Future Reflections

ISSN 0883-3419

Vol. 14, No. 3

Barbara Cheadle, Editor

Fall, 1995


My Body Belongs to Me

by Barbara Cheadle

The Helping Hand Syndrome

by Shirley Osman

Guiding Hands: Help or Hindrance?

by Lilli Nielsen, Ph.D.

Early Independent Skills

A Salute to the Winners of the 1994-1995 Braille Readers are Leaders Contest

The Secret Code Braille Club

by Peggy Niedermann

Whole Language or Phonics? It Shouldn't be Either/Or

by Doris Willoughby

Blind Students and Practical Science

by Kathryn E. Hill

What We Wish You had Known: An Open Letter to our Parents

Seven Little Words

by Linda Zani Thomas and Christine Bottino, MA, SLP-CFY

Estate Planning: What Parents of Children with Disabilities Should Know

by Greg Trapp

Judo Team Kicks up Confidence in Blind

Quick and Easy Home-made or Home-found Toys

Assistive Technology

Reflections on a Painful Eye

by Pauletta Feldman

The Dangerous Yew and Other Tales of Growing up with Blindness

by Sally Caroline

From the Bookshelf

Parent Power

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Copyright National Federation of the Blind, 1995

For more information about blindness and children contact the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

1800 Johnson Street * Baltimore, Maryland 21230 * (410) 659-9314


by Barbara Cheadle

Individual freedom is highly prized in our culture. (Which, perhaps, is one of the reasons we so fear blindnessCbecause of the widely held misperception that blindness takes away our freedom.) We strongly believe that every person has the right to make choices and do with their lives what they wish. Not surprisingly, this attitude extends to our bodies and the whole issue of personal privacy and personal space. For example, Americans will not willingly sit with strangers in a restaurant. The place may be full of tables with empty chairs, but if there is one other person sitting at that table, then, as far as we are concerned, the restaurant is full. That's how strong our sense of personal space is. We have correspondingly powerful feelings about our bodies. Public displays of shaved heads, green spiked hair, nose rings, multiple earrings, and tatoos may be appreciated by some and despised by others, but it is tolerated by all. In short, what people choose to do with their own bodies (distasteful as it may be to others) is their business.

But this same tolerance leads us to an equally firm intolerance of those who violate the physical privacy of others. We are especially intolerant, of course, of physical and sexual abuse. But even violations of our social rules about touching are not taken lightly. We take the concept of Amy body belongs to me@ seriously. We consider it part of our right to individual freedom. Unless you are blind, that is; then a double standard is applied. Don't believe it? Think about what you know to be true about our social expectations and the concept of respect for others' physical bodies and personal space.

Sometimes there is uncertainty about what is acceptable and unacceptable social touching. The debate about what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace is one example of our cultural expectations undergoing change. But most of us never think or worry about what is appropriate or inappropriate touching in our daily routines. The unspoken rules are so thoroughly ingrained in our behavior that we are only aware of them when someone breaks a rule, or we travel to another country where the rules regarding touch and personal space differ from ours.

We all know that it is perfectly acceptable, for example, to expect a hug and a kiss from great-aunt Emma (even if we haven't seen her in ten years), a firm handshake from our lawyer (which we may only see once a year), and no physical contact at allConly a distant nod and waveCfrom a neighbor we may have seen almost daily for twenty years. We expect our doctors to follow a certain protocol in a physical examination and we are uneasy or suspicious when strangers, or even casual acquaintances, get too close or touch us too much in social situations.

Although children are necessarily touched more frequently, there are clear distinctions and expectations regarding acceptable, and unacceptable, social touching at each level of development. A two-year-old toddler is vocally outraged if he or she is picked up or cuddled like a Ababy@ when they are trying to assert their new-found maturity and independence. A seven-year-old is appropriately offended if touched or handled as if he or she were still a toddler. And God help the parent who attempts to hug a teen-age son or daughter in public!

It would seem reasonable to assume that the same social standards regarding touch should apply equally to the blind. Even if one made the questionable assumption that all blind persons need more physical assistance than others, is it not consistent with current practice to assume that one should first ask if help is needed, and, if so, how the help is wanted. On the contrary, all sense of what is respectful, proper, or improper seems to disappear when an ordinary member of the public encounters a blind person. The only standard which seems to apply is: "If he or she is blind, grab 'em!" Over the years I have watched strangers and family members alike physically push, pull, and tug blind individualsCchildren and adultsCabout with nary a "By your leave" or "May I help you?"

I admire my blind friends (adults) who handle this unwanted, unsolicited "laying on of hands" with firmness, dignity, and good grace. I remember the time years ago when a blind friend and I walked into a highway rest stop bathroom. My friend was standing close to the towel dispenser, waiting her turn for a stall, when in came a gaggle of matronly women. Spotting my friend, they assumed that she was trying to find the towels. Talking non-stop they grabbed her (literally), "dried" her hands, and physically handed her back down the line till she was out of the bathroom. It happened so quickly Marsha was too stunned and shocked to even speak. But she quickly regained her composure, quietly used her cane to walk back in, and located her place in the line. Needless to say, the women were chagrined, maybe even a little put-out. They didn't apologize, but they didn't make a grab for Marsha again, either.

Adults who have had some training and have developed some confidence in themselves can pull this off. But what can children do when this happens to them? Worse, what happens if parents and family members follow the "grab 'em, push, pull, and tug" model? If they have never experienced anything else, will children have any choice but to accept this physical pushing and pulling with passive resignation? What, I wonder, are they learning about themselves? Do they believe that "My Body Belongs to Me" in the same sense that we expect sighted children to understand this message?

What should a blind child learn to expect from others in regard to respect for their bodies and their personal space? Should the social rules we follow for sighted children be applied to blind children, or do blind kids require a special and different set of "touching" rules? If so, where do we draw the line? Hands and arms may be grabbed without permission, but not the waist? What about the head and shoulders? Who is allowed to grab them without permission and who isn't? What can they say or do to prevent being touched against their wishes? For that matter, do blind children have a right to such wishes at all?

It is likely that many parents and educators have never considered these questions, at least consciously. Our cultural expectations regarding social touching are usually taught through modeling and admonition. We don't even think about it as we do it. Nor do we usually think about it when we flout the normal standards and apply a different set of expectations for blind children. We simply follow the dictates of the stereotypes we have learned.

But some people do think and do change this pattern. (I refer the reader to the articles "The Helping Hand Syndrome" and "Guiding Hands" in this issue.) The parents of Niki and Martha, two blind girls I have known almost since birth, decided early on to follow a different path. Niki's family read about blindness, joined the NFB, attended conventions, thought about what they learned, and made a conscious decision: they would treat their daughter in all ways with the same respect and expectations with which they planned to raise their sighted children. Martha's mother, who is blind herself, came to the same conclusion but from a different set of experiences. She not only had the collective experience of the NFB upon which to draw, she could apply the best from her own upbringing and avoid (or try to) the mistakes her parents and teachers had made.

But there was one thing neither set of parents could do: they could not magically make every adult in their child's life believe and behave this way. We prepare our children the best we can, but eventually they must meet and deal with the world as it is. Usually this happens when a child first goes away to school. And that's what happened to Niki and Martha.

Beginning around the first grade or second grade, they gradually became the hapless victims of the "grab 'em, push, pull, and tug" model of "handling" the blind. If spotted in the attempt to go or do anything by themselves, janitors, kitchen workers, secretaries, and teachers would drop what they were doing and grab a hand, an arm, or even the cane and insist on helping. The girls couldn't go to the bathroom, the lunchroom, the playground, or the bus without an adult rushing in to give them a guiding hand. One classroom teacher deserted her class when she spotted one of the girls passing her classroom on the way to get a drink of water. She was afraid the girl would get lost. But by far the worse culprits were their school aides. (As is common practice today, each girl was assigned an aide to help her in the classroom.)

Both girls complained to their parents about this treatment. Niki's mom had the opportunity to see for herself what was going on. She went to the school and sat in her daughter's class for a few hours. She was appalled by the aide's behavior, especially during a story time activity. All the children were to sit on the floor facing the teacher who would read to them. Since this activity required no assistance, the mom assumed the aide would leave the room, or at least stand quietly in the back. She did not. Instead, the aide sat on the floor and positioned the seven-year-old girl between her legs as if she were a two-year-old toddler. Adding insult to injury, the aide proceeded to physically move and tilt the girls head toward the teacher. She didn't whisper or suggest that the girl look at the teacher, or tell her quietly where to look. She didn't ask permissionCshe just grabbed her head and moved it.

It was no surprise to the parents that the girls objected to this type of treatment. Both girls had been raised with the positive, can-do philosophy of the Federation. They had canes as soon as they could walk, and they used them. They were not of a mind to take all this grabbing and pullingCeven if it was from adults at schoolCmeekly or without protest. It wasn't that Martha or Niki wanted to be disruptive or rude. They just couldn't see where it was such a big deal to go down the hall to the bathroom by themselves. But many of the adults, especially the school aides, didn't take kindly to these protests. From their perspective, they were only doing their jobsCone aide even stated it that wayC"It's my job to be by her side all the time." Soon, Martha and Niki were being labeled "uncooperative and disrespectful." They were admonished for "back-talking the teacher" or accused of "not knowing when to accept help" when they resisted unnecessary assistance. But by far the most astonishingCand chillingCremark came one day from Martha's aide. The aide had developed the unpleasant habit of grabbing Martha by the shoulders and steering her down the hall. Finally (on the advice of her mother to whom she had complained about this embarrassing situation), Martha asked the aide to take her hands off her shouldersCshe had her cane and she could walk and find the turn by herself. The aide angerly told Martha "I can touch you whenever I want to; it's my choice."

Fortunately for both girls they have tough-minded parents. These parents had been tough on themselves, deliberately choosing to hold normal expectations for their children despite feelings of guilt and fear for their safety. Now they were ready and willing to be tough and demand that others treat their children also with respect and high expectationsCeven if they didn't understand why or yet believe in the need to change their behavior. Today, Niki is in a different school. It's not perfect, but there is no longer an aide hovering over her. The experience with the other aide did not break Niki's spirit. She recently began taking private piano lessons. Her teacher has never taught a blind child, and neither mom or dad, who both work full-time, had the time right away to talk much about blindness and expectations with the piano teacher. As it turned out, they didn't have to. Niki took care of it. The first time the teacher attempted to take her by the hand, Niki pulled away and informed herCin typical eight-year-old fashionC"Hasn't anyone ever told you how to treat a blind kid? You don't grab themCthis is what you do," and proceeded to give the instructor a lesson in sighted-guide etiquette. The piano teacher, by the way, is delighted with Niki and took no offense at her impromptu instruction.

As for Martha, she is still in the same school with the same aide. The aide is clearly a little puzzled about the whole affair, but she no longer hovers by Martha's side every minute, and she is learning to respect Martha's wishes about physical assistance. A letter from the National Office of the NFB, an NFB volunteer advocate at an IEP meeting, the moral support of the mobility instructor, and the continued persistence of mom convinced the administrators and teachers to change their behavior. Attitudes still lag behind, but those, too, will change as they see Martha grow and flourish.

At ages eight and nine, these girls know that their bodies belong to them. Help is welcome (sometimes), but under their terms and under their guidanceCnot someone else's. They cannot yet turn down help with the tact and grace my friend Marsha displayedCafter all, she was an adult in her thirties. But they are as polite as any child their age can be; and that's all their parents wantCa normal kid.


by Shirley Osman

Reprinted from the volume 11, number 1 issue of VIP Newsletter, published by the Blind Children's Fund.

Last weekend Paul, a nine-year-old congenitally blind boy stayed with me. His stay could have turned into a blind child's worst nightmareCspending the weekend with his rehabilitation teacher! I found that I soon grew tired of and would not accept, the child's response "I can't" or "I need help." The rehab teacher in me said, "You can do it yourself."

