Happy New Year to you all and welcome to 2013! Unless you’ve been living in a cave or something for the past seventy-two hours, you’ve probably been bombarded with commercials, TV shows, church sermons, or friends and co-workers talking about New Year’s resolutions”. Generally, when it comes to resolutions, there are two kinds of people: the optimists who make them (myself), and the realists who don’t. But whatever your personality or feelings on the matter, I thought I’d share a couple of ideas of New Year’s resolutions you could try with respect to your blind or low vision child. Below is a list of ideas. I’d encourage you to check them out and choose one or two which you think might be possible for you and your circumstances. Don’t worry if you’re the type whose resolutions typically peter out around Jan. 10th either. There are ideas for you too.
1. if you don’t already know Braille , enroll in a class at a university with a program for certifying teachers of blind students, , enlist a blind braile reader or individual who knows Braille to teach you, or sign up for a program like the National Library Service Transcribers course or a correspondence class from the Hadley School for the Blind.
2. If your child doesn’t know Braille either, and would benefit from it (even children who have residual vision and can read large print can benefit from being dual media readers), make the decision to incorporate braille instruction into their school day by adding it to your child’s IEP this year. Or, if this isn’t an option at present, you could implement one of the ideas given above where you and your child could learn together.
3. Choose one book a week or even a month to transcribe into Braille. Either way, you’ll add 12 to 52 new books to your child’s library by the end of the year. If brailing your own books isn’t a realistic option right now, you could set a goal to purchase one Braille book a month for your child. There are a lot of sources for Braille children’s books online. Seedlings, National Braille Press, and the American Printing House are good places to start. Selection is a little limited when compared with the wide variety of children’s books out there, but it’s a good start to building a library for your child, no matter what the age.
Quick ideas for brailing your own children’s books: You can do this using a slate and stylus and some dymotape , or use contact (sticky clear sheets) onto which you can directly type with a Braille writer. You can then cut out these passages, or apply the dymotape strips directly onto the corresponding pages of the book.
4. Label appliances in your house with dymotape or other tactile markers to help make them accessible to your child (i.e., microwave, stove, oven, washer and dryer, etc.) Even if your child is not old enough to use this appliance yet, as he naturally explores his environment, he will find these indicators and start becoming familiar with them just as a sighted child would do with print.
5. Tackle one new chore which is age appropriate for your child and begin teaching her how to perform the task appropriately. For example, if you wanted to teach your child how to wash dishes, instruct her in a hands-on way how to rinse the dishes and feel whether they are free of food residue. If you use a dishwasher, help show your child how the dishes stack into the dishwasher and how she can use her hands to feel where each goes in the shelves of the dishwasher. Remember to hold the same expectations of cleanliness as you would for a sighted child—no excuses for a sloppy job because your child is blind.
6. Give your child an age appropriate “independent travel” assignment. For example, if your child is pre-school age, this may be something like taking something by his or her self next door to the neighbor’s house wile you watch from your house. For a young school age child, this could be something like going alone to get a gallon of milk at the store and meeting you back at the register. For an adolescent, you may want to start encouraging him or her to take a bus to the mall or public library independently. Look around or talk to friends and family members to see what kinds of activities their children are doing solo and incorporate something into your child’s experience which she has not done independently yet. You could even set a goal to give your child one of these experiences every week or once a month.
7. Help your child find a blind mentor in your area with whom he may be able to use as a resource. This individual should be someone whom you feel will help your child develop good skills and positive perceptions of blindness. (i.e., you may want to steer clear of a blind person who cannot travel independently, is unemployed due to a lack of skills or ambition, or who is negative about his/her blindness).
8. Encourage your child to take up a new hobby or interest. This is a great way to help your child develop new skills, meet people, and learn to try new things without letting blindness hold them back.
9. Teach an etiquette lesson to your child about table manors. Often, blind children don’t learn appropriate table manners because they are unable to watch others and learn through observation, or no one has taken the time to show them. So, set a place setting and go through some important tips with your child. Some topics you may want to address could include: posture, not eating with one’s fingers, using another utensil or piece of bread as a “pusher” to scoop food onto your fork, and sliding your fingers along a table rather than reaching out across the table when looking for things like glasses or dishes. If your child is a teen, you should consider teaching him or her more formal dining skills. This is a good time to begin preparing them for adulthood where they are bound to have experiences attending special occasion dinners, dating, or even dining with future employers and collegues.
10. Consider sending your child to a summer skills training program. Most of these programs begin taking applicants around January-March, so this is a great time to begin researching such a program. I would recommend one of the Buddy or STEP programs offered at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, Blind Inc. in Minnesota, or at the Colorado Center for the Blind. The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, MD typically offers some kind of STEM related program during the summers as well. There are also a multitude of sports or music camps for blind children and teens as well. I’ll be posting some helpful tips on what to look for in a good summer program very soon.
11. If you are a teacher of blind students, there is a twitter discussion group which meets on Thursday evenings at 9 p.m. ET. Consider joining/following #BRLchat on Twitter. (BTW, you can follow me on twitter as well: @MJHartle23.)
I hope a couple of these resolutions will appeal to you. I’d love to hear what you choose and how things go. Please share other ideas you may have as well. Happy new year to all!