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October 2011

A beautiful young lady with long golden hair came into my district at 16. I can picture her and her mom with their translator sitting across the table from me. They were from Ukraine. She had come to America for medical care and had been living with a family in Pennsylvania while going through treatment. Fortunately, her family got a VISA to come to the US also and now they were together again after years of separation.

The young lady had lost almost all sight and vision of who she was by 16. She knew a few words of English and her family knew none. At our first meeting I could see she was very depressed and her mother incredibly concerned and fearful. At our first lesson, her first English words to me were, "I want to die, blind people can't do nothing." It broke my heart, but I could clearly understand the desperation and sadness in her voice.

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She had never touched a computer and knew nothing about technology. I started from square one teaching her computer skills at school. She learned English very quickly due to the JAWS talking software. We added Russian Jaws, which fortunately she knew Russian also, to give her the ability to check her work after she typed it in English. Within a week she understood the power of what this technology could do for her. Within 2 weeks she was flying on that keyboard. We only had 3 months of her total learning and I knew with school getting out she needed a computer at home to continue not just in her learning but regaining a vision of who she was becoming.

The Lions Club bought her a computer. As I was setting it up in her home, tiny tears trickled down her cheeks as she exclaimed. "I don't want to die any more. I know I can doing something in life now." This still brings tears to my eyes.

How many people have lost their vision of who they are because they believe something devastating has taken away everything? But it has not. Our trials lead us to testimonies of overcoming. This young lady continues to conquer one trial after another and also spurs others onto more than they thought possible.

She is in the process of becoming a teacher of the blind because she wants to give a dream back to those who have lost their vision of themselves also.

Lessons to help you

Bookshare.org and JAWS-Eight lessons to get you moving

GMAIL- Everything you need to use in basic HTML or standard view

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

 

Remote Access using SKYPE

 

SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

 

Skype texting and making a Video Call—with additional JAWS scripts

 

Skype texting and making a Video Call—no additional JAWS scripts

 

GMAIL-Google Talk, Firefox, and Chat

  TRACK CHANGES for students and teachers

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2003 and XP

 

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with JAWS

 

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with Window EYES

 

I have the pleasure of working with people in a variety of different situations. For instance, I work with parents who are home schooling their children or with administrators and students in school districts.

Many home schooling parents find me when I am speaking at conferences about Education of the blind & visually impaired. After the speech, they talk with me at length about how to improve their child's education. Quite often, they return home and tell their local school district the news. The district checks out my credentials and within a short time we have contract for services to be provided to the home schooled child.

Many parents of home schoolers do not know that you can intermingle school district services and home schooling. School Districts can count the child on their roster and get funds for them, while supplementing the parent's teaching skills, such as with calculus or blind education or sign language. This can be a great relationship, and in general I see it working incredibly well.

Virtually, I go into the home when scheduled. The parent takes the lessons right along with their child. I send new lessons after our initial instruction for them to continue to work on the skills. The really nice thing about home schoolers is we can meet any time of the day or week. The flexibility is wonderful.

In one particular situation that came up over a year ago, a parent had become very frustrated with the school and the school lacked the skills to help. Her child was not successful and the struggle to get the correct services became overwhelming.

We began instruction and her child began to flourish with the deaf/blind techniques taught. As time went on, I explained other ways to integrate school into her child's life so she could gain more social skills, though she was already making many friends through email.

Many blind children feel very isolated so friends are important. Emailing and connecting with others is one of the first lessons I focus on when starting with a child. They need their peers to connect to. These friendships immediately get them on board with what I am teaching and they see their world expand quickly.

The child mentioned above has now been integrated into school activities and is really enjoying life. Both parent and child have regained faith in the educational process…or at least parts of it. But they have found that happy medium of home schooling and going to school outside the home. Many ways, offer many possibilities!

