Making it on the Playground

A Resource for Parents and Teachers of Blind and Low Vision Children

Let’s Kick off “Meet the Blind Month” 2013

Well, as some of you may already know, October is “Meet the Blind month.   The purpose of this month is to help educate the public and create greater awareness of the capabilities of people who are blind.  Additionally, October 15th is “White Cane Safety Day” which recognizes the use of white canes by blind individuals.   

Across the country, groups of blind and low vision individuals and their friends and family observe this month through various outreach activities such as participating in public events, speaking in public venues like schools, civic clubs, church groups, and so forth, passing out literature, hosting meet and greets, and volunteering service in their communities .   So, I’d like to invite you to join with me and others in helping to provide public awareness this October.  There are lots of simple, easy things you can do in your own area too.  Here are a few easy ideas we as blind individuals or friends or family of blind people can do to help spread awareness to the public about the capabilities of the blind.  So, get a group together and get going!  I’d love to hear what you do to observe this month. 

*Create a bulletin board with a blindness theme to display in your school.  You should also consider making this an accessible and “blind-friendly “ bulletin board,a.k.a. tactually appealing and dual media with print and Braille.  (for ideas, visit the education page at the NFB Jernigan Institute at www.nfb.org)

  • Pass      out “Braille Party Mix” and a Braille alphabet card to your neighbors,      friends, colleagues, classmates, co-workers, etc.  Braille party mix consists of the      following:
    • 6       pieces of round candy like “Dots”, M and M’s, or Reeses’Pieces=the six       dots in a Braille cell.
    • Pretzel       sticks= the stylus
    • Cheese       nibs crackers or other similar looking crackers with holes and ridges =       the Braille cell or a slate
    • Alphabet       Cereal= print letters being translated into Braille
    •  Fruit roll-ups= piece of paper
  • Spotlight      a blind student or adult in your school/community at a public event such      as a church or civic club meeting, school assembly, class, etc.  This can also be a Q and A session with      a blind person about how he or she does various tasks with non-visual      techniques. 
  • Pass      out Braille alphabet cards along with your Halloween candy.  These can be obtained from blindness      organizations like the American Printing House, the National Federation of      the Blind, or the National Braille Press for free or for a small nominal      fee. 
  • set up      a volunteer experience at a public service venue such as a food pantry,      nursing home, hospital, etc.  This      will be a great way for us as blind individuals to “give back” and can also      provide a unique opportunity for the public to see the capabilities of those      with vision impairments. 
  • Set up      a table and time to Braille names on index cards in a public place such as      school lunchroom, outside a store, public library, flea market, fair,      farmer’s market, etc.  People are      fascinated by Braille and will love getting a copy of their name in      Braille.  You can also hand out      Braille alphabet cards at the same time.      
  • Pass      out literature about blindness in your neighborhood, school, business,      etc.  This could include things like      Braille alphabet cards, or general blindness facts or FAQ’s about      Blindness (you can generally get this kind of literature from a blindness      related organization). 
  • Participate      in a tailgating event at a school football game.  You can pass out Braille literature,      Braille people’s names, and have blind people serving the food. 
  • Participate      in a local Halloween  “’Trunk or      Treat” event wherein you set up lawn chairs in a parking stall instead of      a car and pass out candy and Braille alphabet cards.  Decorate your canes or guide dog and      yourself instead of your vehicle in Halloween décor.
  • Volunteer      to be on a speaker’s list at your local library or to read stories in Braille      at a children’s story hour. 
  • Give a      presentation to your school class about an influential blind individual such      as Helen Keller, Louis Braille, or Dr. Abraham Nemoth.  You could even come dressed like this person      and pretend to be him/her telling his/her story.
  • Make a      sign to display in a window of your home or vehicle that recognizes “Meet the      Blind Month or the capabilities of the blind.  For example, it could say, “I’m the proud      parent of a blind child”.  Or “Sight      is not a requirement for Success.”
  • Make a      t-shirt with a positive message about blindness written on it which will promote      discussion by those who see it when you wear it.  For example, it could say something like,      “I’m blind and I am a _____ (fill in with something which is stereotypically      unlikely to be done by a blind person like “a dancer, skier, black belt,” etc.)       

 

I hope these ideas have inspired you to get out and help spread the word about “Meet the Blind “month.  I’d love to hear other ideas from you and/or the things you are doing to observe this month.  Happy “Meet the Blind Month!”

 

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Blowing the Whistle: “Want a Ride?”

Most of us know what it was like to be on the playground when the playground monitor blew her whistle. This usually meant one of two things: either someone’s actions were in need of correcting, or recess was over. Sometimes I wish I could “blow the whistle” on the actions of others with respect to blindness, or just bring an end to some of society’s misconceptions and poor attitudes. If nothing else, at least being able to “blow the whistle” could get someone to stop and think about what he or she is doing.

Yesterday, I was walking with my daughter in her stroller down a busy street near our home. We were headed to catch the light rail via a quick stop at the bank located on the way. This is about a fifteen minute walk from our home or a little under a mile and a walk I make often. When I got to the first intersection, this man walked up to me and asked if he could help give me and my daughter a ride any where we’d needed to go. ON the surface, this was a very nice gesture, and I’m sure the man had good intentions—he wanted to help this blind woman with her young child to safely get to our destination, and before the impending rain came. But this little alarm went off in my head. Maybe it’s because I’m a product of the 80’s when we were bombarded repeatedly on the importance of “Stranger Danger” from school assemblies, Safety Kids publications, and Saturday morning cartoon PSA’s, but my instincts kicked in and reminded me that “we don’t take rides from strangers.” I’ve been offered rides countless times by strangers as I’ve been walking down the street. I sincerely appreciate people’s kindness and will admit, there have been a couple of occasions where I and my husband have taken people up on their offer because of the circumstances of the time. But generally, we don’t make a practice of taking rides with random strangers. I politely thanked the man and said that we were fine and actually only going across the street to the bank on the other side of the block (why did I feel like I had to justify my actions by telling him we weren’t going far? My saying “No thanks” should have been sufficient.) . He then offered to help me cross the street, even though I said I was fine and could cross the street myself. I figured after I crossed the street, he’d go back to wherever he’d come from and we’d be on our way, But instead, he continued to walk with me down to the bank. At this point, my guard went up even more as I really didn’t need or want this complete stranger following me. Again, I understand he was just trying to be helpful, but I wish sometimes I could blow a whistle and call a timeout on the social playground. Here is what I’d point out to him if I could talk frankly to him about the circumstances. First, we have a lone male, a complete stranger no less, offering a ride to a woman and her young child. As a woman, of course I’d be guarded about putting myself in a vulnerable situation, especially with my child present. I’m not going to put myself in a risky situation even if his intentions truly are harmless. Secondly, he could be putting himself at risk. Offering to give me a ride “anywhere I needed to go” (he really did say “Anywhere at all”) could set him up for an awkward situation. What if I’d taken advantage of him and asked him to drive me all the way downtown to where I was actually heading after the bank? It’s a 40 min. drive and would burn up a lot of his gas and time. WAS he really thinking through what he was offering? Then there is the second piece of this story—the fact that he followed me. In most situations, if someone was following you, one would be justified in feeling uncomfortable, threatened, or even calling the police. But, because he was just trying to help me because I’m blind, his following me was now supposedly acceptable.

