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Helping Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Avoid the "Summer Reading Slide"

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog post is from Samantha Kelly, a teacher of students with visual impairments in Florida, who provides us with wonderful suggestions for helping our children elude summertime regression in reading.

Helping Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Avoid the "Summer Reading Slide"

by Samantha Kelly

school-aged girl reading braille

Summertime. While the children are hyper-focused on keeping cool and enjoying the playground, parents are worried about preventing "summer slide" or the loss of skills acquired during the school year. While all students benefit from summer reading, students who are visually impaired benefit from a few extra considerations when preparing to prevent summer slide.

Consider the following:

  1. All books are not equal. Speak to your child’s teacher in advance to determine the reading level or recommended books for the summer. Reading books that are too difficult may be discouraging, and books that are too simple may be boring for your child.

  2. Make sure you have the right devices. If your child uses magnifiers, a CCTV, reading stands, or other devices make sure your child has access to these devices over the summer. Before the end of the school year, speak to your Teacher of the Visually Impaired or Division of Blind Services office.

  3. Ensure you have braille books and audiobooks on hand. If your child uses audio or braille books, order books in advance, so your child has access to materials daily. Here you’ll find a comprehensive list of braille material resources.

  4. Consider having your child enter a summer reading competition. Often local libraries host reading challenges and provide rewards to students for pages/books read. If your library does not host a challenge, consider setting up your own.

  5. Set aside a small window of time for reading each day. Students who are visually impaired miss some of the incidental reading opportunities like the back of cereal box or street signs. It is important that your child reads each day for at least 30 minutes. Follow any suggestions from your child’s teachers and keep it fun by taking turns reading to one another, finding enjoyable books, and incorporating a reward system for those who just don’t find reading enjoyable.

  6. Provide creative ways to sneak in reading. Brainstorm a few out-of-the-box reading opportunities. The use of recipes for simple cooking activities will provide reading and a fun experience in the kitchen. Consider seeking a pen pal for your child through the National Federation of the Blind’s Slate Pals program.

  7. Reach out to local resources. If your child was offered summer school or extended school year services, it will likely benefit your child’s reading skills to attend. There may also be specialized camps in your area for youth with visual impairments; check out their reading instruction and curriculum to determine if it would benefit your child. Lastly, the National Federation of the Blind offers the Bell Academy to improve braille reading for children ages four to 12.

Please share any resources you have for other parents!

When your child returns to school in the fall, he/she and the teachers will be thankful for your efforts to maintain your child’s reading skills. Remember, summertime is for playing with neighbors, vacationing, keeping cool in the sprinklers, and sliding down water slides, but it needn’t involve the summer reading slide!

FamilyConnect Resources

Summertime Activities to Advance Orientation and Mobility Skills

Five Summertime Activities That Buy Parents of Preschool Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired a Few Minutes of Free Time

Mixed Emotions About Going Back to School


Topics:
Books
Education
Planning for the Future
Reading

Empowered by Sports: The United States Association of Blind Athletes Offers Life-Changing Recreational Opportunities

Editor’s Note: FamilyConnect aims to help parents recognize the importance of recreational activities for children and teens with visual impairments as well as identify agencies and associations who provide recreational instruction and opportunities for blind and visually impaired children and adults. Families, meet the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA)!

Empowered by Sports

By Courtney Patterson of the United States Association of Blind Athletes

Approximately 70 percent of American youth who are blind or visually impaired do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum due to barriers in education and misconceptions surrounding the abilities of children with visual impairments. U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and our widespread network of Sports Club Partners across the nation are working to change this by educating the public and offering life-changing opportunities in sports, recreation, and physical activity across the U.S.

USABA is constantly educating the public on the importance of physical activity and sports in the blindness community. We offer resources like Mobile Coach, a free online coaching platform with videos and instruction in multiple sports. We also conduct in-person demonstrations of adaptive sports that can be included in physical education curriculums in any school, like guide running and goalball—a team sport specifically designed for blind and visually impaired athletes. We also highlight the accomplishments of athletes and programs in their local communities to further the awareness of adaptive sport and opportunities for those in blindness communities at the local level.

We believe sports empower by giving individuals opportunities to learn important life skills like teamwork, perseverance, and commitment. Sports also enhance an individual’s confidence and cultivate community.

Often youth who are blind or visually impaired do not participate in organized sports or physical education activities because of fear which often stems from limited knowledge about adaptations available. USABA and our numerous Sports Club Partners break down the barrier of fear and inform communities by hosting multi-sport festivals where youth and adults can try different sports in a non-competitive environment. We also host development camps in specific sports like rowing, cycling, goalball, and skiing once individuals determine which sports they enjoy most and want to develop their skills. USABA’s network of Sports Club Partners enables us to reach youth across the U.S. at the local level. For a full list of USABA Sports Clubs and contact information, please visit our website.

Each time we introduce someone to sports, whether it is through a USABA program or program at a USABA Sports Club, we know we’re opening the door to empowerment, independence, and community. Join us and play sports in your community!

