Friday, February 25, 2011

Fighting for an Equal Education

How much would you pay to know your child is receiving the BEST education? And I mean including everything? Literacy, technology, physical fitness, math, science, social, college and career placement, etc. We all know by now that products for children with special needs are priced way above those of the 'average' child's needs. And in my case specifically, it is the blind child's need vs. the sighted child's needs. Now I've had six years experience with my daughter and adapting for her blindness and I understand the unfamiliarity of those whom are just now working with her. But when it comes to her education and therapy, their unfamiliarity or ignorance should not stand in the way of giving my daughter the education she needs- the education I know she deserves.

Technology is advancing faster than any of us can really keep up with in today's world. And that isn't a bad thing,  but rather something everyone should take full advantage of no matter what your situation. Yes, price can be a factor to what degree of technology you can afford, but most can afford something. Technology is being learned at an early age for most kids - consider the handheld computer learning/gaming devices, regular computers, most toys for children above age 3 are electronic! And most of them have input/output methods that are mostly visual.

So how is my daughter going to learn technology when her sighted peers are learning? She shouldn't have to already be behind them in learning for someone to speak up and say, hey let's give her a braille display to use with the computer so she can actually learn the braille letters more efficiently. You wouldn't teach a sighted child his alphabet only by letting him hear a CD, so why would you not give a blind child braille EVERYWHERE a sighted child is seeing the printed letters? And many people may think that this probably isn't an issue, but I promise you I am not the only mother of a blind child having to fight to get the school to emerge her in braille because they "don't think she is ready." Are you serious? Do you not give a sighted child books and learning ABC blocks and all those other millions of toys for children ages infant and up to be emerged into literacy?

Do you home school and take it on yourself so you know what your child is learning every day? But then it is hard enough to socialize a blind child with his peers. And with a child whose primary method of communication is strictly audio and loves to socialize. It doesn't seem fair to take that away by confining him to his home with somewhat limited means of socialization. The answer for me so far, has been to fight. Don't let the ignorance and laziness of the people in power of our children's education dictate what and how your child learns or doesn't learn. Sometimes it feels hopeless. People are lazy and in positions they should not be for a variety of reasons - laziness, ego trips. But who is ever going to know if someone doesn't point it out? Your child deserves the advocacy and so do all the other children in the same position. And the children who aren't even born yet but will deal with the same obstacles. It is up to society to change appropriately. It shouldn't be the old familiar "well that's the way we've always done it" mentality. That will never allow the ones who need it the most, to ever get where they should be. Change isn't usually easy and great things are worth fighting for.

I would pay every penny I could get my hands on.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Physical Education for the Blind Child

Playing at recess or getting involved with team sports is extremely hard for a blind child. Even if the child is more than willing to give it a try, the other children and often adults can be discouraging. Either they don't take the time to adapt the game for the vi child or they are afraid the vi child will get hurt, etc. If the blind child is reluctant to even try to participate AND the others are as well, this most often leads to the blind child never becoming engaged.

My daughter doesn't walk independently and doesn't enjoy holding unfamiliar objects (like the baseball bat!) - both of which are needed to fully participate in most sports. However, we haven't let it hold her back. We enrolled her on a special league for children with disabilities. She isn't the only blind child, nor the only child that needs assistance holding the bat and running the bases. Each child has a 'buddy' that helps him/her each game and they have one game a week for about 8-10 weeks. My daughter loves it. It took her a couple of weeks to become familiar with the field (which is special bc it doesn't have any barriers that can cause children to trip,etc) and the coaches. She does better some weeks than others. We bought her a cheap baseball bat and tee set to play with at home. This has helped with her batting skills tremendously! But the point is that she is out there playing t-ball! She hits the beeper ball, runs the bases, plays the field, cheers on her teammates, hears everyone cheer her on, and finishes by singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame".

We also do Yoga at least once a week at home in our living room. We use a kids Yoga DVD that has a pose or exercise for each letter of the alphabet. She enjoys listening to Marsha on the movie and pretending to be different animals. The exercises are great just for the strength and stretching, but also for her balance and coordination. Gymnastics is also a great way to get your visually impaired or blind child moving! It is great for procieptive and vestibular activities; and simply put, gymnastics and tumbling teaches them to fall. Forward roles and flips on the bar are some of my daughter's favorite moves. I hope to enroll her this summer in a more structured class.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recordable Storybooks - A Personal Gift for a Blind Child

I absolutely LOVE these Recordable Storybooks from Hallmark. You can buy them at your local Hallmark Store or order online. The book is a great size for children. The pages are thicker than normal book pages making it a great material for adhering clear brailled sticker paper. My parents recorded the story "Twas the Night Before Christmas" for my daughter. They read the words from the book while adding their own little personal phrases or 'shout outs' to her. It is now a keepsake that will last years - many many Christmases down the road. She'll be able to share this favorite Christmas story even if we aren't together at the holidays.

My daughter's birthday is coming up this month, too. My husband and I are going to record the "My Little Princess" story for her to enjoy. It is a gift that she will truly enjoy immediately and for years to come. We will add the braille text using the clear adhesive sheets that we can type using our at home Perkins Brailler. It takes a while but I've found that just doing a few pages in the evening here and there helps break it up and it not seem so overwhelming.

I am planning on making a recorded scrapbook album for my daughter as well with pictures, 3D scrapbook products, braille, and anything else I can find that is tactile! I will record the details and description of each picture. The memory card is big enough that you can record plenty of time on each page to reminisce each memory.

 Hallmark is already made quite a few stories/titles available and a variety of blank memory albums! Check them out today and share your ideas with Sensory Sun! I hope you and your child will enjoy it as much as we have!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Social Networking - Creating the Future

The ease and requirement (which some resist) of social networking - Facebook, Twitter, Blogging - has increased the awareness of everything happening, everywhere, all the time. And it is no less for those of us with blind or visually impaired children. I have found it extremely beneficial to keep up with contacts and friends via these sometimes addictive sites. For instance, at the moment I am blogging on Blogger, while signed into Facebook and Twitter. Is it necessary? No, of course not. Have I not only kept up communication with people around the world, but met new wonderful people I would have no chance in meeting any other way? YES!

It may be exhausting to some to keep all their 'status' lines current, but to me it is just another way to say "Hello! I'm here and full of life!" I may have the same Facebook status for days but that doesn't mean I haven't logged on and checked out my new notifications. My family loves the fact that they can log on and see pictures my daughter colored or how cute she looks in her new dress. I can inform my other friends of blind children about ideas I have that they may like to try and even post photos of how I made 'Candy Land' completely tactile.

The idea is that is completely up to me about when I update this blog, or take the time to upload those pictures that have been on my camera since last month. I enjoy this. It's not a chore. I do it for others to see, but I also do it for me. It is my way of communicating and sharing my story. I also get to read other's stories and this is priceless. I only hope others will someday think the same about what I've done with my life and will do in the future.

When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” Who will you be?