FamilyConnect: A Parent's Voice
by Scott Truax
I am pleased to post information about a great camp located in Northern California. For many of you it is far away but it is always nice to learn what is happening accross the country.
By Bill McCann
Next month, I’ll once again be heading out to northern California to lead our third annual Summer Music Academy session at the Enchanted Hills Camp near Napa. This year, we’ve extended the session to run for ten days: a week at Enchanted Hills Camp in the mountains above Napa, California, followed by three days of cultural events, presentations and our closing performance at the new headquarters of the San Francisco Lighthouse, sponsor of the Summer Music Academy.
I’m looking forward to spending ten days with a group of young, visually impaired musicians who have a passion for playing, composing, arranging and recording music. What a great experience it has been for me during our first two summer sessions to introduce motivated young musicians to reading music in braille or magnified print. It’s gratifying to see how, during our music academy session, they begin to make the connection between improved literacy and technology skills that naturally lead to new opportunities for creative self-expression, educational advancement, and possibly even a career path in music.
Although our camp is not at all a traditional music performance camp, most of the participants are natural performers. This year, we plan three shows: Napa, August 5, EHC on August 6, and at the San Francisco Lighthouse on August 9 at 5:30. In addition to solo and small group performances, our EHC Summer Music Academy chorus will sing while reading braille or large print scores. I’m personally excited to teach the chorus a new song I have written inspired by the Google Car. I’m also looking forward to jumping back into the pool up there, breathing in the cool morning air of Mount Veeder, sitting under one of those enchanted redwood trees and enjoying some of the most peaceful sleep of the year. And, when we get to the city, we’re going to hear one of my new favorite bands in concert. Yes, indeed: Snarky Puppy!
BTW, we have not yet hit our target number of attendees. It’s not too late to join in but it will be very soon. Here’s a link to a page with more information and directions on how to apply. Music Academy
by Scott Truax
This week, we’re taking social media by storm.
FamilyConnect, WonderBaby, and you will shine the light on Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI); we’ll draw attention to what it is, discuss misconceptions, offer resources, provide encouragement to fellow parents, and share our children’s stories.
Here’s how it works: Impart your knowledge, experience, and/or child’s picture pertaining to CVI on social media and use the hashtag #CVIawareness.
Let’s spread the word. Let’s expand understanding. Let’s support each other.
Let’s increase #CVIawareness.
- News from FamilyConnect
by Scott Truax
By Kathy Yoo
At first, buying gifts for a child with visual impairment can be challenging. Whether it is for your granddaughter, cousin, or niece, there are many fun and accessible gift options for blind or visually impaired children that you may have yet to discover. When choosing a toy for a child who is visually impaired, search beyond the physical appearance of the toy. Since looks aren't the most significant factor for sight challenged kids, focus on toys with multi-sensory appeal. For example, try bright and colorful toys that are loud and have different textures, which would appeal to three out of the child’s five senses.
Children are not identical and they don’t always like the same toys; visually impaired children are no different. Thankfully, there is a large variety of fun toys all kids can choose from, including those specifically designed for sight challenged children. Not only are there toys created for visually impaired children, but there are also countless toys that have been modified for children with disabilities. For instance, the tactile chess and checker board set, braille Go Fish cards, and beeping foam soccer ball are all modifications of classic toys. These are our top five toys for children with visual impairment:
Similar to Lego blocks, Light Stax are plastic construction blocks that interlock with one another. Lite Stax is unique because it uses LED technology to magically illuminate when it is connected to a power base or another lit Stax block. The blocks light up beautifully yet are still compatible with current traditional building blocks. They enhance hand/eye coordination, tactile stimulation, and visual stimulation. These awesome blocks are especially great for children with cortical visual impairment.
Braille Learning Doll
The Braille Learning Doll was first designed by a teacher who was looking for creative ways to teach Braille in the classroom. On the doll's stomach, there are six buttons that can be pressed to form Braille letters. The buttons help engage the children and their dolls, while the different colors and textures appeal to the tactile and visual senses. Fortunately, the dolls are very popular and available through various vendors. With a colorful appearance and distinct textures, the doll is designed like a traditional rag doll. This makes a perfect gift for children who find it challenging to learn Braille. With the Braille Learning Doll, they can still have fun without knowing that they’re learning!
Rib It Ball
The Rib It Ball has many developmental benefits for children with visual impairment. Since there are multiple bright colors, the ball appeals to the child's visual sense. The lively colors also help enhance the child’s ability to recognize shapes and differentiate among different colors. The vibrant yellow handles on the sides of the ball allow easy accessibility for children of all ages. Since the ball is easy to grab at any speed, it is much safer for those with visual impairment to play with. These ridges also make a crinkling noise, which appeals to the child’s auditory sense.
Drum Therapy Kit
The Drum Therapy Kit allows visually impaired children to learn how to play drums safely and effectively. Learning how to play an instrument is a great way for kids to develop recollection, discipline, and communication skills. Since it comes with an instruction manual with DVD, the drum set is particularly good for children with visual impairment. It also enhances hand-eye coordination while appealing to auditory, tactile, and visual senses.
