Thursday, December 13, 2012

Accessibility Matters in Schools

Imagine an elementary classroom. The teacher passes out a worksheet. When it gets to the blind student the child can't read the worksheet because its not in Braille. The teacher didn't get the assignment to the TVI (Teacher of Blind & Visually Impaired) in time.  The rest of the classroom starts working on the assignment perhaps together.  The blind student goes to a quiet part of the classroom with a paraprofessional and the para reads the worksheet to the student. The answers are given orally. The students misses out on much the assignment.  The student didn't get reading or writing practice.  They missed out on part of the classroom discussion because they were on the sidelines. The student doesn't feel part of the lesson.  The student didn't get the same education as his/her peers.  

Thankfully I can say this doesn't happen very often for Abby.  She has a great team. and almost all items for her are Braille. (there always seems to be some stray item).  Abby's classroom teacher, TVI, paraprofessional and case manager all know its very important for Abby to have assignment in accessible format. For Abby that is Braille. She simply can't see text at all.  Abby goes to a great school.

Abby reading a book in Braille (alt text: a girl is outside reading a book in braille)

Let me tell you another story.  

Let me take you back to the beginning of this school year.  Abby's class starts to prepare for state-wide testing for the first time.  The class breaks into groups and go over over a practice test. Abby has a practice test and hers in Braille.  She is able to be  an equal part of the group assignment because she could read and access to the the same materials as her classmates.  She comes home EXCITED for the big test to start. This is what happens when accessibly for all in a classroom WORKS.   

There is so many things that can make a blind child feel isolated in a classroom but it should never be because of inaccessible content. 

The National Federation of the Blind protested yesterday at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle WA.Why?  Amazon's Kindle content and hardware is inaccessible to the blind. Maybe you are asking yourself why should it matter? Amazon is private company. Maybe you are even thinking... while accessibly is a great thing and other companies like Apple have made its content and hardware accessible to the blind  Amazon does HAVE to. I completely understand that side of the argument  till you get to one very big point. As soon as you bring its inaccessible content and hardware to schools its just down right wrong.  Amazon has decide to make a big push to get inaccessible Kindle content and hardware into classrooms. These actions are encourage schools to break the law. 

Now imagine the classroom with inaccessible Kindle content and hardware.  Now look back at my first story.  Its the same tale only replacing the inaccessible worksheet with the inaccessible Kindle. No its worse. The blind student will also lose out on the  experience of using the cool gadget.  This isolating the blind student even more than before. Please find out more about the NFB protest and its important issues at

A blog from the teachers point of view -Without a Classroom : Kindle Books For All :

A video on the issue.  


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We All Have a Voice.

My speech from the 2012 NOPBC Conference at the NFB National Convention was published in the newest Future Reflections

It reminded me about all the work I still have to do.   

The full issue can be viewed here:

To subscribe to Future Reflections  ----->

Here is the links to my two other stories in Future Reflections 

A Black & White picture of Abby on the beach with her cane. Not really related to this post but cute. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Braille Letters from Santa

Your child can get a letter in Braille from Santa with the help of the National Federation of the Blind.

Between November 19 and December 17, parents can go online at and fill out a Santa Braille Letter request form. The form can also be printed and faxed to (410) 685-2340. Beginning November 27, the Braille letters from Santa will start going out to blind boys and girls around the country. The Braille letter will also be accompanied by a print copy (for mom and dad to read). Requests for letters must include the writer’s name, the child’s name, birthday, gender, mailing address, a telephone number, and e-mail address in case Santa’s helpers at the National Federation of the Blind have questions.

For more details visit:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Braille is not scary.. `

I can still remember the day that I found out Abby was going to need to learn Braille. I was petrified. I didn't understand braille.  How was I going to help her learn? Is there anything more strange and odd than braille a bunch of bump that some how equal letters??  It seemed like I was going to be denied the chance to help my daughter become a reader.  I was so sad.   I love reading. Our son learned to read spontaneously but I was so excited about helping Abby to read.

