Skills You Should Insist Your Blind Child Learn in Their Elementary School Setting

1. Classroom organization skills are essential to your blind child’s overall educational success. Instruction should include organization and orientation to the following: classroom and educational setting, group and individualized work areas, desk space, cubby, backpack, Braille materials and classroom/homework Braille folders. For more information on Classroom organizational skills, see my article titled: Teacher Tips on Developing Your Blind Student’s Overall Classroom Organizational Skills, by Patricia M. Brown, M. Ed.2. Teach your child how to advocate for transcribed educational print materials in Braille format. It is essential that the Braille teacher/itinerant teacher assure a continuous flow of classroom print materials transcribed into Braille format. Transcription of class print materials demonstrates equal access to educational materials. Keep in mind that appropriate instruction must be provided to the Braille transcriber (if other than a Braille teacher or certified transcriber) to assure that Literary and Math materials are being transcribed using appropriate code, formatting and rules that govern the Braille code.3. Instruction on the Perkin’s Braille writer should include identification of the various parts of the Perkin’s Braille writer, correct placement of Braille paper, development of finger strength, accuracy and speed of keyboarding skills.4. You child will benefit from individualized Braille instruction to include: the Literary Braille code, rules that govern the Literary Braille code, Braille reading skills, decoding skills and Braille reading speed. Braille reading, reading speed and decoding skills should be monitored especially in the early educational years in order to evaluate reading levels and to provide remediation activities if needed.5. Your child should participate in ongoing development of their tactual skills. Tactual instruction can include: teacher made tactual tracking worksheets or one of the many tactual tracking programs currently commercially available. Tactual tracking and tactual reading continues to require refinement through the grades beginning with very simple tactual graphics to more advanced tactual work as your child moves through educational grades.6. Your child should participate in development of both Literary and Nemeth Braille code reference guide sheets. Braille reference guide sheets should be updated during Braille lessons as specific code and rules that govern the Braille code are introduced and used in class and home as a resource. This type of reference list or resource is especially useful while your child is in the process of learning the Literary and Nemeth code.7. Your child should be instructed in reading the title, author, volume number (s), contents, chapters, and page numbers of Braille books. Instruction should also include locating volume numbers and maintaining volume order for easy identification. Your child should be working towards independently locating and obtaining their own Braille books in the classroom setting.8. Tactual instruction of the map and the atlas should be initiated early by the Braille teacher. This skill should be developed in conjunction with the teachers overall map and atlas curriculum activities. Consider introducing tactual exploration of your state map beginning with your town, local (familiar) towns and counties. Map reading should be viewed as part of the overall tactual development program for your blind child.9. Instruction should be completed in the use of a Braille Dictionary and Thesaurus. Introduction of technology devices such as the Children’s Language Master or the Franklin Language Master should be introduced as a school and home resource.10. Your child should be instructed in the Basic reading of tactual Braille multiplication and division charts. Children benefit from specific instruction and techniques to be able to read these tables in an accurate and consistent manner.11. Braille specific Math Instruction should include items such as:* Quick Pick Nemeth and Literary Drill cards- Quick Pick cards are great math practice cards that are available as math operations, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division activities. Students should be instructed in the use of Quick Pick cards and provided with practice sets for use in the class and home setting.* Your child will benefit from instruction in the use of “Math Windows” available in basic math, algebra and geometry. Your child should be instructed in organization of the Braille tiles on the windows board, identification of the tiles, math operation signs and active use in solving math operations and then demonstrate the ability to transfer the math operation using the Perkin’s Braille Writer. Math Windows is a valuable math (print/Braille) resource that can be used during simple and more complex math lessons right in the Braille lesson, class setting and home setting.* Instruction should be completed in use of the Braille ruler and thermometer which is typically seen as early as 1st grade. The child should be instruction in the inch, centimeter and yard stick Braille rulers.* Instruction should be completed in the use of the Braille analog clock and use of tactual clock paper for reading and demonstrating time. Reading and demonstrating time is an essential skill and takes tactual instruction and practice.