Living Life

Jesus, Me, and the Kitchen Table

Learning Through Play

My friend and colleague Kristie Smith, who is an accomplished teacher of the visually impaired in Mesquite, TX also writes for the Dallas Morning News’ Special Needs Blog.  One of her recent articles emphasizes the role of play in infants who are blind or have visual impairments.  Having worked with a number of infants and toddlers who are blind myself, I have seen first-hand the truths outlined in this article.

Please take a moment and read this post. You can find it at:

http://specialneedsblog.dallasnews.com/2014/09/playing-is-crucial-for-infants-who-are-blind-or-visually-impaired.html/

Or read it below:

Playing is crucial for infants who are blind or visually impaired

Many people are often interested in my profession as a teacher for the blind and visually impaired- especially when I tell them I work with infants through age twenty-two.“How do you work with a baby who is blind?” People often ask.

When I explain, you can see the look of amusement on their faces and often times, they want to know more.

I describe how 85 percent of what we learn is visual, so babies who or blind or visually impaired need to learn to play as play is the curriculum for infants; it is their algebra, English, writing, Language Arts, math, social studies and science because when they play- they learn.

The activities are fun, but most importantly, the skills for infants who are blind or visually impaired (most are visually impaired- very few are completely blind) are crucial for them to learn how to walk, talk, interact with others, play and learn about their world and concepts. As one brilliant professor for the blind told her class, “If you can’t bring the child to the world, you must bring the world to the child.”

It is important to note when I work with infants I must stay on a strict routine schedule as the brain is trying to make connections, so repetition is important for neurons to build upon neurons forming bridges for long-lasting learning. I sing the same song and do the same activities for several weeks. It is important to ask the infant if I may see their hands, so we can begin to sing finger plays together. I ask to “see” their hands because it allows them to maintain control over their environment. If someone grabs the hands of a child who is visually impaired, their environment becomes hostile and learning shuts down. They often cry, scream, hit or fall down to escape the unknown. Asking to see their hands after they hear a familiar voice, assures the child they are going to be safe while they play.

The most common goal is teaching a child with a visual impairment is to explore their environment using their other senses. I always vocalize the area, the objects and the surroundings. For example, I will say, “Here’s Ms. Kristie’s watch. It is round like a circle,” as I take the infant’s hand to feel around the watch. I explain when we are walking toward a ball and describe the soft carpet underneath. It is also important to discuss landmarks when we walk such as, “Hear the clock ticking? Let’s walk past the clock to the window and to the big red soft ball.”

I have been known to ask family members to wear jingle bell socks as it encourages the child to move around the room and explore. Most infants with a visual impairment are underdeveloped with large and fine motor skills, language, feeding and socialization simply because they are not enticed by vision to move and interact with the world.

My book, Wee Can, Too! is an activity book I self-published after my Wee Play Wee Learn book from FlagHouse was retired. It incorporates songs, simple recipes, movement activities and finger plays to encourage children without vision to move, laugh and play.

As we know, when we play, we really do learn.

Fun Facts:

  1. Distance vision objects are the first items a newborn baby sees.
  2. Children with a visual impairment must be taught to bond with others.
  3. Smell is the only sense that does not need to process chemically- it connects directly to the brain and near emotions.  If you provide a child who is visually impaired with favorite smells during instruction time, he will retain and understand the skill as the sense of smell is next to memory in the brain.
  4. The color yellow is the first color the brain processes. An example for the important use of the color yellow is road signs. The brain quickly picks up the color yellow and processes it faster than the other colors.
  5. Color red promotes creativity and appetites.
  6. Colors blue and green relax the brain while brown promotes security like the brown teddy bears.
  7. Sing all day to an infant with a disability as this will build the neurons for many daily living skills.
  8. Use songs and books that repeat like Dr. Seuss and Dr. Eric Carle.
  9. Entice the senses through wet and dry textures.
  10. The tongue and the fingers are the most sensitive body parts for exploration.
  11. Endorphins are created from a happy environment causing creativity and long-lasting learning to happen.  Stress shuts down the brain and learning stops.
  12. Remember, when we play, we learn.

Kristie Smith has been an educator for the past 32 years in the Dallas area. She has worked with children from grades K-8 in general education, English as a Second Language, and for the past 14 years, has been a teacher for the blind and visually impaired.

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It’s Fair Time!