These unique DO-A-DOT™ Markers markers are extremely beneficial for visually impaired children. Each marker's color is identified in braille, making it easily distinguishable. Due to their large size, the markers are very easy to grab and use. The DO-A-DOT™ Markers help children learn braille, differentiate among colors, and enhance creativity. The big writing helps sight challenged children differentiate the colored markers. There are no drips, spills, and won't dry out if the cap is left off!
Label Your Toys!
Braille label makers punch in Braille instead of print, which helps visually impaired children distinguish among different toys. From food containers to bottles of medicine, the label maker can be used to identify countless products.
About the author: Kathy Yoo is an SEO & Outreach Intern at The Marketing Zen Group and enjoys writing content on behalf of the eye doctors at EyeCare20/20. As an avid traveller and learner from Canada, she loves exploring different cultures and cheering for the Toronto Raptors. Catch up with her on Twitter @kathy__yoo.
Finding Toys for Your Blind or Visually Impaired Child
by Catherine Duffek
On the 4th of July, we in the United States celebrated Independence Day!
This is the holiday that traditionally launches summer fun, summer sports, and family vacations.
Under the warmth and brilliance of the summer sun, children enthusiastically participate in various sports such as swimming, softball, volley ball, soccer, running track and field events, horseback riding, roller skating, biking, and more.
For parents who have children with glaucoma or congenital cataract, it is important to ensure that your child's eyes are protected. They should be fitted with correct eyewear such as sunglasses, safety glasses when appropriate, and head gear to shield them from glare and head injury.
At night, if enjoying the warm glow of an open camp fire take special steps to safeguard your child's vision. Hot, sharp sticks used for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows as well as hot sparks can do immediate and irreparable damage to their vision.
If using sparklers or fireworks, children with low vision should be closely monitored so that they use these items in responsible and non-harmful ways.
With these precautions in place, you should have a very fun and eye-healthy Independence Day and fun-filled summer!
The Glaucoma and/or Congenital Cataract Telesupport Group is for parents of children diagnosed with glaucoma and/or congenital cataract. The primary mission of this group addresses specific issues which parents of children and children with glaucoma and/or congenital cataract encounter. Joining this group is FREE. For more information or to join, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Susan LaVenture.
2016 brings hope for early diagnosis and the safeguarding of vision through public education and awareness programs, such as those through FamilyConnect with the American Foundation for the Blind and the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments of Lighthouse Guild.
For more information about childhood glaucoma, please visit:
FamilyConnect Glaucoma page,
Children’s Glaucoma Foundation,
National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments of Lighthouse Guild,
National Eye Health Education Program.
- Support Groups
by Shannon Carollo
School’s out, the sun is beating down [have mercy!!], and most children are spending much more time at home. That’s right—summer’s in full swing, and my hope is that playtime is in full force.
We know playing encourages creativity, problem solving, and social skills. Why not use play time as a fun means of advancing in Orientation and Mobility? Let’s put our heads together in effort to create a master list of activities that help our children practice Orientation and Mobility skills.
First, browse FamilyConnect’s list of Orientation and Mobility activities; you’ll find activity suggestions and tips on making the activities meaningful learning opportunities. You’ll read ideas regarding picnicking, visiting zoos and amusement parks, shopping, playing at friends’ homes, and visiting restaurants.
Second, browse Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness’ Games that Enhance the O&M Experience for Children; read about games that teach left/ right, cane use, cardinal directions, and traffic signs.
Third, consider incorporating the following into summertime play:
- Play games that teach young children their body parts (such as “Simon says”).
- Play games that improve your child’s balance, strength, and fitness (such as yoga, stretching, walking on a balance beam, and jumping on a trampoline).
- Have beeping balls on hand for indoor and outdoor play. With their use, your child can more easily play with sighted peers, improve in coordination, and prepare for sports.
- Ask your child to teach sighted guide to visiting friends.
- Encourage your child to walk more independently (with less sighted guide when appropriate).
- Teach your child to request and decline assistance.
- Introduce your child to a variety of sports.
- Take neighborhood walks. Allow your child to explore street signs, trail the grass along the sidewalk with a cane, listen to traffic and help decide when it is safe to cross streets, feel changes in terrain, and notice smells and sounds.
- Utilize public transportation. As described in the "The Value of Orientation and Mobility Skills", you can venture to an unfamiliar location of your child’s choice while teaching your child to obtain a bus schedule, pay a bus fare, behave appropriately while traveling, recognize bus stops, and more.
- Take a taxi. Walk your child through the process of calling, meeting, using, and paying a taxi driver for a nearby family excursion. Go get ice cream, see a movie, or hail a cab for dinner.
- Consider joining a gym with your teen. Your son or daughter can improve fitness and learn about his or her body.
What else would you add to our list? I’d love to hear your suggestions.
I sure hope you’re enjoying the summer thus far!
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