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

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

Abstract: This article reviews the “Together We Can!” conference, a joint project of DARS DBS, DARS ECI, TSBVI, Region 13 ESC, with input from educators and stakeholders from across the state.

Key Words: blind, visually impaired, Division for Blind Services (DBS), Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), Tanni Anthony, Susan LaVenture, National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI), Together We Can!

As I write this, I have just returned from the “Together We Can!” conference, a conference for professionals providing services to families of birth to three-year-olds with vision loss. This conference was a group effort: the planning team members came from a variety of organizations, including DARS Division for Early Childhood Intervention Services, DARS Division for Blind Services, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, education service centers, independent school districts, and universities. In addition, the presenters were experts from many fields, including education of the visually impaired, orientation and mobility, optometry, and occupational therapy.

What a glorious two days of learning and making new connections! The “Together We Can!” conference had more than 300 participants, consisting of parents, Early Intervention staff and specialists, Teachers of the Visually Impaired, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists, DBS Blind Children’s staff and specialists, and many others.

The highlight of the conference was…. Well, there were too many highlights to choose just one. The conference began with a plenary session by Dr. Tanni Anthony. Dr. Anthony’s expertise is recognized nationally and internationally, so I won’t use this space to list her accomplishments and honors—believe me, they are numerous! Dr. Anthony reminded us of the importance of sensory learning. Sensory-based learning begins in utero and continues through the rest of our lives. She transmitted this with humor, telling stories from her varied past of working and living in Colorado, Minnesota, and Alaska. From Dr. Anthony I learned that when working with a child with sensory deficits, it is my job to become an environmental engineer—to analyze and build an environment that is supportive of sensory learning. Sensory learning occurs when the child is in a state of self-regulation; when external and internal stimulation is present, the child is able to maintain physiological and behavioral functioning.

Friday’s plenary session featured Susan LaVenture, the executive director of the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI). Ms. LaVenture leads and directs the association’s programs that serve families throughout the United States, providing information, support, and networking resources, while strongly focusing on the significant role parents play in their children’s development, education, and medical care. Ms. LaVenture spoke from her heart about the journey of a parent to understand the medical diagnosis, impact of disability on a child’s development, and the need for parents to connect with each other for emotional support. She emphasized the importance of collaboration, and discussed her collaborations with the medical community, other parents, and service organizations.

Afternoon topics included literacy, early movement, eye conditions, cortical visual impairment, developmental assessment, and feeding. Dr. Anthony discussed concepts and skills associated with early literacy development, and recommended key strategies to reinforce literacy development in the first years of life. Dr. Rona Pogrund discussed the importance of early movement for young children with visual impairments, with a focus on the impact of visual impairment on the development of motor skills. Dr. Laura Miller and Nan Bulla, low vision specialists, presented an overview of eye conditions and diseases that are most commonly found in early childhood, discussing implications, accommodations, and practical ideas for each condition. Rebecca Killian-Smith, a Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, discussed cortical visual impairment, a leading cause of blindness in children. Dr. Virginia Bishop, teacher of the visually impaired, university instructor and author, provided training in conducting a visually appropriate developmental assessment. Occupational Therapist Carol Ram-berg discussed the importance of developing a cooperative partnership between the adult and child during feeding.

In addition to these topics, there were panel presentations. The “From Play to Pay” consumer panel consisted of a parent of a toddler with CHARGE syndrome, a high school student, a college student, and two working adults. These panelists emphasized how important it is for parents and professionals to encourage exploration and independence, and to instill a belief in oneself that helps to overcome obstacles. The “Who’s Who on the VI Team” session defined the roles of each discipline that might be represented on a child’s team, reviewed the referral process for Early Childhood Intervention, DBS Blind Children’s Program, and VI services through the Local Education Agency, as well as services available through the Education Service Centers and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

One of the highlights for me was the snippets of conversation I heard as a roamed through the crowd and spoke to the participants: the ECI staff who stated that this was the first training she had attended on visual impairments and, now that she had connected to her DARS Blind Children’s specialist, she was planning a follow-up training when she returned to her home office; the parent who sought out the high school panelist to ask for advice on handling her nineyear-old son who didn’t want to be “different;” the panelist and participant advising a concerned parent to “trust yourself;” plus all the participants who asked if next year’s conference would be at the same time and place!

Throughout the two days, the message was repeated: “Together We Can!” Just as it took a diverse group of people to make this conference a reality, it will take professionals of varied backgrounds to provide the best intervention to families of young children with visual impairments. Everyone comes to this field with their own education, experience, and expertise, but none of us can meet the range of needs of these children and families alone. We must work together to promote successful outcomes for the infants and toddlers we serve. To paraphrase Carol Ramberg from her presentation on feeding, the approach we take is one of “creative choreography,” a “line dance” of parents, caregivers, relatives, therapists, teachers, and agency specialists, working together with graceful ease to support the children and families of Texas.

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

By Scott Addison, COMS, Region 14

Education Service Center, Abilene, TX

Abstract: Jay Stiteley of the Seeing Eye went to Abilene to meet with consumer groups, service agencies, and students about dog guides and a range of other issues related to blindness.

Key Words: Effective Proactices, blind, visually impaired, Orientation & Mobility, dog guides, The Seeing Eye

Mr. Jay Stiteley, known simply to the friendly folks here in Texas as “Jay”, visited our schools recently. Jay is an associate manager of the outreach division with Seeing Eye Inc. of Morristown New Jersey. The Seeing Eye,® Inc. is the oldest existing dog guide school in the world. Many know Mr. Stiteley as an inspirational speaker, adroit traveler and experienced dog guide handler. Jay lives with wife Karen, a teacher of the visually impaired, in Houston, Texas. Jay and I, along with others, sought to promote skills and understanding through effective collaboration during the course of his three day tour of Region 14 in West Texas.

Collaboration

Jay and I arrived at an Abilene, Texas coffee shop and bookstore on a cold Saturday in late January, to meet briefly with American Council of the Blind (ACB) and National Federation of the Blind (NFB) members regarding the Braille awareness event planned for later in the day. We eventually made our way across the street to a local restaurant for lunch where we met up with students, parents and professionals.

