Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What braille means to Abby.

I can remember the first time I heard the word braille  related to Abby. It was this past November at a school meeting.  I remember feeling shocked.  Hurt. Surprised.  Abby can see, she just can't see well. I knew nothing about braille. I only knew that blind people used it to read.  The idea of reading with touch was foreign and weird concept to me. I wanted to fight and say No she doesnt' need braille but thankfully I  have a pretty open mind. The teacher of the visually impaired who had done Abby's functional visual assessment was a professional with experience and I was a parent who hadn't come to terms with the fact her daughter was blind.
Abby reading braille in a phonics book.
Print really isn't isn't accessible for Abby at all. If its really bold and large (larger then standard enlarged print) and she puts it right to her face she can sometimes see a little of it.   When Abby started first grade she still was not reading.  She has all the basics and has always been a very bright child. She just wasn't reading.  I realize now that she was delayed because of her vision issues. When I struggled over the summer to try and help teach her to read  I had no idea and felt defeated and confused.

Something amazing happened when Abby got introduced braille. She slowly started to read.  It did take some time. She had to learn the basics of braille before those dots meant anything to her fingers. She fought being taught something different than her peers.  It was hard work (and still is)  There was something special that happened  a few months ago.  She started to read.  READ.  There is nothing more basic in a child's education then learning to read.

I just spent some time with Abby reading on our porch and its amazing. Its fun. Sometimes there is a reading mistake, sometime there is a mistake feeling a letter, and sometimes its a braille contraction but she keeps going.  She has a little bit to catch up with her grade level but I really think she will be there come second grade.  It all takes practice and thats something I can give her.

Do you know there are blind children who are given inadequate braille instruction (or not at all) in this country.  Think about that.  No child that benefit from learning braille should be denied. Its that simple. Listening to audio books and using text to speech on a computer is not a replacement for reading.  They are all tools but they don't replace reading.   Abby was truly lucky.  I cringe thinking about where Abby would be if  she wasn't given braille.  Braille is a gift I am thankful my daughter received.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Abby playing in a big puddle with her cane in the rain.
Have you ever heard "When life gives you lemons... make lemonade"  Abby has.  

I caught this moment a few days ago. It has been raining. I was I just picked the kids up from school and I was trying the hurry the kids to the car so we could get out the rain.  Abby had rain boots on and decided it was a good time to use them and splash around in the rain. I tried to get her to stop but she saw a moment she wasn't going to let pass.

Abby is like this a lot.  Through everything that has happened with her the past year she has remained remarkably upbeat.  

Yes she has had times when she has been down but all and all she is doing pretty well. She has kept up with math.  She is also slowly making progress with reading.  She is very motivated. It just takes time and progress. Losing ones vision is a traumatic experience.  Abby just wants to be a kid and doesn't really have time to waste feeling sorry for herself.  

She is still rides her bike. She rides mostly on closed roads and at the park but she is still riding. She learned to ride her bike without training wheels last summer. This was the same summer she slowly was losing her vision.  
Abby rinding her bike on a closed road

 So the next time it rains don't forget to play in the puddles. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Making it Work by Carol Castellano

This is a recommendation of a wonderful book I recommend for every parent of a blind/visually impaired child.  Its my plan to get this book in the hands of my child's educators.   Its really better read than explained but some of the key points of the book are...

  • understanding the basic ins and outs of the education of a blind child
  • how low expectations are a virus in a blind child's education
  • what common issues to watch out for

If you search for the book online you will find its listed at many bookstores for insane amounts of money (I actually saw it listed some place for $100)  Don't worry  visit the NFB Independence Market its a well worth the $25.00 that it is listed at.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Passport to Adventure in a Black Box

A few days ago this black box showed up to the house.

Large black plastic NLS shipping box.
It was all bundled shut. I had no idea.  It was very exciting.  I realized that it was Braille books from the Braille library I had signed Abby up for a week before.  We had been getting talking books for months now but this was our first shipment of Braille books. Our state doesn't have a Braille library so we have another library that services us for Braille books. It was so exiting to open it up. Inside was 6 children books with Braille. It was so exciting.  Which ever librarian who selected them did a great job.  All where great books.
Abby reading and enjoying some books
Its so great to be able to borrow books now instead of buying them all (though its great to buy too)  She has been so motivated to read.   We had a great fun reading on the books together last night. Who doesn't love library books.  Its going to be great reading this summer.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The joy of reading.

There is nothing quite like reading.   To curl up some place quiet and get lost in you head. I love to read. I have a lot less time now to read but I still love it when I have a chance.

Toddler Abby enjoying a book.
I have wondered if Abby would ever get excited about reading.  She struggled so much with Braille (and still does)  I know she would get through learning Braille to do what needs to be done but would she read for fun? Well something has changed. She has stopped fighting.. She is getting better and better.  The last few days Abby has actually gotten interested in more advanced books. They  are still a little advanced for her but she really wants to read chapter books.  She want to read fiction. She has seen how much her brother enjoys reading and wants the join the crowd. The biggest thing holding her back right now beyond just becoming a stronger reader is contractions.  Contractions in grade 2 Braille are best described as short hand or abbreviation of words.

I now can see Abby this summer reading on a beach enjoying a book.  Its very exciting.