The weather is cooling off and the leaves are falling from the trees.  And we are beginning to see the trees changing colors to shades of autumn.  Towns both large and small are ringing in the fall with fall festivals and fairs. I used to be a regular attendee at our local county fair. The girls and I would go and ride the ferris wheel and all sorts of other rides.  Oh and the games we would play trying to win the biggest stuffed animal! Tokens, tokens, and more tokens….

On Saturday Richard and I with our friend Harriet went to the Titus County Fair, the same one I’ve gone to for years, but have not been to since the fair of 2012, the last one me and the girls attended together.  I wasn’t sure how it would be…. bringing back all those fond memories…. but it was good, in fact it was great!  Of course I thought about them and which rides they loved.  But you know, the Lord gave me an extra amount of grace for the day.  Of course I missed them being there with us, but it was not a sad time.

I had a new wheelchair experience… getting across the hoses that ran all across the ground supplying electricity to all the rides.  Wobble, wobble, bump, bump! But I managed to get over them, although it shook me around a little! Before long I was caught up in the sights of brightly colored banners and signs, the smell of local flairs including Mexican food, barbecue, cotton candy, and funnel cakes!  Refreshing lemonade was a welcomed treat even though the Texas heat was kind of mild – thank goodness!

But this time at the fair was different in more than just one way.  We went in to the civic center to scope out the vendor booths and to see the exhibits.  There are all kinds of contests each year for people of all ages to compete in, including the art contests (photography, painting, etc.), horticulture (growing large fruits and vegetables, canning various produce, etc.), quilt contests, crafts, paper crafts, and so much more!  I had never before taken time to really see the art exhibits and the others.  What a treat I missed!  And not only that, had I visited them with a more careful eye, I would have know that there were art contests for children even at their young ages.  Richard, Harriet and I spent quality time admiring the various arts versus standing in lines waiting to ride rides.

Our last stop before leaving was for funnel cake.  There simply can’t be anything more greasy and calorie-laiden than funnel cake! But it is OH SO GOOD!  Well and when you only eat one a year, is it really that bad?  I think not!! I must say that I was intrigued by seeing things such as fried Snickers, Oreos, etc.  Wow, I might have to try one of those next year!

Below are some pictures of the girls at the 2012 Titus County Fair.  What a great time they had.  One picture is of Chloe steering a pink car, one of Emmarie steering a bus of some sort, and then one of them at the car with all their winnings, including Emmarie wearing a big red squid hat!  They are smiling from ear to ear and that puts a smile in my heart.  I can only imagine the sights they are seeing from Heaven.  10378554_10202586228206859_2741856445174346047_n 10689520_10202586231566943_6406144314788048111_n 550953_3613709831330_1064456078_n

Richard, me, and Harriet at the Titus County Fair.

Richard, me, and Harriet at the Titus County Fair.

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Worth Fighting For.

We love Jude and have never met him. We pray for him and follow on Facebook. A touching story!

Amber Denae

Today’s post comes from a deep place in my heart. A place of both joy and sorrow and of hope and faith. Many of you who know our family are well aware that we have a very special little guy who is a part of us. My sister, Hannah and brother-in-law, Sully have a precious 5 month old baby boy named Jude Sullivan Peters. Jude was born on April 17, 2014 with a very rare form of dwarfism called RCDP (Rhizomelic Chondrodysplasia Punctata). RCDP occurs in fewer than 1 in 100,000 infants worldwide. My sister was strongly encouraged to terminate her pregnancy and “try again” to which she strongly opposed. She and her husband were also told that Jude would likely not survive birth. Medical professionals have put limitations on him that he has far surpassed yet they continue to give grim reports. We affectionately call him our “Brave Little…

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Ups and Downs and Turn Arounds

The title of this post is just what popped into my brain as I began to type!
The content may or may not have much to do with the title.
Last week was one of the best weeks I’ve had in a very long time. It was also one of the most tiring weeks. So there are some new laws in the land of visual impairment. Well new and not so new.
One of my roles as a consultant is to present timely information to our teachers so they can have the latest information on teaching students with visual impairments and stay legal and all that “stuff”. I’m actually doing about 3 jobs, which equal more that one full-time job and I’m only able to work a little less than half-time. Anyway I had been planning for this training on Friday for over a month. I got my PowerPoint slides ready, gathered all the many handouts, put together the agenda, etc. I could not have done this without the support of my awesome secretary. One of the other things I love about this job is getting to give lots of stuff to my teachers. On the day of the training we were loading them up with lots of stuff for them and their students… and I love to give stuff to them… I love to give! But that meant that on top of the workshop preparation we also had a ton of things to sort out and group by school district.