* Basic abacus instruction should be incorporated into Braille lessons starting with a Children’s Abacus and initial counting skills. Your child should be introduced to more advanced abacus skills as they move through the math curriculum.* Your child should be instructed in the use of the auditory calculator, keypad and functions of the calculator.12. Instruction should be provided in the use of Talking book and Braille center materials and Learning Ally materials (formally Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic) for your state. This type of instruction should include review of any devices used and return of any lending library resources such as: Braille books or talking books. I have instructed my students in everything from ordering Braille books/talking books, packing them up/appropriately replacing return label and independently bringing items up to school mail box for return. Your child should learn to independently access these services within the school and home setting.13. Qwerty Keyboarding should be introduced early as a team approach and practice skills should be integrated into classroom computer activities and Braille Note (or similar) instruction whenever possible. It should be noted that every child may not access higher level technology such as the Braille note; however, every child can have access to technology that can include: adaptive accessibility options, beginning mouse instruction, keyboarding, use of programs such as: “Write Out Loud”, talking typing programs or advanced technology.14. I highly recommend instruction in developing an index card address book to include names, addresses, phone numbers and alphabetizing or ordering of names. Start with family names/phone numbers. This skill gives your child practice in organization and ordering, spelling, phone numbers and practice with braille writing of literary Braille code.15. Signature Writing is an essential skill to develop. Start instruction in this skill early and benefit from time to refine this skill. Introduce this skill in early grades using a large piece of cardboard (similar to a signature guide) slowly reducing the size of the signature to a typical signature guide.16. Marking skills: Your child will benefit from instruction in simple marking skills such as circling, check mark, underline and X. This type of work allows a student to indicate their selection in multiple choice tests making it an easier process for test taking for your child and easier for teacher review. Simple marking skills will allow your child to participate in games like tic-tac-toe. Use a tactile Tic-Tac-Toe board and change out the paper underneath after each game.17. Calendar reading is an essential skill that can be integrated nicely into classroom morning circle time using the large kindergarten Braille/print calendar. Your child should be instructed on how to explore and read the calendar in and organized tactile manner. I also recommend that your child have access to a desk-top calendar and a home calendar. Take the opportunity to use the Braille calendar at home in a functional manner by marking special family outings, birthdays, holidays, trips and events.18. Your child should receive instruction in basic phone keypad and phone etiquette.19. Your Braille teacher should instruct your child in the use of technology such as: Language Masters/auditory dictionary, Victor Reader/CD readers or similar and Braille Note as appropriate.20. Consistent teacher consultations should take place with appropriate school staff regarding classroom adaptations and modifications for inclusion of the blind student. For more information on music and art and crafts modifications-See my articles titled: Create Meaningful Art Lessons for Blind and Visually Impaired Student’s by Following 15 Simple Tips and Maximize Your Blind Students Overall Inclusion in Music Class Using These Essential 12 Modifications.21. Instruction should be provided in the playing of simple games and the rules that govern each game. These types of activities foster development of social skills, turn taking, sportsmanship and just plain “fun”. There are currently a variety of simple print and Braille card games “Go Fish”, tactual Tic-Tac-Toe, Braille Bingo Cards and even Braille/tactual/print board games which can be easily incorporated into the classroom day. It is also motivating to include tactual/print & Braille activities into the regular classroom setting. Take the opportunity to have game night in your home setting to practice these skills.22. The Slate & Stylus is a method of taking quick notes, phone numbers or jotting down short lists. This method of quick note taking may seem like a technique of the past with all of the new technology available today. The slate & stylus should still be introduced with some initial instruction as it can be valuable as a quick resource for note-taking when in a pinch.Many of the skills noted above require ongoing refinement of that particular skill set as the child moves through grade levels, advances through their educational curriculum and develops skills through the advancements in the area of adaptive technology. The end objective is to develop your child’s overall inclusion, independence and ability to self advocate in his educational setting and with life-long skills. Parent support is a necessity for a team approach and adequate transfer of skills, teaching methods and materials successfully into the home setting. The above recommendations will set your child on a firm foundation for a successful educational journey.