Blind and visually impaired children seem to grow up with a crew of well-intentioned adults, who, like a cloud of helicopters, hover ready to rescue them from any danger or difficulty that they might encounter. It is much easier to do for the child than to watch him struggle, or to teach him to do things for himself. It is also faster. The blind child learns to expect and accept help gracefully and willingly. However, this helping hand syndrome causes substantial delays in problem-solving skills, self-help skills, and socialization skill.

Paul is a typical blind child with no other disabilities. He does, however, have delays in certain areas, particularly those mentioned above. When I agreed to take Paul for the weekend, I did not realize that I would establish goals for him. I soon found that my primary goal was to teach him to resist the helping hand which is continually being extended to him.

Since expecting to be helped was simply a habit which Paul had been dragged into, it was necessary to replace this habit with an alternative. I asked Paul, "What do you say when someone says `I'll do it for you'?" Paul replied simply "O.K." I said, "Nope, wrong answer." Pretty soon, even when I said, "I'll do it for you," he would say, "I can do it myself," and usually he did.

On Friday night, Paul worried and worried about who would help him with getting dressed. He probably knew that as his teacher, I had taught him how to dress himself and that I expected him to get dressed independently. He was absolutely right, but doubted his own abilities.

That night, when changing into his pajamas, Paul did run into a little difficulty, but I was able to talk him through his problem. Again on Saturday morning, he had some trouble with his shirt. He recognized that he had put the article of clothing on wrong, and stopped, waiting for the helicopter of help to swoop down and finish dressing him. I simply said, "You know it's on wrong, so, what do you have to do?"

"Take it off?"

"Right answer! So do it." He did, and with a little verbal instruction, was able to dress himself. The rest of the weekend Paul did not ask for assistance when changing clothes.

My second goal was to teach Paul a few age-appropriate games that he could master and could compete in competently. It is no fun for him if he always loses the game, and no fun for peers if they always win, or have to let Paul win. We began with some simple ones: Go Fish, the Baseball game (from APH) and UNO.

During the UNO game, I was trying to test his ability to resist the helping hand. When someone laid down a "Draw Two" card, drew Paul's cards, and handed them to him, he did ask (and I was pleased) "Why couldn't I draw my cards myself?" So I explained (as I am sure others will) that he is just too slow and that the game will go faster if he lets me draw for him. "O.K." he said.

"No, Paul, wrong answer! You have to tell people that you won't ever get faster if you don't get to try yourself." Throughout the rest of the card game, he drew for himself and resisted my attempts to intervene.

In less than 48 hours of "Yes you can" rather than "Let me do it" Paul became more independent and more self-assured. Will the effects of the weekend last? Only time will tell. Kay Farrell said it best, "Independence training begins at infancy, not at age two, or six, or when college is imminent." Every parent, every teacher, and every person working with children with visual disabilities must instill in them a resistance to the helping hand.


How the Approach of Guiding the Hands of the

Visually Impaired Child Can Disturb His Opportunity

to Build-up Strategies for Tactile Orientation

by Lilli Nielsen, Ph.D.

Special Education Advisor

The Danish National Institute for the Blind

Refsnaesskolen, Kalundborg

Editor's Note: Dr. Nielsen is internationally renowned for her innovative work with blind multiply handicapped children. Her publications, materials, and teaching techniques have received worldwide acclaim from professionals and parents in Europe, England, Australia, South Africa, the Phillipines, the United States, and other parts of the world. Readers may remember Dr. Nielsen's article about the "Little Room" (a special spatial relations teaching tool Dr. Nielsen invented) which we published about three years ago (Future Reflections volume 11, number 2).

In the following paper Dr. Nielsen challenges a slightly different, but also potentially harmful kind of "helping hand" practice: that of physically picking up and guiding the blind child's hand. This is such a standard practice among educators and parents alike that I can almost hear the gasps of protest. But read the article and decide for yourself if what she says makes sense. It is, by the way, a research article; not the usual style for our publication. Even so, it is relatively easy to read. Dr. Nielsen applies clear thinking, astute observations, and solid scholarship to her subject. She futhermore conscientiously works to avoid a "sighted bias," and approaches her subject with an open mind. The reader should do no less.


When a sighted person wants to show an object or an environment to a child or an adult who is visually impaired, the sighted person often uses the approach of guiding the child's or adult's hand(s) over the surface of the object or from one specific spot of the environment to another one.

The person who is visually impaired seems to dislike being exposed to this approach. Even the infant who is blind reacts to this approach with disappointment or by withdrawing his hand. Is this reaction just an emotional protest or should it rather be seen as the child trying to protect his cognitive abilities?

Learning To Display Tactile Search

In a review of the development of the haptic-perceptual modality Van der Poel (1988) states that:

Adequate stimulation of the haptic receptors leads to perception of touch, pressure temperature and pain. In this way the surface of the skin becomes prepared for the ability to assimilate specific information. This leads to haptic consciousness. When the child starts to become conscious about the specific meaning of different haptic experiences a cognitive coupling takes place and thus prepares the child for more sophisticated haptic perception.

Van der Poel also refers to Warren (1982) who has stated that the infant, in the beginning, is satisfied with the haptic experience itself. Together with the maturity of the cognitive processes a move from performing subjective to more objective and meaningful activities is taking place, so that the child can acquire knowledge about his surroundings by means of the haptic-perceptual modality. This means that the information coming from the haptic receptors are necessary for the visually impaired child if he is to perceive the qualities of the objects or the environments to which he is exposed. This perception can easily be disturbed if the child's hand is guided. This is so because some of the child's haptic receptors will be activated by the touch and pressure of the adult's hand thus bringing to the child information which has nothing to do with the object or the environment which the child is supposed to perceive.

According to Baddeley (1986) the child can only establish a memory if he has opportunity to repeat his experiences. This means that when the child starts to combine the information coming from his kinaesthetic and tactile receptors as well as when he combines new haptic experiences with those already stored, he will have to repeat such cognitive activities.

Building-up Strategies for Tactile Orientation

Van der Poel (1988) mentions that the visually impaired child has at his disposal only weak strategies for solving cognitive problems regarding spatial orientation.

Edelman (1994) states that the child learns by selecting. With regard to acquiring strategies for tactile search, Edelman's statement means that the visually impaired child will discover different strategies by means of his own activities and so develop several strategies from which to select.

Observations of blind persons, both children and adults, while performing tactile search of an object or an environment show that the blind person develops different strategies for different purposes or tasks. The first strategy used for exploring a novel object may be perfunctory. The second, third, or fourth time the child explores this object he may use a strategy which includes more differentiated exploration, and he may perform more repetitions of this way of exploring. Or maybe, in some situations, the strategy of differentiated search is used immediately followed by a more perfunctory strategy. After this exploration the object may be so familiar that only a slight touch is necessary to call forth in the visually impaired person's mind the image or the map of the entire object.

While the child is building up strategies for tactile orientation he will also add to the haptic information the information he can achieve from other sensory modalities. The child during the first year of life will depend very much on the olfactory sensory modalities while building-up his strategies for tactile orientation. Later, he will often prefer to gain support from the auditory sensory modality.

Building up sensory-based strategies for imagining and mapping objects and environments (and to do so on his own) is an important part of the visually impaired child's cognitive development.

The following figure shows the steps of the cognitive process of learning to imagine and to map objects and surroundings.

Information from the sensory modalities of:

*Hearing *Touch *Smell *Taste

*Kinaesthetic ability are

by means of repetitions

stored in the child's memory.

According to the child's experiences

a cognitive process establishes

in the memory:

*Categories *Associations *Connections

and the

*Ability to Recognize.

From this storage the child makes

plans and strategies for

performances of tactile search

and he acquires the ability of

imagining and mapping

objects and surroundings.

This process is disturbed or interrupted whenever anyone guides the child's hand without his permission. When a sighted person guides or leads the blind child's hand, it is the sighted person's strategy for tactile search that is used. The sighted persons's strategy is influenced by her ability to see as well as by her degree of comprehension of how a blind person experiences his surroundings. Does the person who is guiding the visually impaired child know which sensory elements are most important for this child to discover? Does she know how much time this child needs to be able to assimilate tactile sensory information? Does she know how many times this child needs to repeat every single action in order to be able to relate them to each other and thus finally achieve a reasonably good image of the object or environment in question? During the period of time in which the child is building-up a certain strategy for performing a certain activity or for mapping a certain object or a certain environment, it will surely harm, disturb, and/or delay the child's opportunity to develop these strategies if adults (teachers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, parents, or others) are interfering by guiding the child's hand. This is so for they use strategies different from those the child is trying to achieve.

The child whose hand is guided in one way by one person, say, at eight o'clock in the morning, in another way by another person two hours later, in a third way by a third person at 2 p.m., and in yet another way by a fourth person at 5 p.m., is presented with so many strategies that the child experiences total chaos, bewilderment, and frustration. This approach also results in the child having too little time and too few opportunities to build-up his own strategies.

From this point of view it is not surprising that so many visually impaired children withdraw their hands, or become unwilling to touch anything at all.

Poor tactile and haptic development also affect the child's control over his own body. Guiding the child's hand is restricting his movements. Since his spatial skills are based on movements (Nielsen, 1989, 1992, 1994; Van der Poel, 1988) he loses control over his own body as well as the environment whenever his movements are restricted.

So, there is every reason for refraining from guiding the blind child's hands.

The negative effect of guiding the blind child's hands during the preschool years may only be obvious (such as in the development of tactile defensiveness) when the child is six, seven, or eight years old. By this time he is no longer with the preschool teacher who exposed him to the hand-over-hand approach. Thus, it is hard for the preschool teacher to discover the effect of her or his way of teaching.

The adult should refrain from taking the child's hand and trying to show him where he should touch an object or how he should search it. This is so even if the adult sees that the child's hand is moving in a wrong direction, moving in directions that the adult finds more complicated than necessary for searching the object in question, or if the adult sees that the child omits exploring a certain part of the object or a certain small detail of it. It would be better for the adult to suggest to the child that he make a more differentiated search, or allow the child to use more time for his search.

It also disturbs the child's building-up of strategies for searching if the adult moves the object, even if this is done with good intent. Interference or delay also takes place if the adult talks to the child while he is trying to build-up a strategy that works for him.

If interference happens often or always, it will be very difficult for the child to succeed in building-up strategies. His knowledge about himself and his surroundings will be so fragmentary that his cognitive development will be negatively affected.

The visually impaired child who gets the opportunity to explore objects without interference can develop a strategy for mapping which, later, he can correct and further develop according to his enhanced motor capability, capacity for memorization, his ability to exclude information which is less important, and his enhanced cognitive development.

The child must repeat both the "useful" and the "wrong" strategies while experimenting with different strategies for tactile search. Both kinds of strategies must be stored in his memory so that later he can consider them, exclude those that are less effective, and make his choice.

The conclusion of the above considerations regarding the process by which visually impaired children build-up strategies for tactile orientation must be that when the child withdraws his hand or protests against having his hands guided he is either trying to defend himself from the bewilderment caused by the guiding, or he is trying to protect the strategies for tactile orientation which he has already achieved. The conclusion must also be that the visually impaired child benefits when his teachers exclude the approach of guiding his hands from their educational methods.

Finally, the only strategy for tactile search which is of value to the child who is visually impaired is his own.



Baddeley, A. (1986): Working Memory. Oxford Science Publications.

Edelman. G. (1994): Bright Air. Brilliant Fire. A Matter of the Mind. Penguin.

Nielsen, L. (1992): Space and Self. SIKON, Copenhagen.

Nielsen, L. (1994): Early Learning, Step by Step. SIKON, Copenhagen

Nielsen, L. (1989): Spatial Relations in Congenitally Blind

Infants. SIKON, Copenhagen

Van der Poel, J. (1988): Die visueelgestremde kind van geboort tot nege jaar: `n Ortopedagogiese studie. Universiteit va Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Warren, D. (1982): The development of Haptic Perception, in W. Schiff & E. Foulke, Tactual Perception. London: Cambridge University Press.