Abby loves to read. alt text: a girl is reading braille from a book

I think its a common misunderstanding that a parent who doesn't read braille can't help their blind child to learn to read. That they can't help their child with homework.  You would be surprised how much I have picked up though the last two years with out even trying. I do know most of the alphabet.   I also have developed a pretty good understand when a word will have a contraction in it.  I may not know the contraction but I understand there is a contraction(s) in the word. I can write my daughter a small note using letter and contractions guides but Abby calls that cheating.  

In the early days I would work with Abby every night to help her learn the alphabet and work on her tactile sensitivity. (flashback: )

Braille is NOT a different language.  Its just the tactile version of print.

Its wonderful when a parent learns braille but its also very important that the parent doesn't hold a child's reading back because they are behind.  Most kids are going to learn a lot faster then their parents because kids are sponges that soak things up. Just wind the kid up and let them go.

I was so happy when I realize the school was going to send home print versions of homework with the Braille ones.  I have never felt like I was unable to help my daughter with her homework at all.

When we read together and she comes upon a word she struggles with I can tell if its a contraction holding her back or an issue reading the word.
There is lot of print/braille books out there that helps A LOT with beginning readers.  I used to be so scared of the stage when the braille books don't have print at all.  I thought it was an end than I realized I just had to find a print version of the book. It also showed me there would be a time SOON that Abby wasn't going to need my help with reading at all.

Its not scary. Braille is fun.  I love learning more about. Its truly beautiful. I love running my fingers over a page of Braille and I love trying to read it.  I am determined get my Braille skills up but I also know that even as a novice I can still help Abby become a strong reader.

Braille I Like It

Monday, November 12, 2012

I want some Questions..

Does anyone have any questions?  I have answers.. Ask any questions. About me? Abby? My son Sam? Parenting a blind child? About the condition that runs in our family that caused Abby's blindness?   Ask away.. Do you have ideas for a future blog post? Here is your chance.  I promise I will be posting some more blogs soon I have at least three three half written in my head already.  Ask your questions in the comments if for some reason you have issues leaving a comment please feel to ask them in twitter @penny_nh or email them to me penny  . Some of the comment asked I may use in future blog posts.
Abby at the NFB Independence Market,,, because the Independence Market is cool... alt text: cute school age girl with a yellow shirt and blue skirt holding long white cane with shelf of merchandise behind her. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A letter to myself two years ago.

Two years ago today Abby had an 'emergency' MRI after her third visit with an ophthalmologist trying to figure out what was going on with Abby's vision.  I wish I could have told myself then what i know now....
These two kids smiling tell the story. alt text; a boy and a girl  smiling in a apple orchard
Dear Penny

You had a rough day today.  I know it was hard to see your 6 year old go through all that. It took them a long time to get Abby to stop moving in the MRI.  The more drugs they gave her to relax the more she fought. You will see this is just who she is ... a fighter.  I know today you were concerned they would find a brain tumor.  Remember saying over and over again that you hope they don't find anything. In a few days the official results will be they didn't find anything.  Abby didn't have a brain tumor.  It was a good day.

It will be a few weeks till you  get paperwork from Abby's ophthalmologist  appointment yesterday for Abby's school but when you do it will say Abby's vision is worse than 20/500.   She isn't faking it like some doctors thought ether. She is legally blind.  BLIND. You can't even say blind right now. The day you start to say blind without gagging is the day you start to help Abby become proud of who she is.

Abby is  strong girl who went months with out telling anyone she was having a hard time seeing things. You really don't know how poor her eye sight yet is but the good thing is it isn't going to get any worse than it is today. She isn't going to like answering questions about what she can see and what she can't see just understand she sees differently now.

Abby vision loss is caused by LHON (Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy) Abby will get officially diagnosed in about a month from now and you will find she will be one of the lucky ones it only took that long.You are going to have a lot of mommy guilt soon.  LHON is a mitochondrial condition.  She got 'it' from you. It will take you a little while to realize it not your fault she is blind. Its not your fault your son could become blind some day. Sam and Abby are two of the best things that ever happened to you so why should you feel guilty about bringing them into this world.  The world is better with them in it.   Blindness doesn't have to be a big deal you will find Abby being blind isn't the biggest problem is what everyone else thinks or doesn't think of blindness that's the problem.

