I have had far more children in the process of losing vision than totally blind.

I have had many doctors tell the parents their child was not going to lose any more vision, and they did. I have had children with a diagnosis that stated they were not going to lose any more vision and they did…or the diagnosis changed to something else because the doctor figured out they did have a degenerative eye condition.

It does not matter what case scenario, I always teach, or try to always teach, what the child will need at the middle and end, not just the beginning. What are the child's dreams and yes the parents, but many times, I hear from the parents, "I just want my child to be happy." They adjusted their dream when they found out about the child's sight loss and now they are not sure WHAT to dream.

If a child has some vision, I utilize that vision for visual tasks, such as looking at maps and graphs, pictures, learning print, etc., as part of the academic skills. But any major reading or writing goes to braille and technology. What I do know is if this child has a normal IQ then I need to give them tools to do the work as fast as anyone else with that IQ.

If you can get the child early enough…really before 1st grade, 3 years old is great and at birth is even better, but if you can get them early enough, begin them on braille, technology and other blind skills. Even in kindergarten when all print is already large for everyone, the low vision child joins in with writing his or her letters and printing out work, just like everyone. During reading time, the child switches to braille, so he is getting a mixture of the print world and the blind world. He is utilizing all aspects, because if the child can learn all aspects of print, they will understand the world in general better. If someone says, "I need to take a U turn" "Can you grab the C clamp" and so on, the child can create an image in their head.

As the sight decreases, the child moves more to braille and uses large print less and less. It becomes a very easy transition, if they learn both from the start. I have had kids hate to read braille at school because they do not want to be different. However, they go home and read all their work in Braille. I have had students slide more over to braille without even a twitch because they are so tired of trying to see the print…or tired of the headaches. But an easy transition because they had the choice of what they wanted to use. No one complains about the technology though and they all output on a computer, so that is always fast from the start.

The students who have come to me from elsewhere who are low vision and are using magnifiers and equipment to enlarge work, are not able to keep up with their peers: If they are older than 3rd grade, they have already gained a great dislike for reading. This is a tougher sell to convince them to use braille, even at 3rd grade, but it can happen. The transition to the computer is very easy. I hook a braille display to the computer and slowly but surely those fingers of the student move to the display to see the output that they have typed. I have started older students right out on a braille note and between the braille display, voice and input of braille, the students learn braille incredibly fast: Instruction is so much different from decades ago of just using a brailler.

The key is to teach students every tool then no matter what happens, they can use what they know. There is also less of a chance of the child going through a terribly depressed time when their remaining sight goes or they figure out the sight they have is not enough to do the job. When they figure this out and they have not learned braille or technology, they have to stop their life to learn it. Even if a low vision child does not lose more vision and are between that 20/100 and 20/200 visual acuity, when they go onto college or try to get a job, they realize they cannot keep up with their colleagues using enlarged print techniques.

Thinking years ahead for all opportunities tells you what they need now.

Lessons that will help

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

 

When using Windows 7 and Office 2010, have you noticed that if you download an attachment from the Internet, it sometimes opens in Protected Mode and you therefore cannot edit the file? This happened to one of my students with a paper that her teacher had sent her. The paper had Track Changes on it and the student needed to make corrections. Jaws talks the page fine but does not enable editing. The student needed to enable the editing manually.

I connected to the student using JAWS tandem and began teaching the lesson. My student opened her document from the Internet, in protected mode, and as I was teaching her how to get into edit mode, the fire bell rang. The phones disconnect and I knew they were on their way outside. While they were outside, I was able to go through her paper and look at the correction details she would need to make because I was still linked through the JAWS tandem.

The student had forgotten some knowledge over the summer and I could see on her math page, she was writing out the word "degrees" instead of inserting the degree symbol. The command: JAWS insert+4 gets you into "Select a symbol to Print". This area contains many math symbols as well as Spanish symbols and a variety of other things. It is worth a look.

When the class returned from the fire drill, they immediately called to make our connection again and she was laughing on the other end, as when they walked into the room, her JAWS was talking away with no one sitting at the keyboard. That was me checking over her work from my side of the world. She and her para knew what was happening but no one else in the room did. Kind of like a ghost. I could absolutely see the hilarity in this.

As we got back to work, I showed her the insert+4 again for her math and that "Ah Ha" moment came back to her and the knowledge that there is always an easier way to do something, or more importantly …a way! We switched to her Spanish and once again the insert+4 brought up her á é ñ and so on, so she could do her Spanish characters quickly also. But I had to be reminded by a past student the day before that insert+4 also does the Spanish characters. I just love that collective knowledge. If we are away from something for awhile we forget. We all need reminders.