Skills

We seated twelve students and collaborators for lunch. It was soon apparent that the almost-nine-year-old, Jordan, was not happy with his seat assignment. He was seated on the end of the table with his stale old mobility instructor (the author of this article) that he’d heard for years droning on and on about such boring things as “watch your arc width, center that hand, and is that a good place to park your cane?” I could see Jordan’s wheels turning… all the action was clearly taking place on the other end of the table, and the best thing was, there was another blind guy down there just like him talking about really interesting stuff! Jordan was reseated, and we got down to some of the best Italian food I’ve had in quite some time. Jay instructed, modeled, and seemed to delight in the audience we’d assembled for him. He helped the kids review the Braille menu, address wait staff, figure tip and tax, and even offered tips on how to use a bread pusher! We had cordial conversation, a nice lunch, and a good opportunity to learn and practice skills.

Following lunch we trekked back across the street to the coffee shop in a collaborative effort designed to promote Braille awareness (understanding/skills). The ACB and NFB members, along with Jay, set up technology and handouts for anyone interested. The students set up Mountbatten and Perkins Braillers and other technology. For two hours the children and adults demonstrated Braille reading and writing. The Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired (CTVI) from the West Central Texas Shared Service Agreement (SSA) special education cooperative and the Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) from Region 14 Education Service Center networked and answered questions.

Understanding

On Monday we took the show on the road to schools in Region 14. In addition, we visited the local Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Division for Blind Services (DBS) office. East Ridge Elementary in Sweetwater, Texas was our first stop. There we met with a third grader with visual impairment, his classmates, and about one hundred other interested youngsters and teacher-types. Jay presented information on dog guide travel and living as a person with blindness. He also talked about ways he works around visual impairment by using his dog and other skills learned over the years. In addition, Jay provided information regarding dog guide etiquette.

After lunch Jay repeated his lecture to an equally large and enthusiastic gathering of elementary school students and teachers at Bonham Elementary in Abilene, Texas. A nine year old with blindness attends this school. Local media covered Jay’s address and printed a nice article. We were very pleased about the coverage, as the information provided in the article did a nice job explaining blindness and visual impairment (understanding).

Our next stop was Mann Middle School in Abilene for a brief one-on-one visit. The student with blindness at this school had an opportunity to ask Jay questions related to dog guide travel, check out Jay’s dog guide Hagar while out of harness, and examine the harness itself.

Jay and I eventually headed to the local DBS office before a final sprint to the airport where Jay was to catch a late afternoon flight to Florida for more ambassadorship (skills, collaboration, understanding). Upon entering the small state-issue sedan for the trip to the airport, Jay remarked, “Hagar is getting a bit tired…” This was Jay’s diplomatic way of saying, “That’s enough after 120 miles of travel, three schools, and the DBS office!” I promptly retorted, “I aim to get my money’s worth!” Quick wit that he is, Jay responded by telling me that “two times nothing is still nothin’!” You see, the Seeing Eye sends Jay all over the country to speak to interested parties regarding visual impairment and dog guide travel at no cost to the host!

I want to thank Jay Stiteley, the Seeing Eye, local adults with visual impairment, professionals, parents, and students for making this road show possible. Oh, and thanks to Hagar as well; he was a very good boy and seemed to enjoy our travels despite the time spent a small state-issue sedan!

Editor’s Note: Scott Addison is the orientation and mobility consultant for Region 14 Education Service Center in Abilene, and former Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired residential instructor and paraprofessional.

Jay Stiteley sent the following about his availability for events such as his January trip to Abilene as described by Scott.

If you would be interested in arranging a presentation to learn about the excitement, skills, and responsibilities of independent travel through the use of a Seeing Eye dog, please contact Jay Stiteley by phone at 713-664-7128, or send an e-mail to: <>. Presentations can be stand-alone talks to students, or serve as part of an event or workshop for parents and/or students.

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

by Terri Bohling

Abstract: This alphabetical reference list of objects, actions, and food can be used instead of pictures for language development, alphabet books, and other instructional activities. Most of these objects are readily available and familiar to children.

Keywords: blind children, education, alphabet books

This year I had a blind student in kindergarten. One of the table jobs the class did each week was cut out pictures of objects beginning with the letter of the week and paste them on a page for an alphabet book. I developed a list of real objects, small and flat enough to be pasted in a book, for my student to use.

Each week he would paste his real object onto a piece of braille paper. At the end of the year, I put the pages in a large-ring binder. It was a wonderful book for him. As an outgrowth of that list, I expanded to a Object Book a listing of real objects that would fit in a manipulative tub. Editor’s note: What follows is a list of real objects (whenever possible, avoid using plastic replicas) that can be substituted for pictures as the author describes during language and literacy development activities. It is adapted from more comprehensive lists created by the author, which also include additional categories such as body parts, actions, animals, and food. Look for her original lists on the TSBVI web site at .

A

Object Book
aluminum foil, antenna, arrow

Manipulative Tub
abacus, acorn, alarm clock, album, anchor, antler, apple, avocado

B

Object Book
bag, balloon, bandaid, barrette, beads, beans, book, bottle, button

Manipulative Tub
ball, banana, basket, battery, beanbag, bell, belt, block, boa, bone, bow, bowl, box, brick, brush

C

Object Book
candle (b-day), candy, cardboard, circle, comb, cotton ball, crayon

Manipulative Tub
camera, can, can opener, candle, cane, cap, cell phone, clay, colander, cookie cutter, crown, cup

D

Object Book
diamond (shape), dollar, domino

Manipulative Tub
diaper, dice, doll, door knob, dress, drill, drum

E

Object Book
earring, eggshells, envelope

Manipulative Tub
ear muffs, easel, egg, electric tootbrush

F

Object Book
fan, feather, filter (coffee), fork, fur

Manipulative Tub
file, film, flag, flashlight, flower, folder, football, frame

G

Object Book
glasses, glove, gum

Manipulative Tub
gift, globe, glue, grapefruit

H

Object Book
hair, hair tie, handkerchief, heart (shape), headband, hole

Manipulative Tub
hammer, handle, hanger, harmonica, hat, helmet, hook, horn, hose