Toilet Training ** Dressing

The following material is reprinted from Guide for Parents of Pre-School Visually Handicapped Children a booklet written by Dorothy Bryan.

Editor's Note: There is nothing mysterious or especially complicated about teaching blind children early independent skills. Parents who have toilet-trained a sighted child will notice, for example, almost no difference between the description below and the process they followed. There are a few adaptations and special considerations, but otherwise the process is the same.

It would be great if this were all we needed to say on the subject. It would save parents a lot of anxiety and fearCnot to mention the money, paper, and time which goes into this magazine for the benefit of parents. But the stereotypes of blindness die hard and besides, humans are contrary creatures. We want to be shown how something works, not just told it is so. Don't be surprised then if your reaction after you read the following article is, "But that's not so differentCit's just what you'd do with a sighted kid!" That's the point!

Toilet Training

Ideas about when to start toilet training have changed from time to time. Most people concede that it is wise to wait until the child is old enough to understand what is expected of him. Regardless of when you start such training, you must guard against urging and pressuring your child if you want to avoid a long, drawn out training period. A child can easily develop a stubbornness about going to the bathroom if he is scolded for mistakes.

In preparation for training, you should let the child learn about the bathroom and how it is used. He will not observe others going and coming from the bathroom, or be in it with them incidentally, unless you make a point of giving him the experience. Let him go into the bathroom with you. Show him the fixtures. Flush the toilet (with the lid closed since it will be less noisy and less startling to him than when left open). Then let him flush the toilet as you tell him how the water carries away refuse. Explain that hands are washed after going to the toilet and help him learn how to turn on the tap, find the soap, and wash his own hands. Provide a stool upon which he can stand to be at the right height to do this. Speak of bodily functions in simple terms. Let him realize that people go to the bathroom to take care of bodily elimination.

If your child has fairly regular bowel movements, you can try putting him on his toilet seat about the time he usually appears to have need of it. A toilet chair that allows the child's feet to rest on the floor is considered better than a seat so high that his feet have no support. Do not leave him seated too long. Make no fuss over whether or not he has had a movement, but comment that it is good when he has had success.

Even after a child learns about the use of the bathroom, he will not be able to let you know he needs to go in time to avoid accidents. This is frustrating and requires patience, but is a normal part of training. He will learn to control his bowel movement before he gains bladder control. When he has an accident, put him on the toilet for a short time before changing him and explain that this is where he should go for elimination. Also, promptly put on dry underwear so he will realize how much more comfortable they are than the wet ones. Do not scold or punish him for accidents, but praise him when he tells you in time to use the toilet and does not have to be changed.

Toilet training for all children is a slow process with spurts of success and periods of regression. The more you can accept this calmly, the quicker and easier the training will be. Remember, learning to use the toilet does not require sight. The visually handicapped child is not slowed down through lack of vision. He is simply following the same pattern as other children. It requires time and patience to teach any child to remember to get to the bathroom in time to take care of his needs.


Instinctively a child begins undressing, pulling off socks and clothes before she is interested in putting them on. Even so, you can start preparation for learning to dress by telling her about her clothes (their color and use) as you put them on her, and handing her a sock or shoe to hold until you are ready for it. While telling her about each item, let her examine it by touch and by use of any sight she may have. From this, you can move into showing her how to do the simple things. Help her learn the right opening for each foot so that pants will pull up into the right place. Let her learn to hold up her arms for you to start over her head and guide her arms into the armholes. After you get her head and arms through her shirt or undershirt, let her pull it down.

When you start teaching her to put things on for herself, be sure to choose the simple, easy to manage clothes instead of the complicated ones that look attractive, but are not designed for the child to handle without your help. Place her clothes on a chair seat or the foot of a bed where she can reach them and help her learn which to put on first. She will have to be shown how to get her arms into the armholes and the different ways to do this when the garment opens, as compared with the one that goes over the head. They must learn how to find the front and back of pants so that they will fit as they should, then how to fit one foot and then the other into the legs before standing up to pull the garment into place. In the beginning, you may want to hand the pants to your child with the top toward her and turned in the right direction. Later, you can lay them out with the top facing the child so that she will pick them up in the easiest way for handling.

Choose socks that fit loosely so your child will not have to struggle to get them on. Show her how to feel the heel and be sure she gets it to the underside of her foot. Help her recognize the difference in the feel of the shape of the soles of her shoes so that she can tell which goes on which foot. This is not easy for a child who sees well, so you will need to work at this task for some time. Talk about which is right and which is left, and help her learn her right foot and hand from her left ones. Show her how she can place her hand on the bottom of her shoe when she is putting the shoe on to help get it in place by pushing as she shoves her foot forward.

While she is mastering the art of dressing, you should fasten things for her. Later, she can learn to tie, button, zip, and snap her clothes. Too many procedures at one time can be confusing for a child. Also, at this stage she is not ready for small muscle control required in fastening as much as she will be a little later. Teach her each thing as she appears to be ready for it if you want the learning to be as easy as possible.

When you note that some step in dressing seems particularly difficult for her, calmly give her suggestions as to how to do it. Break the process down into a step-by-step procedure so that she can learn the order in which she needs to attack the job. She is going to need much repetition before she gains the ability to dress and undress alone. Consistently see that she does what she can independently, and lend her a hand with the other areas of dressing. Tell and show her the way she can manage by herself next time. Praise her when she succeeds and do not show impatience when she fails. She is going to be frustrated by not getting into and out of things as quickly and easily as she would like to. Both of you will grow weary of the repetition essential to all of this learning.

You, however, must remember, that to gain respect for herself and have a feeling of worth, your child must become independent and able to rely upon herself. It would be simpler and easier for you to dress her than to try to show her how to do it herself. When time is at a premium, it is a temptation to take over. Remind yourself that when you do this, you retard her learning. Instead of saving time, you are wasting it. Later, you will be rewarded for your patience when you see your child grow evermore eager and able to manage for herself.




The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille salute the winners of the 1994-1995 Braille Readers are Leaders Contest.

First we salute those of you who have, because of your participation in this contest, replaced feelings of shame about reading Braille with pride. We do not know your names, but you know who you are. You are winners because you proved to yourselves and others that the negative stereotypes about blindness and Braille are wrong. There is no shame in blindness; there is no shame in using Braille. You have rightfully developed confidence and pride in yourselves as competent Braille readers. Your accomplishment is exemplified by contest participant Paul Ruffner of Arizonia whose mother wrote:

"When we first started reading for this program my eight-year-old son said he was embarrassed to be reading Braille. We stuck with it, and I haven't heard another word [about being embarrassed]. I'm so proud of him!" Eunice

We salute you, Paul, and all other participants who are now proud to call themselves Braille readers.

Next, we salute the teachers, parents, and librarians who supported, encouraged, cajoled, and cheered on our contest participants. You are winners because you gave unselfishly of your time and energy to make this experience possible for your children and students. Without YOUR participation, there would be no contest and therefore no winners. You spent precious hours looking for books, even transcribing them, so that your students would have materials to read for the contest. You sat for hours with beginning readers listening to them read and giving gentle encouragement when they faltered. You thought of creative ways to make the contest even more fun and motivational for the children. You stand out among your peers for you are the ones willing to go the extra mile for your child or your student. You are winners, and we salute you!

Our third salute goes to every participant who exceeded his or her performance in previous contest years. The top five such students receive a special award, but ALL of you are winners. You were convinced that if you worked a little harder you could do better, and you did. You persevered, and those who persevere prevail, and those who prevail are winners. Just ask the tortoise and the hare!

A hearty salute goes to every participant who has a special difficulty or circumstance to overcome on the road to Braille literacy. This salute goes to students like Emilie Schultz whose mother wrote:

"Although my ten-year-old daughter has multiple disabilities and reads at about a first grade level, it's been fun for she and I to work together on this contest. Thanks!" Barbara

Then there are students like Gabino Lares. This is what Deborah Hartz, his English teacher, tells us about Gabino:

"Gabino had normal vision until the summer of 1994. He came to ASB October 6, 1994, but told administrators and counselors that he was not interested in learning Braille. He was scheduled for a normal academic load: computers, algebra, English, world history, career explorations, and P.E. (no Braille). The first day in my English class he saw Gaston who reads Braille and was using a Brailler. Gabino was out of his seat amazed and interested immediately. From the second day in my English class he would come in and during spare moments sit at a Brailler and ask how to Braille letters and signs. He Brailled his last quarter's final. Braille reading has only just begun. I showed him the mechanics of it in December and during the last two weeks of January he read these five pages: Dust of Snow, Robert Frost (one page), Everybody Tells Me Everything, Ogden Nash (one page), and Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss (three pages)."

Again, we salute Emilie, Gabino, and all other participants who must overcome difficult circumstances to become Braille literate. You are true winners!

Finally, we salute and recognize the top winners in each of the contest categories. These students won cash prizes and t-shirts for outstanding excellence in each of their respective categories. We also recognize, for the first time, two schools for the blind for their outstanding participation in the contest. This category has been met with much enthusiasm, and we plan to continue offering this award in the years to come.

All winners received special t-shirts. First place winners received $75, second-place $50, and third place $25. Most Improved Winners received $15. Each of the two schools for the blind received $100 and a special plaque for outstanding participation. Here are the 1994-1995 Braille Readers are Leaders contest winners:

Print to Braille

First: Ashley Samp,

California (grade 7), 2,530 pages.

Second: Kristin Hinman,

Wyoming (grade 4), 750 pages.

Third: Anitra Webber,

Utah (grade 12), 500 pages.

Kindergarten - First Grade

First: Elizabeth Catherine Causey,

Georgia, 639 pages.

Second: Clayton Jacobs,

Iowa, 562 pages.

Third: Kellie Hinman,

Wyoming, 454 pages.

Second - Fourth Grades

First: Maria Gabriela Smith,

Alabama, 9,263 pages.

Second: Jessica Barr,

Massachusetts, 4,449 pages.

Third: Lauren Back,

Iowa, 3,285 pages.

Fifth - Eighth Grades

First: James Konechne,

South Dakota, 14,309 pages.

Second: Robert Riddle,

Washington, 10,853 pages.

Third: Blake E. Roberts,

Delaware, 8,838 pages.

Ninth - Twelfth Grades

First: Mike Gilmore,

California, 7,315 pages.

Second: Christy Witte,

Michigan, 3,753 pages.

Third: Rebecca Hart,

Virginia, 3,749 pages.

Most Improved:

William Sparks, Virginia, grade 4.

Francisca Stenbuck, Massachusetts, grade 3.

Apolinar Gonzalez, Texas, grade 4.

Jessica Shofi, Oregon, grade 5 and second year as a beginning print to Braille reader.

Janet Quam, Iowa, grade 5.


School for the Blind

Outstanding Participation Awards

Maryland School for the Blind: Certifying authorities Del Simmons, Librarian, and Chris Baugh, Braille teacher.


Cheryl Higgs, William Ransom, David Wells, Shakir Amjad, Germaine Gardner, Jennifer Baker, Lisa Johnson, James King, Jeremy Lincicome, Brian Blevinn, Laura-Sun Ceferratti, Frank Millner.

Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind: Certifying Authority Deborah Hartz, high school English teacher.


Gabino Lares, Ronald Talashoma, Sean McMahon, Karla Moreno, Anna Miller, Hannah Goodman, Juan Pablo Moreno, Larry Ruiz, Gaston Mascarenas, Andrea Barker, Josh Baker.



by Peggy Niedermann

At J.C. Hogian Elementary School in Marshalltown, Iowa, there are thirty-four students that have a "secret code." The code is Braille. After reading an article in Future Reflections, Fall 1992, by Bonnie Simons, I was inspired to start an after-school Braille club.