Luckily this individual was not waiting for me when I left the bank. Had he been, I would have again politely, but assertively explained that his help was not necessary and probably have then told him that his actions were making me feel extremely uncomfortable.

So what is the take away from this story? Here is my advice to the sighted public:

  1. It is ALWAYS okay to offer help to blind individuals. Sometimes we really do need help. Keep in mind though to ask if we need help rather than just assume we do. If we say “NO”, accept this and go on your way.
  2. Remember that just because you as a sighted person may not know how to do something if you were blind, or think something cannot be done without sight doesn’t mean we don’t know either. Have a little faith in the abilities of blind and low vision people and take the situation as a learning experience for yourself.
  3. Do not be offended if and when a blind person rejects your offer of help.

Advice for Blind and Low vision individuals

  1. Always be polite when declining help and recognize that generally people mean well
  2. Remember that you may be the only blind person this individual may ever encounter; and like it or not, your actions may impact this person’s perspective about blind people. You don’t want to be rude and leave him/her with a bad taste in his/her mouth about helping blind people. You also can use this opportunity to educate this person on the abilities of a blind person.
  3. Because we as blind people are often dependent on others, we sometimes can become too dependent, or fall into a submissive role around sighted people. Please understand that we as blind or low vision individuals can be in control of our own actions and abilities. If you don’t need help, it’s okay to say so. It is also possible to take assistance but still be in control of our choices and circumstances. For example, if you are crossing a street, it’s okay to get help from a sighted person, but just because a person may come up and grab your arm to help you cross the street, doesn’t mean you have to let them. You can say no thank you”, or “please let go of me” if this is not comfortable for you. This especially applies to blind females. WE often are the ones who become more vulnerable and not as assertive when someone makes us feel uncomfortable. WE tend to be more wired to be nice or polite and not aggressive or confrontational. It is possible to be assertive and still be polite.
  4. Trust your gut. AS I mentioned, there have been times when I’ve taken strangers up on their offers for rides. But this is usually because of certain circumstances at the time, (which I’d be happy to explain) and I never do it if my gut or instincts tell me otherwise.

Well, that’s all for this whistle break. Please let me know what your thoughts are on the situation. I’d love to hear both sighted and blind perspectives on the matter. Maybe some of you reading have encountered similar situations. I’d love to hear how you handled them.

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Positivity from the Playground

As I mentioned recently, we attended the NFB national convention a few weeks back.  I had a really positive experience when a former participant in one of the summer programs I ran a few years ago came up to me and told me how much she loved reading my blog posts.  She told me how she especially enjoyed and could relate to one of my last posts about shaving legs.  She said her mom had never been comfortable with her doing this and hadn’t taught her.  The girl now is in college and said she really learned a lot from reading my post.  Her mom was with her at this time, and the young woman leaned over and whispered to me while her mom was talking to someone else how her mom still is a little over protective of some things that this young woman wants to do like her peers, but that she’s getting better at letting go.  J  .  We also talked about other “girl related” things like putting on make-up non-visually (post to come) and other things that sometimes parents don’t know how to explain to their blind child.  It was just a little heart-warming moment for me to see how she was able to feel more empowered as a blind young woman from something that simple which I wrote.  That’s my whole goal in writing this blog—help empower parents of blind children and other blind individuals.  Thanks to that special young woman for sharing this with me.  And good luck to all the well-meaning parents out there who are trying to empower their children in the best way they know how. 

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Pioneers on the Playground

As most of you know, I am a native Utahan. I love my home state and miss it often—especially at times like these. July 24 is known back home as “Pioneer Day” and is the anniversary of the day when the original Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 after months of an arduous journey pulling handcarts and wagon teams across the frontier. I am an original descendent of Mormon Pioneers who left their homeland and migrated to unknown territory in the west in search of religious freedom and better opportunities. I cherish this heritage and am proud of my ancestors for their sacrifices and great examples.

Outside of Utah, members of the LDS church often commemorate this anniversary by celebrating the “pioneer spirit” exemplified in our members who have sacrificed or been modern day pioneers in other ways for their religious choices. As I have been reflecting this week on “pioneer spirit”, I had an idea to write a post to honor the lives of a couple pioneers in the field of blindness whose influence and hard work has made an impression on me and the lives of many blind and low vision individuals.

The first pioneer I’d like to recognize is Louis Braille. Of course, this may seem like an obvious choice and he’s probably one of the first “pioneers” you’d think of with respect to blindness. I am very appreciative of his creative mind and diligence in creating what we know today as the Braille code. Louis Braille definitely faced his own share of nay Sayers and doubters. Braille (the medium) has opened up so many opportunities to me with respect to literacy. I drug my feet for a long time in learning it, and will admit I’m not the fastest or best Braille reader, but I’m grateful for this method which opened up the world of literacy to me again in new ways . Yes, I may be able to read very, very large print, use magnification, or even audio sources for reading, but there is truly a different part of your brain which is engaged when you are engaging in “active” reading and taking the words on the page and interpreting them yourself. I love the ability to be able to read aloud to my daughter from a Twin Vision book in Braille, or be able to write notes for a presentation. I also love that Braille allows my husband to read aloud to us when we read our scriptures as a family, or that I can go to a meeting and read an agenda along side my sighted peers. Thank you Louis Braille.

The second pioneer I’ve chosen is Jacobus tembroek. This is probably a lesser known individual to most, but I chose him for his work in orchestrating the first organized blind movement. Whether you’re a member of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), American Council of the Blind(ACB), any other blindness group, or none at all, your life as a blind or low vision person has been impacted in some way or another by advocacy work of blindness organizations. temBroek’s work as the founder of the NFB in 1940 blazed the trail for advocacy for and by the blind. We as blind people today enjoy many more rights and civil liberties as result of organized blindness groups. For example, the right to carry a cane, better employment opportunities through anti-discrimination laws, access to educational opportunities, and so much more.

Lastly, I’ve chosen Joann Wilson, the founder of the LouisianaCenter for the Blind. Her influence may not be as far reaching or broadly known as the former two individuals; nevertheless, it has had quite an impact on the lives of hundreds of blind individuals and innumerable ripple effects. Wilson founded the LCB in 1985 as a rehabilitation and training center for blind and low vision individuals. Her center was based on the model of training used by Kenneth Jernigan (another pioneer in the field of blindness in his own right) originally at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in the sixties and seventies. The style of training and methods implemented at the LCB was vastly different from conventional training methods used in traditional rehabilitation programs at that time. Because of its high expectations, structured discovery learning methods, and philosophy based on empowerment and independence, the LCB has flourished over the years to become one of the top , if not the top training and rehabilitation center in the country with alumni from across the country and other countries . Many state and private training agencies around the country model their training practices after the practices of the LCB, even sending instructors there for professional development and training. The LCB also established a partnership with Louisiana Tech University under Wilson’s guidance and now has several teacher training programs which help train orientation and mobility specialists and teachers of the blind in the philosophy modeled at the LCB. I too am a graduate of the LCB and of the teacher programs at LTU and have a strong testimony of the practices used there to teach blindness skills. This model truly surpasses conventional approaches to training in blindness skills. I could go on for hours pointing out the differences, and giving examples of individuals who initially received conventional training, but whose lives and abilities were changed by the training they received afterward from the LCB. I know personally the confidence and empowerment this model of training can have on the lives of someone who is blind or low vision. Mrs. Wilson’s work continues on through the actions and examples of all those who pass through the doors of this center. Thank you Joanne Wilson for your hard work and dedication in establishing this center.