One thing to be careful of with this command is it is so close to the insert+F4 which turns off JAWS. Students only have to do it a couple of times though to remember.

Lessons to help you:

Spanish JAWS, computer, translation program

Setting up JAWS to Speak another Language

Spanish, Talking Software and Braille

Typing out Special Spanish Characters on a Laptop

Jaws and typing out Spanish characters in Word

I was taught that if you want to be generous, hang around generous people. Their gift will rub off on you.

This same adage goes for information. If you want to continue to grow in understanding about technology, or blind technology, or the newest thing out there, you want to surround yourself with people who know about technology.

Every time I go to a conference I meet people who are in the "know" about their product. I meet hundreds of people through email, Facebook and many other virtual avenues.

All of us have different gifts, so I find the people gifted in their area of expertise. Then when a situation comes up with one of my students, and I have not gained the needed knowledge yet to help them, I go to the experts for the answer. I have found my past students, who have continued to press forward in their understanding of their blind skills, to be a major source of expertise.

The other day, one of the teachers I assist asked if I knew what kind of IPOD she get for her child. I told her to go to the local tech shop and look for the youngest salesperson there and he or she would know. It is the younger generation that really gets the product because they are using it all the time. You want to gain knowledge from the people who use the product all the time. They will have the answers.

We are all in the learning process and I am a big believer in sharing the knowledge so we can all help each other get ourselves and our students where we need to be.

As I am to set up lessons for one of my home school children, Mom was discussing how stressful their lives have been, starting with her husband's layoff and adding a myriad of other things. She explained that her and her daughter had not done any braille or studying in general over the summer and was concerned over her loss of skills.

In the scheme of things, really a summer loss of skills or even a year or whatever it is, is minor compared to what life can dole out in a season. Life can get rough, but was do have smooth times too.

In the rough times and even in the good, we need to put things into perspective and look at the big picture. Where do we want to go…how do we get there….do we need to take a time out, can we go slower?

In the meantime,
Don't sweat the small stuff!

Most people know that you can insert special symbols into documents as you are typing. However, JAWS talking software does not "talk" the symbols as you search for them, therefore symbols require a sighted person's help. A big advantage of having Office 2010 is that JAWS can talk the first 20 most recently used symbols, so when the student is in class, they can easily access at least 20 symbols. Sadly, between math and Spanish class you quickly run out of options.

Another option is to memorize the special combination of letters and numbers to automatically insert any symbol. For my Spanish student, she was having difficulty with doing all the letters and numbers in the correct order to insert the correct symbol. I asked a Microsoft friend about other options and he sent me to this page, which has made all the difference in the world (Spanish symbols)

The student uses a laptop so now needed to learn how to use the numpad on the laptop, which is actually the letters ON the keyboard. Using the FN or function key with scroll, she now turns on her numpad and m j k l and so on become her numpad for entering the special characters –No, you cannot use the regular numbers to do these commands). For example, the upside down exclamation mark ¡ as you see is ALT+173 and an upside down question mark ¿ is Alt+168 and so on. She was typing out Spanish words in correct format almost as fast as the wind blowing through the trees. I could hear her smile and joy through the computer, once she understood how to do symbols on a computer. I then taught her the quick way to access Spanish accents and that is through JAWS with insert+4.

She now has the ability to type out every Spanish word exactly as it should be and complete her work far faster than thought possible.

Lessons to help you:

Spanish JAWS, computer, translation program

Setting up JAWS to Speak another Language

Spanish, Talking Software and Braille

JAWS, Spanish & Math

Jaws and typing out Spanish characters in Word

I was asked an incredibly exciting question this morning. One of my para-educators, who understands she needs to develop her skills to be a benefit to students, asked how she could check on her visually impaired student without going into the class room. She has watched the student and I work virtually and loves how the student has immediate access to me.

So, this morning I got the para set up on SKYPE and the video plugins for Gmail. She can now text the student using chat and ask how she is doing (while everyone else in the class is completely unaware of their conversation). The student can now text back the para and say "I need the next braille volume for math class" "I need a braille ruler", and so on.

I have my students keep their Gmail or SKYPE open all the time (depends on what districts allow–they allow either one of these). The student also opens and works in WORD, or reads from the braille page, and when they have a question, they do a quick ALT+TAB back to the chat area and text me the question. I text them the answer and they are off. When their school work is complete, it is quickly emailed to the teacher.