You are going to walk around like a zombie for the next two months but it will get better. There will be a day in November when you realize your daughter needs and feeling sorry for yourself doesn't help her at all. Abby spends very little time feeling sorry for herself so why should you. You will go through you head with all the ideas on what you THINK Abby has lost but you will realize that most of what you think of blindness and vision loss isn't even true.

The idea of Braille sounds really scary today doesn't it? In a few weeks Braille will be recommend for Abby and you are going to freak out. Abby can't see text. She needs to learn braille and guess what YOU can help her. Braille is really isn't as scary as it seems. Its not the big deal you will think it is.  You are going to feel overwhelmed but you will learn braille is NOT hard.  Abby is going to learn to read. She is going to like reading and is going to enjoy books.

You are going to find a great 'family' for Abby in the National Federation of the Blind.  You will get involved for Abby at first but your involvement is going to help you heal and you will find amazing friends.    You are going to feel at first you don't belong.  Relax they are going to embrace you and Abby.

One big thing not to forget is about Sam.  He is going to love it when you do things just with him.  He is a good kid and one of the few people who never treated Abby any differently when she becames blind.

People are going to treat your daughter differently. You know in your heart your daughter isn't broken but people are going to keep seeing the sad little blind girl. Your job is to help your daughter grow into the confident person you know she is. If these dumb people  are really paying attention they are going to see a vibrant kid who refuses to let her blindness hold her back.  You may want to also try to educate Chris on the Americans with Disability act more than I did.  There will be this incident that happens at a museum that will show you world is not all rainbows and unicorns for blind people.

I have so much I could say and so much I could teach you but you will get where I am in time.  The good thing in the next two years you are going to make more good choices than bad ones and really its going to get better.... a LOT better.
Abby loves to read now. alt text: girl reading a Braille book looking up. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Homework Help: Homework tool kit for our blind child

I have been wanting to do this blog for while.  I think its a great time to do it now because the school year has started in most areas of the country.

The past two years we have collected items to make doing homework just a little bit easier. Some of the items are necessary while others items are tools that just make things easier.

What things do YOU have in your homework tool kit?

Wonder what Abby has at home to help  her homework assignments?  
a lot of Abby's homework items (alt text: foam shapes in a plastic bin, a piles of books, Perkins brailler, Sensational blackboard, abacus, braille rules, and other items)

1. Perkins Brailler.  This is used to do all kinds of her assignments 
alt text: perkins brailler with foam stickers. Foam stickers are cool.
2. Sensational Blackboard which a a great tool for tactile graphics

alt text: a sensational blackboard 
3. Cranmer Abacus an essential tool for solving math problems.
alt text: cranmer abacus
4. Braille contractions reference books.  These are great and Abby and I have found them very useful.  We have two.  A Braille Spelling Dictionary & A Handbook of Braille Contractions
alt text: two white braille reference books
5. Age appropriate recreational braille reading material. Abby is assigned to read every night as part of her homework. Having things that is at her reading level is very important.
alt text: a collection of children braille books
6. Foam shape stickers. this can be very useful in doing math assignments. We have collected different shapes because sometimes the tactile graphics in her math book are lacking sometimes. That and foam stickers are just cool.
alt text: a collection of different shapes of foam stickers. 
7. a tactile dice.  Abby had an assingment that she needed a dice and this is what we bought for the next time we need one.

8. Braille rulers.  They are both in inches and centimeters NEEDED for many math assignments.
alt text: a collections of braille rulers. Some are white and others are black 
9. Wikki Stix & Bendaroos i have found that using a quality brand really matters.
alt text: a collections bendaroos in different colors.

10.  other items

  • slate & stylus  a easy way to write braille
  • 20/20 pen -its a dark black marker
  • puff paint - a simply way to make tactile graphics

What are some tools that you use?  Share we would love to hear what works for you. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

sharing a blog

Slate and Stylish is a great blog about blindness from the adult perspective.

She is a great blogger.  She also likes shoes.

I am linking to her newest blog called "Faking it"

Friday, August 31, 2012

The last few days

I wanted to share that its been a crazy last few days.  The last blog about the musuem visit. spured a front page story on the newspaper which spouted two telivision news stories. There is also two stories on internet site The Stir and on Huffington Post.

