected, and safe;
  • literacy – recording information for future reference, and retrieving recorded information;
  • pacing – how quickly the lesson should move forward; and
  • content of the activity or coursework – adding to, reducing, or changing what is taught.

It might be easiest to divide a planning sheet into three columns for vision, hearing, and touch, so each is considered for each issue. The strategies developed should help the student access as much information as possible, as easily as possible. This will help the student use his or her energy for learning, rather than trying to figure out what is happening, or what is expected.

Despite the best planning, however, the student and staff will encounter some settings and situations that are new or unexpected, before there is a chance for advance planning. For this reason, those intervening for a student with deafblindness should always have these ten issues in mind in every situation. At the point when making accommodations for these ten issues becomes second nature for the person doing the intervention, the student has the best opportunity to have the fullest access to instruction.

For each of the ten issues, the following are examples of questions that the planning team should consider, and that the person doing the intervention should always keep in mind. Please remember that these are examples, and there are many other things to consider, based on the individual student’s settings, situations, abilities, and challenges.

PHYSICAL SPACE – QUALITIES OF THE ROOM AND A CTIVITY AREA.

Primary question. How should the room and activity area look, sound, and be arranged so the student can move freely, easily gather materials, easily access information, and not be distracted by visual, auditory, and tactual clutter?

Examples of other questions to consider:

  • Is the lighting bright enough, or is there too much glare?
  • Does the room decoration create a good visual background?
  • How are the acoustics in the room?
  • Is there a lot of distracting background noise?
  • What kind of furniture is best to help the student be in the best position, and have clear convenient access to learning materials, communication partners, and activity areas?
  • Is the workspace clear enough to easily explore tactually, or visually scan?

POSITIONING – WHERE THE STUDENT, INSTRUCTOR, AND MATERIALS S HOULD BE.

Primary question. What positions for the student, instructor, and materials would maximize the student’s access to and understanding of information?

  • Examples of other questions to consider:
  • Where should the student sit or stand to see and hear most easily?
  • Are there specific parts of the room to be avoided because of shadows, glare, or background noise?
  • Does the time of day affect what position is best in this setting?
  • Does the student need permission to move when necessary to improve his or her ability to see or hear, or to tactually explore what the other students are exploring visually?
  • Are materials placed so the student can easily observe or get to them?

MATERIALS – HOW TEACHING MATERIALS LOOK, SOUND AND FEEL.

Primary question. Are all teaching materials easy for the student to recognize and use? Consider color, contrast, sound quality, texture, etc. These materials could include anything from a toothbrush to a washer, or a picture symbol to a computer.

  • Examples of other questions to consider:
  • Do learning materials have good color and light/dark contrast when compared to the background, and between the different parts of the materials?
  • Are the materials large enough to easily see?
  • Do materials have distinctive sound qualities, that make them easy to recognize, or interesting to explore?
  • Are tactual elements, such as raised lines and textures, added to reinforce visual materials?
  • Whatever possible, are tactile models and symbols made from real objects that are tactually distinctive, rather than plastic replicas?

DEVICES AND EQUIPMENT – ADAPTIVE AIDS USED FOR SENSORY IMPAIRMENTS.

Primary question. During the activity, how should the student use any adaptive devices or equipment such as magnifiers, assistive listening devices, electronic Braille notetakers, or switch activated appliances?

  • Examples of other questions to consider:
  • In what situations would magnification be helpful, and which devices would be most effective, efficient, and easy to use?
  • Do the student and others in the environment know how to use any amplification, or other sensory devices?
  • Are computers, telecommunications equipment, or other tech tools equipped with accessibility features?
  • Does the student need help setting up and using devices quickly enough to keep up without missing instruction or other essential information?

ORIENTATION & MOBILITY – KNOWING WHERE YOU ARE AND GETTING AROUND.

Primary question. What would help the student know where he or she is, be able to find people and things, and go to familiar and unfamiliar destinations?

