Wednesday, January 26, 2011


"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." -Charles F. Kettering
The world is full of people asking to be treated in a way different than someone around them. It can be to better enrich their lives, or make life easier- it is not always for me to judge. Disabled individuals want to be treated as their non-disabled peers. It's as simple as that. Yes, someone with a vision impairment may need large print or a screen reader program, or someone in a wheelchair may need access to an elevator instead of stairs. They are not asking to be treated better, only equal. I believe it is sometimes hard to justify this idea to part of the population because most adaptations take additional costs or time, and they therefore use them as an excuse to overlook or ignore the situation. Some may just be ignorant of what can be done. I too believe that it is the responsibility of the company and employees, as well as society, both disabled and non-disabled, to make it aware to the world that differences such as a visual impairment does not limit them. It only redefines the way they check their email or read a computer screen.

This same idea is apparent in the educational settings as well. It has been my experience that a huge majority of teachers, school administration, therapists and others simply do not expect as much from a visually impaired student. I do not know the exact reason for this, whether it be they consciously or subconsciously feel that the child is incapable solely because of the impairment, or because it is just easier for them to make it easier on the student by just letting the student "get by" with the bare minimum. With my daughter, people tend to just want to do things for her. She is cute, sweet and polite. It is easy to spoil her without even thinking. I'm the most guilty when it comes to making her walk. She is still light enough that I can pick her up and carry her, which gets the trip done faster and gives me a chance to cuddle her in my arms. What mother doesn't want to make that last as long as possible!? : )    I have to remind myself to put her back down and make her do it herself. It is this practice that will lead her to explore this beautiful world on her own one day.

It is a constant struggle to make others understand that is she is fully capable. She knows how to do most things she needs to do, but she'll totally take advantage of you if you let her. And the activities she is still learning, well, just teach her how to do them and she'll figure it out. Yes, it may take a while, but that is the only way she is going to learn - is by doing it herself.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fine Motor Skills & an encouraging day ;)

Today was much needed. I stress so much over all the things M needs to be working on, if she gets enough calories, exercise, etc. that I end up being completely overwhelmed. But today was different. Everything seemed to work out today as it should. She had a great day at school - ate all her lunch, worked on sorting objects into categories, counted by 10s to 100, and so much more! On top of that, her paraprofessional is wonderful. She is gaining M's trust more and more everyday, and is teaching her so much. She is aggressive in learning about M and blind students, as well as her general education curriculum. To make the day, I received a call from her occupational therapist to learn more about her and go over ideas that may help her teach M more effectively. I was very pleased to talk with her for almost an hour.

She is focusing on M's fine motor skills, which can be very challenging for a blind child. M needs to increase control of the muscles in her fingers and hands, getting them to work together to learn to sign her name, read braille, and explore tactually with more meaning. I compiled a list of advice for working with M specifically, as well as adaptations to the general fine motor skills activities that could be made for a blind student. You have to be creative and think outside the box to have the greatest effect a blind child. Going back to the foundation of this blog, I came up with ideas to make the activities appeal to her other four senses, thereby making them more appealing to her where she actually enjoys learning.

Here are a few ideas for anyone interested... I'll have a more complete list and details on the Sensory Sun website when we launch soon! Please feel free to comment with any additional ideas, or comments on the ones I've listed. What works for your child?

Fine Motor Skills- adapted activities:

  • coloring/drawing
    • use a device like Crayola Color Me a Song or Color Wonder Sound Studio
    • use scented crayons and markers
    • place a thin object or texture piece (screen or mesh, etc) underneath the paper so the child feels the bumps when she colors
    • try the triangular crayons that won't roll around and are easier to grasp
    • get messy (also great for tactile defensiveness) with finger paints, pudding, or anything of the sort, on a large piece of construction or butcher/freezer paper
  • pegs in pegboard
    • come up with a story to go along with placing the pegs
    • place a peg for each letter in spelling a simple word (also increases vocabulary!)
    • glue different textures to each of the pegs to make them more tactile (again great for working on tactile defensiveness )
    • advance the texture idea by making the pegboard hole textured as well so the child learns to match the correct textures of pegs/holes
  • tearing paper
    • try using different textured paper, which can be found easily at a scrapbook/hobby store
    • make a game out of it or incorporate a story
    • do another activity or craft with the paper pieces after they've been torn to create a sense of purpose for tearing the paper
  • coordination/picking up & placing small objects
    • play games like Don't Spill the Beans, Cootie, or Perfection
    • count coins (also teaches about money and math!) by moving them from one area to another - from the table to a piggy bank, etc (there are fun audible banks out there pretty cheap, too)
    • practice tracing lines with index fingers - draw with dimensional paint, glued on yarn, etc
These are just a few basic ideas a lot of children seeing an Occupational Therapist (OT) will work on sometime in their early years. I hope the ideas are useful for you!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Echolalia and repetition... no pun intended