I know there are dozens of other individuals about whom I could go on who have exemplified a unique “pioneer spirit” that has greatly impacted the lives of many blind and low vision individuals. I hope this pioneer day you will join me in honoring the pioneers in our lives who have blazed trails, overcome adversity, and who have made sacrifices to improve the quality of life for those with vision loss. Whether it be developing new technologies , breaking ground in new arenas where the blind have not been before, , or leading by example, I am grateful to these individuals for their time, talent, and confidence in the abilities of the blintwin vision books,teacher of blind students trainingd.

I’d love to hear whom you would recognize as an individual who demonstrates the “pioneer spirit.” Please leave a comment with your picks and reasons why.

Happy Pioneer Day!

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Pages from the Hartle Playbook: Catching up this summer

Pages from the Hartle Playbook: Catching up

From time to time, I like to post “Pages from the Hartle Playbook.” These are personal posts which are more about me and my family and our goings-on. These posts are meant to give followers of this blog a little insight into our lives; and also as a way to share some of the situations we encounter as a family with two blind parents.

It seems like this spring and summer have been flying by for us. I’ve neglected my blog a lot lately as result. One exciting piece of news which I haven’t yet shared yet is the expected arrival of our second child, a little boy due in September. WE are very excited, and maybe a little apprehensive about all the new changes to come for us. The pregnancy has been going well—despite a few months at first where I was sure this baby was going to make a vegetarian of me, and joked with my husband that we’d have to move as I couldn’t go up and down the stairs in our house without feeling completely and totally exhausted. We’ve also been struggling with several bouts of sinus colds—at least one of us has been sick with one off and on for about four months now and we just keep passing it around. I’m blaming it on our daughter being exposed to more “bugs” at church nursery and playgroups, and my immune system being a little susceptible from the pregnancy. In any case, it seems like the weeks between the colds have been spent catching up on all the day-to-day business. . But, overall, we are doing great and enjoying the warmer seasons.

The past few months have been full of fun projects for me—planting our first garden(and trying to keep it alive),working on some preschool things with my daughter, and taking on some part-time work contracting with the NFB Jernigan Institute. (I’m helping to manage some conference calls with the nine new states hosting Braille (BELL) summer programs this year.) I’ve also enjoyed going to playgroups with my daughter, attending mom circles and seminars, learning to grill on our new gas grill, and lots of water play on the hot days. I also got a little bit of a crash course in home maintenance a few weeks back when we re-stained our deck (thanks to my dad for being such a big help and basically doing all the work), and learned a bit about plumbing when our kitchen sink leaked and caused a leak through to our basement ceiling (thanks to our neighbor Donna for providing assistance with this repair.) My husband isn’t one of those “fix-it” types when it comes to home repairs, so I tend to wear the tool belt in our house, and rather enjoy this role. By the way, there is a post in the works hopefully about dealing with a plumber who tried to take advantage of my being unfamiliar with the trade and a blind woman. He seriously underestimated my intelligence and lost the bid. J

Our family also just returned from spending two weeks in Orlando, FL. Jesse has been counting down the days and hours for weeks now. WE attended the NFB convention there during the first week, and then headed over to Disney World for the second. I had the opportunity to present to a group of parents of blind children during the National Organization for Parents of Blind Children’s (NOPBC) pre-convention seminar. I especially enjoyed getting to meet a mom of a ten-month-old little boy who is blind. I love seeing parents get involved in providing their children with good skills and philosophy from the start. I truly think the thing I enjoy most about attending the convention is getting to catch up with friends and being able to share our experiences with one another. It’s nice sometimes to commiserate with, learn from, and brainstorm solutions with someone who “gets” what you deal with on a daily basis as a blind person. I also enjoyed getting to catch up with some of the youth with whom I have worked with over the years. They are all growing up so fast and make me feel so old! It’s crazy to realize that some of the youth I worked with as teens have already graduated from college and even grad school in some cases and are these up and coming professionals now.

Disney of course, was the highlight for us. We are big fans of Disney and enjoy going there every year. This was our first year as members of the Disney Vacation Club (yes, we’re just that nerdy) and so we were able to stay at a much nicer resort than usual. Sadly, we were a little disappointed with our room and the resort itself, but we still had a good time. It was fun for us to take our daughter too who is a big fan of Mickey and gang, and of many of the Disney Junior characters. She is still a bit too young for it all, and probably won’t remember most of the trip, but she did have a lot of fun being there and was sad when we said we had to leave. I hope to write a post in the next week or two about some of our experience this year (Some good, some bad) at Disney as we do manage to get a lot of stares, whispers, and questions about being blind. All in all though, it was a much more laid back trip than usual for us given that we had to work around a toddler schedule this time, and being seven months pregnant also brought some limitations . But, we really enjoyed the family time together, taking our daughter to our favorite spots, hitting some of our favorite rides and shows, and of course, eating some of our favorite treats! We also got pics with all of K’s favorite characters. It was so fun watching her be so excited to see them and then getting so star struck when it was actually her turn to meet them. She had two really fun experiences: first, she got to hold Mickey’s hand and lead a little parade at one of the character dining breakfasts we went to. Second, she got a special visit by Captain Hook (one of her faves from “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”) while watching an afternoon parade. He came up to her and gave her a big hug. Wish I would have got a pic of this as it was so adorable and she just beamed!

Well, I could go on for pages more with fun stories from our trip, but I’ll spare you. In any case, that’s the latest from us for now. Hope you enjoyed the little insights.

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She’s Got Legs…and Knows How to Shave Them!

Intrigued?  You should be.  Especially if you are a parent or teacher of a pre-teen girl.  Despite the fact that most of the country is still buried in snow or hovering below freezing, the calendar does say its spring, and eventually, warm weather will come, bringing with it an innate desire to don cute shorts, skirts, swim suits, and caprice once again.  But whether you’re blind or not, there is nothing that will detract from one’s cute summer outfit faster than a pair of stubbly, harry legs peeking out from underneath it. 

Feeling a bit awkward about this subject?  You’re probably not alone.  Talking about shaving (for females) is something us women usually save for conversations with our girl friends or for the day spa, or if you’re a guy, just something you’re not interested in talking about.  AS a parent though, this topic can be extremely awkward as it’s generally a sign your little girl is growing up, and a gateway to more difficult conversations to come—puberty, sex, dating, and boys.  YIKES!  As a parent of a blind or low vision daughter, you might even have greater trepidation about this topic.  You worry your daughter will harm herself because she can’t see what she is doing, or you are unsure as to how to show her how to do this in general, let alone safely.   

            A couple of days ago, this issue came up on a listserv I follow, which inspired this post.  .  Of course, the list was flooded with replies from blind females sharing their own experiences of how and when they learned to shave.  Some common themes I saw however were that most blind females learned much later than their sighted peers, and most learned from someone other than their parent—like a blind mentor or friend.  One female even shared how her mother was so concerned about her using a razor that she purchased leg waxing sessions for her instead which turned out to be disastrous—in her opinion. 

sThroughout my experience working with blind youth, I’ve come across a lot of adolescent and young adult females who did not know how to perform a lot of these kinds of “personal or “socially age appropriate” practices.  (For example, how to shave, put on make up, do their own hair, choose their own clothing, etc.) Hopefully,

This post will help ease some of the anxiety parents may have about at least the issue of shaving, and share some practical advice for teaching your daughter how to safely implement this skill at an age appropriate time.    So, here we go.