I took my idea to our school principal, and he was convinced this would be a great program. With his encouragement I contacted our town's park and recreation department to get support for an after-school activity program involving Braille. I was met with an enthusiastic response. "How soon do you want to start and what do you need?" With all this enthusiasm I started to work.

The first step was to set a date to start and then make a registration form. I was able to use the school's art room every Monday from 3:15 to 4:00 p.m. I made a registration form and sent it home with the students in grades third through fifth. To my amazement the registration forms started coming in the next day in great numbers. I had thirty-four students wanting to sign up. I even had to turn some interested students away after the club started.

The blind student with whom I work was in the third grade when we started. He is an intelligent fun-loving boy. This has been a wonderful adventure for him. He has been able to become a leader among his peers. He became my junior assistant. The Braille club members are seeing him in a new light. They are beginning to understand how much alike they are and how, with some adaptations, blind students can do their own school tasks without much difficulty. The sighted members of the club are beginning to understand the Braille code and how to read and write it.

The first meeting of the Secret Code Braille Club was a get-to-know-you time. Sitting in a circle we played musical hot potato. The kids passed the musical potato from person to person. When the music stopped the one holding the potato stated their name and why they wanted to be in the club. This enabled my blind "assistant" to learn the voices and names of the other members. We finished our first club meeting with a short lesson about the Braille cell. To reinforce the lesson we made an edible Braille cell. The students placed chocolate chips on a Rice Krispie rectangle as my assistant instructed the group on where to place the "dots." The first meeting was a huge success!

The next two meetings were spent making Christmas cards. Due to our large number of members we divided into two groups. One group used tactile materials to decorate the front of the card. The other group shared five Braillewriters and Brailled the word "joy." The next week we reversed the groups; this enabled all the children to experience both activities.

After our Christmas break we began our journey through the Braille alphabet. We first learned about the life of Louis Braille and how he invented the Braille code. We reviewed the cell and how each letter is made. To reinforce this lesson the members made their own alphabet in pencil and a numbered Braille cell. A discussion of the Perkins Brailler and the corresponding key numbers concluded our meeting.

The following two Mondays in January we once again divided into two groups. One group used paper, pencil, glue, and soybeans to write their names. The students wrote their names in pencil dot form and then glued soybeans on the dots. They also wrote the corresponding dot numbers under each letter. Most of the members thought this activity was the best yet. The other half of the club divided into groups of two or three and shared the Braillewriters. My visually impaired junior assistant helped the group get started on Brailling the alphabet. Just getting started was a learning experience. Rolling the paper into the Braillewriter was quite a task for most of the students. The students helped each other out and gave each other a lot of encouragement. The following week we reversed this activity allowing both groups again to work on each project.

We continued dividing into groups the next few weeks to work on the Braillewriters. The group not on the Braillewriters enjoyed playing games adapted for the blind. One week we decided to change the pace a little; we all joined together to finger paint. We used St. Patrick's Day green and added sand to the paint. This was not an activity for the non-tactile type person. Once the creations dried, the colored ridges of sand were cut into shamrock shapes. We displayed the shamrocks in our school's media center.

When it was time to end our Secret Code Braille Club, we went out with a party. The club members decided we should play bingo for prizes and make edible Braille cells again.

The club was a great experience for all involved. My blind student assistant had a chance to be the resident expert among his peers. The sighted members found out how much thinking goes into learning Braille and the coordination needed to use the Braillewriter. This writer enjoyed watching all the interactions of the students as they learned new skills. It was a time to make new friends, to be creative, express ideas with tactile materials, and learn a new method of written communication. The club was so successful that the following year two sessions were held, one for the beginners and one for the advance students. As this is being written the Secret Code Braille Club is getting ready for its third year of fun.


It Shouldn't Be Either/Or

By Doris M. Willoughby

The Conflict

"The phonics approach is old-fashioned."

"With whole language, they never really learn to read."

"Phonics and basals are boring, boring."

"Maybe the best students do okay with whole language but everybody else flounders."

Sound familiar? It seems as though elementary teachers must either be pedantic and uninteresting (as in the jaded view of basals or phonics) or let their students sink-or-swim (as in the cynical view of whole language).

The methods of phonics and basal readers tend to be lumped together in this fray as one and the same. They do both proceed in a preplanned sequence rather than emphasizing choice by students. However, there are differences. A phonics reading curriculum will generally place great emphasis on the association of sounds with letters whereas a basal curriculum generally combines elements of different methods with emphasis varying from one lesson to another.

A whole language curriculum generally places great emphasis on the student choosing reading material which is appealing to him or herCespecially trade books (books which were not originally written for the purpose of school instruction).

A Balanced Approach

This article hopes to show that an absolutist view is undesirable. Elements of both whole language and phonics are needed in reading instruction. Good teachers, whether they realize it or not, do bring in both. It is a matter of emphasis; and poor teaching can be done under any label. To emphasize that labels are somewhat arbitrary, they will often be shown in quotation marks in this article.

The Patterns program, mentioned in this article, is a "basal" curriculum especially designed for the student who uses Braille. Braille signs and symbols are introduced in a controlled sequential manner. Technical problems found in transcription of books for sighted children (such as dependence upon pictures) are eliminated or carefully managed.

Unless Patterns is used, the teacher must anticipate all new Braille signs and formats and plan how the student will learn them. Typically, this is done individually before each "regular" lesson. It must be done regardless of whether the overall curriculum is labeled as "whole language," "phonics," "basal," or something else. (As of this writing Patterns is the only widely-available curriculum which takes care of this issue by building in sequential teaching of the Braille code.)

Below are some examples of how, when reading is taught effectively, an approach which seems to fall under one label includes other elements also:

(1) Beginners in a "whole language" curriculum match Braille letters with objects (b with a ball, etc.) and begin to understand initial consonant sounds.

(2) Beginners in a "phonics" program examine puppets and other objects and make up stories about them.

(3) The "whole language" curriculum in the ABC School District requires teachers to keep a weekly log of each child's word analysis skills.

(4) The first grade teacher, using a curriculum with heavy emphasis on phonics, also uses "experience stories." The children describe an interesting experience, the teacher writes it down and makes multiple copies, and everyone reads it.

(5) A "basal" program uses Patterns as the main curriculum but includes many selections from trade books in the manner of "whole language."

This Author's Outlook

It is wise to acknowledge one's biases. I myself have had more direct experience with basal programs than with other approaches. Also, I have used Patterns with several students and found it effective.

I believe that the inherent dangers in a whole language program can be worse than the inherent dangers in a basal or phonics program. That is, if each of the contrasting methods is used poorly, the results with whole language are likely to be especially bad.

Partly to compensate for possible bias, in this article I have alternated which approach is mentioned first in regard to a particular point. This should help prevent the appearance of grossly favoring one approach. (I hope that alternating back and forth does not confuse the reader.)

Some Comparisons and Concerns

Learning to read well in Braille is not categorically harder than learning to read well in print. The task is not, however, exactly the same, nor is the sequence of skills. Following are some cautions and considerations which apply regardless of reading mode, and also some special cautions specific to Braille. These should be carefully considered in program planning.

General Concerns about Basal or Phonics Programs

* Preplanned drills on a given skill can become unnecessary "busywork" for the child who has already mastered the skill.

* There may be too much emphasis on rote learning (memorization).

* If various specific skills (e.g. spelling, word analysis, interpretation, etc.) are taught separately, the child may have trouble using them together.

* A mind-set toward always analyzing every word can lead to slow reading speed.

* The English language is not entirely phonetic. A student who is over-relying upon phonics may be stymied by a word like through or one.

* If a "basal" or "phonetic" reader is used in a pedantic way, it can be very boring.

* The traditional approach tends to assume that all of a given group (not necessarily the whole class) will work on the same selection at the same time.

General Concerns about Whole Language

* If the vocabulary is not "controlled" (i.e., presented in a preplanned sequence), it is hard to know what words will come along. Pictures help sighted students with this problem.

* The more the program is individualized the more the teacher must keep track of individual mastery of skills. It is easy to let this slip.

* A curriculum labeled "individualized" can become as lockstep as traditional programs are accused of being. Does the entire group often read the same book at the same time?

* If learning word-analysis skills is left too much to circumstance, it is easy to leave things out.

Concerns about Braille and Whole Language

When the vocabulary is not controlled the pictures help sighted students figure out difficult words independently. Indeed, authors and illustrators plan carefully for this help. But when a blind first-grader encounters the word icicle and does not see the picture, deciphering can be a formidable task.

If vocabulary is not controlled, the introduction of Braille signs is not controlled either. Consider this example, which could well appear in a book for beginning readers:

(Ed) (will) (go) (to)C(ity) P(ar)k.

Note: Parentheses indicate that in Braille a special sign is used rather than the letters. Also, in Braille the words to and City are written together, un-spaced.

Again, learning the Braille signs and formats is not in itself harder than learning print. But if a child continually encounters too many new things without the skills to figure them out, he/she will soon feel overwhelmed and give up.

If the student is overwhelmed by too many new things but does not give up, he/she will tend to slog along slowly, examining and re-examining dots.

Even when phonics is not emphasized, most children quickly figure out how to decode words by phonetic means. But many of the clues obvious to young print readers are simply not available to students using Braille, or not available for certain words. Example: the -sion sign has no s.) Because of this, a book listed as easy for a given level may not be as easy in Braille. But the converse can also occur; a given book may be easier in Braille.

Traditional reading books have a vocabulary and skills list for the teacher; a list which is sequential and correlated among the various books in a series. Although whole language books may indeed have such a list it is not assumed that the children will proceed through the books in a particular sequence. Planning ahead for introduction of Braille signs becomes more complex.

In a whole language curriculum there are often several hundred books available for a given grade level, any of which may be used by the next class coming along. This poses a dilemma about the blind student's materials. Should transcriber time be committed to providing great numbers of books, many of which will not actually be used? Or will choices be severely restricted because of what is available in Braille? The article by Carol Castellano (see references) describes many excellent ideas for handling this question. Nevertheless, it is a concern which does not occur with basal readers.

Concerns About Braille and Basals or Phonics Programs

* A given curriculum may emphasize skills in a sequence which is confusing or difficult in relation to Braille signs. For example, -ation, -tion, and -sion may all be introduced on the same day.

* Beginning lessons often emphasize sounding out words through rhyme. Suppose, for example, that the children know the word can, which in Braille is (c). A rhyming story might contain the words can (c), fan (fan), man (man), and ran (ran).

* If reading instruction is kept too strictly controlled for too long, a child may be unable to read any "regular" books for a very long time.

* Overemphasis on figuring out words and pronouncing them can result in "word-calling" (pronouncing words and sentences without understanding them).

* Continually over-examining the structure of words can prevent the development of speed.


Throughout history many aspects of life have been vulnerable to the "swing of the pendulum" phenomenon. This happens in education, too. But it need not lead to disaster. A new emphasis, if not badly overdone, can lead to great improvement in the approach formerly used.

Many principles of good teaching are the same, regardless of the specific curriculum or method. The young blind child must have real experiences and good explanations to learn things that others may learn through pictures. Introduction and mastery of Braille signs must be done in a reasonable manner.

If the teacher believes that a basal or phonetic approach is stilted and boring, then it probably will be. If the teacher believes whole language lets students float around vaguely without guidance, then it probably will.

Any method or approach has weaknesses for which good teaching must compensate. A competent approach to teaching a blind student (or any student) will meet and overcome concerns such as those listed above.

The IEP (as well as the general curriculum) can provide for the use of different methods in various combinations. Near the beginning of this article were several examples where aspects of one approach are integrated with another approach. However, it should not be necessary for the child to do every example and read every story in two different programs. For example, Patterns (or another basal series) might be central for a certain number of months, and then transition to the whole language curriculum would be completed quickly.