I

Object Book
inch, incense, ivy

Manipulative Tub
ice cream (carton), ice cube tray, iron

J

Object Book
jellybeans, juice box (crushed)

Manipulative Tub
jacket, jacks, jar, jeans, juicer, jump rope

K

Object Book
key

Manipulative Tub
kazoo, ketchup, kettle, keyboard, kite, kiwi

L

Object Book
lace, leaf, leather, lollipop

Manipulative Tub
ladle, lamp, leash, lemon, letter, lid, life jacket, lipstick, light bulb, lock, lunch box

M

Object Book
macaroni, marshmallow, match, mitten

Manipulative Tub
magazine, magnet, mail, marble, marker, mask, mat, measuring cup, microphone, milk (carton), mouse (computer), mug, mustard

N

Object Book
nail, name tag, napkin, necklace, needle, noodle

Manipulative Tub
necktie, net, newspaper, nozzle, nut, nutcracker

O

Object Book
oatmeal (packet), ointment, oval, oven mitt

Manipulative Tub
oil, onion, orange, ornament, overalls

P

Object Book
paintbrush, paper, paperclip, peanut, pebbles, peg, pen, pencil, penny, pin

Manipulative Tub
pajamas, pan, pants, pecan, pedal, pepper, pillow, pipe, pitcher, pizza box, plate, plug, pocket, popcorn, pot, potato, powder, pudding, puppet, purse, puzzle, pumpkin

Q

Object Book
quarter, quill

Manipulative Tub
quilt

R

Object Book
ribbon, rice, ring, rope, rock, ruler, rubber band

Manipulative Tub
radio, raincoat, rattle, remote, rug

S

Object Book
shell, slate, soap, spaghetti, spoon, square, star, stick, straw, string

Manipulative Tub
salt, sand, saucer, saw, scarf, scissors, screwdriver, shirt, shoe, shower cap, slinky, sock, stockings, stylus, sweater, switch

T

Object Book
tape, tea bag, thread, tile, tissue, triangle

Manipulative Tub
telephone, thermometer, tie, timer, toaster, tongs, toothbrush, towel, trumpet, tweezers

U

Object Book
underwear

Manipulative Tub
ukulele, umbrella

V

Object Book
valentine, velcro, velvet

Manipulative Tub
vacuum cleaner, vanilla, vase, veil, vest, videotape, vine, vinegar, violin, visor

W

Object Book
washcloth, washer, wax, web, wire, wishbone, wool

Manipulative Tub
wallet, walnut, watch, water, watermelon, wheel, whistle, wood

X

Object Book
x-ray, xerox copy

Manipulative Tub
xylophone

Y

Object Book
yarn

Manipulative Tub
yardstick, yogurt, yo-yo

Z

Object Book
ziplock bag, zipper, zigzag

Manipulative Tub
zucchini

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

By Holly Allen, Early Childhood Vision Consultant (ECVC), CNIB North Region, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Abstract: Reading a book with a young child should be fun for both the adult and child. Concrete experiences add meaning to stories. The author shares activities and recipes that can add meaning to three children’s books.

Key Words: , blind, visually impaired, deafblind, literacy, reading, concepts, essential experiences, early childhood, ECI

Books help set the stage for future success. Even at an early age books can be a very important part of every child’s life. Reading a book with your child provides an opportunity to nurture your child’s growth on many levels including socialization, language and concept development. This is true for both print and Braille readers. The ability to listen to a story is an important skill which will assist your child at school entry. All children benefit from time spent with a caring adult and a good book. However it can be argued that children who have vision loss need this experience even more. Without assistance from parents and caregivers, children who have vision loss are likely less aware of the role of print and Braille in daily life. So take a few minutes each day to read a book with your child. You will be adding much to your child’s store of knowledge about the world. Perhaps Dr. Seuss says it best… “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – The Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss

Books offer the opportunity for parents and caregivers to explore and discuss both familiar and unfamiliar words and ideas with the child who has vision loss. It is also a wonderful activity to share with siblings and peers. It may seem difficult at first to choose books that will be meaningful and of interest to the young child with vision loss. However, with some imagination and creativity there are many ways to add meaning to the young child who is unable to see the pictures. Where possible use real objects, sound effects and motions to add meaning to the story. The best way to add meaning to a story is to help the child experience in a hands-on way what the story is about. This will add to your child’s understanding and enjoyment of the story. Here are some book reviews along with activities which may be helpful as you explore books with your child.

Book Reviews

The Important Book

By Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Leonard Wiesgard
A Trophy Picture Book, Harper Collins
Soft Cover Price: $6.99

This classic book has recently been republished since first appearing 50 years ago. This simple book will appeal to young readers as they explore what is important to know about everyday objects and experiences such as spoons, shoes, apples, the wind, rain, snow and so on. It would be fairly easy for parents and caregivers to find concrete examples of the objects and experiences mentioned on each page. The text is simple and descriptive.

“The important thing about an apple is that it is round. It is red. You bite it, and it is white inside, the juice splashes in your face, and it tastes like an apple, and it falls off a tree.” The pictures on each page vary in visual complexity; some pages are better than others for children with available vision. However, the opportunity to provide hands-on experiences and objects will assist every child to gain understanding of the concepts explored in this book. Words in clear Braille overlay may be easily added to this book.

Recipe Tie In: Baked Apples

After reading this book you may wish to try this simple recipe for baked apples. You may wish to enrich the reading experience by going on a shopping trip to purchase the ingredients. Consider having the ingredient list and recipe available in Braille or large print. It is good to model for your child how important literacy skills are in everyday activities.

Ingredients

  • McIntosh or other baking apples (It is especially wonderful if you have access to an actual apple tree with apples to pick)
  • Butter
  • Cinnamon
  • Brown sugar

The grown up should be the one to cut the apples in half. Show your child how two apple halves can come back together to form a whole apple again. Use a melon ball tool to scoop out the seeds. Here is a good time to discuss what seeds are and how plants grow from seeds.

Show your child how to prick holes in the outside skin of the apple with a fork. If your child is having a hard time managing this skill, try having the child’s hands “ride” on your hands as you work. In this way your child will feel your movements. Piercing the apple skins will prevent the apple skins from bursting open when the apples are baked.