 

When is it the right time for girls to start shaving?

            For starters, this is something that you will need to determine based on your own principles and values for your children.  (i.e., some people may have other cultural issues about shaving, or rules about when certain “rites of passage” practices like shaving, dating, wearing make-up, etc. will begin for their children.) Generally, however, most females start practicing this habit as “pre-teens” or when they begin entering puberty( around ages 11-13) or around the time they are in junior high (grades 6-9).   Again, this is something that you as a parent will determine with your child, but in so doing, remember to keep in mind what is age appropriate for your child and to try not to let blindness be a factor in making your determination as there are ways to teach this skill in a nonvisual and safe way—which we will discuss later in this post. 

 

Who should be the one to teach this?

            I add this section because there are a number of teachers of blind students who read these posts.  Perhaps you have an adolescent student whom you think needs to learn this skill, but are unsure of what your role is.  In that situation, I would suggest you speak to the parent.  Given that this can be a bit of an awkward topic because of its ties to puberty or just that it’s a practice that we all generally do when we shower or bathe, it seems more appropriate for you in your role as a teacher to not be the one to provide the instruction.  However, you can be a resource for a parent or even connect a parent to a blind mentor if they do not feel comfortable teaching this to their child themselves. 

 

Why should I teach my daughter to shave rather than just allowing her to wax her legs or use other alternative ways for hair removal?

            This is certainly a personal call which you and your daughter can decide together.  However, in making this determination, I encourage you to not let fear or blindness is a determining or detouring factor.  As I have said, there are safe ways for a blind person to use a razor.  Knowing this skill can still be valuable for other reasons (i.e., alternatives can be expensive, time consuming, result in skin irritations or unexpected reactions, or not as effective).  Learning to use a razor safely and effectively can

Also help establish confidence in your daughter’s ability to tackle something that at first might seem scary.  I would encourage you and your daughter to give the basic practice of traditional shaving at least a try at first before ruling it out and moving on to other alternatives.  Then, if you and your daughter choose another method (and many women do) at least your daughter will know that she made an informed choice and not just a choice because of any fears blindness may have presented. 

How do I teach this in a non visual way?

            Contrary to how callace this post may sound, I really do understand where a lot of parents are coming from with respect to their fears or anxiety of their daughters using a razor which could potentially inflict harm.  My daughter fell down our outside stairs yesterday and scraped her forehead nose, and lip –didn’t even draw blood–and I cried for a half hour after it feeling like the most terrible mother in the world.  Yes, Unfortunately there is a possibility that your daughter could cut herself a time or two, but with a little practice and some nonvisual techniques, she can minimize or eliminate these risks entirely.  .  It is also important to keep a little perspective—most of the hand-held razors on the market are pretty small blades which can’t inflict too deep of a wound, and shaving the surface of the shins, thighs, or under arms has a pretty low risk of hitting any major arteries, .         

To get started, I would suggest you find a razor with a cap or guard on it.  Disposable razors might be a good choice for this as they are light weight, have a very small blade, and have a cap which protects you from the blade.  With the cap on, your daughter can explore with her hands what the razor looks like and how to distinguish the side of the head with the blade and the side without.  This is an important first step which will allow you to explain how the blade sits on the skin and the way to hold the razor safely. Next, decide whether you want to demonstrate the motion of using your hand to move the blade along your shin (or arm if easier for demonstration purposes) while your daughter holds her hands over yours to feel the motion, or if it is more effective for your daughter to hold the razor and you move her hands in the right motion.  Even a combination of these two hand-over-hand methods may be effective.  With her hands under or over yours, she will be able to feel the motion of how to pull the razor up in straight rows along her shin or arm.  The other hand will serve as a guide and move along each row to feel if it is clean.  You’ll also want to help demonstrate to her her how much pressure to apply with the razor to her skin surface so that she doesn’t press too hard and risk a cut, or too lightly so as not to be effective.  Instruct your daughter that she will start the shave of the next row to the side of where she did the last swipe.  Don’t worry about preciseness of even swipes as the other hand will feel patches that might get missed in the actual process.  In some ways, shaving nonvisually may be more effective in preventing missing spots and leaving stubbly patches.  Just encourage your daughter to swipe each time as close as she can to where she last finished.  This is where the other hand can also be a guide.  After working her way around the leg , it might be effective to encourage her to go back over the surface one more time to make sure she doesn’t miss patches between swipes –until she gets more comfortable with the practice.  Sometimes I even run my other hand right behind the hand with the razor at the same time to feel if I miss anything.  Shaving with a lather of soap or cream will also help with this as your daughter will be able to feel where she wiped the foam away and where to make the next swipe. 

            Once your daughter has demonstrated that she is comfortable with the motion and concept while doing the dry run with the blade on, you can move to the real thing.  You’ll definitely want to supervise the first time or two.  I recommend sitting on the side of the bathtub with your feet soaking in the water.  You’ll also want to demonstrate how to work up lather or how to apply shaving cream to the skin surface too before beginning.  You may even want to do a couple of practices with the blade still on while using water and lather.  There’s not much more to it after that except more practice of the real thing.  To be honest, I think over the dozens of years since I started shaving, I’ve only cut myself once or twice—and usually this was because I ran the razor across the scaly part of the back of my ankle or was using a really dull razor.  The worst “pain” I’ve ever really inflicted on myself while shaving was to shave on dry legs (not in the shower as opposed to dry skin) with no lotion or anything.  I don’t recommend doing that. And if you think, “Well, sure, you can see a little bit,” I can assure you that I’d have to be a ballerina with a magnifier to get my legs close enough to my face to see if they were smooth. 

            Once you’ve helped your daughter master this skill, your next problem will be having to deal with her pestering you to take her shopping for all those cute new shorts and skirts she’ll want to wear to show off her smooth legs.  Good ludk.  This might even be a bigger challenge than the shaving instruction!

 

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Eggstremely Easy Easter Fun!

Sorry this post is coming out a little late, but hopefully it might give you a few ideas at the last minute to test out with your little ones this Easter and spring season.  As most of you may know, there are a lot of traditional Easter fun activities like decorating eggs, hiding eggs, and egg rolls which are practiced around this time of year.  But, for our blind kids, these aren’t always the most fun in which to participate. So, I have been thinking of some ways to modify these popular practices in a way that would make them more inclusive for our blind children.  Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with and wanted to share.

1.  Decorating Eggs with Feel-Appeal

Perhaps many of you have traditions of dying and hiding Easter eggs.  Here are some easy modifications you can do to enhance this activity for your blind child.  Instead of coloring your eggs, consider giving them some “feel-appeal.  This will make the eggs tactually appealing and provide a great hands-on activity which you and your child and other family members can do together.  You may even want to consider having other family members do this activity along side your blind child while wearing a blind fold to help enhance the “feel-appeal” aspect of the activity. 