Lessons to help teach

Bookshare.org and JAWS-Eight lessons to get you moving

GMAIL- Everything you need to use in basic HTML or standard view

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

 

Remote Access using SKYPE

 

SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

 

Skype texting and making a Video Call—with additional JAWS scripts

 

Skype texting and making a Video Call—no additional JAWS scripts

 

GMAIL-Google Talk, Firefox, and Chat

 

One of my high school students just began Spanish this year. Anyone who has taught Spanish Braille knows it is VERY different from English Braille. When I asked her if she knew that her JAWS could talk Spanish also, she said "NO" but in an amazed REALLY sort of hope. She is only familiar with English speaking JAWS and had no idea of other possibilities that talking software can do for her.

We began with adding a new Spanish voice profile. Next, we went to Word and started typing Spanish words and having her talking software repeat the word back so she could start working on her pronunciation. Then we practiced going back and forth from her regular voice to Spanish voice as I could see she would get stuck with the Spanish and not know how to get back again. Repetition always seems to be the key.

Tomorrow she gets to learn how to insert all those wonderful special Spanish characters into Word using special commands so JAWS will speak the Spanish words correctly. THEN she gets to learn how to read those characters in Braille. Life is always so exciting as we let our vision grow out of who we are and what we are capable of doing.

Lessons that help teach skills

Spanish JAWS, computer, translation program

Typing out Special Spanish Characters on a Laptop

JAWS, Spanish & Math

Jaws and typing out Spanish characters in Word

Setting up JAWS to Speak another Language

Yesterday was a huge "Ah Ha" moment for one of my virtual students.

I started lessons with her about a year ago. She was in 9th grade. I tested her skills and discovered she did not know how to turn on a computer, did not know Nemeth (Braille math) and did not know a plethora of other blind skills. She also lacked orientation and mobility skills (cane travel). BUT, she did know Braille and that had gotten her to the point she was, however she relied heavily on a para and her parents to help her do her work.

The biggest problem was not understanding how a computer works or what it could do for her. She relied on memory. She tried to memorize every step, and for those of us who use JAWS talking software, we know you cannot always depend on memorizing steps because JAWS is unpredictable. But, if you "understand" how a computer works, no matter what occurs you can figure out the issue and take control of the computer instead of it controlling you.

Anyway, as we did our virtual lessons, she would move along, but spent a lot of time memorizing "hiccups" (unexpected occurrences with talking software) that occurred as we moved in and out of the Internet. Many times the lessons were smooth and flawless as she followed her memorized steps. However, when she tried to do the lessons on her own, and ran into a "hiccup" she was stopped in her tracks.

Yesterday however, she turned a corner in her approach to learning.

I always start my kids out using BASIC HTML in Gmail, which is one of the most accessible emails there is around. Once they learn the basics, I switch them over to Standard View because there are so many more options available, but far more commands to learn. One being texting, two being video chat, three being the auto filling of addresses and so on.

Now this young lady is VERY stoic and proper. Something VERY special has to occur for her to crack a smile or laugh. As I was doing a virtual lesson with her, I showed her how she would not need to memorize email addresses any more with the auto fill aspect of Standard View. As I showed her, I actually got an "OHHHHH WOW". More importantly, when I showed her how easy it was to go back and forth from Basic HTML to Standard, her approach shifted and she actually asked the right question to let me know she understood the difference AND how to do it whenever she wanted.

She was moving from that all important step of just memorizing steps to do something, to understanding what she was doing and that SHE had the power to make that computer do what she wanted instead of the computer taking that power away from her due to her lack of understanding. With understanding, we gain power!

Lessons that help teach

Bookshare.org and JAWS-Eight lessons to get you moving

GMAIL- Everything you need to use in basic HTML or standard view

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

 

Remote Access using SKYPE

 

SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

 

Skype texting and making a Video Call—with additional JAWS scripts

 

Skype texting and making a Video Call—no additional JAWS scripts

 

GMAIL-Google Talk, Firefox, and Chat

Articles:

Teaching Virtual Teachers

Virtual Teaching Options

I keep in contact with many of my past students and families. That is one thing so wonderful about this field, the close connections we make and keep.