Many blind children go through a phase of Echolalia, as they automatically repeat what someone else says and then sometimes answer afterwards. I've found my daughter uses echolalia to process the information and build sort of a database of questions and answers in her head. It took some time for her to begin developing thoughts and phrases of her own instead of just pulling a relevant, and sometimes irrelevant, phrase from her list. For example, a common question to her would be, "Are you hungry?" and she would answer, "Are you hungry? Yes, I'm hungry." Finally, she would answer something like "Yes!! I want some more turkey Mommy!" That day was a very happy day for me. I could tell she was learning to express her thoughts, wants and needs instead of getting frustrated with the lack of effective communication.
She still has some tendencies to work out. When she is on the potty and wants to be alone, she says, "I'll be right back" when she really means "mommy leave and come back when I'm finished." LOL But potty training is a whole other story...
Anyway, not long ago she began a new phase of repeating the same question over and over and over again. Pretty much til I wanted to pull my hair out- I would insist that she knows the answer, so there's no reason to keep asking. But when she obsesses over something and gets upset, still repeating the same phrase or question, I find myself worried that she is trying to tell me something other than what she is actually saying. I found this article on that gave a little insight. It's pretty short and to the point. I recommend anyone going through the same thing to check it out- if you want! Also, the website has a great article on echolalia as well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tactile Defense & Sensory Integration

I've been researching different approaches to helping with my daughter's tactile defensiveness. She pulls her hand away from certain textures and resists almost all foods that have little lumps. She doesn't seem to mind if the foods are thick; they just can't have little bits or her tongue acts as a sieve, pushing the tiniest piece out onto her lip where it is then wiped away by her shirt sleeve.

Perhaps I should explain what prompted me to let sensory integration be my web search of the day. I found out that the OT has started the Wilbarger approach with M, yet has not included her caregivers in on it when she is not at school. We tried the Wilbarger method a few years ago with not many results and we all participated to keep her on the strict schedule, which is very important in the method. I was upset to find out that the OTs had not even expressed any interest to us directly about trying the new method. Also, I felt it threw up a red flag because after my research today, I confirmed what I believed to be correct, that we should continue the compressions, brushing, etc at home and it should only be done by trained persons. It makes me believe that either this OT does not know what she is doing, or is lazy in the fact that she did not include her schedule outside of the few hours Monday thru Friday when she is at school.

Are there any therapists, parents, etc. that have worked (trained, etc) for the official Wilbarger protocol/method and could give me some insight? I know it is used a lot with children with autism and aspergers, as well. We used the 'old' sensory brush (below on right) but I found that there is a new Therapressure brush that is recommended. Any comments on these different brushes?

Finding the right learning toys...

Finding great toys for a blind child is often very frustrating! Most toys have to be adapted and even then there is usually a function or part of the toy that still isn't accessible. I think most parents and shoppers for blind children would love more than anything to be able to go to our local stores (Target, WalMart, Toys R Us *registered/copyrighted trademarks and not endorsed by this blog) and pick/choose from a variety of products and actually find toys, games, books our children would love. Or even online would be nice- without them costing 4x as much at the independent VI online stores. LeapFrog could do so much to encourage literacy in preschool and elementary aged children! Anyone want to sign a petition agreeing with me?

A little scare and some hope...