Helpful Tips on Choosing Educational Toys For Your Child

Play is the language of children. It is an essential part of a child’s learning and development. It facilitates the child to further enhance cognitive, psychomotor and social capabilities. It also serves as a channel for their creativity in which a child can express his thoughts and emotions.Parents play a crucial role in stimulating a child’s development. During this important time, it is their responsibility to provide an advantageous environment for physical and intellectual growth. It can be very difficult to understand how best you can provide this because you cannot control or predict every aspect of his educational atmosphere. The first step often involves identifying and recognizing each child’s strengths and weaknesses. This can be tricky for each child is different. The only thing you can do is to have constant interaction with your child and provide guidance in order for them to develop new skills in the most positive way.Unfortunately in this modern time, parents do not exactly have the time to interact with their children personally. This leads to a decline in effective stimulation and the learning experience. Although parent participation is very significant in this process, the good news is educational toys can be used as substitutes. You just have to choose the best toy for your child.A wide variety of choices for toys are offered in the market, so as a parent it may be a little bit overwhelming. You are faced with the dilemma on choosing the toy that will suit your child best. The best guide is to have a thorough understanding of the developmental milestones of a child and how appropriate toys can boost their imagination and creativity. But if you are still a bit confused, here are some tips to find the ideal toy:o Safety first. Make sure the toy is safe, durable and appropriate for a child’s age. Follow the recommended age guidelines to avoid accidents such as choking.
o Take your time in making a decision. Examine the toy first and think over the educational benefits it can offer. It should encourage imagination and inventiveness.
o The toy is easy to use. It is important that the child is able to play with the toy himself in order for him to enjoy it.
o The fun value is also a factor in choosing a toy. The toy may hold educational benefits but if it does not satisfy a child’s curiosity it will be quickly thrown aside and forgotten.
o Find a toy that is specifically the child’s style and interest. This will give the child determination to learn and have fun at the same time.
o Choose toys that will promote social skills. These toys will encourage cooperation and compromise by playing with other children.
o Budget-friendly. Choose toys that fit your budget. Good toys are not necessarily pricey.Keep in mind these helpful tips the next time you find yourself looking for the perfect toy. It may seem challenging at first but remember that your child’s future is in your hands. Embrace the significance of providing the right educational toys to provide your child the best foundation for learning.

Special Education Certificate of Attendance – Does it End Special Education Services?

Do you have a 17 or 18 year old with a disability receiving special education services? Have you been told that your 17 or 18 year old with autism or a learning disability, will be given a certificate of attendance? Have you also been told that your child will no longer be eligible for special education services, if they receive a certificate of attendance? This article will discuss a new tactic by some special education personnel to convince parents that their child is no longer eligible for special education. The tactic is certificates of attendance and will be discussed.Several months ago I heard from a parent in Pennsylvania that had this tactic used on her. She contacted me and asked me what I thought about this issue.The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states the following: The obligation to make a free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to all children with disabilities does not apply with respect to the following: Children with disabilities who have graduated from high school with a regular high school diploma.The truth is that a Certificate of Attendance does not make a child ineligible for special education services. IDEA also states that children with disabilities have the right to be educated from the age of 3 years to 21 years. As long as the child does not accept a regular education diploma, they are eligible to receive special education services.Another thing that parents must keep in mind is the importance of functional skills as well as academic skills. When IDEA was reauthorized in 2004 Congress added a section about functional skills. A child’s IEP must now include present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. Make sure that your school district is testing your child in the area of functional performance.For children over 13 years of age I recommend the Scale of Independent Behavior. It is performed by parent survey, which means that the parent answers questions about what their child can do and cannot do. This scale covers: activities of daily living, communication, functional skills, job skills etc. Awesome measure of a young persons functional ability.Also the purpose of IDEA is to: prepare children with disabilities for further education, employment, and independent living. If a child who is 17 or 18 years old and is not ready for post school learning, a job, or independent living they may need additional years of education. Parents often overlook functional skills when advocating for their child’s education.If your school district tries to tell you that a Certificate of Attendance ends your child’s right to further special education services, consider filing a complaint with your state board of education. In my experience the more parents stand up to special education personnel who are not truthful the less they try and get away with. Do not let your child’s life be ruined by deceptions from some special education personnel. Good Luck-keep up the fight!