For this activity, I recommend finding some of those plastic eggs that open in half for filling with candy.  They come in a variety of sizes, but I recommend the larger size ones.  They will hold more weight on the outside and give you more surface area on which to work than the really small ones.  I also recommend using a glue gun, spray glue, and even some general white craft glue.  Each can be useful depending on what you are going to adhere to your eggs.  Hot glue obviously works the best for gluing items, but if your child isn’t ready to use a glue gun yet (and yes, a blind person can use a glue gun, but that’s a post for another time), I recommend the craft or white glue instead.  Rubber cement also could work, but it’s a bit messier and takes longer to dry.  Non-hot glue also is good because you can use your fingers to feel where to place the item rather then a prodder like you’d do with the hot glue.  It’s a little messy, but washable.  I tested this out earlier this week with some plastic eggs I bought, with the hopes of providing a picture or two, but my almost-Two-year–old got hold of them and had way too much fun carting them around the house in the egg carton and picked off most of the tactile pieces.  So, you’ll have to use your imaginations. 

Here is a list of a few suggestions of items which would work well for decorating:   (Most can be found around your house or in the craft isle at a local store like Wal-Mart or Target)

  • Small jewels (these come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and one side      is flat for sticking to items—think bedazzling!)
  • Small foam stickers (come in a variety of shapes, colors, themes, and sizes; and      some also have an adhesive back.)
  • Uncooked Elbow macaroni noodles
  • Sand
  • Glitter     
  • Small shells or rocks
  • Tactile stickers
  • Small round candies like M & M’s (the minis ) or Red Hots
  • Cake or cookie decorating sprinkles

I found in my experience that the smaller or lighter the item, the better it stuck to the plastic eggs.  I especially found the jewels to work well.  I could also make Braille letters on the eggs with these which was fun.  For the sand or glitter, I used spray glue (which comes in an aerosol can and can be found in most craft isles).  I sprayed the surface of the egg and then rolled it around on a small plate of sand.  (I didn’t actually get to try with glitter or the sprinkles since I didn’t have any on hand, but I think it would work much the same way. There may be a concern with the sprinkles and the spray glue though if too much glue is used as it might cause the sprinkles to dissolve.)  This is a bit more of a messy process and really sticks to your fingers, but was still fun to create.  If you have a child who is a little tactually defensive, this could be a good messy play-kind of activity to test out with them, but you’ll definitely want to monitor that it’s not too much sensory overload for them as it is very messy on the hands.  It washes off easily though. 

            Basically, I would just recommend you look around your home and see what crafty things you can find.  I did experiment with foil and tissue paper, but it was hard to adhere it to the egg without using so much glue that it made it look like maudge-paudge.  The problem with this effect is that it feels the same despite the fact that your paper might have different textures.  The foil was okay, but it bunched a lot and didn’t stay smooth as I tried to wrap it around the obscure shape of the egg. 

            One other thing to remember is that sometimes things with feel-appeal may not always be the most aesthetically pretty or pleasing to see.  For example, the sand covered eggs aren’t really visually that nice, but tactually, they add a different kind of feel if you’re looking to design a variety of textures.  Just be creative and have fun.

 

Alternative Decorating Ideas

If your child doesn’t feel like creating tactile eggs, you could always place Braille labels (like ones made from sticky contact paper or dimo tape) on eggs with phrases or names written on them. 

            Another alternative is to create “Audible Decorations.”  Instead of distinguishing the eggs on the outside, you could place a variety of different sounding materials inside plastic eggs.  Each could create a different sound when shaken, thus still making each egg unique like decorating the outside does.  For example, rice, sand, beans, water, or small gravel would each make a different kind of sound.  (Just be sure to tape the plastic eggs together so that the contents won’t leak out.)

 

2.  Eggstra Fun Ideas

Traditional egg hunts are fun, and not really necessary to adapt as long as there aren’t eggs peeking out where someone with 20/20 vision can spot one from across the yard and sprint to it.  But here are a couple of suggestions for leveling the playing field some. 

  • hide all the eggs in ways that would require participants to feel with their      hands in and around something before locating the egg
  • try having all the participants hunt for the eggs with blind folds on (when I      was younger, we always took turns hiding and finding the eggs for each other,      so you could switch up the rounds and make some rounds be with blind folds      and others without) Just make sure there are penalties for peakers. 
  • With very young children, you could insert some kind of continuous noisemaker      like a luggage locator (this is a device you can purchase from an independent      living aids supplier which attaches to your suitcase and has a remote that      you press to activate the beeper on the locator connected to your      bag.)  or small alarm from an old      digital clock inside that would emit a sound continuously (I once had a      friend who dismantled one of these small inexpensive alarm clocks and      taped the mechanics of the clock that made the alarm beep on the under      side of a Frisbee so that a couple of blind friends and I could play      Ultimate Frisbee with some sighted friends of mine.).  You could also try some of those music      players that come in greeting cards which have an on/off switch so that      you could make it play continuously.       Then, hide the egg and let the children take turns hiding and finding      the egg by using their ears.  This same method could work for an egg roll so that your child could hear and follow his/her egg.  

 

Well, I hope these ideas have been helpful and maybe even helped wet your creative whistle.  .  Happy Easter and Passover to all.  Welcome Spring!  Again, I’m sorry for not providing a picture of our eggs we made this week, but there wasn’t really anything left to show except a very happy child.  I’d love to hear from you if you try out some of these methods with your family or students.  Also, if you have any suggestions of your own to share, please do so as I’m always looking for new ones.   

 

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Pages from the Hartle Playbook: Trying Out a New Alternative Technique

I’ve been meaning to write this post for several weeks now, but for various reasons have found little time to sit down and pound out a blog post. But, finally, here it is. So, a couple of weeks back, I was asked to give a talk in church. This meant, I was given a topic and asked to prepare essentially a fifteen minute speech (for lack of a better word) to present in our sacrament meeting service. It’s not the first time I’ve ever done this, especially since my work experiences have always required a number of presentations, but the first in awhile. Usually when I’m asked to give a speech of some kind, I typically have to memorize it, or I come up with a general outline of what I want to say and memorize that. This also means I can’t ever use direct quotes either unless I memorize them. I spend day’s first writing up the talk and then a few more trying to memorize it or at least the main points. I’ve written up outlines in large print, but never want to refer to them when I’m actually giving the talk because I’d have to hold the paper so close. Now that I know Braille better, I’ve also tried writing my outlines in Braille, but seeing that I’m not a very fast Braille reader, I am self conscious of using this method too for fear I’ll lose my place. My notes in whatever medium usually just end up keeping the podium warm as I usually result to just memorizing what I want to say, or “winging it”.

I’ve been complimented often in the past on my public speaking presentations, but I’ve always felt a little insecure or stressed about my public speaking abilities. I always come away remembering things I didn’t say, feeling that I could have been more articulate or concise, frustrated at my non verbal pauses )um, or ahs) or disappointed that I couldn’t refer to a quote directly rather than having to paraphrase it. I’ve always admired people who are really good at public speaking and have tried to develop this skill personally. I’ve always been slightly jealous of those individuals who can write out and deliver a great talk because they can read or refer to their notes easily.

Anyway, when this opportunity came up to speak in church, I decided to test out a new technique for giving my talk.

