Living Life

Jesus, Me, and the Kitchen Table

Getting Around

It seems that nearly every profession and many causes have a national holiday.  In April we celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week and so far in May we have paid tribute to all those in the nursing field.  But one you may not have heard of for the month of May is National Mobility Awareness.  According to the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association website, in North America over 18 million people live with restricted mobility.  But you don’t have to be in a wheelchair to have restricted mobility. There are numerous health conditions which can limit one’s mobility such as spinal cord injury, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and more. People with limited mobility may use wheelchairs, walkers, canes, or crutches to move around.

People with mobility restrictions either cannot walk or can only walk very short distances. They may find it hard to move around in small places, negotiate steps, open doors, carry items (while using mobility devices), reaching things on high shelves, or picking up objects dropped on the floor, balancing, standing or standing for prolonged periods. Weather can be a concern as well.  If it is raining how will one hold an umbrella and push a wheelchair?

Another aspect to think bout is parking spots.  There are two basic kinds of parking spaces reserved for those with restrictive mobility. You have the “Reserved Parking” and “Reserved Parking Van Accessible” handicap parking spaces. The first type is for any vehicle properly displaying a handicap placard or handicap license plates.  The “Van Accessible” spots are for, well, VANS! That’s because these spots are accompanied by a wide set of stripes to the left or right of the space. Those stripes allow a van ramp or a lift to be used.  Drivers should never park on the stripes!  Doing so prevents a person who is in a wheelchair accessible van from entering or exiting their vehicle and readers that parking space useless.

During the month of May the National Mobility Equipment Dealers is giving away several vehicles that are accessible.You can go to their website at http://www.nmeda.org and vote for the candidate of your choice to win one of these vehicles.  These vehicles are not cheap.  If you take the cost of an average new minivan, you are looking at $30-40,000. Add on the modifications and you can easily be looking at an additional $20,000.

As you are out and about and enjoying your mobility this month be aware of those around you who can’t move about as easily. Look for ways that you may can lend a helping hand, but be okay if the person declines the offer. Many times people are grateful for your help and other times they may be able to do it themselves. But don’t be afraid to ask!  Don’t be afraid to talk to a person who is in a wheelchair. Remember that just because someone has physical limitations doesn’t mean they aren’t a genius! Most people with disabilities have the same desires as non disabled persons – just to be accepted and live as normal a life as possible. Many people with mobility restrictions have a job, children, interests and abilities similar or different to those of others. Let’s get moving!

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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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