Place the apples in a glass baking dish. Help your child to smear each apple top with a little butter, and then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon on top. It is okay if this experience is messy; this is the best way for your child to learn. Keep a damp cloth near by and show your child how to wipe fingers clean if he or she is bothered by having butter on them.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Enjoy smelling the wonderful aroma as the apples are baked. Tasting the baked apples may be the best part!

Expand the Experience

Consider having a family apple picking and tasting experience. There are so many different kinds of apples available. Try Fuji, Cortland, and Granny Smith apples among many others. If you can, go to an apple orchard to pick them, or simply check out how many kinds of apples are available in the produce section at the grocery store with your child. Buy one of each. Cut each apple into several pieces and have a taste test. Discuss with your child the difference in colour, size, shape and taste of each kind of apple. What apple will be your child’s favourite?

Cinnamon Shapes

If your child enjoyed baking with cinnamon, then this easy play dough recipe will also appeal. Simply mix together one cup of smooth applesauce with one cup of fine cinnamon. Inexpensive cinnamon can often be found at dollar stores.

Mix together until the dough is workable. If the mix is too dry add a bit more applesauce, if too wet add a little more cinnamon. Once the dough is workable you can use cookie cutters to cut out star, heart or other small shapes. If your child has dif ficulties touching the play dough, keep a damp cloth near by so sticky fingers can be wiped when needed.

Poke holes in the shapes with a drinking straw so the shape can be hung with raffia or ribbon. The shapes can be air dried over a few days or baked at 300 degrees for approximately 10 minutes or until firm. The ornaments will smell wonderful when baking, but they are not edible! A cinnamon shape makes a wonderful gift for your child to share with important people in his or her life.

How To Speak Moo!

By: Deborah Fajerman
Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
www.barronseduc.com
Soft Cover Price: $5.99.

In this lively rhyming book the author explores the language of cows, which is of course “Moo”. As we turn the pages we find that the “moos” can be very different depending on what the cow is doing. For example a cow on a trampoline produces “up and down” moos, a cow’s mooing into a funnel can sound funny, JELL-O moos are jiggly, and so on. It is fairly easy to add appropriate actions and objects to this story in order to add meaning and interest to a child who has severe vision loss. Items such as skateboards, funnels, JELL-O, tunnels, etc. can be obtained and used at the appropriate page of the book. There are so many rich experiences and concepts available within the covers of this book. And as with any book, the text may be added in clear braille overlay.

For children who have residual vision, the black and white cows may stand out well, although a few of the pages are fairly visually cluttered.

Expand the Experience

You may wish to expand on some of the subjects introduced in this book. A trip to the corner store to buy milk, or “moo juice,” can be fun. Be sure to include your child in the process of finding the milk in the cooler and paying for the purchase. Your child’s understanding of cows can be enhanced by a field trip to a dairy farm, agricultural fair, or other opportunity to learn about cows. All children with vision loss can benefit from supervised and safe opportunities to explore the concept of, “what is a cow?” Children who are learning to use vision aids may find it helpful to look at the cows with binoculars or other distance aids.

Recipe Tie-in: Jiggly Moo JELL-O

Are JELL-O Moos really jiggly? Help your child find out by making this simple recipe. As much as possible help your child to take part in this process. The first step may be in creating a Braille or large print copy of this recipe.

  • One 3 oz package any flavour of JELL-O
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup hot water
  • ½ cup cold water
  1. Open the JELL-O package. Your child may be able to do so with just a little help from you. Perhaps you can “start” the corner of the box so your child will be able to continue the tear.
  2. Empty the contents into a medium size bowl. Allow your child to feel and taste the dry powder.
  3. Use a nesting type of measuring cup to measure the hot water. (Depending on the age and ability of the child this may be the part that the grown up should do.)
  4. Stir well until the powder is well dissolved. Help your child add the milk and cold water and stir well.
  5. Allow your child to taste and feel the milky liquid. Place in fridge until set. Enjoy the jiggle!

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

By: Dr. Seuss
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Date Published: 1996
isbn-13: 9780679882824
Price: $8.99

Here is a book that again discusses the importance of Moos! Mr. Brown Can Moo by Dr. Seuss is one of the board books that I like to introduce to children and families early on. This book is rich in rhyme and repetition and features a wide variety of interesting sounds. It is easy to add dramatic sound effects to this classic book.

It can be helpful to have several people on hand to enjoy this book together, as it allows for nice turn taking opportunities. Each person can make the sound the book calls for, either by mouth or by using the sound making toy. For children who are struggling to learn to communicate, this book is ideal for modeling the appropriate response.

Here is the list of items for the sound effects that can be added to the text. It is not necessary to have them all; what sounds you don’t have can be made verbally. Sound effects for this book include:

  • Moo – any noisy toy with a moo sound. I prefer the moo tins that you turn over to make the sound, but these can be hard to find.
  • Dibble Dopp or Rain – rain stick, musical shaker egg, or similar toy shaken in rhythm to the text. A simple shaker can be made by filling an empty plastic candy tube or cardboard chip tube with rice and sealing the lid.
  • Tick Tock – small clicker block from Fisher Price, or by mouth.
  • Pop Pop – child’s wooden music sticks knocked sharply together.
  • Cock a doodle doo – noisy puzzle featuring farm animals with the rooster picture. Inserting one block into the frame with the other will activate the sound. Or some small squeeze animal toys feature this sound.
  • Knock Knock – knock on wooden furniture or floor.
  • Klopp Klopp – use your feet to stamp the floor, or hands banging on the table.
  • Boom Boom or Thunder – use a Thunder Tube spring drum or a simple plastic megaphone to make verbal booms louder.
  • Splatt splatt or lightening – clatterpillar, which is a child’s musical instrument, or pop the bubbles on plastic wrap.
  • Whisper Whisper – a soft whisper from you.
  • Hoo Hoo – verbally, or stuffed sound owl.

It is especially fun to get to the last page, or “let’s review.” Then all the noises are repeated in order. Enjoy reading with your child. In doing so you will be adding a great deal to your child’s knowledge of the world, as well as setting the stage for educational and vocational success.