Examples of other questions to consider:

  • Are rooms and hallways free of clutter to promote ease of movement?
  • Are materials stored in consistent locations that are easy to access?
  • Are landmarks for orientation identified or created?
  • Has the student learned clear consistent routes to independently move through familiar settings?

COMMUNICATION – GETTING INFORMATION FROM, AND GIVING INFORMATION TO OTHERS.

Primary question. What strategies would help the student express him or herself to staff or classmates, and what strategies would help staff or classmates be more clearly understood by the student?

Examples of other questions to consider:

  • Does the person intervening need to learn new vocabulary or create new communication symbols in order to be prepared for a new lesson or activity?
  • Which communication partners in any setting can communicate directly with the student, and in which cases is there a need for someone to interpret or facilitate interactions?
  • In any situation, does the student have an effective way to communicate both expressively and receptively, and all the materials and equipment necessary to do so?
  • Are symbols, devices, and other materials available if necessary for the student to communicate about unexpected concerns or topics?
  • Does the student need to switch to different communication strategies based on the situation, such as during group discussions, when the room becomes noisy, or when the lights are dimmed?

TRUST AND SECURITY – FEELING SUPPORTED, CONNECTED, AND SAFE.

Primary question. What would reduce anxiety for the student, so he or she can feel secure and focus on learning?

Examples of other questions to consider:

  • During the activity, how does the student remain connected to someone he or she knows, and with whom he or she has a trusting relationship?
  • How does the student know what is about to happen, and what other people’s expectations for the student are?
  • Does the student know who else is involved in the activity, and what they are doing?
  • Does anything in the situation or activity create confusion or uncertainty for the student, and what can be done to reduce it?
  • Does the student need instruction in how to advocate for appropriate modifications, such as asking a teacher or classmate to repeat something, slow down, or change position?

LITERACY – RECORDING INFORMATION FOR FUTURE REFERENCE, AND RETRIEVING RECORDED INFORMATION.

Primary question. What would help the student be able to read or otherwise retrieve recorded information, such as tape recordings, pictures, tactile symbols, object symbols, etc?

Examples of other questions to consider:

  • What medium would be most effective in this setting: print, Braille, voice output, pictures, tactile graphics, tactile symbols, object symbols, etc.?
  • Is all print easy to read, considering size, color, and type style?
  • If the student uses voice output, is there a good listening environment?
  • Would the student benefit from headphones or an alternative listening device?
  • If the student reads Braille, are Braille materials available in advance?
  • When pictures cannot be visually accessed, are tactile graphics or tactile symbols available?

PACING – HOW QUICKLY SHOULD THE LESSON MOVE FORWARD.

Primary question. How do the student’s needs related to vision, hearing, and touch affect the pace at which information is given to the student, how long the student needs to explore materials, and how much time he or she needs to respond?

Examples of other questions to consider:

  • Before beginning a lesson or activity, is time set aside to allow the student to explore the area, become acquainted with materials, get into proper position, prepare and test equipment, or otherwise assure accessibility?
  • Does the student need extra time to orient to a communication partners, especially in a group?
  • Is the student given extra time when needed to pause for gathering and/or processing information?
  • Are breaks needed to prevent fatigue for the student, or for the person providing intervention?

CONTENT OF THE ACTIVITY OR COURSEWORK – ADDING TO, REDUCING, OR CHANGING WHAT IS TAUGHT.

Primary question. How should the content of the lesson be modified to account for the student’s needs related to vision, hearing, and touch? For example, do demands need to be reduced? In addition to the regular content of the lesson, do other skills (e.g. visual scanning) or information (e.g. background concepts) need to be added?

Examples of other questions to consider:

  • Because of the student’s pace, does the amount of work need to be reduced?
  • If some of the lesson must be omitted due to time, which elements take priority, and which can be removed?
  • Are there concepts in the lesson or activity that are unfamiliar to the student, so that additional explanation or background information must be provided?
  • Does the student need pre-teaching before a lesson, or does extra instructional time need to be set aside later to fill in gaps in the students understanding, or to reinforce concepts?
  • Do the goals of the activity or instructional methods need to be modified to take into account the student’s sensory needs and capabilities?
  • Are activity routines and materials used consistently, so the student can more easily recognize them?
  • In addition to subject area content, does the lesson need to include instruction on sensory issues, like how to effectively use vision, hearing, or touch to actively participate in the activity?