FamilyConnect Resources for Sports, Recreation, and Physical Fitness

5 Reasons Recreation Is So Important for Children and Teens Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Physical Education and Sports for Students with Visual Impairments

Spring Sports: Why and How to Include Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Goalball: An Overview from the United States Association of Blind Athletes

Eddie Plays Goalball


Topics:
Independence
Low Vision
Social Life and Recreation
Sports

A Teen Son (with a Visual Impairment) Reflects on the Impact of His Father

Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments, Debra Reames, shares, with permission, her student’s words affirming his father:

My name is Adam Prousalis and, like many others, I have Oculocutaneous Albinism. While I have struggled with this visual impairment at times, one figure in my life has helped me overcome it, this, of course, being my father. With love, and a seemingly endless amount of patience, my father has helped me overcome my visual impairment in whatever way he could; he was willing to go above and beyond to make sure that I received proper equipment and accommodations not just in school, but in everyday use. He has taught me that though I was born with a visual impairment, I am not incapable, and I can still pursue and follow whatever path I choose and to never let what I was born with stop me. He’s taught me the importance of self-reliance and independence, while at the same time teaching me to advocate for myself when needed. He has been the most influential figure in my life, and I am forever in debt to him for all he has done for me.

Man pulling shirt open to reveal Superman S shirt underneath

As Adam expressed, a father’s role is enormously influential. This week we gave a toast, or rather a charge, to dads of children with visual impairments. Today, we say thank you.

Thank you, Fathers! Happy Father’s Day from your FamilyConnect family!


A Toast to Fathers of Children with Visual Impairments

Here’s to you, Dad.

dad smiling at his young visually impaired daughter, who is sitting on his knee, smiling

A provider, a protector, a teacher, an encourager.
A source of strength, a source of love.
Time with you is precious and remembered.
You are respected, you are adored.
You’re a role model, Dad.
Thank you.

Thank you for holding and nurturing that precious babe.

Thank you for playing, tickling, wrestling, and connecting.

Thank you for reading, exploring, and creating with your child.

Thank you for learning about blindness and refusing to allow it to limit or define your child.

Thank you for advocating and requesting services.

Thank you for those high expectations and valuable experiences.

Eddie and his father standing in front of a fence on a ferry

Thank you for cheering on cane use and braille skills in addition to typical milestones.

Thank you for encouraging your child to pursue hobbies and a career of interest.

Thank you for loving your child just as he or she is, a gift all children require.

Your role is valuable, and you are valuable.

Happy Father’s Day.

Celebrating Dad

Mothers and others, make plans for Father’s Day. Acknowledge his important role and influence and enlist the help of your child in making a meaningful gift.

Spend time together, and above all else, let him know he is appreciated, important, and loved. He is.


Topic:
Holidays

Our [Very Positive] Experience with Evaluations at Perkins School for the Blind

Planning the Evaluation

Last I wrote, we had obtained funding for our son, Vincent, to go to Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts for an evaluation. It takes a long time to get a date; I got all my paperwork and assessments together to send them in September. It took seven months to get a date in March. To be fair, they gave us a date in February. However, we had tons of snow, and they graciously extended the date to the end of March. It continued to snow here in Maine through April.

The trip to Perkins School took a lot of work on our part to put together. We have three children and two foster children. We were able to put one of our foster children in respite. The other child went with us. It was two parents and four children off on an adventure!

Onward to Perkins!

Since it was still winter, at least here in Maine, we couldn’t travel in the motor home; we packed everything into the truck and headed out. We stayed at Perkins in one of their independent living apartments. Perkins staff was very gracious and planned for our every need, even lunch with the students!

“He Wasn’t the Exception, But the Norm”

This was an amazing experience for all of us. Vinnie was right at home for the first time in his life, he wasn’t the exception, but the norm. That is an incredible experience for any child with a disability, for once to be like everyone else and not have to explain anything. It was like everyone spoke the same language. Every person understood and no need to explain anything.

Vincent went through two days of testing. They covered everything from education, psychological, and orientation and mobility. (That is the simple explanation.) We then toured the facilities and talked with teachers, staff, and administrators.

Decompressing

When we were finished, we took two days to process and decompress from our experience. We went to a Residence INN on our way home for two days, played, swam, and just relaxed. Of course, that wouldn’t be complete without Vincent’s twin dialing 911 from the motel room. Chagrin and apologies were given big time. Then that little boy got a lesson in 911 etiquette. Of course, it is now a family story for the book!

Considering Perkins School

Every adult I’ve met who went to Perkins School has said it was the best thing that has ever happened to them, and they learned so much. My response, “I know, but I just can’t send my child to a boarding school.” After experiencing Perkins, I do want him to go in a couple of years to high school and stay until he graduates. I think it will be a wonderful experience and set him on the road to adulthood.

For Vinnie, it is like this whole experience gave him a tremendous boost in self-esteem. For us, it put to rest many questions. Some of his different behaviors that folks had been trying to label as autism is in fact due to his visual impairment and premature birth. Vinnie turns 11 in July. For me, it reinforced that we have made the correct decisions so far to home school Vinnie. He can read and write braille, do math, and use his iPad and iPod to access stories and music. He is independent in the home setting. He is a wonderful part of our family, helping out wherever he can. He walks just a bit taller and more self-assured because of his visit to Perkins. That was worth the trip!

We are beginning the conversation on how to access Perkins with the service providers for visually impaired children in Maine. It may mean working with or advocating for services with Perkins School through the public school. It may not be an easy path. The one thing we feel is this is the next logical step on our path as we seek to raise this young man to adulthood. It probably won’t be easy, and certainly, nothing worthwhile is, but he is worth the journey!

So, what is next? We’ll keep you posted.

Related Resources

Transitions, Not So Easy!

Assessments for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

What Is the Most Appropriate School Placement for a Child with a Visual Impairment?

Know Your Rights as a Parent of a Visually Impaired Child


Topics:
Education
Independence
Low Vision
Personal Reflections
Planning for the Future

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