I will try and post more but the Huffington Post article has links to most of the stories.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cane Denied : When a good policy fails.

A public place can make their location accessible to people with disabilities with an accessible building and policies and still fail if employees are not educated properly. This is a lesson I learned today.

Monday the kids went with Chris (their father for those trying to keep up) to a local museum.  He was told at the desk that she couldn't bring her cane into the museum.  He told the woman at the desk that Abby was blind and was told "We have had issues with kids in the past". Chris was shocked but honestly didn't know Abby using her cane is protected by the American with Disabilities Act. (also the state has a White Cane Law) He also didn't want to make a scene.  The kids were excited so he paid the admission and passed over the cane to person beyond the desk.
Its a white cane not a switch blade. (alt text: Abby holding her cane, smiling with a water fountain in teh background)

First.  Perhaps she didn't hear when Chris said Abby was blind. Lets decide for just this argument she didn't hear him. The issue is regardless what did she think it was?  Who are these kids she spoke of?  I envision an ninja army of blind children with white canes trashing the museum.

We have already gotten an apology and I belive it was genuine but I am very concerned it may happen again. No one should ever have to through what happened to my family.

The issue is that it happened and that can never be changed. The experience is now part of our family's story.

It happened to Abby when she was told her independence and safety is not important. That she thought it was legal for someone to be 'mean' to her because she has a disability.  She had to depend on her father for mobility and felt very unsafe on the stairs.  It  happened to Sam (Abby's brother )  It was suppose to be a something special for Sam.  It was his pick to go there.  Instead his sister had to be attached to Dad and it didn't seem so special anymore.  Sam also complained of nausea only few minutes after they entered which resulted in me picking him up. He was 100% better 15 minutes later. I suspect Sam had anxiety over the cane issue and losing his special day.
Canes are cool ! All the cool kids use them. (alt text: Abby with her long white cane wearing sun glasses with a purple shirt that says "star bright starlight" and a pink puffy skirt.)

Its very important that all parents and caregivers understand about their children's rights.  I personally feel I failed my family without educating them enough on this issue.  I am educated I know Abby's rights in this area.  I would have pushed the issue. When I found out I acted right away.   Its a balance to when is the right time to to complain and push an issue or keep quiet and stew. This was a time to act.    I bet some of you are thinking Chris could have pushed the issue more and that he should have known. If you know Chris you will understand he didn't know. He knew it was rude. He felt it wasn't right.  He trusted that the museum can tell his daughter she can't bring her cane in. Its a public place they should know the law.  He is right. They should.

This isn't a common issue,  it happens more often sadly with guide dogs not canes..  I now know it does happen.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why Abby reads Braille.

Abby is a Braille reader and writer.  She can read now because of Braille.

I was an adjustment when Abby became a Braille reader but that was just because it was very new and I didn't understand Braille at all.
There is many reason why Abby read Braille. The simplest reason is she is blind and its the most effective way  for almost all blind people to read.
She also reads braille because she can't see print or standard large print at all. She can't see what she writes. Abby would have to use magnification tools far beyond what is practical just to be able to see print.  Just because a blind student can see a little bit of print doesn't mean that print is the best medium for them.  Braille is best for Abby. Braille is best for a lot of students who are blind even if they have some remaining vision.  We never had to fight for Abby to get braille because she has a great teacher.  I know many parents who have struggle to get any braille instruction for their blind children much less an appropriate amount.

Reasons why Braille is great...

  • solves visual fatigue
  • its cool
  • you can read in the dark with it 
  • a blind person has a greater chance of being employed if they read braille
  • you can read and write braille on the computer and iPad (with additional equipment) 
What Braille is NOT
  • a different language (its just the tactile version of print)
  • hard to learn
  • obsolete or out of date
What about technology like audio books and text to speech?
  • listening isn't reading or literacy
  • you don't learn spelling or sentence structure 
  • Would you have a sighted child not read?
  • audio books and text to speech are tools but they don't replace reading
In the most recent Future Reflections a story of mine was published about how important a positive view point of braille is. Let know what you think. 

