Sunday, May 19, 2013

Beep Kickball is awesome.

Recently the kids and I had a chance to attend a Beep Kickball Clinic put on by the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. All I knew about the game was its an accessible version of the game kickball.
Beepball game
There are other games that are designed to put blind players on a equal playing field with sighted players
There is also Beepball and Goalball.

Abby getting ready to kick
Beep Kickball was created to be more kid and family friendly.  Its a super fun game.  Abby had a blast learning & playing the game but I think Sam may have had more fun. It wasn't fun because its a blind person game it was fun because it was a fun game.

There is lots of information on the the Beep Kickball Association website at .
Abby running
You can buy equipment and read the official rules.

 Here are the very basic rules....

There are  kicker and outfielders. The number of outfitters really depends on the amount of players.  You could have a fun causal family game with one outfielder. Whats great about this game is both the kickers and the outfielders have fun.

Sam got the ball
Sam getting ready to kick.
There are two bases that independently make sound (only one makes a sound when the kicker kicks the ball)

The kicker and the outfielders are blindfolded.  The kicker kicks the ball. Someone activate one of the bases to make sound and the kicker runs to the sound of the base.(the kicker only runs to one base and they don't know which one till the sound is going) The kickball is also beeping and the outfielder find the ball. When they find the ball they raise it up.  If they raise it before the kicker get to the base the kicker is out.  If the kicker makes it to the base before the ball is found the kicker is safe.   Its really that simple.

The official Beep Kickball is $140. The ball is very well made.  I imagine if someone was really creative they could put some kind of beeper in a ball and play that way.  I personally think the official ball is great and worth the investment.

For bases there are a few options. You can buy/use official beepball bases.  Which are about $300 dollars. Which can be bought here

Sam next to a base. 
Also the Beep Kickball  website offers an option for inflatable bases for a $110 for the pair.

They also recommend as a lower cost option  hand held buzzers in a box which they sell for $20 dollars each on the Beep Kickball website

I really think beeping frisbee which you can find at different stores around 15 dollars may work also.

They also say you could simply have someone clap and be the base and thats free.

close up of Sam holding ball
For the blindfolds/sleepshades you can get them from different sources.  Mindfold is a great brand but you can user cheaper ones. You can even find them sometimes in the dollar store.  You could also use bandanas.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Summer Reading Prep.

Sam reading on the swing in the snow
Well my kids only have a few short weeks till summer vacation starts.  We have no big trips planned this summer ( :( ) So i hope to focus on the kids reading a lot of books this summer.  Its easy for Sam.  We run down to the library or book store and can get new books for Sam very easily. As an added bonus the boy LOVES to read.  Its not uncommon to find Sam reading in the strangest places.

With Abby is just takes a bit more work.  She still struggles at time  reading and reading is just not as much fun to her as it is with Sam.  Its a bit more challenging to get books for Abby because you jsut can't run to the store to buy a Braille book.  As a response to this I have become a braille book hoarder   Yes its true.  I have been collecting many books since Abby first became blind.  I still work very hard at building our collection.   Want to become a braille book hoarder like me? What to know what I have done to get books into Abby's hands?
Here is a list of the sources of the books in our collection and places you get Braille.

1. Books passed on from others.  It becomes clear to all parents of Braille readers that you can't keep all the books you have.  As your child out grows books its very exciting to pass them on to a younger reader.  We do this when we can and only keep Abby's most beloved outgrown books.  So a tip is to find  a few Braille readers just a few years older than yours and perhaps you will be blessed with some of their books.

Braille Book Fair 2012
2. NOPBC Braille Book Fair We have gone the NOPBC Conference and the NFB National Convention the past two years and every year they have the Braille Book Fair where kids leave with MANY new books. Its a true celebration of Braille. This years NFB Convention is is in Orlando Florida Monday, July 1—Saturday, July 6, 2013 I put links about the NOPBC Conference and this years NFB Convention just above. A Future Reflections article about a past Braille Book Fair

3. American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults Free Braille Program   We have tons of these books I think Abby gets a new one once a month. Great program.
Abby at the braille book fair 2012

4. Early Braille Literacy Programs. These programs are usally for children up to the age of 6 or 7. - NFB Braille Reading Pals Program     and National Braille Press ReadBooks Program   These programs are both great and are about getting braille to young children and empowering parents as the child's first teachers.  There is also  APH  & Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Partnership  Abby was to old to sign up for this program when it started but it looks like children up to age six can get 5 free braille books a year.