Probably the best motto for preventing problems is AVOID EXTREMES. Any method has disadvantages, or at least potential disadvantages.

The two general approaches discussed in this article should not be mutually exclusive. Even in the most "traditional" curriculum, students are encouraged to read books they enjoy. Even with the greatest emphasis on "whole language," children learn principles for figuring out new words.

Finally, BE FLEXIBLE. A good teacher, however strongly he or she feels about a given approach, should never be so rigid as to refuse to try other methods under any circumstances. If the approach which he or she favors is not successful with a given student, the teacher should be flexible enough to add elements of other approaches or even change to a completely different approach.


(1) Castellano, Carol (1994). "Making Whole Language Work." Future Reflections 13 (3), pp. 22-25. (Detailed suggestions for good management of a "whole language" curriculum for a blind child.)

(2) Harley, Randall K., Mila B. Turan, and LaRhea D. Sanford (1987). Communication Skills for Visually Impaired Learners. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas. (General methods for instructing blind children in reading and writing. NOTE: Generally, I agree with the principles given in this book. However, the expectations in the "Behavioral Objectives of the Braille Code" (Appendix B) are too low. In my experience, by the end of third grade a student should be able to read and write all the signs of literary Braille, though he/she may not yet fully understand all rules of usage.)

(3) Powell, Debbie, and David Hornsby (1993). Learning Phonics and Spelling in a Whole Language Classroom. New York, New York: Scholastic Professional Books. (Detailed descriptions of ways to integrate specific skills into whole language programs effectively.)

(4) Willoughby, Doris M., and Sharon L. M. Duffy (1989). Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students. Baltimore, Maryland: National Federation of the Blind, pp. 95-155. (General principles of teaching reading and writing to blind children. A description of Patterns is included, with discussion of advantages for overcoming concerns.)


by Kathryn E. Hill

Editor's Note: The following article was originally published in The Educator, 6 (1), under the title "Practical Science and Drawing Science Diagrams with Blind Students Integrated into a Nigerian Secondary School." This publication of the International Council for Education of the Visually Impaired targets educators and researchersChence the rather dry title. However the article is easy to read, the tone is upbeat, and the suggestions for adaptations are sensible and relevant.


The Boys' Secondary School, Gindiri, Nigeria, was the first Nigerian Secondary School to integrate a student who is blind and thus open up secondary education to blind Nigerians. This was in 1957 and the blind student, Bitris Gani, gained a Division I Certificate in his West African School, which included a credit in Agriculture Science. He went on to study Physiotherapy at the London School of Physiotherapy. Other students who were blind followed him into Gindiri Boys' and other Secondary Schools.

As far as science is concerned, they were and are mainly restricted to Health Science or Biology, with a few students branching out into Agricultural Science. For blind students this science was, and largely still is, restricted to the theoretical parts of the syllabus, with practical work and diagram drawing considered impossible of students who are blind. The West African Examinations Council excuses candidates who are blind from practical papers in science subjects.

The author taught Biology, Chemistry, and Integrated Science at Boys' Secondary School, Ginidiri from 1978 to 1990 and became interested in involving students who were blind in practical work and diagram drawing. The apparatus and techniques used for the teaching of diagrams and of two science topics are described.


The various science syllabuses are rich in diagrams which the student is expected to draw. This includes copying from the text book or blackboard and drawing actual specimens, sets apparatus, etc.

Using a smooth rubber mat, a suitable plastic or Melinex sheet, and a special drawing tool, students who are blind can be taught to draw. A raised (feel-able) line is produced. However, this imported equipment is very expensive so local alternatives were sought.

Car mats (smooth on one side and available freely) cut into four make suitably-sized mats. The elaborate system of clips, pins, etc., used to fix the drawing sheet to the imported mat can be replaced with a film of water which holds the plastic sheet in place (and is, itself, a good demonstration of the use of surface tension).

Various types of polythene sheets were bought and tried. The best turned out to be the polythene which a local firm (Nkasco) used for their corn flakes. They kindly donate rolls of this from time to time and it is cut to size. This polythene is stiff enough for labels, titles, etc., to be Brailled directly onto it.

An ordinary biro which has run out of ink, and which would normally be thrown away, makes an excellent "pencil," and at little expense you are ready to draw.

Two sets of apparatus are needed, one for the teacher and one for the pupil. The diagram is built up step-by-step with the teacher drawing a line, the student copying it, the teacher adding the next line, the student copying that, etc. This is labor intensive and time consuming, but is worthwhile as it is an enormous help to concept formation as well as giving the student more complete access to the curriculum. It is important to keep it simple as the eye loves detail but the finger is confused by it. Diagrams, therefore, need to be reduced to their bare essentials. With beginners, a single line is often used in place of the normal double line. As students become more competent, more detail can be included, more of the diagram can be drawn at each stage, and conventions such as double lines observed.


This topic involves students in practical measurement of length, volume, time, and temperature. Techniques and locally made/adapted apparatus have been devised for the first three of these.

(a) Length: An ordinary wooden ruler, as used by most of the sighted students, was notched at 1cm intervals using a razor blade. The blind student can now measure to the nearest 0.5cm - the same degree of accuracy as with the imported plastic rulers. A standard meter rule is turned into a tactile instrument by hammering cut-off pin heads at 1cm intervals. This can be extended to having two pins at each 1cm, one pin at each 0.5cm, and three pins at each 10cm. Tape measures are readily available in the market. These can have holes punched at 1cm (or 1 inch) intervals, like the imported ones, or, even better, have a staple fixed at each 1cm mark.

(b) Volume: The above apparatus can be used to measure and calculate the volume of regular objects but different techniques are needed for liquid volume and irregular objects. Now there are two methods of measuring liquid volume. The first is when the total volume of a liquid is measured; the second is when you wish to measure a stated volume of a liquid. Both are possible to some extent for people who are blind. An imported light probe can be used to accurately determine the level of liquid in a measuring cylinder with tactile markings. Without a light probe, an estimate can still be made. Graduated beakers of various sizes are marked by super-gluing small pieces of gravel on the marks on the inside and then varnishing them with clear varnish. Using their fingers to determine the water level, and knowing the interval between each tactile mark, the student who is blind can make a very rough measurement of the volume of the water. This has a number of disadvantages as it is not accurate, and can only be used with harmless liquids, but it does convey the concept of the use of the measuring cylinder. In the same way a very rough measurement of the volume of irregular solids can be made by finding the volume of water, adding the object, and then finding the new level. Again this is far from accurate but the concept is conveyed far better than by a mere description. In place of a pipette for measuring out accurate amounts of liquid, a plastic syringe can be used. These syringes can be imported ready notched with tactile marks or friends in the medical field can be asked to save used syringes which are easily marked and notched with a razor blade to enable the accurate measurement of various volumes. By using large and small syringes, accuracies of 0.1cm3 can be achieved (see "Titration" below). Students who are blind easily learn to use a syringe pipette and are delighted to find they can be as accurate as their sighted peers.

(c) Chemistry Topic - Titration: At first sight, titration might seem impossible for the Nigerian chemistry student who is blind because of the need to see a color change in the indicator; this observation would only be possible for a student who is blind with the aid of a costly imported talking PH meter. The solution was to use a human talking PH-meter so that a teacher or a fellow student who, after a student who is blind adds the appropriate acid to the experiment, simply says "no change" or "change." One could argue that if the student who is blind does not have to determine the end point for him/herself, the experiment is easier for him/her; but it can equally be argued that the problems blindness cause in accurately carrying out the rest of the titration techniques are an "equal but opposite" disadvantage and thus evens things up! Certainly, it is better for the student who is blind to perform this modified titration than to simply work with other people's results.

A plastic beaker, labeled with a Braille A, is used for the acid and a glass beaker, labeled with a Braille B, for the base. Using a large syringe-pipette the stated volume of base is measured into conical flasks and indicator added in the usual way. The rough titration is made adding acid 1cm3 at a time from a large pipette notched at 1cm3 intervals. When the fellow student says "change," the total volume added is noted. A volume of acid which is 1cm3 less than this amount is then added to the second flask. The blind student then changes to a 1cm3 syringe-pipette which is notched at 0.1cm3 intervals, and adds 0.1cm3 at a time until the fellow student says "change," when the total volume is again noted. This is repeated until good replicates are achieved. An experienced blind chemistry student using this technique can achieve results every bit as good as the best of his/her sighted peers.


With ingenuity, a little money, and much time, students who are blind can be given nearly full access to the practical and diagrammatic aspects of science syllabuses thereby improving their understanding of the subject, and thus enhancing their chances of success in examinations and the quality of their education.




Editor's Note: This article was written by the following group of students from the Helen Keller National Center: Myra Collins (Washington, DC); David Delgadillo (California); Matt Frawley (New York); Ginger Kinney (Oklahoma); Joey Lugo (Pennsylvania); Jean Lundgren (New York); Kathy Angstadt (New York); Shirley Rybarski (Pennsylvania) It was originally published in Usher Family Support, Fall, 1994, then reprinted in NAT-CENT NEWS, May, 1995.

The title has been altered slightly to clarify the theme and the subject of the article (it was originally called "An Open Letter to Our Parents: What We Wish You had Known."

Written by students with Usher syndrome (a condition which causes, over time, hearing and visual loss), the message of this article is, however, equally relevant to ALL parents of blind children regardless of their children's specific eye disorders or accompanying disabilities.

If you are the parent or guardian of a deaf-blind child and would like to network with other parents or want more information about deaf-blindness, you can call: 1-800-859-4111. This toll-free number is operated by Parents of Deaf-Blind Children in Partnership Committee (a committee of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children), Sally Ruemmler, Chairman. The toll-free number is only for parents and caregivers of deaf-blind children. Professionals and parents of children who are blind only, or blind and multiply handicapped, may call (410) 659-9314 for information.

We are a group of people with Usher syndrome I and II, and one of us has retinitis pigmentosa with a different reason for hearing loss. We have weekly meetings at the Helen Keller National Center. Our group is open-ended with new students who arrive at the Center joining the group and people who have finished their rehabilitation, leaving to return to their home states. Last spring we wrote an open letter to the deaf community. In our discussions there are issues that have come up over and over, and again we have decided to put these into the form of a letter, this time an open letter to our parents.

Having Usher syndrome is both difficult and a challenge. Having vision problems that have gotten worse or can leave us blind is extremely stressful. Each of us has experienced many feelings about this. Some of our parents didn't tell us what was wrong with us. Some did say there was an eye problem but still didn't tell us the details or explain anything to us. Having Usher syndrome was kept a secret. One of us has friends whom her mother told while not telling her own daughter what was wrong; the friends were then sworn to secrecy.

Sometimes a brother or sister was told, but not us. One of us was told by her grandmother, after asking about her eyes, "Shh, don't ever discuss your eyes with your mother; it's just too upsetting," and not another word was ever said. Another group member knew she had a problem but wasn't told it was a degenerative and genetic problem until after she was married and had children. If we had questions to ask our parents, the family message seemed to be "Don't talk about your eyes."

We have discussed this many times. We have had visitors with Usher syndrome from around the country come to our group and many of them have had the same experiences. Some of us arrived at Helen Keller Center still not knowing exactly what was going on. Finding out from friends or a doctor, when we know that our parents knew this was happening to us, left us angry, frustrated, and feeling as if we have been treated like babies.

Most of us felt we knew that we had a problem sometime between the ages of 10 and 12, but there was no one to tell or talk to, even after visits to the doctors. One member of our group knew something was wrong when their mother started weeping in the doctor's office. Asking what was wrong, the member was told, "Nothing." There was no one to tell us what was going on.