National Federation of the Blind 

"A Matter of Justice:Our Fight to Obtain Braille Instruction" by Holly Miller

"Why Are You Trying To Make That Child Blind? by Carol Castellano"  (text file) 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Convention Highlights: NOPBC Kid Panel

Abby spoke on the Kid Panel at the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children's annual meeting at the NFB national convention.

She worked hard writing what she said and rewriting it. She wrote it all in braille so she could read it. She practiced it over and over again and put a lot of thought in what she said. I am really proud of the work she did.  FYI  when she says what she wants to be when she grows up she says (since its hard to hear) A Race Car Driver, a Engineer, and a Princess.

Three kids who were on the panel
Part 1 - Julia who is in 6th grade. She is small for her age and that is what she is talking about in the beginning.  It was a well written speech for a child so her age. The beginning is cut for privacy.

Part 2 which includes Abby and Hank  . Hank is blind child whose parents had to go to court to get him braille. This still happends this day and age and it happens more often than people think. 

Back from the NFB Convention

Abby and I just got back from the national convention of the National Federation of the Blind. It was in Dallas Texas for 7 days and it was a great week.. We are still recovering.  

I have more stuff to write about that will fit in one post.  So look for a series of post about convention. 

Some of the highlights to look out for is 

NOPBC Style Show

The NOPBC Kid Panel that included Abby

Highlights from the NOPBC conference for parents. 

NFB General Sessions 

Fun with Friends

The Braille Book Fair and Braille Literacy

New Resources
Abby on the exhibit floor


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blog Title change.

You may notice that I changed the blog title. I wanted something more upbeat and no matter how much sugar you put in lemonade its still sour.  

Abby said recently that her story isn't a sad story .. its a HAPPY one.

So there a simple title but I think it reflects where we are right now. It may be changed down the road to something witty but this fits today.

Happy stories have challenges but that is what keeps them from becoming boring stories.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Time

Well Summer has officially started. School is out and now the craziness begins.

Sam is having a pretty low key summer.  One of my goals for him this summer is to spend more time outside.  He is also going to a science day camp.  He has done this camp for 4 years.

Its fun to read. 

Abby is pretty busy.  Abby and I are going to the National Federation of the Blind's annual national convention which this year is in Dallas Tx. We had a great time last year and we are excited about this years convention.

Than Abby is coming home for a few weeks of reading and braille tutoring and and even some fun with some other braille students in our school district.  Abby's teacher for the blind and visually impaired is WONDERFUL.
Summer Reading. 
THAN Abby got accepted to the NFB Project Innovation science program.  (  She will be going to Baltimore a the end of July. (I get to tag along to)  She has been working on this program for few weeks now and if anyone is interested you can check out her blog that includes some video entries too.

When we return  home to hopefully  calm down and enjoy the last few weeks in August.  Than school starts again.. Wow makes me tired just thinking about it.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Role Model: Its not just the dog.

Role models for every child are very important.  As a parent its one of our jobs to make sure our children has plenty of great role model in their life.  This task became a little challenging last year  as I came to terms over Abby being blind.  I wanted Abby to see possiblity not limits.  (I wrote about role models last year too.  She has many members of her family to look up to.  She has a friend  who is just a few years older than her who is also blind and has inspired her with her braille. She also meant some pretty great adults who also are blind.  There is one I really like to call out today.  His name is Randy Pierce and he lives in NH just like we do.  We got connected with Randy last year when we had a 'competing' team for the New Hampshire Association for the Blind  walk last year.

Abby and Randy meeting for the first time. 
Randy has really over come a lot in his life.  The bio on his non-profit's website is best for telling his story The "cliff notes" version is he started to lose his sight in his 20s to an unknown neurological disorder. He is now completely blind.  Almost 10 years ago his unknown condition put him in a wheelchair.  His story could have ended there.  Today Randy is out of that wheelchair and has done so much more. He was the first blind person to hike all 48 4000 footers (those are mountains by the way) in the state of NH in one season (just this last winter). Did year read that one season. The winter.  Its amazing to me every time I hear it.  He is currently half way through an 100 mile walk to celebrate the New Hampshire Association for the Blind 100th anniversary.  Last night Abby and I were given the opportunity to wish him well before he started his 100 mile trek (he will be officially finished on Saturday when the 3k Walk for Sight starts).