By answering such questions in each area, accounting for vision, hearing, and touch, educational teams will provide better intervention for students with deafblindness. Students will have better access to information about the environment, what is happening to around them, and what others are communicating. They will be able to concentrate on learning, rather than struggling to gather information. Access to information and environments is a right.

It is important to keep in mind, the purpose for these accommodations is not to provide a crutch, or make to students dependent on the people providing the intervention. When done well, this intervention will increase students’ independence by providing better access. For that reason, staff people doing the intervention should always be trying to help others in the environment, and the students themselves, be aware of these issues so better access can occur more naturally, even without assistance. This access makes things easier and fairer for everyone involved.

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

By The TAPVI Board

Abstract: This article provides information about TAPVI, a statewide organization for parents of children with vision impairments.

Keywords: , parent organization, blind, visual impairment , TAPVI, mission, officers , listserv

Editor’s note: In the articles on pages 10-11, two TAPVI members share their experiences sending their sons to overnight camp for the first time. Belonging to a family organization helps parents learn from others who have similar issues, interests, and experiences.

The mission of the Texas Association for Parents of children with Visual Impairments (TAPVI) is to provide leadership, support, and training to assist parents in helping children reach their full potential in school and in the community, through workshops and publications To connect with other parents, contact any board members below. An application for TAPVI membership can be sent to you.

TAPVI BOARD MEMBERS

President

Michele Chauvin Sugar Land, TX 2-24 -670

President Elect

Isela Wilson (Hable Español) Rancho Viejo, TX 9 6-77 -1142

Secretary

Lynn Novay Garland, TX 972-76 - 6

Treasurer

Alma Granado (Hable Español) Brownsville, TX 12- 7 -1127

Membership

Linda Hulett Houston, TX lhulett9

Newsletter

Christina Silva Suarez (Hable Español) Harlingen, TX 9 6- 6- 24 melonius @msn.com

If you want to connect with other parents on the internet through email, join the Texas Visually Impaired Family Network by sending an email to <>. This listserv is limited only to family members of children with a visual impairment living in Texas.

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

By Patti Feagin-Sexton, Grandparent, Conroe, TX

Abstract: A grandmother shares highlights of the Fourth Annual Texas Chargers Retreat, which was held October 23-25, 2009 at Camp Allen.

Keywords: , grandparents, CHARGE Syndrome, Texas Chargers, family organization, retreat.

 

A bright Texas sun and a cool crisp autumn breeze whispering gently through the giant pines of east Texas greeted participants, and provided a beautiful backdrop to the Fourth Annual Texas Chargers Retreat, held on October 2 -2 , 2009 at Camp Allen, Navasota TX. The facility is located in the midst of the piney woods of east Texas, and as promised, gave a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of participant’s daily life.

Forty families were welcomed with a total of 240 participants. Families were greeted on Friday evening, receiving their welcome bags including t-shirts for each member of their family. A short presentation was made by Kathleen Stremel Thomas, who has worked in the area of communication and language assessment and intervention for children with severe disabilities and deaf-blindness over the past 9 years. Kathleen spoke regarding her research on cochlear implants, and intervention for children who are deaf-blind with cochlear implants. She encouraged parents to participate in the study currently being conducted across the nation. (Editor’s Note: If you are interested in participating in this cochlear impant study, please contact Kathleen Stremel Thomas at <>, or the Texas Deafblind Project at 512- 206-9225).

On Saturday, families attended a several general sessions and breakout sessions designed to meet the special needs of each of the family members, including, fathers, mothers, and grandparents.

