One of the biggest issues in the blind field (and there are many) is how much should a para educator be with a child?

What I have seen:
When a district does not have a teacher of the blind, a para is glued to the child's side and does most of the work for the child because the para lacks the blind skills to help the child do it for themselves. The child appears to be succeeding (though only because of what the para is doing, NOT the child) and all are happy. BUT the parents do not realize how much their child is NOT doing and many times, the district is unaware of this also. Or, parents fight for a para next to their child all day, without realizing this para will be a big brick wall between their child making friends and achieving their own goals and potential.

I went to a school district and watched a blind child rocking back and forth while the para did the work. Sitting side by side, the child was miles away, in her own little world. When I talked with the child, the most intelligent words came from her mouth, so I knew there was a brain there. We spent the next couple of years teaching her all the technology, braille, and other blind skills, and she was completely independent by the third year. The para just adapted the work for her and made sure she had it in class when all the other students did. This is more of what SHOULD be happening with all paras and students.

I have had the first scenario over and over and depending on the "pain" level of weaning the child from the para, it is really up to the child and parents. Most are on board with the heavy duty technology, braille lessons and other blind skills and within that 2-3 year window you can have an independent child.

However, there are the people who are not thinking ahead to graduation, college, a job. They really think that somehow, miraculously their child will be completely independent when they graduate, when in fact, they have been completely dependent on a para throughout their school career and this dependence and lack of ability follows the child. The child ends up living with the parents and the parents continue to do everything for this child who has the potential to climb Mt. Everest inside, but instead the child sits like a rock going no where.

Parents and children bring the fear to each other. The child brings that fear to the parents and the parents have the same fear, or the parents put the fear on the child and they tell the child they cannot live without the para (the second scenario is the most common). They truly believe they cannot live without that para being right next to the child all day long. It kills the confidence of the child. The child lacks friends because the para has become the end all to be all of their life. They fail to gain enough skills to go onto college, and worse, be gainfully employed to their IQ level.

So, back to reaching your potential. We can't do it without "pain". It will be painful, not physically, though I have seen a lot of sweating, but emotionally. The fear. The dread of not being able to do your work because you forgot something. The fear of getting lost in the school or on a bus ride because you got on the wrong bus.

I use the phrase: We learn more from our failures than our successes. I give everyone permission to fail because we are going to fail at something no matter what it is. Don't feel bad about it, feel happy that you are progressing toward something. We can learn from our mistakes, but if we never try, we do not know our own potential.

When the children are getting ready to take their first solo bus ride, they are very fearful of getting lost. I tell them, cheerfully, "Don't worry…you will!! And they laugh. That is why God gave you a mouth. Speak up and ask someone directions. Same thing goes for class. Speak up and ask." I see relief come over my students. Yep, it is better to fail at trying something than to never try anything. You can only reach your potential with work and pain….but the pain goes and confidence and success stay.

I try to have my students take a class called Financial Fitness…This class allows practical application of life and how we spend money…or over spend it. The students have to set up a monthly budget, get a simulation job and pay their bills. They use an excel sheet to layout all their information, do auto calculations and very sophisticated formulas, then they create a graph that encompasses all this information. The graph does not mean much to my blind students, but it does to the teacher. If the rest of the class is going to create a beautiful and colorful graph with headings, titles and number plots, then I want my students to do it also. After all, they will most likely needs this in college and they may need it for their job.

After my students create the graph, I have them type it out in long form so I truly know they understand what they are doing. They move their cursor below the image of the graph and start to type out every number in an XY plot graph or shade in a bar graph selecting each cell accordingly, and then they plot the graph. If they need further detail, we take out the Draftsman or some other tactile drawing kit and draw it so they can feel what they just did. Once they have the concept in their head, they can easily create any graph required by the teacher.