Last summer, I heard about this great idea from another blind individual for whom I have a great deal of respect. Like me, he is one of those “high partial “kids who never got Braille instruction in school and struggled over the years to “get by” with some of the strategies I mentioned above. Anyway, he introduced me to the idea of using a VictorStream as a kind of “audio teleprompt. for those of you who are unfamiliar with what a VictorStream is, you can learn more at the product website, but it’s basically a portable book player that can play digital audio files. You can also record audio files with the Stream. This individual shared with a group of us how he’d been practicing using his Stream to read aloud publically and had become pretty proficient at slowing the speed to the right pace for reciting along with it while listening to an ear piece. Because of some other features on the Stream, he could navigate to verses or pages just as quickly as if he was reading it and had become pretty proficient at using this technique for presentations. So, I decided to test it out.

This might sound like more work than it was worth, but I have to say, this method worked out really great for me as an alternative for not being a proficient print or Braille reader. So, first, I wrote out my talk on the computer like anyone would do. (BTW, I use JAWS on my computer). Then, after I got the talk to sound the way I wanted it to, I used the record function on my stream to record myself dictating my talk. Basically, I put headphones in my computer and had jaws read my document to me as I read it into the stream. I could have just uploaded the word file and listened to it as a text to speech file on the stream,(with a computerized or synthetic voice) but I wanted to put in voice inflections, pauses, etc. and have a more natural thing to listen to. Then, after a couple of run throughs with JAWS, I had a pretty good recording of myself “reading” my talk on my stream as an audio file. It sounds complicated, but it really wasn’t, especially if you’re used to using audio as a means of reading like so many of us blind or low vision people are. Then, I practiced listening and talking along with the audio recording on the Stream about a dozen times to get comfortable with the speed and listening to the talk in an ear piece. –just like how someone would read through or practice giving their talk aloud. . Going through it several times helped too because I became pretty familiar with pauses or tricky phrases so that I could anticipate them when I was “giving the talk.”

I have to admit, I was feeling very self-conscious about giving a talk this way since I’d never done it publically before, and as this method is a little unorthodox—especially wearing an ear piece in front of a congregation at church. But, I felt like I’d written a really good talk, and I knew there was no way I could memorize it well enough or in time to speak for fifteen minutes or to convey all the examples or quotes I had chosen . So, there was no turning back.

This strategy turned out to work fabulously for me and I have to say, I felt like I nailed my talk that Sunday. My delivery was great, and I got so many complements afterward for it. Some friends of mine even said they didn’t realize I had the ear piece in. One lady told me her teenager was blown away that I didn’t even mess up the whole time I was speaking. Several people told me they thought I must be a professional speaker—I wish. It’s been several weeks since I gave it and I am still hearing things about it. It was the first time in a long time I actually felt confident in my delivery and message. My husband—one of those great Braille readers who writes out his talks and delivers them flawlessly and who has brought audiences of 1000+people to their feet on more than one occasion even gave me more props than he usually does for my presentations which brought a smile to my face.

So the take away from this post is not that audio is best and that we should throw out all uses for Braille. I’m still a huge proponent for Braille, even by those of us with some vision who may be able to read large print in various circumstances –that’s a whole other argument for another post. But, I just thought I’d share how this alternative technique worked out for me as I’m never going to be a great Braille reader since I didn’t learn it earlier—unless I spend hours each day practicing , but as a busy mom, I can tell you this isn’t too likely. My print reading abilities are also limited, so having another strategy that is effective is comforting. I’m just introducing one more tool for the tool box. It’s definitely a tool I’ll be using again.

FYI, I’ve included the talk below. Keep in mind, the content will be spiritual or gospel centered, but I did use some personal blindness experiences to illustrate some points, so if you’re interested, feel free to read it.

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A time to prepare to meet God

I’d like to take a few minutes to introduce myself and my family to you as we are still fairly new to the ward. WE moved in to this ward a little over six months ago. Prior to moving here, we had been living in downtown Baltimore for the past seven years. I am originally from Utah and my husband is from Louisiana. WE have been married for about three and a half years now and have a little girl who will be two in April. My husband and I met back in 2002 when we were both scholarship winners for the National Federation of the Blind. Later that year, our paths crossed again when I was accepted to graduate school in Louisiana and it was there that we became netter acquainted with each other. AS luck would have it, our paths crossed again after I graduated from Louisiana Tech in 2004 and after Jesse finished an internship for Congressman Kingston of Georgia in WashingtonD.C. We both ended up getting jobs at the national headquarters for the NFB located here in Baltimore in 2005. Jesse is still employed there as a government programs specialist and works on passing legislation related to blindness issues on a national level. I am a certified teacher of blind students and up until our daughter was born, was serving as the Director of Education for the NFB. . In case you hadn’t realized yet, both Jesse and I are blind. My vision loss was caused accidentally when I was 12 years old. Jesse has a genetic degenerative eye condition called RP which he has had since birth. Usually the next question people ask us is whether or not our daughter can see. She is sighted and truly a blessing to us, not because she is sighted, but because she is ours.

WE consider ourselves to be your average All-American family with two parents that just happen to be blind. In short, we’d rather be known as just “Mary Jo and Jesse” rather than “The blind couple.” We’ve learned that our blindness doesn’t have to be a big tragedy and that life can go on. That being said, we always welcome questions about how we do things. We just want to help educate people on how we try to lead normal, meaningful lives just like all of you are striving to do.

Speaking of our lives, I’d like to talk for a few minutes about one of life’s important purposes. In Alma 34:32 we read, “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God, yea behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” From this scripture, we are taught that it is the little things we do today, choices we make, and experiences we are having now that will help prepare us for the time when we will meet God. I hope you will indulge me as I share some personal experiences which I think may help illustrate this point. I was reluctant at first to do so, because I try not to make everything we always talk about to relate to blindness, but this seemed like such a perfect example that I felt like I should share it.

Since Jesse and I are blind, we both had the opportunity several years ago to attend one of the top blindness skills training centers in the country. In this program, blind and low vision individuals participate in a full emersion blindfold training program for six to nine months to learn skills of daily living, technology, Braille, cane travel, and positive attitudes about blindness. I would liken this a little bit too how we as members of the church are spiritually trained through church attendance, scripture study, prayer, and guidance of church leaders. Just as we were taught blindness skills each day that would help us in our lives, the gospel can teach all of us on a daily basis important skills that will help us throughout our life’s journey. Our goal as blind individuals was to prepare to meet the challenges blindness may bring our way. AS Disciples of Christ, our goal is to prepare for the time when we will meet our Savior and our Heavenly Father.