'You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a mother who read to me.”
Strickland Gillilan

Happy Reading!

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

By Jim Durkel, Outreach Teacher, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: The entire education team, including the teacher of the visually impaired, classroom teacher, family, and reading specialist, must collaborate to ensure that a child who has a visual impairment develops all of the skills needed to become a proficient reader.

Key Words: , blind, visually impaired, collaboration, literacy, reading, research

What is the National Reading Panel (NRP)?

In 1997, Congress asked for a national panel to assess the effectiveness of different approaches used to teach children to read. For over two years, this panel reviewed research related to the teaching of reading. On April 13, 2000, the NRP finished its work and submitted “The Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read.” The full report is available at .

What Were the Findings of the NRP Report?

After carefully looking at the research on how to successfully teach children to read, the NRP focused on 5 main skills:

  • Phonemic awareness – the ability to think about and play with the sounds in spoken words;
  • Phonics – the ability to connect specific letters to the sounds in spoken words;
  • Fluency – the ability to read quickly and accurately;
  • Vocabulary – the words children must know to speak and read well; and
  • Text comprehension – understanding the message in written materials.

Research indicated that successful reading involves all 5 of these skills. The amount of time spent working on these skills may change with the child’s abilities and age. For example, phonemic awareness might be emphasized in kindergarten and first grade but not receive much direct attention after that. Phonics might be a focus in first grade but by third grade more time may be spent on text comprehension.

The NRP Report and Children With Visual Impairments

This report does not address any issues specifically related to children with visual impairments. It does not discuss the use of Braille or large print. It did not discuss the use of hand magnifiers or digital video. So in this way, the NRP report says nothing about teaching reading to children with visual impairments.

On the other hand, nothing in the report indicates that reading is a different process for children with visual impairments. Nothing indicates that once a child has access to text, either through Braille or large print or the use of magnification, that reading for children with visual impairments is different from reading for students who are typically sighted. Nothing implies that phonological awareness or phonic skills are any different for readers with visual impairments than for readers who are sighted. Nothing implies that fluency, vocabulary and text comprehension are not important reading skills for a child with a visual impairment.

Children with visual impairments must be given access to text; they must be taught Braille if they are tactual learners or they must be given access to print they can see easily and recognize quickly.

However, the NRP clearly finds that reading is more than just recognizing letters— either in print or in Braille. To be good readers, all the areas identified by the NRP must be addressed. Letter recognition is only a small part of the whole reading process.

One study by Carol Gillon demonstrates this issue. “The Phonological-Awareness Skills of Children Who Are Blind” was published in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 96(1) p. 38-49 (Jan 2002). In this article it was found that Braille readers who had trouble reading had difficulties in phonological awareness skills at the same rate as sighted children who had difficulty reading print.

How Can Children With Visual Impairments Get Instruction in the 5 Areas Identified by the National Reading Panel?

Typically, a teacher for students with visual impairments (TVI) does not have the background in reading that a general education teacher has. Even if the TVI has a certificate to teach general education, the fact is that he or she is not in a classroom teaching reading day in and day out year after year. Often the TVI is not invited to or even allowed to attend in-service training on reading that a school district is offering.

For a child with a visual impairment to get quality reading instruction the best solution is that the classroom teacher (general education, special education, or preschool), the TVI, the reading specialist (if there is the need for one), and the family work together.

The role of the TVI.

Conducting a Learning Media Assessment (LMA) is clearly the role of the TVI. The LMA should support the IEP team in its decision regarding the use of Braille in order for the student to be a proficient reader. The LMA should also help the IEP team decide how a child will access print if he or she is to be a proficient print reader. That is, the LMA should specify what print characteristics such as size, contrast, or spacing the child will need or what kind of magnification and/or lighting would be needed. Reading speeds, fluency, and comprehension are also assessed as part of the LMA.

Providing adapted materials and teaching children with visual impairments to use them clearly is the role of a (TVI). Nobody is better prepared to teach recognition of Braille letters or the use of the Braille code. Nobody is better prepared to help a child with low vision to recognize print letters with or without the use of devices.

The Role of the Educational Team.

If a TVI has questions about conducting and interpreting informal reading assessments, the TVI should confer with the classroom teacher or reading specialist. It is important for the results of the LMA to be shared. For example, slow reading speed might be the result of unfamiliarity with the Braille code or the use of a low vision device, and remediation would then be included in IEP goals. However, it is not acceptable to assume slow reading speed is the norm for all students with visual impairments. A student with a visual impairment might also have a reading impairment that is causing slow reading speed. Addressing this reading impairment should be done by the entire team, not just the teacher for students with visual impairments.

The Role of the Family.

With support from a TVI, families can provide early experiences that will help the child with visual impairments once she or he begins school. Vocabulary is developed as children are given meaningful experiences and the words that go along with those experiences. Nursery rhymes, songs, and simple word games can set the foundation for phonemic awareness. When families read together and discuss what they read, this improves fluency and text comprehension. High interest children’s books (in Braille or in print), as well as any low vision device the child might need, gives a child the opportunity to learn about letters and how they go together on a page.

Oral vocabulary, the language that a child can understand and use, is an important indicator of later reading ability. It is crucial that the TVI help families learn how to support early oral vocabulary during the first few years of the child’s life. For a child with a visual impairment, good vocabulary development means that the child has lots of hand-on experiences with the world so that every word that is learned is meaningful to the child. The need for experiences to support vocabulary development continues as the child becomes older and is in school. It is important that the classroom teacher understands the impact of vision loss on the child’s ability to learn and use new vocabulary taught during instruction and in classroom reading materials.

Collaboration

Once a child starts school the need for good collaboration becomes crucial. For example, if the TVI pulls the child out during classroom reading time to focus on teaching recognition of Braille letters and use of the Braille code, is the child missing out on instruction in the areas identified by the NRP? Without support from general education, would a TVI know when and how to teach the skills identified by the NRP? Without support from the TVI, how would the general education teacher know when a child with visual impairments was failing during a reading lesson due to lack of access rather than due to not understanding the lesson?

