Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Orientation Adventure.

(Abby's cane at the curb)
Abby has developed a great sense of direction. (well maybe she always had it)  This week she has school vacation so I got her involved a day camp to keep me sane (and so she could have fun) .  Its Dr Seuss themed and she loves it. Well Monday they walked to a park a few blocks away from the camp's location.  We arrived a bit early today  so she wanted to show me the park.  She walked to the door where her camp was and turned right around (she needed to know what direction to go)  She then walked me right to a park.  At one time stopped at a curb and said "See this tells me that we are going the right direction"  She actually talked about the curb a few minutes before we got to it. She told me it was coming (she called it a step).  
(Abby's back walking)
(Abby smiling with cane)
She was so proud to show me that she knew how to get to the park.  It was very exciting for me. She had never been to this location before.  She just had to get from her original starting point and knew the way to go.  Its days like this that she shows me she is really going to be alright.  Next time i get lost I am going to ask her for directions.
Abby at the playground she earned it

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blind is not 4 letter word.

Abby is blind.  I realize some people get confused with that. Many people when they hear blind hear "no vision" Abby does have some vision. I like to say Abby has enough vision to get herself in trouble.  Sometimes the vision is more usable then other times. .

Abby inspecting an candy on Easter.
She is still blind.  I used to use "visually impaired" more often.  People get that. They get when they hear visually impaired that it could mean some sight.  I still use it but really I find blind better at describing Abby. While she doesn't always 'look blind'  that doesn't change that she is.   It has a lot more to do with how one functions in a sighted world. She can not read text at all (well if its too her nose and its big enough she can see some)  She can pass right by me in a crowded room.  She can easily get lost with me  just a few yards from her.

Society has made blind a bad word. Being blind is a condition that is feared by many people more then other much worse conditions.    When people talk in hushed tones around Abby she picks up on that and feels she has something to be ashamed of. Abby will hide her cane sometimes in pictures because she is still embarrassed.  Abby shouldn't feel  ashamed that she is blind. Its just something that is part of who she is like her blue eyes and her bubbly personality.    She should be proud she is reading (in braille)  She should feel proud she is moves about safety (with a cane).  She should haven't to worry that someone is going to see her as broken just because she experiences the world different then others.

I can get Abby the tools she needs to be successful, Its harder for me to change the world's opinion of blindness.

Some related links:
A definition of blindness  http://www.nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/fr/fr19/fr05si03.htm
Blindness—Handicap or Characteristic http://www.nfb.org/nfb/NOPBC_LA_Attitudes_About_Blindness.asp?SnID=1598899775

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Abby the teacher.

Abby is doing an wonderful job learning Braille. Its slowly opening the door more for her to have access to the education everyone else receives.  The educational world is designed to teach children visually.  Abby is slowly becoming less and less a visually dependent learner.  She is already requesting books with 'fake stories'  (fiction).  Soon she will be able to curl up with a book like her brother and just read because she wants to.

Abby is getting better at expressing what it means to be blind.  I find it a step in helping her self advocate for herself, which is a very important skill . She still deals with a little embarrassment usually involving her cane.  She wants to be like everyone else she hasn't realized yet that everyone is different in some way or another. Sometimes she likes to pretend she is sighted.  I am find it more has to do with how other people treat her.  She isn't broken but many people still treat her like she is made out of glass.

Abby took part in her school's health fair yesterday.  She brailled peoples names.  She did a great job.  She actually was very proud.  I think she is starting to realize that while learning Braille these last few months has been hard its actually pretty special. I am encouraging her to talk about it more. She not only can educate others but its really helping her realize she has nothing to be embarrassed about.  She can read with her fingers can you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Quest for role models.

One of the things I realized early on is that I need to help Abby find role models. People who are blind have done amazing things. There are also some sighted people that can inspire Abby too. Its about Abby seeing the opportunities in her life not the limitations.  They can be blind or sighted.  They can be famous, a family member, or just someone they meet that inspires them.  Abby was concerned about using a cane and being laughed at a few months ago. She met a blind peer who used a cane and she hasn't really had a problem with it since.  Thats the magic of role models.

Today we had the chance to learn about Fanny Crosby.  A very prolific hymn and poem writer. Who lived more then a hundred years ago. She was also blind.   Abby really seemed to understand and enjoy learning about Fanny.  What she was able to overcome and what she was able to do. We also got to meet a really nice high school senior who had a wonderful guide dog Otis.  She was so kind to Abby.  Went we first met her Otis was working but she took off his harness and brought him over to Abby so she could meet him.  Learning about Fanny and meeting this young woman were both so important to Abby.