A couple of summers ago Jesse and I encountered a big test on our skills to travel as blind individuals. WE had been helping out at a summer camp one night which was held at TowsonUniversity. At the time, we were still living downtown. We wrapped up that night around 9 p.m. and headed out to catch a bus home. WE got directions from a friend of ours on how to get to the closest bus stop along York Road which would take us back to the light rail station so we could catch a train home. He had told us that the stop was a good ways away from where we were at the dorms, but that it was walk able and that he’d done it before. So we headed out to find the bus stop. I should also mention that we also had our three month old daughter with us. WE are no strangers to finding our way in unfamiliar areas, but that night, after about twenty minutes into the walk, we started to get a nagging feeling that we were going the wrong way, despite the fact we had followed our friend’s directions. WE got to the intersection where we were supposed to turn and should have found a bus stop, but there was no bus stop. We were also supposed to now be on York Road, which as most of you know is quite a busy road, but this road was nothing like that. At that moment, back behind us at the intersection, we heard a bus come by and turn the other way. WE knew then that we were on the wrong road and needed to figure out not only where another bus stop was, but which area we needed to get to to catch the bus going the direction we wanted. So, we headed back to wards where the bus had come, not even sure it was the number we wanted, or whether this was York Road. A few minutes later, we flagged down a passer-by pulling out of a parking lot to confirm what street we were on, only to find out we were blocks away from York road. We continued in the directions this driver gave us, but again found ourselves no where near any kind of major intersection or bus stops or near York Road. This same situation happened three more times with passers by assuring us that York Rd. was just another light down, or just a few blocks down, but somehow we never seemed to find the elusive York Rd. By this point, it was really getting late and starting to thunder and lightning. We were growing exceedingly more frustrated and concerned about getting home. WE surveyed our options again trying to figure out what to do. The most logical thing would have been to call a cab, but seeing as a cab driver would want something silly like an actual pick up address, this option was out. We also contemplated calling some trusty friends who may be willing to go on a wild goose chase to try and find us, but given that it was getting late, and that most of our friends live downtown, we ruled this out as well. So we did the only thing we could—just plodded along hoping that sooner than later we’d figure things out. We are no strangers to traveling in unfamiliar areas. IN fact, part of our skills training included drop routes which basically require you to be dropped off in an unfamiliar area and to find your way back to a designated location. So, we just looked at this like another drop route. My concern was however, the fact that it was getting late, less people were out to get directions from, and that we had our baby with us. I said a little prayer that Heavenly Father would help us be safe and figure out how to get home, before the rain started too if possible, and put my faith in mine and Jesse’s skills. . By 11 p.m. we somehow found ourselves near the Towson mall, having walked almost two miles from where we first started. Originally our plan had been to catch the bus from the dorms back to the light rail and then take the light rail home. Now that we were near the mall, we had an even better option as there was a bus that ran passed the mall which would take us within a block of our apartment. This was such a relief to us and worked out to be an even better solution than we hoped. WE found the right stop and prayed that a bus would come soon. Fortunately, we boarded a bus just as the rain began to come down harder and made it home safe and sound that evening around Midnight. (For the record, after chastising our friend for his crummy directions, he admitted that he had left out a turn.)

That night as I put our daughter to bed, an overwhelming feeling of love and inspiration came over me. I remember never feeling so happy to be home as I was at that moment and thinking that this is what it would be like when we finish this life and return to our Heavenly Father someday.

So what does this example have to do with our theme today of “A time to prepare to meet God?” Well, it is this. We are all working to find our way home, our spiritual home that is. Along the way, there are always challenges and “bad directions” that will come up and test our abilities. But it is our preparations or “performing of our labors” each day that will help us be successful in returning to him.

From the experience I just shared with you, I’ve come up with the following three lessons which I think each of us can apply in this time as we prepare to meet God:

First, developing important skills: Jesse and I weren’t exactly born knowing how to travel independently as blind people. WE had to develop these skills through practice and application. With respect to our travel training, we were taught how to problem solve, cross a variety of intersections, recognize traffic patterns, use cardinal directions, and so forth. As children of our Heavenly Father, each of us have important skills we need to develop in order to help us on our spiritual travels. Such skills include practicing meaningful personal prayer, learning to recognize personal revelation, learning how to study the scriptures, practicing repentence, cultivating a serving heart, and exercising faith and discipline, to name just a few. Our Heavenly Father sent us here to learn these valuable skills much like we as parents send our children away to school to learn and develop their own knowledge and abilities, and we would be remiss to return to him without them.

Second, our Heavenly Father has blessed us with families and other influential individuals in our lives to help encourage, teach, and guide us on our path home. While Jesse and I were trying to find our way home that night, it was easy for me to become frustrated with him because I was frustrated with the situation. Part of me was upset with him for being a cheapskate and not wanting to pay for a cab to take us from the dorms home in the first place. WE also disagreed from time to time on which direction to go. But, the bottom line was that we were in this together and being upset or frustrated with him was not going to help the situation. We both had valuable skills and perspectives to contribute to solving our dilemma. Our Heavenly Father has blessed us with family members, friends, and church leaders to be our companions along our path. Our goal is to value and seek out those who are well-meaning individuals as we perform our labors. These relationships also can require us to humble ourselves, be more forgiving, slow to take offense, and to admit that we may not always know what is best for us.

Lastly, we need to learn to see things as our Heavenly Father sees them. Even though I am considered legally blind, I do have a fair amount of residual vision. However, this vision sometimes is not the most reliable. I’ve been known on occasion to walk up to windows thinking they are doors, mislabel colors, or to say “excuse me” to manikins in a store. , Sometimes I find myself trusting my Swiss cheesy vision more than the blindness skills I’ve learned, which the majority of the time gets me into an awkward situation. How many of us find ourselves thinking we see the whole picture and know where we are going only to find out our Heavenly Father’s vision is far better than our own? . Just as I am learning to rely on my blindness skills in conjunction with my usable vision, we each need to learn to rely on our Heavenly Father’s vision or will for us in conjunction with our own agency.

I know that if we will truly do our part to prepare ourselves today by performing the labors outlined by our Heavenly Father, there will come a time when we find our way home and are reunited with our loving Heavenly Father.

I’d like to close by sharing my testimony with you.

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Using Our Voices

A few months ago I became acquainted with an organization called “The Power of Moms. The organization’s mission is to help encourage what they refer to as “deliberate mothering.” In any case, I’ve found it to be a great resource, and truth be told, have become a little obsessed with it. But that’s a story for another day. . The organization also produces podcasts of which I’ve also become a fan. I recently listened to one which I think is a great one to pass along to parents of blind children. It is entitled, “Using Our Voices.” (Episode 45.)

In this podcast, one of the organization’s co-founders is interviewing a mother of a child with spinabiffita. The message of the program however is not really about caring for, or being a parent of a child with spinabiffita, but about how this mother learned to use her voice to advocate for the needs of her daughter. I strongly recommend that those of you reading this post as a parent of a blind child go and listen to this podcast.

Often I come across parents like this mother who don’t know or believe that they have a voice when it comes to advocating for the needs of their blind or low vision child. Many have experiences where they ignore their “gut” instincts as to what their child needs because they are intimidated by “the professionals” in both academic and medical realms. Others find their suggestions or beliefs as to what might be best for their child dismissed as “not a best practice” or “not deemed appropriate” for the child. For example, this past fall I completed and Orientation and Mobility assessment for a kindergartener. His parents strongly felt that he would benefit from using a cane and having more cane travel instruction than what he was presently receiving. (He saw his O and M instructor for a half hour a month despite the fact that he is documented as being legally blind and has a doctor’s report in his file stating that his vision is degenerative and expected to be completely gone within six months.). The parents were concerned because his vision was worsening and he was extremely fearful of traveling in unfamiliar areas. Unfortunately, the school administrators and his O and M professional did not see any reason for him to have a cane or to receive additional services because of the level of vision he presently displayed. Needless to say, these parents felt like they had no voice and continually saw their young child struggling. Their gut instinct was that things needed to change. Fortunately for them, they became connected with individuals who validated these feelings and helped them find their own voice for their child.

Our blind and low vision children have the same rights, opportunities, and potential as their sighted peers. They need only to be given the experiences and opportunities they need. I especially liked how this mother pointed this fact out in this podcast with respect to her own daughter’s potential. I think this is an important lesson for our parents of blind and low vision children to hear. Just because our children can’t see as well as other children does not make them inferior, unintelligent, or incapable.