There are many ways that a TVI and the classroom teacher can collaborate. Rather than a pull out model where the student is taken out of the general education classroom, it may be possible that the TVI goes into the general education classroom and supports reading activities. This “pull out” vs. “go in” does not have to be an either/or situation. Some reading instruction can be done as pull out and some offered the general education classroom.

Another model of collaboration would involve the general education teacher and TVI meeting on a regular basis to review the lesson plans for reading and to decide who can best teach which skills in which settings in order to get maximum results from the student. Eva Lavigne, from the TSBVI Outreach Program, wrote a great article on how this might work in the area of vocabulary development. This article, “Essential Literacy Experiences for Visually Impaired Children,” can be found online at .

What is clear is that for a child with a visual impairment to succeed in reading in his or her general education classroom, the TVI and general education teacher need to work together. Families are crucial in advocating for this collaboration during the IEP meeting, as well as encouraging and supporting reading outside of the classroom.

A reading specialist may need to be involved if the general education teacher and TVI need help to figure out why a child with visual impairments is having trouble learning to read. Children with visual impairments can have learning disabilities and dyslexia, even when reading Braille. These additional learning problems may be outside the expertise of the classroom teacher and the TVI.

Want to Know More?

The following are just two of the many websites that discuss the findings of the National Reading Panel in greater detail. “Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read” is a longer document that goes into each of the 5 areas in detail: . “Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read” is a shorter document about how families can support the 5 skill areas at home: .

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

By Michele Chauvin, President, Texas Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (TAPVI), Sugar Land, Texas

Abstract: Leaders in the field of visual impairment and deafblindness recently participated in specific training about collaborating more effectively.

Keywords: blind, visual impairment, deafblind, parent groups, interest-based problem solving, parent-school collaboration

In May, TSBVI Outreach organized a family leadership workshop in Austin for statewide leaders in the field of visual impairment and deaf-blindness. I

traveled with my husband and daughter to attend the training titled “Communicate Effectively: Using Interests-Based Problem Solving (IBPS)”, led by professional mediators Laura and Robert Otey. Several TAPVI board members and their families attended, as well.

Along with TAPVI members were key leaders from the Deaf-Blind Multihandicapped Association of Texas (DBMAT) and Parents of Blind Children of Texas (POBCT), as well as a DARS/DBS Children’s Specialist and a VI Consultant from a Regional Educational Service Center. Seeing the leaders of the various Texas family groups together at one workshop was priceless. During the workshop, we were encouraged to think through common issues between parents and schools. We identified the differences between positions, underlying interests, and options.

The presenters described various types of conflict and how people react differently to conflict. They focused on using open-ended questions and neutral language to help reduce defensiveness and increase understanding. We practiced a possible real world conflict between schools and families then role-played both positions. This helped us, as parents, gain insight into the issues that the “other side” of the ARD table has to consider when educating our children in public school.

Overall, the training reminded us that families, students, CTVIs, COMS, classroom teachers, special education teachers, related-services professionals, therapists, principals, etc. are all a significant part of the ARD committee or IEP team. The purpose is for us to work together towards a common goal for our children, encouraging them to strive towards greater success and independence in school and in the community.

Thank you TSBVI Outreach for coordinating this interesting and useful workshop. Hopefully, I can remember and use what I learned once school begins this fall and in years to come.

To find out more about TAPVI, go to: .

Summer 2009 Table of Contents
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By Edgenie Bellah, Deafblind Family Support, TSBVI Outreach

Abstract: The author discusses legislation that benefits individuals with visual impairments, including deafblindness, passed during the recent 81st Legislative Session in Texas, as well as a recent presidential visit in honor of Helen Keller Deafblind Awareness Week.

Keywords: , Legislation, Blind, Deafblind, Medicaid Waiver Programs, pedestrian safety, state agency supports.

June proved to be a big month in Texas for families who have children with visual impairments, including deafblindness. On June 21, Governor Perry finished signing all the bills passed during the 81st Legislative Session. While the smoke clears from a busy session, individuals with visual impairments, their families, and the advocates that work tirelessly beside them, paused long enough to celebrate what may prove to be the most exciting Texas legislative session for the VI community to date. The 81st Legislative Session saw the passage of important bills that will benefit children with disabilities, such as the establishment of the Medicaid buy-in program for children with disabilities and directives to expand the number of children served by Medicaid Waiver programs. As importantly, the Legislature also considered a record number of bills specific to services for children and adults with visual impairments. These bills included:

  • House Bill 37 – makes children eligible for the Deafblind Medicaid Waiver;
  • House Bill 63 – creates a career ladder for interveners in the same Waiver;
  • Senate Bill 2082 (amended to be part of HB 1343) – would have ensured all children who are blind or visually impaired receive an evaluation in orientation and mobility (O&M) as part of the initial evaluation upon referral to special education; and
  • Senate Bill 2249 – would have changed the certification process for teachers of the visually impaired (TVI), eliminating the ability to be certified by exam only.

House Bill 37 and House Bill 63 were signed by the Governor shortly after the legislature adjourned. While SB 2082 and SB 2249 did not make it through the process, great progress was made. This included, among other successes, increasing awareness to the unique educational needs for students with visual impairments.

The success of these bills is due primarily to the efforts of the family organizations DBMAT, TAPVI, Texas CHARGERS, Inc., and the Alliance of and for Visually Impaired Texans (AVIT), which is a partnership of these and other organizations. To learn more about DBMAT’s experiences, please check out their Legislation Celebration newsletter that can be found at . In addition to the bills sponsored by families, three other bills that passed will benefit the VI community:

  • HB 1343 – increases penalties for failure of the operator of a motor vehicle to yield the right-of-way to blind and disabled pedestrians;
  • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Legislative Appropriations Request, Rider 3 – increases funding for the Teacher Prep Programs;
  • Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Division for Blind Services Legislative Appropriations Request – continues funding for the Blind Children’s Program at its current level, which includes and secures the expansion that resulted from Fiscal Year 2009 emergency funding request; and
  • In addition, the legislature approved the DARS-DBS growth request that provides funding for two new Blind Children’s specialist positions.