It was  important to Abby yesterday to get a chance to talk to Randy and wish him well before his walk.  She was very determined.   She always enjoys talking to Randy. Randy also has this amazing guide dog Quinn.  Quinn gets a lot of attention.  Calling him a scene stealer could be an understatement.  Abby last night wasn't about wishing Quinn well (though she does love Quinn)  it was more about wishing Randy well.  While Quinn was a huge ice breaker its so much more than about the dog now for her. I always appreciate the time Randy gives Abby, He has always given Abby time even when sometimes she can be a little annoying I am sure.   I don't know if Randy realizes the positive impression he gives her.   I know it a great motivator for Abby to see what Randy has been able to accomplish.

Many times society sees the blind as helpless Randy shows the world that's simply not true.

I encourage everyone to follow Randy's travels. He is a role model for the many kids he actively tries to talk to in schools. (Yes he talks to schools )   He is a role model for my daughter and a great role model for anyone else for that matter. Oh and Quinn is still pretty cool too.

Randy's organization 2020 Vision Quest
2020 Vision Quest facebook page

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A great link about braille

Want a great new link that goes over some of the basics of braille.  Great for parents and teachers of young children and those wanting to learn more about braille.

Check it out

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Abby's Blindness Walk "commercial"

To make the video full screen click the X in the lower right. Don't forget to make sure your sound is on.
Abby is walking again this year.  I love this video.

If you want to support Abby click here :  Donation link 
video description
 Scene 1 Abby does intro
Scene 2 Abby reads braille on a iPad & Refreshabraille18 
 Black Screen and Text reads"Abby is walking in the NH Association for the Blind's Walk for Sight on June 2 2012."
Black Screen and Text reads"She has made a goal to raise $1000 this year. She is walking on  Team NFB NH Wozits and would love for you to join her or donate."
Scene 3 Abby reading braille in a book with text "Many blind children are denied literacy and are not taught to read"
Black Screen and Text reads" Due to the NHAB's generousity NFB NH which includes the NH Parents of Blind Children will get half of we money raise back."
Scene 4 Abby using gym rings on the playground
Black Screen and Text reads "Abby is NOT extraordinary because she reads, plays and gets around." 
Scene 5 Abby climb a climb wall on the playground and waving on the top
Black Screen and Text Reads "The only difference between Abby and her sighted friends is that she needs to learn to do things non-visually"
Picture of Abby going down a esculator with instutor with sleep shades on text reads" Abby learning to use the esculator at the NFB National Convention 2011"
Scene 6 Abby walking towards camera with cane
Scene 7 Abby being silly with her brother Sam
Black Screen and Text reads "Help Abby reach her 
goal. Find infomation on how to join the team or 
to donate from at www. or from this video's notes.:"
Scene 8 Abby typing on a Perkins Brailler outside
Scene 9 Abby back on the playground using the gym rings tshirt reads " Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase" MLK JR

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A simple solution.

Abby has has quite a few white canes.  She would put them in a corner by the front door.  There was a hook but it wasn't effective.   They ended up all over the floor and made a mess. They would get stepped on, people tripped over them and canes would get misplaced.   I had been looking for a better way to manage them.  I found an item in a store that was meant for organizing all those long thin handled garden tools. Chris installed the it a few days ago and it was a success.  No more canes on the floor.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Braille, iPad: an Update

Reading is Fun
Abby has been enjoying using her iPad with the RefreshaBraille18 for the past few weeks.  She not only has been reading and writing emails but she also has started reading books from BookShare through the "Read2Go" app and writing short documents.  Her TVI and I are going to try and get her trying to integrates its use for school work.  The school has bought a printer that will print what she writes in print.

Abby and I have learned a few things together.