One of my students called me about 4 years ago very distressed about her life. She said she was tired of depending on everyone to do things for her.

She was in 10th grade and had lost the majority of usable sight. But she still had a speck of sight in the corner of one of her eyes and she was determined to use every ounce of it—and not be classified as blind. However, she grudgingly learned braille but just enough to keep me happy. She had never touched a computer before, so I taught her basic computer skills and within 2 weeks she was back in class independently working away on her computer….slowly but doing it herself. She begged for a para-educator to do all her work, telling me how much faster it would be. I said "Yes it would faster but your skills will never improve." For the next 2 months I heard this topic many many times, but by the end of the 2 months she was so fast, it never came up again. She did fairly well in school and graduated but did not push herself to learn more blind skills.

We talked and emailed several times during the next few years. Every year that remaining speck of sight became worse until it was unusable. One day I got the sorrowful call, which I have gotten before from other students. When the student depends too much on a remainder bit of sight, and they stop learning skills after graduation, only to lose finally that speck of physical vision, they then believe their dreams can't become reality. This was the case with this student.

After calming her down, I told her about a great rehabilitation center in Louisiana where she could go and gain the skills she needed. I told her who to contact and what to do, but it would be up to her to do it.

It was time for the people she relied on to back off. We adults sometimes do way too much for our children and students. I am constantly analyzing myself and making sure I am giving them the skills by making them do their own work.

Sadly, for a long while, this student thought I'd jump in and do the work to get her into the training center, while she sat back. But I didn't. It was difficult to hold off, because I could easily jump in and do everything. But, I knew her life would only change if she applied herself.

She finally did apply herself. She registered for the training center, got approved and went on to graduate. A whole new woman. Completely independent and not afraid to go anywhere or do anything. She now has her own private Massage business and knows how to run it on her own. She is the boss of her destiny now. She can truly live out her dreams and she is dreaming even bigger now. Now that is true VISION….having the skills to see your own potential.

I am always trying to figure out better ways to help my students virtually. Teaching the students their ability to text messages is an immediate help. My students who have learned enough technology skills, can sit in class and text me for a quick answer to any technical problem they have whether it's about hardware or software. For example: At the start of the year, teacher's are usually fearful of having a blind student in their classroom and they are very unsure what to do. A teacher emailed me last week saying, "I will be giving the class a test, How do I give the blind student the test?" I told her to put the test in a WORD document, then save it to a thumb drive. Then give the student the thumb drive and tell her which document file to open when the rest of the class was working on their paper test.

This is where their ability to text me as their teacher became valuable. The student opened her test and realized she has forgotten some of her talking software commands over the summer. She text me with the problem (I am hundreds of miles away from her, but at my computer and beside her virtually) She needs help with her technology. I give her the code for a JAWS tandem session so I can pull up her computer and take a look at her issue. I text her back with what she needs to do to get JAWS to read the problems and tell her where to answer. She is off and running.

She does not disturb anyone else in the classroom as she has her headset on and quietly listens to my directions in the text. No one else knows she is getting help from me but the teacher. A virtual teacher beside her whenever she needs.

This access to a virtual technology teacher who knows skills for the blind gives the regular education teachers and students peace of mind because they have the technical help whenever they need.

Lessons that help teach

Bookshare.org and JAWS-Eight lessons to get you moving

GMAIL- Everything you need to use in basic HTML or standard view

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

 

Remote Access using SKYPE

 

SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

 

Skype texting and making a Video Call—with additional JAWS scripts

 

Skype texting and making a Video Call—no additional JAWS scripts

 

GMAIL-Google Talk, Firefox, and Chat

Articles:

Teaching Virtual Teachers

Virtual Teaching Options

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