5. Braille Institute Special Collections Program. This is a great program Abby gets to pick out free braille books 3 or 4 times a year. Its always exciting to get the new order form.
Abby Braille reading outside
6. Seedlings Angel Book Program. Seedlings offers 2 free braille books every YEAR to blind and visually impaired children.  They have a great catalog

7. I buy the books. I buy books primary from Seedlings  & National Braille Press  Both these wonderful organizations work hard and making the cost of braille books reasonable.

Abby reading Braille
8.  National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped  There are regional braille libraries all over the country where like any library you borrow books for a set time and return them.  In New Hampshire we get our Braille books from the Perkins Library.  Did you know you could get BRAILLE magazine from NLS? I had no idea and Abby loves them and we get to keep them.  Find out about the programs NLS offers and contact your regional library for more information. You can find out where your regional library is at this link

9. Bookshare  is such a fantastic service. Abby reads books in Braille on her iPad with Read2Go app and her refreshable Braille display. You can also download books into most Braille note takers and on your computer with a braille displays.  Books can also be downloaded and printed off on an Braille embosser.  Bookshare has 1000s of books.  Abby once went to a book signing. She got the new print book signed and than downloaded the book from Bookshare so she could read it.

I think that's most of the sources from our large mass of books in our Braille library. If you know of another great source share it in the comments.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lessons Learned as a Mother

Lessons Learned as a Mother

  • That the love a mother feels for their children is simply different than any other kind of love.  Its a primal feeling that can't be expressed with words.  You know that thing that happens when you get between a mama bear and her cub? Yeah its a lot like that and so much more.   There are things I have done the past 11 years for both kids that still surprise me.  
  • Two kids can be different, very different.   .  Abby is loud, Sam is quiet.  While Sam can sit for hours doing one thing, Abby bores easily.  While Abby is adventurous, Sam is cautious.   While  Sam is neat, Abby is messy. I could go on and on. They are both so  different in many ways.  I bought a lot of Sam clothes as a baby on clearance from Gymboree.  I would than sell them on Ebay for a profit after he had out grown them. It was a sweet deal. Imagine my surprise when that wasn't even a possibility with Abby because she stained everything.  

  • That mother intuition is no myth.  Many times the past 11 years I knew deep in inside (my gut) that something was wrong even when many others told me it was nothing.  When Sam was 18 months old and still not really talking yet the doctor told me it was nothing to worry about that we would check on it in 6 months again. I knew something was wrong and refereed Sam myself to early intervention.  Today at almost 11 years old Sam still qualifies for speech therapy at school so it wasn't nothing.  When I  thought Abby just needed glasses we went to Lens Crafters and she couldn't see the eye chart at all. I knew something wrong.  The hair on the back of my neck was really standing up.It still  took almost a month till a doctor agreed with us that something was wrong. A mom just knows sometime. 
  • Being a mom isn't always fun and games. I will admit I don't like being a mother at all sometimes. It doesn't happen often but it does happen.  We all have those bad days.  The commercials make it all seem like rainbows and flowers.   I am far from a perfect mother.  The magazines never talk about getting poop all over your arm when you are just calmly holding your baby. No one tells you what to do when your nonverbal 2 years old wants you to know something but just cries and cries because he can't talk. I don't recall reading what to do when your 9 year old daughter lies to you. What do you do when your two children end up fighting so bad it starts to look like hand to hand combat?  Then it all gets better with a hug and a smile.  
  •  Its ok to let them go. As they grew from little hatchlings to half-grown people there came a time I needed to take a safe step back. It is hard, they don't need you all the time anymore.  The nights away. The fun without me. The growing independance.  The kids are still at an age that I still get plenty of hugs but now Sam has out grown the kisses.  They are growing up so up so quick
  • Sometimes you can't fix everything.  Last year Abby wasn't invited to a birthday party of a classmate . Someone who she thought was her close friend and people who this child didn't even play with was invited.  She didn't understand what she did wrong.  I can't fix the friendship issues for Abby. Maybe some parents are afraid of Abby and they think her cane is a weapon. Perhaps it was no issue at all.  Abby is a friendly (though I have been told bossy too) , kind and giving friend. She has struggled a lot with oeople because she simply can't see their faces, She can't see the waves.  She can't find them on the playground. All I can do is raise her to be kind to others and be herself. 
  • That nothing makes my day more than a handmade picture with that simple I love you Mom. A hug can keep  me going for a whole day. I am the luckiest person in the world to get to be my children's mother. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Perkins SMART Brailler: A fond farewell