Abby's world is opening up everyday of the things she is going to be able to do. She is realizing her challenges are not as big as she first thought. Nothing is going to hold Abby back.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Always Learning.

I am realizing I am being schooled as much as Abby is. There is so much out there still to learn.  Its over whelming and exciting at the same time. There is so much to keep on top of.   Feels like my  head is spinning.  I have come such a long away since October.  I read what I wrote back them and it doesn't sound like me.

I have started to read "Making it Work:  Educating the Blind/Visually Impaired Student in the Regular Classroom"  by Carol Castellano.  Its a great book just what I need. I have and have had high expectations for Abby.
I am learning that I shouldn't try to protect Abby too much.  That I shouldn't over protect her.  That there is techniques I have ever heard of.

I wonder if there will ever be a point where I am no longer learning.  I expect as things change I will find more to learn.  I don't think it ever ends.

Abby is always learning too.  I got back Abby's most recent math assessment (they do one when they finish a section in their book.)  She got a 100%.  Abby is at grade level for math. (maybe a little better)   It was so much fun going through the different pages.  They adapted the assessment in so many different ways that it was impressive.  Some pages where enlarged, other had braille, other parts where done orally using larger tools (like her Braille clock)  and other parts had puff paint. She is slowly getting better at reading too.  She is working so hard all the time.  What an amazing thing Braille and other adaptations are making in Abby's education.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Abby has always been independent. Since she was a very active toddler she has wanted to do everything herself.  I have always worked hard at trying to teach her how to be safe and no make crazy choices.  Sometimes that didn't go so well.

Breaking in the fridge
Doll and Girl   yogurt maska.
This trait caused  some many disagreements and MANY messes. (I have hundreds of these pictures. These crazy mad cap adventures STILL happen with Abby everyday.)

Abby does struggle at times doing things that used to be easier but thankfully she hasn't lost the desire to do to them.  I feel I have to let her do things herself or help her learn the steps to do them safely. Its a really hard thing to do.  I think this is true for all parents and children. 

Abby has taken a liking to oatmeal recently.  She wants to prepare it all by herself.   I help her still but I let her do most of it.  The only thing she really needs help right now with is the very hot water.  When challange comes up like using the microwave I find ways to help Abby do them herself. 

 I am working very hard letting Abby 'go' and do things more independently. To do the things that other kids do  I can't wrap her in bubble wrap. 
Yes that is Abby going up and getting to the top of  a climbing rock wall. She had to feel for each footing and hand rest.  I asked her and she didn't really see anything. She just kept going for it. I am so proud of her. If you watch the video she has some issues but she kept going. She didn't give up.  This is so much like Abby every single day.  She struggles but keeps going.  She has a problem with something she practices and goes for it.   This was Abby's second time on a rock climbing wall. The first was 15 minutes before this video was taken.  The first time she just went for it too.  

You can hear me cheering Abby along.  Actually you don't hear me until half way.  I waited till she needed it.  Abby is the one that is in control of this journey.  I can't make her independent. That is something Abby needs to do herself.  I am only in a supporting role.  Abby is the one that is living this.

It is hard on Abby that she needs some reliance on others due to her visual impairment. She fighting a bit of the help she gets at school but she knows right now she needs it because in a few years she won't need it at all.  Abby waits around for no one.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Abby's Video

Abby and I made a video promoting the blind awareness walk we are doing for the NH Association for the Blind. I think its pretty cute if I say so myself.

Untitled from Penny Duffy on Vimeo.

There is some text in the video thats completley unaccessable by text readers. (this is something I have never thought about before) I put all the text in the video on the video's description which can be found here: http://vimeo.com/22150554

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wonder under the big top.

We had a great time today at the Big Apple Circus. We went to the Boston performance of the Circus of Senses.

They offer a free show to visually impaired children and their families.  They had these special headsets that gave the visually impaired a complete narrative of whats going. Abby felt completely involved, I loved watching her giggle and laugh and she was not even facing where the action was many of the times.  She couldn't' really see what was going on.  She can see movement and lights.  She really loved it.  I loved hearing the other kids giggle and laugh too.  The whole family had a very special time together where we all could enjoy something special.

There was a point that when I looked at Abby at one point she had the beautiful look of wonder on her face.  I don't see that as often anymore. She is still learning how to be less visually dependent.   I started to cry it was so beautiful. Thank You Big Apple Circus.