Watch video to get you going: Excel lesson and Student doing excel through virtual instruction

Lessons that help teach

Twelve main Excel Office 2003 Lessons

 

Twelve main Excel Office 2010 Lessons

 

In one of my school districts we were fortunate to have the Elementary, Middle and High School within a block of each other. In addition, there was a grocery store and many other stores that we could travel to and practice our O&M skills (orientation & mobility-cane skills). I selected days to go shopping with the whole class. We would make a grocery list. Some of the students chose to put the list on their Braille Notes, others practiced brailling it on a piece of paper and took the list with them. The advantage of the braille note is, the students were able to keep mathematical track of the cost of our purchases: adding in a math lesson also. Whatever we bought, we would take back to school and cook.

These were always multifaceted lessons: Making the lists, walking there, learning to pay with money and credit cards, walking back, cooking the food, and socializing. The buying and cooking would happen on different days, so the lesson could be accomplished within 1.5 hours. The older students would mentor the younger students, and all learned how to purchase products and use money. It really gave the students examples of real life experiences.

Another huge advantage of mentoring is the younger students get to see how quickly the older students accomplish their skills: whether walking, brailling, reading, or accessing the computer. Likewise, some of the older students who walked very slowly increased their speed significantly and by the end of the school year were walking as fast as the others, so they too could keep up and socialize as they progressed down the streets.

We all need each other to learn about the best we each have to offer, and in the process improve our own skills.

I frequently get asked, What type of magnification system do I use with my low vision students? So, let’s address this.

I have tried Zoomtext and Magic, and a plethora of other items, which are good, but found one method to work the best for students. I always give them options and this is the one they chose by far because it is so easy and on every computer they sit at.

There are so many methods to enlarge everything, something, a bit or whatever you desire on your computer with just a couple key strokes. These attributes of magnification are already built in, but in general it is NOT the magnification system built into the accessibility feature.

Example. Last week while a low vision student and I were working, she was having a difficult time visualizing a long math problem with just her talking software. With an ALT+V then a Z to zoom (this will work on any PC system), she was able to increase the magnification to 500% to see the problem. Then she matched it with her talking software and could completely understand the math problem. She decided to do the rest of her problems this way and finished within record time. With zoom in effect, the student never has to worry about printing something with 78 font characters. The font is 12 point always.

With another student, she was working in Excel and needed that visual feedback also. With a quick F6 she jumps to her zoom and increases to 400% and continues her work.

I have some students who love the black background with green font and everything enlarged all the time on the screen. This feature is easily accessed in the accessibility feature on a PC. If you only want to increase the ICONS or taskbar or anything, you can pick and choose with a simple applications key (right click with a mouse for mouse users). The options are endless. Because a student can pick and choose, they prefer this method.

The most important skill I teach my low vision students is to use touch typing on their keyboard and their talking software. Mouse use really slows them down. Their hearing is far stronger than their eyes, but when they want to use their eyes, they have the skill to do so. When done with the visual task, they go back to using their ears and their fast fingers.

Lessons to help teach

Magnify your screen, add Narration as needed-audio/visual lesson

Watch video on Youtube: Dr. Denise Robinson demonstrates Low Vision tricks on the computer

 

 

 

 

 
 

I had 2 students who were sisters. They both were losing their sight. It was a gradual loss, so they went from large print most of the time and gaining on braille to mostly braille. One child just switched completely to braille because she just did not like the eye strain, but the other kept with the large print as long as possible, despite her nose was sitting on the page to read it. She just did not want to be different. Interestingly, a child does not think it is different to be hunched over a large piece of paper with large print on it but yet it is different to sit up straight and read Braille as fast as their peers. However, you cannot fight with a child's logic, just find other ways to steer them the direction that would help the most. With good steering, I know they will make the leap into Braille when they are ready.

When children do their lessons with me, it is to read Braille: Their favorite stories of course. I always start out reading the first few chapters to really get them hooked. Then they really want to finish. This method has always worked. The one child above who resisted reading Braille at school in front of her peers, did not resist at home. In fact, her mother would tell me that after lights out, she would periodically check on the girls and there they would be reading their braille books in the dark: Sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. When mom would wake them the next morning, there the braille books would be laying on top of them. They would wake and fess up they read until very late, or early (in the morning as the case may be).

