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:

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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Decisions, Decisions!


Note: For my readers who use screen reading software, the picture above has a sign that says, “Decision Making.” From that sign flows lines with a word attached to the bottom of each line.  The words are: alternatives, uncertainty, high-risk consequences, interpersonal issues, and complexity.  

On Monday of this week I had the privilege of going to Dallas, which is about 2 hours from where I live.  I say privilege because I’m a city-girl who likes to live in the country! That’s weird, right? It’s just that I love the things of the city such as Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, nice places to shop, etc.  But at the end of the day I like to retreat to the peace and quiet of the country where I can sit on the back deck and look at the trees and hear the faint music of wind-chimes.  The best of both worlds!  It was a nice escape from my wonderful, but rather small town. I used to go with the girls to the Dallas metroplex quite often for fun outings.

The primary reason for the trip to Dallas was that I had to go for a doctor’s appointment with my spinal cord injury specialist, Dr. Rita Hamilton. She was the doctor who took care of me while I was in Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation. The visit went well. Everyone has been telling me I have lost weight, and they are correct. I’ve lost about 15 pounds since coming home in April.  That is a total weight loss for the year of about 55 pounds!

But back to the city….  My friend that went with me suggested we try S&D Oyster Company in downtown for lunch.  My cousin Rebecca and her husband James joined us and we had a really nice visit.  The fellowship and the food were both great! The service was outstanding as well.  I highly recommend it. It’s on McKinney just down from the Crescent Hotel.  After my appointment, we went to see my friend’s nephew, a 2-year-old baby with special needs.  It was so good to meet him and his family.  The baby’s mom had brought food to my husband while he was with Emmarie at Children’s following our accident.  I had heard all about them from my friend, so it was nice to finally put faces with names.

Our next stop was Starbucks.  First decision: what to order! I love Frappaccinos and hot coffee alike, but only the flavored stuff.  I narrowed it down to Mocha Latte or Java Chip Frappaccino, and chose the later.  This was my first Starbucks since August!  And it did hit the spot.

Next stop: Verizon store!  It was time for an upgrade from the iPhone 4s to something else.  But what? The choice came down to iPhone 5c, 5s, or totally switch and go with a Samsung Galaxy.  For a few years I’ve been sold on Apple because of the built-in accessibility features, particularly the Zoom feature.  It’s not enough just to make the font bigger in text messaging. I need to be able to increase fonts in the entire display. I wasn’t sure if the Galaxy would allow that or not.  But I knew one thing.  The screen was SO much bigger!  So I looked at the Galaxy Note 3 and had the sales person show me how the acccessibility features worked.  And I loved it…. it IS perfect! The iPhone 5c/5s screen is only taller, not wider.  But the Galaxy screen is both taller and wider and allows me to make the print larger than on the iPhone and still be able to read more than one word or two at a time.   On the iPhone I would sometimes have to use VoiceOver to read content to me because on webpages I couldn’t get the print big enough.  Sometimes that is nice, but I mostly prefer to read it myself.  Once I was sure that my photo stream would sync with my iPad, I was more or less okay with trading in the iPhone and getting the Galaxy Note 3.

I was also upgrading the wireless card for our home internet.  So that was another decision in itself, but I think I made a good choice. I hated the Verizon Mifi card that I had and so far am relieved at how easy to use the new Elipsis Jetpack is to use. Whew!

The guy at the store told me I had 2 weeks to return anything.  Well, about 2 days into using my wonderful new Note 3, I was ready to trade it in and get my iPhone back!  Why? Because my iPhone friends couldn’t text me.  And it was SO different. I didn’t like the learning curve at all.  But on the other hand, I was enjoying toying around with new technology.  Mixed emotions.  But I had to figure out this texting thing.  Some friends helped and we figured out that iMessage in their iPhones had to be turned off and set to send texts via SMS.  I think the iPhone tries to send texts as iMessages first, but only iPhones, iPads, etc can receive iMessages. So everyone did this and now the problem is fixed.  I’m still trying to figure out how to do some things, but I LOVE this phone and I’m happy with my decision!

In life we are always faced with decisions.  Some are big and some are small.  The Lord cares about every detail of our lives.  And especially in life’s critical decisions, we need to be led by the Holy Spirit. What decisions are you faced with today or in the near future? We know we can cast our cares on Him, because He cares for us.