Today as we're just sitting on the couch, M feeling her braille letter tiles on her magnet board and me close beside her browsing away on my laptop, I hear her start to gag. My first thought was that she is choking on what would most likely be a small 1x1inch square magnetic tile, way too big to go down her little throat. She would sometimes put a corner of it into her mouth and chew but never has she attempted to put the whole thing in her mouth, nor any other object as far as that goes- including food! So all I could think is that she must be sick. She just drank two cups of diluted strawberry milk; maybe the box was expired and the grocery store didn't pull it off the shelf, as I had just bought them.

I picked her up and moved towards the bathroom. She was still gagging but was getting air so I figured it must be she was just sick. We stopped once we were off the carpet and onto hard floors that would be much easier to clean. She gagged and vomited more, with a little gasp for air. I stuck my fingers into her tiny mouth and felt at the back of her throat but didn't find anything foreign. I kept thinking "what am I going to do?" Were we going to need to go to the ER? She then acted as though she was finished gagging, but scared of what had happened. She has vomited many times in the past but not recently. After getting ourselves cleaned up, I went back to the tiled area to clean it too when I saw a little braille magnetic square with teeth marks on one edge.

I don't know what possessed her to finally try to eat a solid object after five years. Maybe it was an accident and she didn't mean to swallow; but a little piece of me is encouraged by the thought that maybe she is ready to bite and chew real food! Of course, we'll have to hold off on giving her objects that small again unless we're watching her every second. Most children her age know what they can eat and what they can't. M is different because she just never went through those stages in life when most children learn chewing, swallowing and what's not food. We didn't worry about it in the past because we couldn't ever get her to put anything in her mouth. All her meals are practically pureed in the blender before she eats them. Her little tongue knows how to sift out the tiniest piece of carrot or pasta. We can occasionally talk her into biting into an apple or powdered donut, but even then she immediately spits it out.

It was a huge scare and I'm sure most parents go through something like this, but I pray it never happens again. We always watch her closely and have never had a scare like this. Now that it is over, I try to look at the bright side. Sometimes the little things in life can give you the brightest day. And I am always thankful for the little things.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Books about parenting, teaching & socializing blind children

Since my daughter was born, I've turned to books to research a variety of information relating to raising her, ideas for toys and activities, suggestions on teaching her independence, etc. When she was about 8 months old I ordered several books, each about $25, for ideas and advice on teaching her to self feed, walk, and play. I was very disappointed when ALL the books arrived in a thin manila envelope, each only approximately 25 pages long with basic information. It took me about one day to read over all of it. I felt like I had wasted my $100 bucks (including shipping) that I could have bought diapers, formula, or a toy that would have been a much better buy. 

I continue to browse for books that may be worth the money but have found very few worth the money. Most books I find that I may find helpful are way to expensive for my budget. I've listed a few links at the bottom with books I'm interested in however. I'd appreciate any comments from anyone who has read any of them. I wish there was somewhere like a library I could check them out, keep them for at least two months, and return when I had finished my research. To my knowledge this doesn't exist for books like those. 

Does anyone know of a source that doesn't charge, except perhaps shipping, for research and help books about visually impaired children, braille, etc? If not, how many people would be interested as I am? I think it would be a great resource for parents and professionals!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cheap ways to make games and toys tactile!

It's hard to find toys that appeal to a blind child. Unless it makes sound or has texture, my daughter isn't the least bit interested. The tough part is that many toys and games that include the senses of hearing and touch still require vision as well. Trying to find my inner creativity that has been buried for years, at latest high school, I've found many budget friendly ways to make my daughter's toys accessible and giving her the chance to play independently! Here are a few... (I'll be listing many more on the website when we go live! Still in beta for now.)