They would come to school and tell me about the story. Harry Potter always seemed to be the mainstay of books to get kids hooked. Even in the middle of the book, they would ask for me to read a chapter at the start of our lesson. Of course, I would. To increase their speed, I would do what I called paragraph jumping. I would read a paragraph and they would follow along, then they would read. If they got lost because I read so fast, they would jump down to the next paragraph and wait. They had their right finger on the last 2 words of my paragraph, and their left fingers on the start of their paragraph, so they would know when to begin reading without a stop in the flow. This method increased their speed significantly, especially with all the reading at home too.

The biggest key is "Get them Hooked on the Story", Then they learn the secret of reading in the dark, Then they don't want to put the book down, Then they get hooked on Braille.

Lessons and articles to help you:

First Steps in Great Braille Readers

Beginner Braille Reading

Braille Instruction begins at 3 years old

Braille Cheat Sheets

How to STOP scrubbing While reading Braille

Fast Braille Reading

Tricks to Learning Braille in your Teen Years or Later

Free Braille Books-Where to go to get Books

The Synchronicity of Braille & Technology

Braille Rap Song Lyrics

Rap Song to Learn Braille

I was working with a child with SOD-Septo optic dysplasia. She had a lower IQ and struggled socially and behaviorally. If a child can talk, walk and wiggle their fingers, there is a good chance I am going to teach them braille, technology and other blind skills. For 2-3 diligent years she learned her braille and typing skills for class and her orientation and mobility skills to move around the school. She was integrated into her regular education classroom, minus the direct one on one time with me to go over the contractions she would be reading in her classroom.

One day as they began their spelling test (story told to me by the regular education teacher), every time the teacher gave the spelling word, she would notice this child reach up to the braille sheet to the left of her keyboard. The child would feel something on the page, then go to the keyboard and type the word. After a couple more words, the teacher figured out that the child was reading the braille word, then typing it on the computer. The children were then let out for recess. When the test was done, she called me in to check her thoughts. As she told me the story, I walked over to the child's computer and sure enough, the braille-spelling list was sitting on the table.

We called her in from recess and asked her about the spelling list by her computer. She wiggled, squiggled and squirmed and finally fessed up she had not studied for the test. She knew the teacher did not know braille, so she thought she could get away with cheating. She had clearly moved into the power of Braille and understood the magic that it carried. Now, we just needed her to use it for good. –smile 🙂

Lessons and articles to help you:

First Steps in Great Braille Readers

Beginner Braille Reading

Braille Instruction begins at 3 years old

Braille Cheat Sheets

How to STOP scrubbing While reading Braille

Fast Braille Reading

Tricks to Learning Braille in your Teen Years or Later

Free Braille Books-Where to go to get Books

The Synchronicity of Braille & Technology

Braille Rap Song Lyrics

Rap Song to Learn Braille

I teach during summer for those children who need a boost in their learning. Any child starting out in Braille or Technology must have summer instruction for several summers for it to "stick" or they will be starting over in square one in the fall. It takes them even longer to catch up to where they were from spring and in that time of catching up, they get further behind their peers.

One of my students who was in first grade was losing vision fast. He was and still is very bright, but had a chip on his shoulder the size of a boulder. He could not come to grips with his vision loss so he choose to deal with it by fighting everyone who got in his way….and everyone seemed to get in his way. He was so busy fighting everyone and everything that all learning in school was slow and arduous…especially learning his blind skills.

He had started with me in kindergarten, so a year and a half later with little progress his mom and I had a long discussion on what could possibly help him. I asked if it was possible that she could join us for summer lessons. She rearranged her day and I had early morning lessons to fit her schedule. Every day the two of them would show up and she learned the braille and technology right along with her son. The joy of her son was overwhelming. The excitement to learn and that his mom was learning it too, must mean it was important….and he learned!