June is also the month that the nation annually celebrates Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week. On Friday, June 26th, 2009, five young adults who are deafblind met with President Obama. Among these was Crystal Morales from Austin, TX. To learn more about that historic visit, you may wish to read “Still Thriving and Excelling Long After Helen Keller,” which is in the section of this edition. That article, as well as Crystal Morales’ personal account, can also be accessed online on the National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness home page, .

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By Julie Holmquist Reprinted with permission from The Parent Advocate Quarterly, Spring 2009, published by Partners Resource. To learn more about Partners Resource Network, visit their website at .

Abstract: A family shares suggestions on how grandparents can support their children when they have a child with a disability.

Keywords: , blind, grandparents, parent support

Tom and Gwen Besnett sound like any other set of proud grandparents. Ask them about their grandson, Orion, and they’ll tell you that he is not only charming and gutsy; he has perfect pitch, loves reading car magazines, speaks Arabic with his neurosurgeon, and chats in Urdu and Hindi with a former personal care attendant. But when Orion Besnett Slocum was born 20 years ago to their daughter, Lisa, it was a crisis for the couple. They discovered that Orion had Dandy-Walker syndrome and was legally blind. “Someone in the hospital told me that he wasn’t going to live,” Gwen recalls. “It didn’t look like he was going to be able to talk,” Tom says. In the years following Orion’s birth, Tom and Gwen discovered -by trial and error- how grandparents can best help their child as well as their grandchild with a disability. Tom, Gwen, and Lisa share their advice. Tom’s advice:

  • Join a group. “It provides a wonderful way for grandparents to maintain their bearings and share their sense of loss and grief with other understanding grandparents,” Tom says. “It also provides a good place to celebrate the tiny gains in your grandchild’s life.”
  • Find out who your grandchild is and find ways to enjoy him and to celebrate with him.
  • Figure out how to adapt and overcome obstacles so your grandchild can be involved in fun activities such as fishing along with you.

Gwen’s advice: to personality and generational differ

  • • Be supportive, but be careful not to overstep your bounds. “l have a nursing background and I kept asking Lisa questions about Orion’s care.” Gwen says. “Finally, Lisa told me to bug off. She told me that she had to do it herself. It was difficult for me, but I understood.”
  • • Try to understand the parents’ new life. They may be dealing with insurance issues, Social Security, Individualized Education Programs, and Medicaid. “It’s the parent’s struggle, but grandparents must realize what a struggle it is,” Gwen says.
  • • Help with childcare. Among other things, Gwen baby-sat, made pancakes out of vegetables because of Orion s food aversions, and held his hand to her mouth while she talked to encourage speech. Lisa’s advice:
  • • Remember that your child will parent differently than you did, due in part ences, as well as the fact that he or she has a child with disabilities.
  • • Learn to be a good caregiver so you can give the parents a break. “l think that was the most valuable thing my mother did.” Lisa says. “She also took Orion to play classes. It was hard for me to do it, but she loved it.” Both sets of grandparents took infant CPR classes because of Orion’s condition, and Lisa attributes Orion’s love for socializing to Gwen’s ability to hold him for hours at a time.
  • • Provide time for parents’ self care. Sitting with the child for an hour so the parent can take a bath will lessen parental stress. “Orion’s other grandmother would do my laundry or just be another person in the house so that I wasn’t alone,” Lisa says. “That gives you the ability to relax.”
  • • Tell the parents that they are allowed to spend time on themselves, apart from their child with a disability. That makes it okay.

Summer 2009 Table of Contents
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By Ahbee Orton, Student, Crowley, TX Abstract: A Texas student describes her experience competing in a national Braille contest. Ahbee Orton wins first place for the grade 1-2 category.

Keywords: blind, visual impairment, Braille, literacy

Editor’s Note: The Braille Challenge® is an academic competition sponsored by the Braille Institute. This two-stage contest is designed to motivate blind students to emphasize their study of braille, while rewarding their success with a fun-filled, but challenging, weekend of events.

My name is Ahbee Orton and I am 9 years old. I will be in the third grade at Deer Creek Elementary in Crowley ISD. My family went with me to the Braille challenge. These are my teachers that helped me get good at Braille: Michelle Garrett and Mary Elliott. My mobility teacher's name is Jill Brown.

The preliminary round was at my school. I did it with Mrs. Garrett. The (national) competition was held at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles California on Saturday, June 20. I had to do spelling, proofreading, and comprehension for my age group.

The winners would be announced that(night) at the special banquet. I was thinking maybe I would win. Then they said my name as the first place winner. I felt excited. I got a trophy, a thousand dollars savings bond, and a Pac Mate. A Pac Mate is a computer device for Braille readers.

I was nervous to be in front of all the people that were there. Jim Cummings was there. He was the emcee. Jim Cummings is the voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and many other characters. Scott Macintyre was there also. He was the blind person on American Idol.

I liked going shopping with my dad. We went shopping the day of the Banquet. It was fun because I like shopping. We went shopping at the City Walk at Universal Studios.

I liked sleeping in a hotel. The hotel had a pool and a Jacuzzi. I liked swimming in the pool and the Jacuzzi. My family touched the Pacific Ocean with our feet. The water was cold.

My family went to Santa Monica and ate dinner at a restaurant called Bubba Gump Shrimp. They had all kinds of shrimp. I ate popcorn shrimp. It was good. Me and my sister, Elizabeth, danced at Bubba Gump Shrimp. The whole trip was fun.

Summer 2009 Table of Contents
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By Jean Robinson, Visually Impaired Family Support, TSBVI Outreach

Abstract: Mothers of children with visual impairments share their experiences teaching them to ride a bike.

Keywords: blind, visually impaired, children, bicycles, parent listserve, advice

The Texas VI Family Listserv is a great way to connect to other families and to ask those questions that you may be afraid to ask or forget to ask when meeting with professionals. Many of the answers can only be found from experienced family members. Here are several answers given to a mom’s question about bicycle riding. If you have a child, grandchild, or other family member with a visual impairment living in Texas you are eligible to subscribe. Send your request to: <> or f<>.

Deborah Sims:

I have a question regarding bicycle riding. Does anyone have a child with low vision or blind who rides a bike? My son is six and has low vision from Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). He is quite successful riding his scooter to and from school everyday and he goes really fast and loves it. He rides better than his twin brother!! Go figure.