All of us feel that keeping Usher syndrome a secret from us wasCand isCwrong. We advise all parents to tell their children what is going on. Parents need to say that there is a problem, what it is called, that it is genetic, and that it can get progressively worse. You don't have to say, "You will become blind." That is too scary, and no one knows when or if it will happen. But it is important to us to have this information about ourselves; after all, it is our bodies and our lives. Children need to be told over and over in ways that they can understand, depending on their age.

By junior high school we had difficulties with our teachers, with our school setting, and with our classmates. Sometimes we made up excuses about why we couldn't go out at night with friends. We already knew that the problem was with seeing at night, and we were afraid to be in places where we might not be able to see. We started to be separate from our friends, and we stayed away from activities. Sometimes other students made fun of us, which was very painful and hurt us a lot. We felt very rejected in school by teachers and staff. We worried about telling our dates about our RP, hiding the information about our eyes from our friends. We were, and some of us still are, afraid that no one will marry us or love us because we might become blind.

Sometimes, although the teachers and other staff were told about our retinitis pigmentosa, they didn't seem to understand. One person in our group related being pushed around and screamed at by a gym teacher. Teachers really didn't understand the conditions under which we couldn't see and often blamed us for being clumsy, falling, or playing ball carelessly. They were impatient with us. Sometimes the lighting in school was very bad in places like the cafeteria, and we bumped into things. Then we were teased more. The staff at all the schools need to be well-trained, and trained over and over again so they know what is going on and so they understand. Someone should look at the school setting to see how they can make it brighter and safer for us.

We talked a lot about special services, when we got the services, and when we think we should have gotten the services. No group member received services before age 17. Generally those services were the beginning of orientation and mobility education with a teacher showing us how to use the long white cane. Sometimes the mobility teachers didn't know sign language, meaning that we really couldn't understand well or ask questions, and everything was limited to demonstration. This was never enough. We felt very embarrassed by the cane. At the same time, we felt it was absolutely necessary to begin to learn about it and maybe it should have started even younger.

Some parents never understood about mobility teaching and told us that they were embarrassed by our cane. They didn't want us to use it. We want you to learn about mobility, cane use, and to understand that we may use it differently in different places when it's dark or if we are in an unfamiliar place. Most of all, we need you to be comfortable, supportive, and encouraging; then we will begin to feel comfortable.

Most of us (but not all) grew up using American Sign Language. A few of us used Signed English, or were oral and learned sign late. We know many parents have some negative feelings about sign language and so never learned to sign. That is why we were sent to oral schools. We communicated at home by lip reading or writing notes back and forth. That already presented problems to comfortable communication. As our vision has gotten worse, lip reading and writing notes has become less and less comfortable. Some of us can still see enough to use visual sign, some of us rely on tracking the signing hand, and some of us use tactual sign. We now see that communication at home is worse than ever and we know that when our vision is completely gone we will no longer be able to communicate at all with our own family.

We advise all parents of deaf-blind children to learn and use sign language. We don't want to lose our families as we lose our vision.

There were other issues related to communication that could have been very helpful to us if we had been informed early on. None of us were ever told about tactual sign language, although we certainly could have used it at home, in the dorm, or on a school bus at night when we couldn't see at all. All of us learned about tactual sign here at Helen Keller. Also, no one told us about "tracking," which is holding the other person's arm at the wrist to help us to be able to see and focus on the person communicating with us. Some of us really should have learned this technique while we were still in school. It would have erased our fears to know how to track and use tactual sign even before we needed it. We all found these topics upsetting in the beginning, but we think that slow exposure might be one way to handle the situation instead of having it hit us all at once when our eyes deteriorate quickly or when we go for training.

Braille is a big issue. No one ever wants to learn it. Some of us don't even want to learn it now when we really do need it! Again, maybe it should have been introduced earlier as something routine, not by saying "You will go blind and you need to learn this." That is not the way to think about it. If we knew a bit about it we would not be so frightened by it later.

We want you to know all these things that have happened to us in the hope that other parents will read this letter and make it better for their deaf-blind children. We also want you to know that we have had a lot of feelings about what has gone on around us in the past, what is going on now, and what will happen in the future.

Having Usher syndrome has made us incredibly angry and frustrated. Some of us have been very depressed in the past, depressed enough to think about committing suicide. Some of us have tried to commit suicide when our eyes started to get worse. One or two of us still think about suicide sometimes when we think we will be completely blind. We have felt comfortable here at the Center because we have met different people with the same problem, and we feel better again. It is important for parents to know that their children have these feelings. Kids won't tell you if you don't ask. That is how we are, and it is why some of our parents never knew that we thought about suicide or even tried to kill ourselves before.

We hope that you will read this and learn a little about us. We hope that you will learn sign to have better communication at home. We want you to know we get frightened and worried. We want you to tell your children the truth soon. Young deaf people with retinitis pigmentosa need to know and deserve to know the truth so that the person and the family can plan to work together. Children and their parents need to have trust, and to have trust there must be honesty. If you are the parent of a child with Usher syndrome, tell them a little at a time until they are old enough to understand. Then tell them everything. Your children already know something is wrong. Please tell them the truth.


by Linda Zani Thomas and

Christine Bottino, MA, SLP-CFY

Editor's Note: This article is the second in a series designed for parents of blind and multiply handicapped children. The first article was published in Future Reflections, the National Federation of the Blind Magazine for Parents of Blind Children, volume14, number 1.

Communication skills are crucial for multiply handicapped visually impaired kids. Through the development of receptive and expressive communication, children effectively interact with others and therefore exert greater control over their lives. Parents should initially concentrate on developing hand signals or sounds to convey the following seven basic needs:

1. drink

2. eat

3. more

4. no more

5. requesting interaction with others

6. pain or discomfort

7. toilet needs

Each of these are very important to a child's health and safety, and the successful mastery of signs or spoken words for these seven needs will give your child a real sense of accomplishment and boost his/her self-esteem.

Basic receptive and expressive communication skills will also make life a lot easier for you, especially as it helps you know if and when your child is in pain or discomfort.

Here's how to start:

Observe your child's behavior when he or she is in any of the seven situations listed above. Is there a gesture, sound, or cry they make to let you know they're hungry for example? When they are making the hunger sound or gesture (such as putting their hand in their mouth), repeat a simple word for food such as "mm" or "eat." Be consistent and immediate in your responseCrepetition increases the chances of your child making the connection and eventually substituting words for gestures!

Reinforce your family care-givers' names with your child. As many times as possible, insert "MaMa" or "DaDa" in describing the activities you are doing. Eventually, they will call you for attention by name!

Concentrate on words that are simple and contain the earliest and easiest sounds for a child to produce. Historically, children start with the following consonants: M, N, B, P, and W. AD@ is commonly used at a young age as well.

Become a blabbermouth! Describe all activities your child is experiencing, this way he/she can start to label things with which they commonly come into contact.

Do as many hands-on activities as possible. Narrate your activities while providing kinesthetic and tactile (touch) input to reinforce their interactions and participation in activities.





By Greg D. Trapp

Editor's Note: Greg Trapp is a 1990 graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Law. After passing the 1990 bar exam, he began work as an Equal Opportunity Specialist at the University of New Mexico. Mr. Trapp has been a staff attorney with the Protection and Advocacy System of New Mexico since 1992. In 1993 he taught Disability Law as an adjunct professor at the UNM School of Law. He is currently on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, is the second vice president of the Albuquerque Chapter of the NFB, and serves on the New Mexico Commission for the Blind's statewide rehabilitation advisory council.

Do you have a will or living trust? Have you selected a guardian for your minor children? For most Americans the answer to these important questions is "no." Yet, of all of the reasons why you should have an appropriate estate plan, none is more persuasive than the benefit to your children. Without a proper estate plan, your minor children face an uncertain future. Would their inheritance be prudently managed? Who would the court appoint as their guardian? A proper estate plan can answer these and many other questions. However, if your child is disabled, then it is even more critical that you have a proper estate plan.

While it is a good idea for everyone to have a proper estate plan, there are some major life events which make estate planning even more urgent. These major life events include getting married, the birth of children, moving to another state, getting divorced, and the sale or acquisition of significant property. Of course, the disability of a child is also such a major life event. In general, it is a good idea to have an attorney review your estate plan about once every five years, and more often if you have experienced one of these major life events.

As you consider your estate planning options, it is important that you understand the benefits and programs that your disabled child might be eligible to receive. For example, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available to disabled children whose parents have limited income and resources. In most states, eligibility for Medicaid is automatic upon eligibility for SSI. Despite the restrictions placed on the amount of allowable income and resources, many families of modest means may find that their disabled children are eligible for SSI or Medicaid.

Even some disabled children in more affluent families might be eligible for SSI or Medicaid. For instance, while SSI counts step-parent income, Medicaid does not count the income of a step-parent. Thus, a disabled child could be eligible for Medicaid benefits despite a large family income. A disabled child in a high income family could also be eligible for SSI and Medicaid were the child to be in long-term hospitalization. For instance, a premature infant requiring several months of hospitalization might be eligible for SSI and Medicaid. Prematurity is a major cause of blindness and many premature infants could be eligible for SSI and Medicaid.

SSI also does not count some resources used to earn the family income. Farm equipment, for example, might not be counted making some farm families eligible for SSI. Even if your income is currently too high to be eligible for SSI, you should keep in mind the fact that your earnings will cease upon your death at which point your disabled child might then be eligible for SSI.

Should you die while your child (regardless of disability) is still under the age of eighteen, then he or she might be eligible for survivor's benefits under your Social Security contributions. If a disabled child's biological or adoptive parent begins to receive Social Security retirement or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and if the child became disabled prior to the age of twenty-two, then he or she might be eligible for SSDI and, after two years, Medicare.

In addition, your disabled child may also be eligible to receive educational equipment and services through your school district's special education program. Once your child reaches working age, then he or she might also be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services. Since your disabled child might be eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation services, it may be inappropriate to use a trust to pay for a college education. Instead, you might decide to provide for your disabled child's other needs, or for the college education of a non-disabled child. However, if you want your disabled child to attend an expensive private college or a university in another state, you might want to use a trust to specify that your child's inheritance be used to cover the tuition and other costs not covered by your state vocational rehabilitation agency. With cuts in vocational rehabilitation services likely, it is probably prudent to use a trust to plan for the day when vocational rehabilitation services will be less generous. By understanding programs such as SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, special education, and vocational rehabilitation, you will gain a better idea of the future needs of your disabled child. This understanding will help you to plan your estate. For example, you might want to purchase additional life insurance as a method of providing for your disabled child.

The creation of a simple will is usually the first step taken toward acquiring a proper estate plan. You can probably obtain a simple will for less than two hundred dollars. However, the presence of a disabled child might make a simple will inappropriate for your situation and add significantly to the cost of acquiring a proper estate plan. Yet, the additional cost could be more than outweighed by the saving to your surviving family and in the peace of mind gained in knowing that your disabled child will have a more secure future. As you contemplate your estate planning options, you should probably also consider the possible benefits of a living trust. A living trust is a trust which takes effect during the lifetime of the creator of the trust. After you place your property into the trust, the property is then managed for the benefit of the persons named in the trust. The typical living trust is managed by the creator of the trust for his or her own benefit. Upon the death of the creator of the trust, the property contained in the trust automatically transfers to the person named as the successor trustee. The primary advantage of the living trust is that it helps to avoid probate by automatically transferring the property. The main disadvantages of a living trust are that it is initially much more expensive than a will, and all property must be titled in the name of the living trust. In addition, a living trust does not eliminate the need for a will since a will may be needed to transfer property not titled in the name of the trust at your death.

A will may also be needed to appoint a guardian for your minor children. For most young persons who have a small and uncomplicated estate, a simple will is normally going to suffice. Your exact requirements will primarily depend on the age of your disabled child, his or her maturity and independence, his or her health, the ages and needs of your other beneficiaries, your own age and health, your marital status, your family income, and the size of your estate.