I usually go into the office or to a school district in the afternoons. It is difficult for me to get places in the mornings because it takes so long to get dressed and do my medical stuff. But I scheduled the session to begin at 9 AM. And yes, I made it to work on time – early actually – and then taught all day until about 3, except for lunch! My colleague helped me present, and we had lots of good dialogue from the teachers. It was awesome! They were thrilled with all the goodies they got to ale home – most of which were tools they can use to teach kids skills related to the new laws. It was such a full day and I even worked late – about an hour or so.
I went home and still had things to do, and ended up going to bed at my regular time.
At the end of the week I totaled up my hours and I had worked more than half time, about 23 hours in all. And I survived! But barely.

Thank goodness the next day was Saturday. I was so tired! And I slept until almost noon. And at the same time the weather was changing as the first day of fall was approaching. Weather changes are never good for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s going from hot to cold or vice versa. It makes me hurt. The pain I experienced the next 3 days was almost unbearable. By yesterday I was starting to get depressed. But thank God, His mercies are new every morning! I woke up today and felt much better. However I finally slept in some. I think I needed sleep and for the weather to be still.
I can’t sleep late everyday because I DO want to get to work. After all, I have a great job that I love and wonderful co-workers!

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On Anger

This is a topic I’ve thought about addressing for awhile…. I would have been the last person to try to write or talk to others about this subject. However, several weeks ago I was visiting a church for the first time. In the middle of worship a woman who I did not know came to me and said she struggles with anger and bitterness. Furthermore, she felt like she was supposed to ask me to pray for her. Wow. Me? I wanted to say, “are you sure you have the right person?” Why me?

Through the years I have learned a lot about dealing with anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness.
My life has been FULL of opportunities to forgive, place things in God’s hands and then move on.
But here are my basic words of wisdom or experience on anger and such.

First, when we have been hurt, forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness is not a feeling.
Most of the time when you make the choice to forgive it will not “feel” good.
It’s our human nature to want to hold onto such hurts. But God instructs us to not only forgive, but to do good for and pray for our enemies. So the first step is to choose to forgive.
Not forgiving only leads to bitterness and will only hurt you in the end.

Bitterness eats at your should. It will turn into an ugly, hideous place that like a cancer, will eat away at your emotions and your heart.

Sometimes we feel we have a right to be angry. But we actually don’t have that right, especially if you are a Christian. We have to learn to let it go. Give it to Him and leave it there. It’s not that anger in itself is a sin. Even Jesus was angry at the money changers in the temple. But He did not sin in His anger. Most of us are not that good… we cannot be angry and sin not. We can’t be angry and not think bad thoughts or wish revenge, or hold a grudge. That’s where the problem is for us. So it’s better to let it go than hold onto it.

When we choose to forgive, then at some point I have always felt that God supplies that feeling of “forgiveness”. If you can talk about the past problem without getting emotional all over again, then you have probably been successful in forgiving.

One of the hardest kinds of anger to deal with is the kind where there are constant continuous instances of insult. These are situations where you may have decided to accept the circumstances as they are, even though you don’t like them, can’t do anything about it, etc., but you end up being hurt and re-hurt on a regular basis by the same person or situation (custody cases, etc). I don’t have a lot of advice for this, except that it takes a lot of time in prayer, intimacy with the Lord, to have His heart for the people involved. Only when we have been with Him and have been given His love for others, can we pass it onto them. Our own strength alone is never enough. It will always fall short.

So to bring this to an end, I did pray for this woman. I realized that maybe I have come a long way in my own anger issues. I’m basically free! And that is a good place to be! I have learned that so many of the things we get hurt or offended over, are not that important in the big scheme of things. Don’t get me wrong, some things are worse than others. When offended or hurt, be quick to pray about it. Don’t do anything to make the situation worse… like gossip about the person or persons involved… talk to them if necessary. Make the choice to forgive. Trust God to supply the feeling. You may have to take it to Him more than once. When it rates its ugly head, step on it by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I’m not trying to be an expert on the subject, but just wanting to share my heart. I think you’ll find the more you get in the habit of forgiving and letting go, that each time it gets a little easier. God bless you!

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