  • For some contractions/symbols that use the same dots you need to type them quickly for it the software to know which one you mean.  (since it translates as you type)  ie  "?" or "his"
  • It very easy to turn speech on and off.  This can be good and bad. Many times its important for Abby to get the braille practice and she will want to use voice over instead of braille to read it. Since I do the work with her its less of an issue.  
  • There is still lot of apps that could be added to make it better. I would love to find a accessible typing tutor to use with a blue tooth qwerty keyboard. 
  • The using a braille display on an iPad doesn't replace the embossed paper page.  There is so many things a child learns by reading paper pages and books.  The technology is a great supplement but is not a replacement  at least in young readers. 
  • There is no app I have been able to find to read a .brf file.  There is a way to read it but its complicated and not as simply as it should be.  It would be great to have an app that would open an .brf file and work simply with the braille display.  Its important to remember the braille display will display what ever voice over would say so in most instances this is simply not necessarily if you can get a .txt file or other voice over readable file. 

Abby reading the Cat and the Hat 

Read the previous post on the same subject. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Braille and the iPad

You may not be aware but you can read braille  on an iPad.  You did need additional hardware.  You will need a compatible bluetooth refreshable braille display.  Abby uses  Refreshabraille 18 from APH with her iPad.   Its small and has both a braille display and braille input keys.   It can be a bit tricky to learn to pair it with the iPad (once you learn the tricks its not that hard at all). It really is surprising how well it does Grade 2 braille.  There is all kinds of uses. Abby is currently using it as a way for her to read and write email.
Abby using the refreshable braille display with the IPad.
 Abby can use it enough already to read her emails (in braille) and respond back (in braille). Its a great motivator for her. She thinks its a lot of fun.  Since she is still learning I watch on the iPad screen and I can help if she needs help.

Abby loves to write
Abby checking her work.

I think the jury is still out if the iPad will replace a Braille notetaker for Abby down the road but its a great tool for her NOW and its a LOT less expensive solution over a braille note taker.  

We are both still learning the ropes. If you have any links or advice to share that would be great and if you have any questions please feel free to ask. 

help links:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Adventures In Reading: Brave Norman

Abby has been reading a book a week for her reading for homework.  This week she read "Pets to the Rescue: Brave Norman" . Abby loves stories about animals so I ordered it when I was doing a Seedlings order. Its a great story.  Its a beginning reader so it was perfect for Abby. The story line was great and I really recommend the story to everyone.  Its a TRUE story about a dog named Norman that goes blind.  Norman saves a girl who is drowning.

Abby loves adventures.
Abby loved hearing Norman's story. She related to Norman a little too.  She is really seeing how reading can be fun.

Brave Norman at Seedling in contracted braille

Print version of Brave Norman at Amazon

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The spark of reading has become a flame.

Abby reading. tonight
It was almost a year ago that I announced Abby was reading. Now the level she was reading at was VERY beginner. Every letter was a struggle. The fight through the past year has been very hard. Many times I saw no hope in sight. The past few weeks Abby's spelling has gotten better and her fluency has gotten a lot better. She is reading more complicated books (relatively). She is picking up contractions a lot quicker now.  She reads grade 2 braille (braille with contractions) almost exclusively.

We had great time reading Dr Seuss a few weeks ago and now we are going into more developed stories.  The most important thing is she KNOWS she is getting better and is getting motivated. She is starting to see that reading can be fun and is not just a chore. I am so happy and so proud.

So if you have a child who is struggling to learn to read there is hope. Keep at it and know it will come. Its very important to state Abby has a great team right now that are all rallying around raising Abby's reading skills.  Its a true group effort.  Abby's reading team is her TVI, classroom teacher,her parents, her 2 paras and a special education teacher.  We are all working together to give Abby what she needs.

There are blind children TODAY who are still being denied braille instruction or not getting enough.  If you need an example who rediculous that is just look at Abby's story.

 Abby started learning  her braille letters 14 months ago. 
Abby reading. The picture is fuzzy but look at that smile.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Miss Abby Can Read! Can you?