Within minutes the student has the tools she needs in class without having to go track the para down. At the same time she is chatting with me through text and asking me what the command is for doing exponents. I text back the answer and she is sailing away in class without stopping her work. There is nothing worse then sitting there doing nothing because she does not have the tools or answers she needs.

In time, this is the goal for all the paras. The students feel more independent and confident in their abilities when they know they can do it on their own but if they do have questions, it is a quick chat away.

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

 

TRACK CHANGES enables a blind student to write a paper, email the draft or final paper to a teacher on which the teacher can make highlighted comments and change suggestions. The teacher then emails it back to the student. When the student opens the paper, the track changes are noticeable as red, purple, etc. markings to the visual person, and can become verbal comments to the blind student. The blind student moves through the document with their talking software, and can hear all the corrections that need to be made and can easily correct them with the TRACK CHANGES feedback, or they just hear the grade of the paper.

An additional plus to this is when the whole class is exchanging papers for correction by each other. The blind student turns on TRACK CHANGES then hands the laptop to the sighted student. All the sighted student has to do is put the cursor where the correction needs to be and begin typing. The remarks are tracked so the blind student can hear the input when they get the laptop back. Also, when students are to correct their own work, then hand it in, the blind student can participate as well by making their own corrections, and then emailing the assignment to the teacher for the teacher to see the corrections.

This technique goes both ways, which is why I love it. One day, I sent a lesson to one of my more advanced students and he made additions on my lesson using TRACK CHANGES and sent it back to me for to add to the lesson. I laugh now as I think of it. I too am improving. I love that my students who know we so well, feel at ease at making comments on the lessons I send to them. We are all teachers!!

Lessons that help teach

TRACK CHANGES for students and teachers

Teaching Nemeth Code (braille math, for all you sighted people out there) is brought to life using Duxbury (a braille translation program) with a braille display and JAWS.

As students 6 key braille in the math problems, on a regular keyboard, Jaws speaks what they are brailling. Then they move their hands down to the braille display to check the problem and the answer. Using all these tools also makes it fun. Students will easily do math if it involves technology versus on a brailler. The keys are also a whole lot easier to push.

After the braille lesson, I take the exact same problems and we go to WORD and I teach them how to type out all the symbols and special features of math.

They now have a braille copy for themselves which they also open up on their braille note to study from, a print copy for themselves, so when the kids correct each others papers, they can correct the blind students also–using TRACK CHANGES (which automatically makes corrections in the paper when someone edits, and the blind student can easily read using JAWS) and their teacher has a final copy sent to them by the blind student in email. Math made magical!

Watch Video: Braille Note, Nemeth, Scientific Calculator

Lessons that help teach:

TRACK CHANGES for students and teachers

Duxbury 11.1 or higher: creating a Nemeth lesson for a speed timing in class

One of my virtual connections is in Belize. She is a Mom has a little girl and is trying to find out what to do to help her succeed. Recently, it has been my honor to help her little part of the world get set up with the technology needed for blind children. She works for the government and so has some power to make things happen. I often find this very interesting how people in power can make great things happen when they are faced with something different in their lives. They can also make bad things happen…but we are on a good road here.

In our own country Norte Dame had a professor with a blind wife and he made sure they had a great program for anyone who came their for education who happen to be blind. Another in power working for good.

Well, it just hit me today as my Belize mom and I were talking that I had never gotten her in contact with my students so she could ask them questions. Problem solved. She is now hooked up with one of my older and gifted students (will I guess I believe all my students are gifted-smile) to ask all the questions she needs. This connection has given her the vision into the future of possibilities for her little one. We all need a good vision of what we can do. Make those connections.

We learn more from our failures than our successes. I tell my kids that constantly. It is never bad to fail, but it is insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Learn from your mistakes and then CHANGE.

For the past 9 months I HAD been working with a web design firm that could not do what they said they could. They said it would be done in a month. Nine months later and still with incredible problems…I fired them.

Enter a new and incredibly talented designer…fortunately a friend also so the connection was fast as I told him about my web designer problems. He said he would take it on. Within a day of design, he had accomplished more than the people who worked on it for nine months. AND, his site already works beautifully with talking software.

Lesson: I learned a lot. If something is not working within the time frame someone says it should…CHANGE. I should NOT have waited 9 months and kept giving them chances when they proved over and over they could not do the job.

I see my students and their families doing this. My families made huge changes. They were in districts where the people there could not do what they said they could do…so they CHANGED. They asked around and then landed on my door step. Now, because of all the advances in technology I am able to reach far and wide. The parents who worked for a CHANGE got it and now their children are learning the blind skills needed to become independent.

Remember, it is insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Learn from your mistakes, then make CHANGE.

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