It is important that you understand the differences between the major types of trusts. Many people make the mistake of assuming that any trust will protect eligibility for SSI and Medicaid. However, only a special needs trust will preserve SSI and Medicaid eligibility. Most persons are more familiar with testamentary trusts. A testamentary trust is a trust which is normally made at the same time as a will. A special needs trust can also be a testamentary trust. However, a special needs trust does not have to be a testamentary trust. A special needs trust can also be used to protect a gift or legal settlement. If your disabled child was injured in an accident, and if there will be an insurance payment or damages award, then you may need to divert the proceeds into a non-testamentary special needs trust. This must be done prior to receipt of the payment. Failure to have the payment transferred directly into a special needs trust may cause your disabled child to be ineligible for SSI and Medicaid. However, for purposes of this article, the use of the special needs trust is discussed in the context of estate planning.

In order to be a special needs trust, the disabled beneficiary cannot access or control the trust property. The Social Security Administration does not consider trust property to be a "resource" belonging to the trust beneficiary if the beneficiary is unable to revoke the trust and does not have direct access to the property. A special needs trust can pay for items such as college tuition, medical care, home improvements, entertainment, certain types of insurance, transportation, or even vacations. The trustee can also make cash distributions to the trust beneficiary. However, cash which is distributed directly to the beneficiary will be counted as income. Cash received directly from the trust might result in a reduction or elimination of SSI benefits. Payments for items such as food, utilities, and shelter will also be counted as income and could result in a reduction in SSI benefits.

A special needs trust can also be used to qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid can pay for medical expenses which could otherwise rapidly exhaust your estate. In the case of a child with serious medical problems, Medicaid eligibility can save hundreds of thousands of dollars. In order to maintain Medicaid eligibility, the trust must limit the amount that the trustee is allowed to distribute to a level below the maximum income amount allowed by Medicaid.

The trustee must also keep in mind the fact that trust distributions could cause ineligibility for SSI and thereby also cause ineligibility for Medicaid. The trust should state that the purpose of the trust is to supplement state and federal entitlement programs and to pay only for those items or services not paid for by the entitlement programs. Since the trust places complete control in the trustee, you should take great care when deciding whom to name as trustee.

The appropriateness of a special needs trust will primarily depend on your income, your marital status, your child's age, your child's health, your child's maturity and independence, the number of children you have, and the amount to be placed in the trust. A special needs trust will be most appropriate for families who have a financial need for the SSI payment or who need Medicaid to cover medical expenses. A special needs trust is more likely to be suitable if the assets to be placed into the trust are relatively modest, or if your child is an adult receiving SSI benefits. For a disabled child with few medical expenses, the $458 monthly SSI payment might not be worth protecting if your child would otherwise receive a large inheritance. Use of a trust to shelter larger inheritances may be appropriate if your child has a need to qualify for Medicaid, or if your child is unable to spend or otherwise enjoy the inheritance.

Consideration should probably be given to trust alternatives. One possible alternative is to disinherit your disabled child and then increase the share of a trusted family member with the understanding that the family member will use the increase for the benefit of your child. This alternative is risky since the heir receiving the increased inheritance might turn out to be untrustworthy, might lose the inheritance to bankruptcy, or might lose the inheritance to a civil lawsuit. A gift to a trusted family member with the same understanding is a similarly risky alternative. In both cases, the tax consequences must be considered.

Another trust alternative may be the use of an SSI work incentive called the Plan For Achieving Self-Support, or PASS. The PASS can allow income and resources to be exempted in order to achieve the goal of becoming self-supportive. A PASS may enable your child to become or remain eligible for SSI and Medicaid. A PASS can also be used in combination with a special needs trust. A PASS is more flexible than a special needs trust in that the PASS can be funded from assets already in your possession or in your child's possession. A final alternative to a special needs trust is the purchase of a non-countable resource such as a home. The purchase of non-countable resources can also be used in combination with a special needs trust.

It might be helpful to use a hypothetical situation to illustrate the benefits of a special needs trust. Take, for example, the situation in which a father earned $25,000 a year and the mother remained at home to care for her two children, one of whom was disabled. The father had a $20,000 life insurance policy through his employer and designated a special needs trust as the beneficiary of the policy. The father also purchased additional life and disability insurance to pay off his home in the event of his death. As a result of his diligent estate planning, after his death the family home was paid off, the mother was able to earn a modest salary, the disabled child received SSI and Medicaid, and the $20,000 contained in the special needs trust was saved for emergency and educational purposes. It should also be remembered that the mother and children might also have received Social Security survivor's benefits, but probably not in an amount which would have precluded the disabled child's SSI and Medicaid eligibility. If this father was thorough in his planning, then he would also have created a durable power of attorney and living will. The durable power of attorney could authorize his wife to make any necessary medical or financial decision, and the living will could help clarify the father's medical treatment wishes.

As you develop your estate plan, you should not assume that your attorney has considered the use of a special needs trust. It may even be a good idea to have a second attorney review your estate plan. Your nearest disability advocacy organization, legal aid society, or senior citizen's law center might be able to provide you with estate planning services or advise you in developing your estate plan. If not, then they might be able to refer you to an attorney familiar with special needs trusts. While everyone hopes for a long life, should death come early, proper estate planning can dramatically improve the future for your surviving disabled child.


Ross, Sterling, ASheltering Zebley Retroactive SSI Benefits In Trust,@ 25 Clearinghouse Review 1335, February 1992.

Schlesinger, Sanford J., and Scheiner, Barbara J., "OBRA '93 Makes Sweeping Changes In Medicaid Rules," 21 Estate Planning, March-April, 1994.

Silber, Mayer Y., "The Effect Of A Trust On The Eligibility Or Liability Of The Trust Beneficiary For Public Assistance," 26 Real Property, Probate and Trust Journal 133, Spring 1991.



Reprinted from the Times Advocate North County Report, February 5, 1993. Story by Christine Bradley.

"Just feel their bodies and go with it."

That is how 20-year-old Klaudia Birkner said she beats her sighted opponents in judo competitions. Birkner lost her vision four years ago but continues to lead a normal and active life. For more than a year, the San Marcos resident has participated and competed on the Sasori judo team.

She is one of thirteen North County visually impaired people who are using the martial arts to take control of their bodies and compete in physical competition.

"It makes me feel like I can beat up the boys if they try and beat on me," said fifth-grader Lisa Davis, who already has her yellow belt.

Robert Caslava of San Marcos started the judo team in December 1991 after he realized there were very few sports in the San Diego area in which visually impaired people can participate. Caslava, a specialist in the visually impaired and an orientation and mobility instructor, goes to North County public schools and teaches blind students everything from personal hygiene to traveling in large crowds. He said exercise is especially important for the visually impaired because "developmentally they are far behind their sighted peers."

Because judo is a full-contact sport, the students are able to feel what their competitors are doing and anticipate the next move.

"I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to get physical and compete against sighted peers." Caslava said.

The judo team is open to any visually impaired person. The only requirement is to bring a partner and provide a sighted person to help during practices. Los Angeles resident Dan Gomez volunteered to be the leader of the judo team. During the three-hour practices held at Vista High School, Gomez demonstrates the moves the students will learn to Caslava.

Caslava's advanced training with the visually impaired allows him to take the blind person's point of view and physically break down the moves. He either verbalizes the motions to the students or shows them "hand over hand."

"You have to depend on feeling the other person and their moves instead of seeing them," Birkner explained.

The students have been able to learn and perfect the moves, which has made them stiff competition for their sighted opponents.

"In judo there is no disadvantage in being blind, except for the start because you do not know the first move (the opponent) will make," Caslava said. To make the match more fair, the blind competitor is allowed to grip the sighted opponent before the match begins.

In January, four of the eight members who competed in a Los Angeles judo tournament received second place in their category, while one member won first place.

"It was great to whip the sighted people," Birkner said.

Caslava said that as far as he knows, his team is the only blind judo team in California. "No other group has the energy to get this thing going," he said. Since sighted teams are not used to competing against visually impaired people, they usually only want to do an exhibition show.

"Sighted people are afraid they are going to hurt you," 16-year-old Belinda Surita said.

Caslava added, "But these teams don't realize that these kids are just regular kids."

Judo has allowed students to compete and has increased their self-confidence because they are able to do something with their bodies.

"It is great to know you can be independent and take care of yourself," Jennifer Larson, 23, said.

Caslava said judo has given the students an awareness about their bodies and a better orientation with their surroundings. Lisa Davis' mother, Sharon, said she noticed Lisa has greater control of her body and more self-confidence. Davis also said she thinks the team is a great social outlet.

"It gives her a chance to compare notes," she said. "Lisa also realizes that other people are going through the same thing she is."

Judo is not the only sport Caslava has made available to visually impaired people. He also organizes an annual ski trip to Big Bear Mountain; and takes kids water skiing, hiking and even canoeing.

"I just want these kids to be normal."




Editor's Note: Written by Terri Connolly, this article appeared in the March 1993 Kid-Bits newsletter of the Kentucky School for the Blind. It was reprinted from Pitter-Patter, newsletter of Project First Steps. The original title is "You've Got It: Learning `Toys' Around the House." This version has been edited and reformatted to make it easier to read and to use as a reference.

For those readers who have been looking for toy ideas for blind babies, please note that these general ideas for toys are as useful for blind children as they are for sighted children. Don't ignore the few visual aspects of these toys either. Remember, your baby will gradually learn (as all children do) to play with other children. His/her toys should have visual appeal for sighted playmates. Activities such as painting may be adapted for the tactual sense by adding sand or such to the paint. With or without this adaptation, however, your child needs to experience at least the act of painting, coloring, or drawing because it is such a common activity among his/her peers.

The most important influences in your baby's development are you and the environment. Actually, you are the greatest toy around. Your face, your voice, your hands, and your heart are "toys" which are all responsive to your baby's needs and actions. Your home, which is your baby's learning environment, should include safe spaces and safe materials or toys to play with. Play is as important as food, sleep, and love. Fun learning or "non-stressed skill development" occurs naturally through play with enhanced experiences in an enriched environment.

Toys, toys, toys, toys everywhere. Sound like your house? Babies do need toys. Today, toys for young children are highly researched, incredibly available, and downright fun. There are so many appropriate commercial toys available that, without careful planning, the toys that "enrich" our babies' environment will "en-poor" our pocketbooks. Not to worry, there is much fun and learning to be had with inexpensive, ordinary, and natural household materials. It is interesting to note that many manufactured toys are replicas of ordinary household objects such as nested cups or objects in a bowl. Because home-found or home-made toys are not made according to federal safety guidelines, please use them only during special playtimes when you can directly supervise their use. Consider the skills your baby is practicing as well as his/her likes and dislikes when choosing appropriate games to play together.

Easy props for play

Cardboard Tubes...

* Look through.

* Blow through.

* Sing or talk through.

* Bang for sound.

* Slide sideways on a string tied alongside the crib (hang other tubes on short yarns from that one to bat around).

* Roll.

* Tie or tape a long tube on the banister to drop a toy through into a pan at the bottom.

* Drop a spoon through.

* Tape two short ones together for binoculars.

* Thread several on a rope to pull around.

* Line several standing up on the floor and knock down with a ball or by hand.

* Hold one hand over each end of the tube as you roll or shake objects inside, such as a spool, by tilting it each way.

* Use a tube as a bat or golf club to poke or hit at a rolled up sock or ball of newspaper.

* Draw faces and bodies on the tubes to talk with them like puppets.

* Hold the tube while baby throws a ball over the tube or rolls it under the tube.

* Cut apart a six-pack rings and place them onto the tube (supervise carefully when using small objects to drop into the tube).

Boxes(Discount shoe stores or departments will often give you a dozen boxes on request.)

* Using a lid, cover and uncover to find a hidden special toy. Stack and knock down.

* Nest inside each other.

* Cut a circle and a square hole in a box to sort blocks and short tubes or balls.