  • Cards & Board games - Uno, Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, etc...
    • Card games are easy if you have access to a brailler. Buy your own cards and do the brailling yourself. If you need help on braille characters and symbols, check out this site for an easy reference:
    • I made the Candy Land board tactile using different textures to replace each color on the square then outlined the path with Tulip dimensional paint.I also matched the playing cards with the texture squares as well. The only thing with this was it made the pile of cards very thick and unstable. I fixed this by finding a small cardboard box with a divider to hold the cards, and used it as the draw and discard piles. I put a different texture on each of the Gingerbread kid place holders so she can feel the base and know which one is hers. For the special cards and squares, I used 3D scrapbook items from the hobby store. I found a cutout 3D castle in the scrapbook store and placed it at the finish. Here are a few pictures so you can get an idea.
    • The Chutes and Ladders game was adapted in much the same way as Candy Land. I used long skinny felt stickers on the ladder images and cutout chute/slide shapes from a smooth piece of scrapbook paper that felt much like a real slide! I outlined the space using the Tulip dimensional paint and used varying textures on each of the children's place holders. I put braille numbers on the spinner making sure they weren't placed to where they would block or stop the spinner when it was in motion. I also used the dimensional paint to outline the spaces of the spinner circle. I put a large textured gold star 3D sticker on the Winner square.

Most of these just take time to adapt but don't cost too much to make them accessible and fun for our special kids! Here are a few links to the products I've mentioned in this blog post. Email me or leave comments below if you have any questions or would like information on purchasing the ready to go adapted games that I've made. The pictures above are from a trial board. The new one has squares cut to the shape of the path and a smooth line for the path outline. I look forward to hearing from you and hope I've sparked your creativity!

Candy Land Board Game under $10

Chutes and Ladders Board Game under $10

Textured Cardstock Adhesive Backed on  

Tulip Paints Slick Set under $8 for a set of 6 tubes

Again, feel free to email me at for ordering ready to go adapted products!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

She walks by faith, not by sight.

Most children begin walking around 12-18 months. My daughter is almost six years old and still isn't walking independently. She puts one foot down, then the other but something with her balance just doesn't connect. She walks well with the help of someone or her walker; but even the walker is hard for her when the not-all-terrain wheels hit the smallest crack in the pavement. She participates in physical therapy on a regular basis with guidance from a vision/orientation & mobility specialist and still struggles with every step.

I guess what it is so frustrating is that she seems completely capable of walking on her own. Doctors can't give a physical problem with her joints or muscles- she just hasn't quite got the hang of it. Therapists have mentioned the possibility of low muscle tone, which we try to increase with strength training, exercise, and lots of protein!

We all try our best to make her walk and not carry her, but every busy mom knows sometimes you just need to move a little faster. So I pick her up, then later feel the guilt for not taking the time to make her do it on her own. I get on to myself and make a mental note that it's going to take her time and practice. It is my job to provide the tools necessary for her to succeed... my hands, a walker, patience, encouragement... I just have to remind myself of all that she has accomplished in her lifetime and I'm the proudest mother in the world.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January is Braille Literacy Month

Where would we be without Louis Braille? Surely, by now someone else would have created a communication system for the blind, but who knows! Louis Braille is definitely someone to be honored worldwide. January is also special because it is Louis Braille's birthday. I've decided to celebrate by learning something new about braille!

I have learned Grade 1 braille, but have yet to teach myself any of the contractions of Grade 2. This month I am making it my personal goal to learn 20 contractions. I found a great resource at the Braille Through Remote Learning site to use as my guide. I encourage everyone to take on a similar challenge as well! Share your ideas with us by leaving a comment below. Maybe we can all keep each other encouraged and motivated to accomplish our goals!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011


For anyone wanting to post a comment via the home page, just click on the text link "# comments" at the bottom of the post near the time stamp. If you are on an individual blog page, the comments box should be viewable at the end of the post. Let us know via email or twitter if you have problems with the site! We look forward to reading about what you think of our articles, website and whatever is on your mind!
Thanks for Following us on Blogger and Twitter!


Raising a visually impaired child shouldn't be any harder...
All children have special needs. Being visually impaired shouldn't mean being left out of games, sports, outdoor activities, music, and most importantly learning. Sensory Sun is dedicated to bringing you the information, products, and resources you're looking for - all in one place! Awaken your senses through sound, touch taste, and even, smell!
Read our BLOG for hints and tips on adapting products to suit your child. Check out our website for the  PRODUCTS page for toys with light and sound, braille books, therapy aids, feeding and movement encouragers and more- all at the best prices! Plus, take a minute to CONTACT us for ideas on how to make any toy, book, or game suitable for a visually impaired child. We'll constantly be updating our site, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger to keep up to date with all things for visually impaired and blind children!