Saturday’s general session began with a presentation by David Wiley who spoke about funding and programs available both on state and federal levels to assist families. HIPP, Private Health coverage, SSI, and other resources were discussed and participants were able to field questions regarding obtaining the appropriate resources for each family. This website is a reference for information about the quality of DADS long-term care programs: http://facilityquality.dads.state. tx.us/qrs/public/qrs.do

A presentation was made by Robbie Blaha and David Wiley on the topic of the importance of “Person-Centered Planning.” Lessons gained from the discussion on person-centered planning included reaching out to resources, believing in yourself, and the importance of self-education. It was agreed that patience and perseverance in dealing with the system was key in obtaining the services needed. Use of stories, Bio Poems, and assessments can not only be useful, but are vital in mapping out the goals for CHARGE students. IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) makes parents and caregivers key players in determining the appropriate goals and education methods for their CHARGE child. When planning adult life for individuals with CHARGE, it is important to establish a lifestyle plan, rather than just applying to programs. The use of interveners and extended family support are equally important when planning for in a meaningful adult life.

A parent’s panel openly discussed the joys and challenges of being a CHARGE parent. Questions were presented to each member by a facilitator, and then general questions from the audience were discussed.

Many of the children who attended the Fourth Annual Texas Chargers Retreat last fall at Camp Allen, near Navasota.

During the breakout sessions, each family member was given an opportunity to discuss their questions, thoughts, and challenges pertaining to their role. Sessions were emotional and thought provoking, but left the participants with the knowledge that they were not alone in their struggles or their joys. Family members each bring a special uniqueness and blessing to their CHARGE family member.

Christopher Sense, a 27-year-old senior at Texas Tech University, and a vocal and steadfast Red Raiders fan, spoke to attendees regarding his experiences growing up with CHARGE, including the physical and emotional challenges he has faced. Chris delighted the audience with his PowerPoint presentation, which included the accolades of many personal friends, who remarked on Chris’ tremendous contributions to the world around him. Chris reminded participants that CHARGE does not have to mean limitations, only chances to overcome.

During the various sessions, the children were entertained with games and rides in the sunny outdoors. Fishing tank, bean bag toss, fire truck, and miniature train rides were just a few of the activities provided. Volunteers worked individually with each child and made sure that all of the children, siblings and CHARGErs alike had a fun-filled time.

A full moon and cool temperatures in the evening time made the perfect setting for a Fiesta in the Pines. Spicy Mexican food, music, piñatas, and an old fashioned campfire gave the participants a chance to have fellowship and networking with other families, which made the night memorable to all whom attended.

On Sunday the board met to discuss 2010 retreat plans. With the success of this years retreat it was decided that our th Annual Texas Chargers Retreat will be held on November -7, 2010, again at the beautiful Camp Allen Center.

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

By Isela Wilson, Parent, Rancho Viejo, TX

Abstract: A mom describes the first time she sends her son with multiple disabilities to an overnight camp. Getting past her anxieties gave her son the opportunity to participate in activities that gave him enjoyment.

Keywords: multiple disabilities, visually impaired, cortical visual impairment, cerebral palsy, life skills, camp.

For those of you thinking about sending your children to TSBVI summer life skills camp and are worried sick that your child will not last the whole week, let me relate our story.

Our son Andrew, now 16 years old, went to camp for the first time ever this past summer. Andrew has Cerebral Palsy and Cortical Visual Impairment. He has a G-Tube, uses a wheelchair, and is nonverbal and totally dependent.

We were nervous wrecks to say the least. The day finally came when we had to leave him. We thought he would be sad; he wasn’t. We thought he would miss us; he didn’t. We thought he would not be taken care of; he was!

Everyone at TSBVI is very professional and well trained on how to handle kids not only with visual impairments but also with multiple disabilities.

Their enthusiasm and compassion are visible as soon as you meet them.

Andrew went swimming, on a train ride, and probably his favorite was riding a go cart. He had the time of his life. He learned socialization skills that we could have never taught him. We learned to let go and let others enjoy our son. When we picked him up he was actually upset that we were taking him away from all the fun. When we asked if he would like to go back he shook his head for yes nonstop for about a minute.

So if you are considering sending your son or daughter to life skills camp next year consider this; if your child were a typical kid would you keep him or her from enjoying a camp experience?

I am a parent life skills camp survivor and proud of it!