Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Books for someone special!

One of the most valuable resources I've come across for Madilyn is the Read2Go app for iPad through and Benetech. I often find myself staring at fun, cute little books from the edge of the kids' section of Barnes and Noble. Finally, I take step over the invisible line I've drawn in my head and enter the children's area. I look, pick it up, flip through a few pages... and set it back down. "Madilyn can't use this. Why do I even torture myself?" Torture may seem like a strong word, but it is very frustrating to see something so sweet, with a great story and cute pictures, and realize I can't walk out of here with this and Madilyn enjoy it as it is right now... in print... with printed pictures. It is disappointing every time. But then I realize... I can search and download it straight to the iPad using Read2Go! And my smile returns, my heart perks up and I go home to do just that! Now, I must say I love Read2Go and Madilyn seems to as well, however it sometimes is misprinted or tries to sound out words that end up sounding nothing as intended. Most books do not describe the pictures, but some do. Hopefully they will work out the kinks and add more description soon!

After my latest trip to the bookstore, I snapped a pic with my iPhone of all the Valentine books I wanted to download for Madilyn for February reading. We've now read a few of them, and wanted to share our favorites with you! Maybe your special someone will love them, too! Many of the books can also be found in braille online via or the Braille Bookstore!

Top Valentine's Day Books

  • Clifford We Love You by Norman Bridwell
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen
  • Fancy Nancy: Heart to Heart by Jane O'Connor
  • Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse! by Felicia Bond & Laura Joffe Numeroff

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Audio Description of Books and Pictures

I used to steer away from buying books with a lot of images, thinking they were inaccessible to Madilyn. But after opening my mind and learning so much more about audio description (AD), I have realized that buying books with beautiful, detailed pictures is one of the best ways to assist in really explaining the world to her. How? By verbally describing the pictures to her. And by describing I don't just mean, "There is a picture of a red apple." I mean making the images come to life with beautiful words, full of color and action. I recently had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Joel Snyder of (Audio Description Associates, describe audio description as "a type of poetry- a haiku, if you will." These words stuck with me as I visited the local bookstore and found "Children's Amazing Places Encyclopedia" on sale for only $10! First of all, I thought about how much Madilyn loves geography and learning all about the different places and cultures of the world. Then, I looked at the abundance of images throughout that I could describe to her as I saw them- sharing my own personal feelings and thoughts of each. Obviously, it made it's way through the checkout and is now on our bookshelf, waiting to be opened this week!

Many times, I've found it's not that the resources or supplies don't exist in teaching Madilyn, but it's that they are being used in a different manner. If I stop to think, "How can I solve this problem?"  and not, "Which existing product out there right now will do the job?", I come up with not only a great answer, but one that would help a child ahead or behind her current level. One that a child with 100% sight would gain just as much as Madilyn, whom doesn't have the least bit of an experience of what 'seeing' visually even feels like at this point in her life. This is the idea behind Sensory Sun Educational Technologies. I want to change the 'standard' from printed type and pictures to books and movies you can touch, hear, and even smell. I want the  product that needs to be 'adapted' to already be fully accessible, and work well! This is not a wish- this is my goal.

awaken your senses

#futuristic #strategic #belief

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Imagination of Blind Children

Imagination and blind children. I've thought about this a lot recently, well really ever since Madilyn was about 4 years old. When I was little, not a day went by that I didn't play school and house, or store, with my friends; and sometimes by myself. But Madilyn never was interested in imagination or role play type toys. If it didn't make a sound, it didn't stay in her hands more than a couple seconds. I remember being so frustrated that we couldn't find more accessible toys. Not that my frustration has lessened over the years either. We visited a museum gift shop yesterday in high hopes of thinking we'd find a new, fun toy for her to enjoy. I thought being a museum gift shop there would surely be something that made music or sounds and of course, educational.

Nope. We couldn't find a thing. There were a couple toys that we'd come across before, but still they were not fully accessible. Many people think that if it has sound, then Madilyn can play with it. Yes and no. She will probably enjoy the sounds, but most likely she will not know which button (if there even are tactile buttons!) does which command, as they all feel alike or there are multiple buttons all over the toy that she has to guess and learn the layout before she can even answer a question correctly. And that's only if the question is audible! Most electronic toys these days have LCD screens that display the question or picture- definitely NOT accessible to a young child. Board games and workbooks are all printed. Sometimes these can be adapted but it can be very time consuming for a parent or teacher to do this, too!

Anyway, imagination. We'll get back to my frustrations at a later date; as there are many [laughing]. It wasn't til after buying dress up clothes and magic wands that I finally understood (or more so, 'accepted') that Madilyn uses her imagination through words and voices, making funny sounds and mimicking others. She'll insist, "You pretend to be Queen Mommy and I'll be Princess Madilyn." Ahh a smile comes to my face just thinking of her saying it. Even since she was one or two years old, she has been 'pretending' or 'mimicking' various sounds and voices. It wasn't until then that she could tolerate the Passy Muir Valve on her trach, the device that allowed air to go in through her trach, but blocked it from coming out of it, thereby forcing the air through her vocal cords and ah-ha, producing sounds! It was a glorious day when we visited the ENT doctor to try it out for the first time. Before then, Madilyn could only make little squeaks and whistles. In fact, the first  sound she mimicked (as far as I remember) was a squeaky door. LOL. We would say, "Madilyn, be a squeaky door!" Her face would light up with a smile and somehow she could make the air pass through her trach just right to make a sound JUST LIKE a squeaky door, "eeeek"! So I guess it all started with that... Maybe one day she'll be an actress or be the voice behind a beautiful cartoon princess. Oh, the dreams we have for our children. Happiness. #dreamswehaveforourchildren

Madilyn in her Halloween costume (Abby Cadabby) during a Miracle League baseball game, 2011.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

DIY Raised Line Pictures, Images & Graphics

Sometimes you just have to be creative! Without high-priced embossing printers or paying over $15 for a simple coloring book, you can still create great raised line pictures for children to trace tactually, color, and 'read' for story time activities! All it takes is a little time - which can often be much easier to come by than money!

I find scrapbook and hobby stores to be the best places to find materials for creating and adapting for sensory learning. I never leave without textured paper, embellishments, and some type of dimensional media like paint or flocking powder. After making a few raised line coloring pages of your own, be sure to check out our post for more ideas for making coloring fun!

Suggested Shopping List:
Textured paper (glitter, embossed designs, and more!)
Dimensional/puffy paints
Flocking powder & glue pen
Non-toxic glue (look for assorted bottles/tips for dispensing to achieve a variety of effects)
Hot Glue Gun and glue sticks
Yarn and string
Wikki Stix
Embossing powder, embossing ink, and hot air gun
Dimensional stickers
Scrapbook embossing machines (like Cuttlebug or Sizzix) *however, these are generally more expensive and have more detailed designs when sometimes simpler is better!
Foam sheets and shapes (varieties include smooth or glittered surfaces, and scented!)

***These materials are great to always have on hand; you'll find numerous uses- I promise!***

Click to view the full Activity Plan (pdf)
Raised line triangle using Wikki Stix.
Try using glitter glue (Stickles from Ranger Inks pictured here) to add dimension and texture!

Click to view the full Activity Plan (pdf)