I could spend hours sharing similar stories and write pages on how parents are the best advocates for their children. But, it all comes down to the fact that you have your child’s best interest at heart and you know your child and his needs better than anyone else. You and your child have rights. I think hearing this from another parent is one of the best ways to help convey this message. I hope you will check out this podcast and that it will inspire you to go out there and find your own voice when it comes to advocating for your child. WE need more parents of blind and low vision children out there to speak up for what is best for our children. Good luck!

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Pages from the Hartle Playbook: What a Jonah Day!

What a Jonah day! (I hope you Ann of Green Gables fans out there appreciated that reference). Today is proof that you’ve got to be tough to be blind.  Our lives aren’t always as glamorous as you might think they are.  So, I thought I’d share my day today with you all, just for the fun of it. 

            Last night, because it was late, and I was distracted, I let my daughter run off with my phone for a few minutes.  My husband was doing the dishes in the kitchen, and well, you can probably see where I am going with this.  Yes, the phone took a bath in the dishwasher.  We realized it about 10 minutes later when I tried to find my phone and we couldn’t hear it ringing, even though we knew it was in the kitchen.  Who knew this one little momentary lapse of attention would result in such a day as today! 

            So, I set off for the Apple store today to see if anything could be done.  (we don’t have a house phone, just our cells.) After getting off to a late start (my daughter has been sick and was up a little bit last night with some congestion), I finally left the house and headed to catch the bus to the mall around 11:30.   The mall is only a little less than two miles away from my house.  It takes about 7-10 mins. To walk to the bus stop, and about ten minutes on the bus to get to the mall.  So, we headed out, bundled up and ready to brave the cold.  Twenty-five minutes after arriving at the bus stop, the “every 10 minute bus” decided to make an appearance.  I struggled onto the bus with my rebellious stroller and wiggly toddler.  Fortunately, this nice woman took my daughter and helped get her to a seat while I wrestled the stroller and tried to keep my cane from hitting the bus driver in the head while doing so. 

Ten minutes later, we were at the Apple store, only to learn that I’d have to buy a new phone.  “Ding, ding,” I remembered I had purchased insurance from AT&T, so we left that store and headed upstairs to find the AT&T store.  Keep in mind, mall navigation for the blind isn’t the easiest thing in that it’s not like you can just walk directly to the stores.  You have to find landmarks and sometimes ask directions to get to the stores you need, unless you’ve been there a lot and really know the place.  So, this took me a little longer.  I also had to find elevators since I had a stroller and it seemed like they were a little out of the way.  I’ll even admit to you that I went in a complete circle around the rotunda of the mall because I missed the hallway that I needed off of it.  This really nice gentleman I’d seen in the elevator, also with a stroller, came up and told me this, right about the same time as I was realizing it, and walked with me back to the right hallway.  I finally found the AT&T store and went in side hoping to hear the great news that my insurance would cover the cost of the phone in full.  NOPE!  The “AT&T Deductable” was as much as the cost of a replacement phone at Apple.  So, I  could either place an insurance claim with AT&T and have a new phone mailed to me, or else go back downstairs to the Apple store and buy a new phone which would be ready for me right then to use.  No brainer right? Fortunately, the Apple tech must have known I’d be back because he scheduled another appointment for me before I left.  I had an appointment across town at 2 p.m., so I’d made the second Apple one for later just in case I needed to come back.  So, by this time, it was nearly 1 p.m. and I still needed to get back home, drop off my daughter with our babysitter, and head out to my other appointment.  The “every 10 mins. Bus” only kept us waiting for about 15 mins. This time luckily, and I got home right at 1:30, just in time to meet the sitter, had she been on time.  She showed up forty mins. Later.  It wasn’t really her fault though.  She had bad transportation issues too and missed her train and had to wait another hour for the next one.  (She is also blind.) In her defense, she tried to call me, but alas, I didn’t have a phone.  Had I been able to drive, I still could have made my appointment within the “late grace window”, but no deal.  So, needless to say, I rescheduled my appointment and hung out with the sitter for a bit at my house while my daughter napped.  Around 4, I reluctantly started the whole process over again and headed to the bus.  This time, we waited for nearly forty-five minutes for the “every ten minute” bus to arrive.  By this time, it was getting dark, and even colder. My toddler didn’t want to wait in the stroller, didn’t want to leave her hood on, and didn’t want to wear her gloves.  Oh yeah, did I mention that five, yes five buses passed us going the other way.  Something was really off with the bus schedule today. 

They say that necessity is the mother of all inventions, and so it was today as I had to invent some pretty creative games to play with my daughter to keep her hands warm and to entertain her while we waited in the cold. An hour after our Apple appointment time, we strolled in to the store.  Fortunately, they squeezed me in since I’d been there earlier, and I was able to get a new phone set up. 

            An hour later, after a quick trip up to Macy’s to return a Christmas gift, we were back outside in the cold waiting on the same dumb bus.  My daughter enjoyed pulling me up and down a step near the stop, and I’m sure my melodious rounds of“If you’re happy and you know it…”or recitations of “Daisy’s dance” from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse had nothing to do with a near-by couple’s decision to move down the sidewalk a few yards.  

When our bus arrived this time (late again), our boarding of it was quite the scene.  Usually I’m a pro at collapsing the stroller, scooping up my child, and looping the stroller through the other arm, all while still using my cane and getting out my bus pass in a reasonable amount of time.  (I don’t like being that person that holds the bus up for everyone.) But, not tonight.  Instead, the stroller jammed and Kayla started throwing a tantrum –you know the ones where the child arches their back making it nearly impossible for you to hang on to them.  She’s a master at this one.  WE really made a scene too.  A couple of people offered to help, but I couldn’t exactly give them my temper-tantrum-throwing child , nor could I show them how to close the stroller.  And,I couldn’t put my child down to close it myself.  Finally, this sweet young guy grabbed the stroller and drug it onto the bus for me.  He probably just wanted to get me out of the way so the line of people behind me could get on the bus and get warm, but whatever the reason, it helped.  So, I got on, set my daughter down on the seat, and started to wrestle the stroller again.  I lost.  While trying to collapse it, the driver started moving (I thought she was waiting for me, but she wasn’t), and Kayla fell forehead first off of the seat behind me and onto the adjacent seat.  I quickly stopped messing with the stroller and attended to her, announcing that I would not be closing up the stroller.  People would just have to deal with it.  Kayla was okay, and we made it home safe and sound.  I should mention that Kayla also face planted off the bus earlier this afternoon when she stepped off ahead of me before I could grab her hand.  Did I mention I hate public transportation?  Turns out the cold had somehow jammed my stroller’s handle and that was why I was having so much trouble with it today. 

            When I got home, my husband was lying in bed sick with a stomach bug and not really in the mood to hear my rant. So, I tended to him for a few minutes and then headed downstairs to start dinner. Bbut, we’re out of groceries, and I couldn’t just “stop off at the store “on my way home like most people would have done, so we “made do.” This meant eating cheese casadillas (melted cheese on a tortilla) and popcorn for dinner.  Healthy I know. 

            So there you have it, a day in the life.  I really hope tomorrow is a little bit better.  I think I’ll go take a couple of aspirin now and head to bed. 

 

 

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