That is how kids think. More importantly, that young child sailed in his learning and caught up to where he needed to be to begin 2nd grade. I see this often. Whether it is with deaf/blind students and the parent learning sign to "speak" with their child, or braille and technology to "speak" the language of blind skills; If a parent puts in the effort, the effort is 10 fold for the child. Parents do not even need to be proficient in the skills, but just sitting and learning even a small amount goes a long way. This extra effort excels the student forward in their learning in their confidence of who they can become

One of my student’s sent me a text this morning from her Gmail chat and told me she is getting an error box when she tries to start her JAWS. I told her to do a PrintScreen to take a picture of it, so she could send me what it looked like. Then I can diagnosis the problem, pull up her machine and fix it.

The PrintScreen is at the top of every keyboard. Most people have no idea what to do with it. It is a way to copy your desktop and all its information. Then you open WORD and paste it with a CTRL+V. The big advantage in this is, when your student has no idea what to do, they can quickly hit PrintScreen, copy it, paste it into Word, save it and email it off to me or to another person who is helping them. Within minutes the student can have an answer to their problem, or their machine can be pulled up and fixed depending on the level of difficulty and their expertise.

Just a fast way to resolve problems…..

The older people that come to me do not want to learn Braille. Their friends do not want to learn Braille either. They love the idea, but for whatever reason, that is not going to be the route for them. They want something that will give them their local news, which they get from their TV's or radio; they want to be able to read books, write letters, email, or social network. People older than 70 are generally more limited.

Therefore, I really tailor lessons for those who have goals later in life. They do not want to go back to school, but they want the tools that will give them the ability to keep in contact with their friends and read books. My lessons are guided by the willingness of older people to learn something new.

First, I get them signed up with their State Book and Braille Library. Here they get digital players and books, allowing them to immediately begin listening to their favorite books again. The players are incredibly easy to learn and even my oldest clients have learned how and LOVE the player books.

Second, if a person already knows how to use a computer, then they know the keyboard. I then add talking software and teach them how to use it according to their needs. We start with WORD and writing letters. I teach them how to type out addresses on envelopes so they can send the letter snail mail. Once, that basic step is learned we advance to learning how to send a letter via email. In general, people younger than 70 prefer sending letters by email. As older people progress in their lessons, we can move onto more sophisticated adventures like social networking. However, many older people also have a palsy or tremors in their hands and cannot type any more. The easy solution is hooking them up with something like JSAY, where the person talks and the computer types out what they are saying and can also read it back.

The next is the ability to write checks and pay bills. Macular degeneration is one of the primary reasons for age related sight loss. A CCTV-or enlarging screen tool allows people to see through the cloud in their central vision. I have seen CCTVs extended this ability to "see" for as many as 15-20+ more years. You can change the contrast of the computer monitor to suit your needs and the advances of the CCTV have improved tremendously. One of the most incredible pieces of equipment I have come across is the MyReader by Humanware. It gives you the ability to take a picture of a book or other text and put it into read back format with auto-scroll. You can increase or decrease the speed of it moving across your screen automatically as well as the font size. My oldest clients easily learn this tool and LOVE it. Another type of scanning system is the SARA by Freedomscientific (there are other brands like this also), that will scan and read back the information for those who have lost all ability to see print.

For the Fan who loves to go to sports events or just wants to sit across the room to watch TV, there is the JORDY. It truly is like something from Star Trek but it works to see things in the distance. I have tried something like this with younger students, below the age of 20, and though it works great to see board work and anything else they want in the distance, they will not wear it. It makes them "too different." Ironically, their sighted friends think it is the greatest thing in the world.

Life is all about perspective.

Lessons to help you

Low Vision Skills-Windows 7 Office 2010

 Low Vision-XP-Office 2003

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

 

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