First off sorry I am I failed to update my Homework Chronicles so I am going to shelve that idea for while.  Thankfully the math has moved from shapes and line segments to something much more accessible.Though tonight was graphs but we figured it out.  I will update with whats going on with homework front from time to time.  Today we had one of the best homework times we have had for while.  Abby struggles with reading but she has gotten so much better.   We have started reading some Dr Seuss recently  and Abby loves it. Tonight we started Mr Brown can Moo! Can you?  She told me "Don't freak out mom but that was fun!"  Reading should be fun.  I am so glad she is getting to a point she can enjoy it instead of fighting through it.  There is hope at the end of the tunnel.

Here is a video of Abby reading tonight.  We actually went back to a page she had already read because she didn't want to make herself look silly (even though she looked fine) She read tonight better than she has ever read with me.

Reading is so important.  Literacy is the foundation of a person's education.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Homework Chronicles: Day 2

Today was one of those wacky homework days.   Should have been easy and low stress but in the end I think we all left a little frustrated.

Reading:  She read with her father today. Its good for her to get practice to read with other people.  She read a more complicated book than yesterday.  She read a few pages of "I Love Daddy"

Abby dong her writing homework
Writing: Today she had writing homework.  Its generally a few words from the weekly "Word Wall".  She is suppose to write the words out three times and write two sentences. This is actually the first time it has come in braille. Generally she does her responses in braille on another sheet of paper. She was able to do it independently of me which was GREAT.   I do suspect she was a little lazy with her writing work. Which is something we will have to work on.

Math:  It was one of those days that "Everyday Math" tries to be creative with a nontraditional assignment.  The assignment was "find shapes in magazines/newspaper and cut them out"  Not a very accessible assignment. The print version had examples of different shapes as did  her braille worksheet.  I had her feel the different shapes on the sheets and talk to me about them.  There wasn't much more we could  do.  She was upset about not being able to do the assignment like everyone else. All of my solutions were not close enough.   This is one of the things that frustrates me about Everyday Math.  It sometimes has assignments that obviously didn't have a blind child in mine when it was written.

Stress Level: Medium to High

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Louis Braille

Louis Braille was born January 4th 1809.  Louis Braille created the braille code when he was just 15 years old.  

Reading Braille is Fun
I am so grateful to what braille has already given Abby In just her first year of braille instruction.  She is still a begining reader but nothing is more important in a child's education as literacy is.   I can't imagine anyone watching a child learn to read with braille can think its obsolete.   Sit down with a blind child and let them read to you.

Today also ends the NFB Braille Readers are Leaders.  I will have a final page count for Abby soon.  I know I am really proud of my braille reader.

Homework Chronicles: Day 1

Today is the first day of "Homework Chronicles"  I will be blogging about Abby's homework the whole month of January.
Abby is in second grade. They use the "Everyday Math" curriculum in our school distinct.  
Abby's finished math homework 

Abby picked the book "In The Woods" to read. Its a pretty simple book that was a good pick for her because it reinforced her reading skills that are getting stronger and stronger everyday.  She added the book to her reading log for the week in braille.

picture of math assignment 
  Today was one of those 'fun' math days.  Line Segments.  Abby gets the print worksheet and the the same worksheet in braille.   The braille worksheets works pretty well most of the time. . Line segments I have found need more work.  This was the second time she had had homework on line segments the last time was shortly before the holiday break. I realized shortly after she started to do the assignment that it wasn't working for her at all.  She was trying to do it like everyone else using a straight edge and making lines but she was having a  hard time finding the points and than she couldn't see the lines she was making.  I made a trip to Michaels and got  form shapes and and their version of wikki stix (they are NOT as good as name brand wikki stixs and bendaroos)  I put small foam squares over each point and  had her use the sticks to make her lines.  I have no idea if this was the right way to do it  but it worked. It worked  a LOT better than what was there.
Tools with Math homework
Stress Level:  Medium to Low It was much more stressful the first time we dealt with this issue. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year

I realized I haven't blogged in a while.  Its not for a shortage of material.  There is so much to blog about.

I have decided I am going to blog about Abby's homework for the whole month of January. Abby homework is a struggle for many different reason and it will be helpful for me to write about it and perhaps it would help another parent.

I also am going to work on blogging about another issues.

Abby exploring a relief sculpture this past August 
2011 was a great year and I think 2012 is going to be an even better year i am sure of it.