He also has a learner bike called Glider (originally from Germany called Puky). It is a bike without pedals and has a platform for the feet to rest while the bike is rolling. Anyway, he will ride it sometimes and he has a great time, but he will not put his feet on the platform unless we encourage him. He can do it, but I guess he is just not comfortable. Does anyone out there have a success story to share in regards to riding a bicycle? Thanks a mill.

Parent Responses

Sally Thomas:

My son is mostly blind, a braille reader and he rides a bike. His athletic, fully sighted sister is the one who ran into a parked car! He began riding a bike (no training wheels) when he was about 6 1/2—never had a problem with it. He was encouraged to lose the training wheels when the other kids in the neighborhood his age were already riding without theirs. I feel comfortable with him riding in our neighborhood when he has someone riding with him. We plan to get a tandem bike for longer rides. He has completely blind friends who also ride bikes. I’m not sure how they do it, but they do. I think it takes a lot of encouragement to get some kids comfortable with riding a bike. It may be more of a personality issue than a blindness issue. I’ve seen sighted kids who took years to master a bike and kids like my son who were ready in a day. Just keep on trying and encouraging. That’s my 2 cents.

Kim Cunningham:

My daughter is low vision from ROP also. Because she has a small amount of vision in one eye, she had a little harder time learning to ride her bike. I would notice that her center of gravity was off due to her trying to use her vision. I would hold on to the back of her shirt while practicing, and I noticed that she was always leaning to the side. I couldn’t get her to keep the bike upright. We began teaching her when she was five, but she didn’t learn to ride until she was 10. Almost every weekend she would get on her bike and try to ride by herself. She never gave up. Then one day her brother was visiting and he started working with her. She got on and took off! We were thrilled for her after all the years of trying. Even now when she rides, she is not keeping the bike perpendicular to the sidewalk and tends to lean a little bit. I also see that her knee is pointing out on one side and not kept close to the bike like sighted kids do. But, she found her own way and it works for her. My suggestion is to NOT give up and let your son find his own way that is comfortable and secure for himself. Keep the can-do attitude!

Suzanna Mouton: My son was low vision when he was 6. He has since become totally blind, however he did learn to ride a bike when he was low vision and also a Braille reader and cane user. We worked and worked and worked with him, and he finally did it and it was such an accomplishment! The joy on his face! He did quit once he totally lost his vision but his best friend bought a tandem bike and they used to ride it all through the neighborhood! The thing is, once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget and I believe my son could get on a bike at the age of 22 and still be able to ride. I agree, encouragement is the key! Michele Chauvin: I agree. Tricycles, training wheels, no training wheels, tandem bikes, etc. Lauren has not been interested in tricycles or bicycles, yet. We keep trying. She enjoys and learns well with the H-U-H (hand under hand) method with most things. I think we may get a tandem bike or more likely an adult bike plus an arch extension - the kind for a smaller rider or child to fit on the back of the bike and peddle themselves. This might encourage Lauren to use a bicycle as a means to an end (getting from home to the park, etc.). She loves running, climbing, jumping, swimming, and even sliding down those giant pool slides at water parks. I tend to agree with Sally that it may be more of a personality preference. Luke and I don’t ride bikes, although we know how. We read books a lot and love music. So guess what Lauren likes to do? But we’ll keep trying with the bicycle thing. Here’s a great website about movement and activities for blind and VI kids. Dan Kish spoke at a breakout session a few years ago during TX Focus. He is a blind COMS or O&M instructor, who takes blind kids mountain bike riding, etc. I love his ball in a plastic grocery bag idea to include blind/VI kids with their sighted peers, as an alternative to goal ball, etc. Check it out!!! www.worldaccessfortheblind.org

Bonnie:

I am also mom to a Daniel. Here is what happens with a 4 1/2 year old legally blind kid (about 20/360, worse in bright light) on his first 2 wheeler with training wheels. Here are the “before” pics, when I got the bike from Freecycle. Here are the “after part 1” pictures— we made it much more sensory friendly. He loved the streamers on his tricycle, and said “big boys have squeaky bikes” meaning old ones that squeak. We found him an annoyingly squeaky horn instead, to go with the bell already on it, and the orange bike flag for added safety. And the “after part 2” pictures—well, before and after. When he saw it, we though he would do his over excited “Happy Flappy” dance. Nope! He said “Thomas bike” as he ran up to it and got on and rode off—like “it’s about darn time I had a Thomas bike” Dad said he flipped it over 273 times (see handlebars and broken off horn— he even had bent the handlebars on fall #271 when he broke the horn, but Dad and Uncle Walter bent them back) *Not a scratch* on Daniel! Dad’s legs are torn up from trying to stop/lessen the falls. Daniel thought the falls were funny. Not surprised, this is the kid that was swinging on a platform swing like a madman at rehab this morning, he reached to point to something and flipped off and under the swing. As Mary (therapist) and I started to move in, he says calmly “Daniel looking bottom swing” Reminds me of the Pee Wee Herman line “I meant to do that.”

As he went to bed tonight Daniel said after school and rehab tomorrow he and Daddy were going to take another “Tall ride” (opposite of “short ride” is “tall ride”) with his Thomas bike. Dad now agrees he needs a helmet but is still saying “no” to the elbow and knee pads Another day like today may change his mind. Gonna be a long summer—is there a discount pass for the ER? I think we may be needing it. A lot.

Deborah Sims: Thank you for your replies. I wasn’t sure if it was too much for me to ask of him. It’s so good to hear it’s not impossible. We’ll keep chugin’ away!!

One Day Later

Deborah Sims: Thank you all for your replies. It’s really good to hear of success stories. I now have one to add to the mix here. The day I sent out an email to txvifamily looking for encouragement, I find out Daniel rode his bike (no training wheels) around the black top trail!!! Whoohoo!!!! I took my daughter to swim practice that evening and got back late. I didn’t know it, but while we were gone, daddy and the boys went for a bike ride and guess what? ...long story short, the next morning, Daniel rode his bike to school!!!!!!! We are so proud of him. I couldn’t believe my eyes!! He did it!!!