Does it make me a sap that today when I dropped the Perkins SMART Brailler off at the UPS store I got a little teary?  I really enjoyed it's visit. Its on its way to the Porter Family in Florida now.  I went through and cleared out the two user profiles that my kids made. Did you know you could save profiles for different members of the family?  I played with the eraser feature one last time.  I tested out the keys  and remembered the excitement I got when I made a letter and a word.  Yes its true I AM a sap. I look forward to finding out how the Porter Family and others enjoy the SMART Brailler.  

Abby was sure to share the SMART Brailler features with her dad this weekend. It was the one last thing she wanted to do before it had to away.
Abby and Sam unpacking the SMART Brailler a little over two weeks ago. 
I did notice something interesting when Abby used the SMART Brailler.  She would get frustrated when the SMART Brailler told her she made a mistake. She does already experiences this with her iPad and braille display which she uses a lot at school. She much prefers using a classic brailler and having her TVI tell her later what she did something wrong (than she is made to go and fix it)  The SMART Brailler isn't an enabler to lazy braille writers.  Parents and teachers rejoice!  I can see how the useful the SMART brailler would be for a a student like Abby
Abby using the Perkins SMART Brailler
I know the SMART Brailler would have been a huge benefit to Abby when she was a beginning Braille learner.   The combination of the audio and visual feedback is so useful. Oh and lets talk about that for a moment. The VISUAL feedback.   Blind/visually impaired students are diverse population of different levels of remaining sight (or lack of). There are many blind/visually impaired students who are not taught Braille simply because someone decides they can see enough. . Which is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. (though that's really another topic) So often its an ALL or nothing, tactile braille only or large print with pictures.  I liked that the SMART Brailler  had a visual display with different levels of contrast this could be helpful to many blind children with some remaining sight.  Abby could see most of the display and she loved to play with it. She got great enjoyment when the background was pink  I do question when it was pink if she could see any of text but it was fun.

I really do have a bit of crush on the SMART Brailler.  

Is the Smart Brailler now NEEDED by every Braile student? No. The SMART brailler is a tool. If a Braille learner doesn't have a SMART Brailler they can still learn Braille.   Its a tool and a pretty cool tool at that. It can be a bridge in a classroom when the Braille professional is not in the classroom, the classroom teacher and paraprofessionals can see on the display what the student wrote. It can be a tool for students so they are aware of their mistakes as they make them (or if they are mistake free) Its another great product that can make Braille cool and fun and that can only be a wonderful thing.

Good Bye SMART Brailler I miss you already and I hope you come again soon.

Links to my other blogs in this series.

1. Its Smart.... The Perkins Smart Brailler

About the Perkins SMART Brailler:

About the Backpacking SMART Brailler Event on 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Perkins SMART Brailler: School's Turn

All this week Abby brought the Perkins SMART Brailler to school.  We had this really cool backpack from Perkins Products.  Its a backpack for ALL Perkins Braillers. Its not just for the SMART Brailler or just the next generation Perkins Braillers, it fits all Perkins Braillers even the classic ones. How cool is that. 
Abby taking the Perkins Smart Brailler at school
She didn't get as much time with it as she would like. She did a lot work this week on  her braille display and iPad at school instead. She did try to use it every day. She did spend some time showing the features off with her TVI (teacher for the blind/visually impaired).  She was always very excited to bring it to school and I always gave her the option to keep it at home and she always wanted to bring it.

 Back to the cool Perkins Products brailler backpack. Remember Perkins Braillers are heavy  but the backpack has features that work with the weight as much as possible. The backpack is so awesome.   Its very well built and its VERY durable.    I really recommend the back pack for any perkins brailler user.  There have been many times we have transported a brailler that we would have loved a secure and durable bag like this.

Our time with the Perkins SMART brailler is almost over and we will be boxing it up and sending it off to its new host family soon.  We may only have one or two more blogs.

About the Perkins SMART Brailler:

About the Backpacking SMART Brailler Event on