Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Homeschooling a Blind Child

Top reason for homeschooling in 2007:
  • desire to provide religious or moral instruction (36 percent of students)
  • concern about the school environment (such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure) (21 percent)
  • dissatisfaction with academic instruction (17 percent)
  • "other reasons" including family time, finances, travel, and distance (14 percent). 
  • desire to provide their child with a nontraditional approach to education as the most important reason for homeschooling (7 percent)
  • a child's health problems or special needs (6 percent)

In 2007, the number of homeschooled students was about 1.5 million, an increase from 850,000 in 1999 and 1.1 million in 2003.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2009). The Condition of Education 2009 (NCES 2009-081)Indicator 6 .

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Going Blind for a Day

Ever wonder what a day is like through the eyes of your child?

Many parents have never tried eating a meal or playing with a new toy while blindfolded. It is quite an experience, to say the least.  As a lot of you know, my daughter has had a difficult time learning to walk independently. I recently had the pleasure of learning almost exactly what my daughter experiences every day in attempting to travel on her own. I decided to run (err... and walk) the half marathon blindfolded with my husband as my sighted guide. We did train some, but not as much as we should have! We did it to raise blind awareness in the community as well as to raise money for our non-profit group for parents of blind and visually impaired children, and most importantly- for our daughter.

I ran the half marathon (fully sighted and lots of training) in 2007. This year the marathon committee decided to include a charity program in their events, of which our group joined. It seemed like it would be a great opportunity to raise awareness and funds, perhaps even inspire a few others to think about what it is like to be blind in our world today. Turns out, it worked! We raised over $1500 just between my husband and myself for the group and made the newspaper- with a bold subline, picture and article! We were very proud of our efforts and the support we received from our friends, family and even complete strangers! We had several fellow runners come up and tell us how they admired what we were doing. It was great motivation to have these people whom had never met us or our daughter before, come up to us in the middle of their own race and compliment us on ours. (I will blog in more detail about the actual race later!)

When we first started, there of course were a million sounds everywhere. I did not look at the course map so I would not know exactly where we were all the time. I wanted to experience complete 'blackness' in the idea of my surroundings. I didn't want to be able to picture where I was in my head. My daughter has no idea how tall the buildings are downtown when we walk the streets, so I wanted to come as close to that as I could. We used a rope tether to keep me within reach of my husband, but I ended up just holding his arm at his elbow for most of the race. I would have wondered around in paths like squiggly lines had I only used the rope, running twice as far as I needed. For the first hour or so (it took us almost 4 hours) I constantly felt as though I was running in circles about the size of a large kitchen table. I now knew why my daughter keeps going in circles when we give her minimal support and guidance! It brought tears to my eyes just knowing I could relate to her in this way. 

It was an extraordinary experience to complete 13.1 miles blindfolded with my companion in life, my husband, and for the very greatest blessing of all, our daughter. My husband and I both learned a little teamwork and it definitely was a trust-building activity! I didn't fall once, and only tripped a couple of times, thanks to his wonderful guidance.

I would advise anyone with a blind child to buy a comfortable blindfold that completely blacks out all light and take on an everyday activity your child enjoys! You don't have to jump right in and go blind the entire 24 hours without a break or anything. Trust me, it would be pretty dangerous in some situations! For fun, have someone move around the furniture in your living room so that you aren't familiar with the setup, and try to navigate it as your child would. Take off the blindfold and look for all the objects (and their traits) you weren't even were aware of in your exploration and remember that is your child's environment. Enrich it with interesting textures and fun objects for her to explore! 

I'm working on some ideas for decorating blind children's bedrooms. I want to make my daughter's walls as interesting to explore as the toys and books that fill the room! Share your ideas with us, too! Post your comments or email us at bviresearch@gmail.com - We would love to hear from you! Also, check out our new website at www.sensorysun.com and let us know what you think!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Educational Toy Ideas for Visually Impaired Children

So the point of Sensory Sun is to develop fun, educational toys for visually impaired children. I'm talking toys that you would buy at your "local" chain toy store or one of those other huge stores we shop at least once a week (you know which ones I'm talking about, I'll just leave out the trademark names for legal reasons in case there are any...) But really, how nice would it be for parents and anyone wanting to buy a toy that a blind child is really going to love at a competitive price with the toys designed for every other sighted child? We want to make this a reality...

Is your child just learning braille? No problem! Just pick up the Braille Cell Learning Tree for about $25-40 next time your doing your shopping. Your child will learn the braille cell dot numbers, how to type letters a-z, letter sounds and more! Want to introduce basic math? (One of the harder subjects for blind kids) No problem! Just toss the Touch & Slide Zoobacus into your cart on your way through the toy section and pay the same price as you would a pay for a popular handheld game (again, trademark issues). And guess what! Your child's sighted siblings, friends, and even you are going to enjoy the toys (and learn, of course) just as much as your blind child! Yes, that means they're going to play together, maybe even fight over who is going to slide the three bananas to the right to feed the hungry monkey next... Okay, you may have to buy two! But hey, wouldn't your rather be in that position than feeling lost and frustrated when you can't find anything completely accessible?! I would!

**Note, the Braille Cell Learning Tree and Touch & Slide Zoobacus are patent pending.