Living Life

Jesus, Me, and the Kitchen Table

Voting

Today my husband and I set out to take part in one of the most fundamental duties as a citizen of the USA… we went to vote.  Going to vote for us is not the quick 10 minute thing that it is for most Americans.  But it was still a good experience.  I took the oath so I could read the ballot to Richard (he’s blind) and mark it for him.  Other than some little mix-up with which ballot they gave him…had to do with precincts…it wen smoothly.

Richard and I got seated at the little booths.    A lady was next to us and I could tell she was trying to concentrate.  I felt bad that I was going to have to read out loud to Richard. So I told him I would do mine first and maybe she’d be finished before we got to his.  When I started looking over the ballot, the woman overseeing the voting booths told me they had a machine to help read the ballot if I wanted to use it.  I had forgotten about that!  So we moved to another room and I put my ballot into the machine.  It begins loading the ballot info and then you have to choose “English” or “Spanish.” Once you do that, the screen brings up the first “contest.”  It reads the position and then lists the candidates.  There are buttons on the side to move between candidates and make a selection. You can also see it on the screen and can adjust the print to a quite large size.  If you want to use just the speech, you can turn the screen off for privacy.  I really did not care, so I left the screen on!  And I was wearing headphones, too. When you’re finished it lets you review your selections. If everything looks right, you select the option to mark the ballot, and it marks your choices.  Pretty cool!  All of the buttons on the machine are tactually discernible. So it would be pretty easy for a totally blind user.  I enjoyed having the speech and the large print together.

Richard did not want to fool with trying to use the machine.  He’s not as used to that kind of technology.  But I did put his ballot in and used it to help me read it to him and mark his choices.

As far as getting around in the wheelchair, it was pretty good for the most part.  There was one hallway that was a little snug because there was a water fountain sticking out, and the hall was narrow.  But other than that, no big deal.  Everyone at the polling place was very nice and thanked us for coming to vote.

Happy Voting Everyone!

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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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Friends, Love, and Christmas

It’s so funny how one day can leave you feeling down and discouraged because it seems everything hits at once.  On the other hand the next day can be filled with so many blessings!. Total opposites.  That’s how the last few days have been.  The past two days have just been amazing, to say the least.

Yesterday a couple of kids from the neighborhood who were great friends with our daughters came over to bring by a present for Richard and I, and we also had a little something for them.  Mat opened his box with excitement to discover the Zip Track from Discovery Toys.  He loved it!  Maggie received an owl backpack that belonged to Emmarie.  I had given it to her just last Christmas.  But since she never really had a chance to use it, it was like brand-new.  Maggie had asked for it several times throughout this year.  But I kept saying no because I knew I was going to surprise her with it at Christmas.

Before they had finished unwrapping their presents, our friends Martha and John came over and brought us some yummy Christmas goodies and other stuff – gifts straight from the heart.  Such precious people. We love them and have enjoyed getting to know them since the accident.

My friend Dawn came and we went grocery shopping. So we had fun visiting and shopping.  We got back to my house just in time for a group of carolers from Living Truth Fellowship who came to sing beautiful Christmas songs to us.  There must have been 20 or so kids and their parents!  Words can’t really describe how special this was to hear those precious children singing about Jesus’ birth.   Richard and I were very blessed and touched, to say the least.

My friends Kristie and Jessica had been trying to get over this way from Dallas to go see lights and have dinner, but it didn’t work. So I had decided it wasn’t going to happen and was OK with it.  I knew we would find a time to meet up at some point after all.  Looking at lights isn’t much fun to Richard because he can’t see them that much, but it’s the tradition that he enjoys and the time together with family and friends.

Anyway, it all worked out about the lights and dinner because Mike and Angie had texted me earlier yesterday to see if we wanted to do that!!  So after the carolers left, we drove around the Country Club area and looked at the beautiful homes and lights and had dinner at El Chico.  I hadn’t been to El Chico in a while.  The fajitas were as excellent as always!   And the best part of course was catching up and spending time with each other.

Now that is what I call a busy day but an awesome day!

So today Kristie and Jessica were able to come over and visit for a couple of hours.  We always laugh and have a good time when we get together, and today was no different!  Kristie is determined to help me with getting some needed services. I’ll write about that at another time!

And now, another sweet friend is on her way over as I type!

All I can say is that we are so incredibly blessed to have such great friends who care about us and went way out of their way to make sure we have a Merry Christmas.  And I’d have to say that we are already doing just that!   I don’t think our family time on Wednesday can top the joy and love we have felt the lat two days.  I don’t mean that in a negative way against family.  We will just have an extended celebration!

All the while in the back of my head I keep thinking that I cannot imagine what Christmas in Heaven is like, but I know it must be beautiful.  I bet they have a “white Christmas” simply from the holiness of God and the purity of everything, from the glory flowing out from Jesus himself.  Merry Christmas sweet angels Emmarie and Chloe.  We love you bunches!

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