* Cut the ends to make a tunnel for a car.

* Lay a doll all wrapped up in its own special bed.

* Add a string for a fun pull toy wagon.

* Tie several boxes together for a train.

* Turn over and beat like a drum with a tube or spoon.

* Reach in without looking to feel a hidden object.

* "Skate" with a shoe box on each foot (be sure to hold toddlers hands during this activity).

* Glue magazine pictures on each side of a cube box to point to, find, and talk about.

* Cut opposite sides corner to corner to turn over for a ramp to roll cars or tubes down.

* Cut a narrow slot in the lid to play Amail@ with index cards.

* Use two to three same-size boxes to introduce the concept of discrimination and classification by sorting and storing toys.

Larger Boxes

* Cut doors and make into playhouse.

* Paint with water using sponge or brush.

* Tape paper on it for a sturdy large easel to paint on.

* Cut a large opening in one side, remove flaps, and dangle toys on strings from top of hole for baby in infant seat to bat at and reach for.

* Sit baby in a large diaper box with blanket for padding to play. Gently push and pull for a Abumper car@ game.

* Securely tape Busy Boxes, Jack-in-the-Box, or other manipulative toys on and around a large box for a fun learning center.

Cereal BoxesThese have wonderful colors and graphics for visual appeal.

* Empty several of the snack-pack variety into a large bowl for a fun snack, then tape the ends of the empty boxes for fun stacking blocks, or to line up like a train.

* Cut the front side off and cut into two or three pieces for a fun, easy puzzle.

* Leave a few pieces of cereal in a large cereal box, tape securely, and string across crib for a pretty, but noisy, kick toy.

Grocery Size Paper Bags

* Stuff with crumpled newspaper, roll, and tape ends closed for large stacking blocks or for throwing with two hands.

* Cut open front, armholes, and neck to make costumes for older children to decorate.

* Cut and lay flat for great sturdy paper for drawing or painting. Great to stack canned goods in, just like shopping at the store.

Lunch Bags

* Stuff and tape for small, noisy, soft blocks.

* Draw eyes on bottom and mouth on flap edge for an entertaining puppet.

* Put on baby's feet to increase awareness.

* Put on toddlers' feet with rubber bands and let them stomp around in their "boots."

* Inflate by blowing into gathered neck of bag, tie end with a short string for a soft, noisy object for baby to swipe and bat. Place dry cereal or crackers in for baby's regular snackCit's fun to reach in and find a surprise.

* Put a toy in and shake, let baby pull out the surprise.

Towels, Scarves, or Baby Blankets

* Hide toys under.

* Play peek-a-boo.

* Roll baby up in and unroll.

* Drag baby slowly around on floor (best if baby lays into blanket for head support).

* Drape over chairs or table for a cozy crawl-through tent.

* Dance and sway to music as you shake scarf to the rhythm.

* Wrap and cuddle a doll in a cloth.

Plastic Lids

* Cut hole in to drop objects into fitted containers (can or bowl). String several together and tie tightly.


Reprinted from the May, 1995, Dakota Link Newsline.

The 1992 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that assistive technology devices and services must be considered on an individualized basis and become a part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) if the child needs it to benefit from his educational program.

Listed below are some of the steps that can be taken in assisting students who need assistive technology to benefit from their IEP:

1. Make the school aware that assistive technology needs to be considered as part of the student's educational plan. This should be done by requesting, in writing, to a representative of the school district, an evaluation or re-evaluation of the child. State that you believe your child can benefit educationally from the use of assistive technology.

2. The school district must provide the evaluation. If you receive an evaluation that is not appropriate, ask for an independent evaluation.

3. Upon completion of the evaluation, an IEP meeting should be convened to determine how to meet the goals and objectives for the student's educational plan with the use of the appropriate assistive technology.

4. Remember, according to federal law and policy, if your child needs assistive technology to benefit from his/her educational program, it must be part of the IEP and at no cost to the parent. Policy letters are useful tools in reminding the school district of the student's rights as they relate to assistive technology. If you are dealing with a negative response to your requests for proper evaluation, provision of technology, or taking technology home, for example, these letters can and should be used.

If you disagree with the school district at any step in the process, you may request an impartial due process hearing. If you need legal assistance, you may contact your state Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency. In addition, each state has a Parent Training and Information Center that may be able to offer assistance.


[Editor's Note: One of your first calls should be to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and/or its affiliated Parents of Blind Children organization in your state. Although the other agencies listed above may be very knowledgeable about the law and experienced in advocacy, they are likely to have only the most general knowledge about technology for the blind and visually impaired. Some assistive technology is so standard for the blind that evaluations are unnecessary. For example, Braille writers for Braille reading students. For the number of your local affiliate of the NFB and Parents of Blind Children, call (410) 659-9314.]



Policy letters are a powerful tool for parents, advocates, and others in gaining access to assistive technology and other special education child rights. A policy letter is a written, public response to clarify a section of special education law.

The Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education referred to the Tech Act definitions of assistive technology devices and services in a 1990 policy letter clarifying the rights of students to assistive technology in IEPs. This policy letter gave families a new tool in advocacy for their sons/daughters and promoted the development of a new technology policy in the states. It helped lay the groundwork for inclusion of specific language on assistive technology devices and services in the 1992 Amendments to IDEA. The amendments state that assistive technology devices and services must be considered on an individualized basis and become a part of the IEP if the child needs it to benefit from his educational program.

Since that time, a number of policy letters have been issued. These policy letters have repeatedly reinforced the right of the child to assistive technology devices and services if they are needed to enable a child to benefit from his/her IEP. They have served as effective tools for gaining inclusion of assistive technology in IEPs. Following is a summary of actual policy letters related to assistive technology that have been issued since 1990.

The Right to have Assistive

Technology included in an IEP

August, 1990

A child's need for assistive technology must be determined on a case-by-case basis and can be special education, related services, or supplemental aids and services for children with disabilities who are educated in regular classes.

Taking Assistive Technology Home

If the IEP team determines that a particular assistive technology item is required for home use in order for a child to be provided FAPE (benefit from his/her education program) the technology must be provided to implement the IEP.

Responsibility of the School District

for Assistive Device (hearing aid)

November, 1993

A hearing aid is a "covered device" under the 1990 amendment to the IDEA and must be available to the child if it is determined by the IEP team that it is needed for the child to benefit from his/her educational program.

Liability of Schools for Family-owned

Assistive Devices Used at School

If parents provide a device for a child in order for his/her IEP to be implemented, the school must assume liability for the device.

The above information was taken from the Assistive Technology Funding and Systems Change Project, a project of the United Cerebral Palsy Association in Washington, D.C.

(The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Education and no official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of the opinions expressed herein should be



by Pauletta Feldman

The following article is reprinted from the volume 8, Number 2 issue of VIPS newsletter. VIPS is published by Visually Impaired Preschool Services, 1229 Garvin Place, Louisville, Kentucky 40202.

On our last scheduled visit to our pediatric ophthalmologist the doctor said that if my son Jamie, who is seven, ever experienced eye pain we were to get him to the eye doctor immediately. He went further and stated that he would remove a painful eye rather than have a blind child live in pain. I didn't quite understand the warning at the time, though I knew some blind adults who had lost one or both eyes in childhood.

We have been told by more than one eye doctor that complications could arise from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), the eye condition that resulted in our Jamie's blindness. The one most often mentioned was glaucoma.

I tucked these warnings away; they were scary to think about. Though Jamie's eyes looked blind (and perhaps unattractive to others) they were the eyes I had come to love and through which his inner spirit shone out to those who gazed into them. I couldn't bear the thought of losing that.

But the warnings jumped into my mind when on a recent Saturday morning Jamie awoke crying with pain from his left eye. He had been fine the night before. However that morning he was in terrible pain and extremely listless. The whites of his eye were very red, showing a mass of tiny blood vessels. I took him to a pediatrician, but not our usual one because it was Saturday morning. The pediatrician treated him for conjunctivitis and said the listlessness was probably a sign that he was also coming down with a cold or virus. And sure enough, on the drive home Jamie began to vomit.

By mid-afternoon Jamie was crying out in pain and so listless that he could not walk or sit for any period of time. I broke down and called our eye doctor who said he'd see us immediately. The minute he looked at Jamie and heard about his symptoms (pain, listlessness, vomiting), he knew the problem: acute narrow-angle glaucoma. With this type of glaucoma pressure in the eye spikes suddenly and causes tremendous pain. As the weekend progressed Jamie did not respond to treatments to lower the pressure in his eye. He became increasingly sick. By Monday, he had to have surgery to remove the eye.

I thought it would be something that I couldn't bear but I found out that I could. What I couldn't bear was to see my happy, active seven-year-old reduced to such a sick child, curled in a fetal position with pain and weakness.

Examination of the eye after removal revealed that a blood vessel had broken, causing internal bleeding in the eye behind his detached retina which forced the retina forward, blocking the flow of fluids within the eye and raising the pressure. It was a condition which had been going on for awhile.

So I say to other parents, after this crisis of ours, eye pain is a warning sign that something is wrong! It is not to be neglected or left to the care of a doctor who is not a specialist. If your child complains of eye pain, call your ophthalmologist. And if you live in an area where you do not have ready access to an ophthalmologist, talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about possible complications of your child's eye condition and ask him or her to consult with an ophthalmologist.

As I said, Jamie's problem had been going on for sometime. We had noticed that his tendency to poke his left eye had greatly increased over the last year. This can be a sign of change in status in the eye as can be sudden, unexpected changes in behavior or disposition.

I certainly do not want to alarm other parents. Your child may never experience the problem that my son did. But I do want to share some advice:

1. Just because a child is blind does not mean his eye condition is necessarily stable. Be sure to see an ophthalmologist periodically to track your child's status.

2. Don't be afraid to ask your ophthalmologist questions about your child's condition, what complicating factors could arise in the future, and the signs which might signal a change.

3. Be sure to report any changes in your child's behavior relating to her eyes (such as increased poking or pressing on the eyes) to your ophthalmologist.

4. Be sure to consult with your ophthalmologist if you notice any change in the appearance of your child's eyes (such as opacity or redness).

5. Eye pain is a warning sign! Do not let it go unattended.

6. Discourage poking or pressing to prevent injury to the eye. Poking can be a cause as well as a symptom of a problem.


Within 12 hours of surgery Jamie was back to himself, and within 72 hours he was back at school and operating at almost 100%. Our doctor told him before surgery that he was going to take away his pain. And take it away he did. I felt such an exhilaration at having him Aback@ that I had little energy to grieve for the lost eye.

It helped tremendously having blind friends who called to find out how we were doing and to share their stories, perhaps knowing that Jamie would do okay if we were okay with the decision we made. On the way home from the hospital we were talking about a little neighbor boy who was also in the same hospital at the same time. He had asthma and pneumonia and was going to have to be in the hospital a week. Jamie's response was, "Gosh! That's worse than what I had!"



by Sally Caroline

Reprinted with the expressed consent and approval of Exceptional Parent, July 1994, pages 20-22. Exceptional Parent is a monthly magazine for parents and families of children with disabilities and special health care needs. Subscription cost is $24 per year for 12 issues; call 1-800-247-8080. Offices at 120 State Street, Hackensack, N.J. 07601.

There is, of course, nothing inherently amusing about blindness, or any other disability for that matter. Blindness imposes all sorts of frustrating limitations and complicates some of life's most basic tasks. Still, life goes onCbusy, demanding, annoyingand yes, funny. Our family members, like those of families around the world, are bound together by collective memories that have been built up over many years. My daughters, Rebecca and Melinda, are young women now, off living their own lives, but many of the funny stories that the family still retells revolve around Rebecca's blindness.

Your Other Left

As if blindness was not disorienting enough, Rebecca also has had to cope with a slightly defective mother. Now, I don't know exactly how one would define my disabilityCdirectional dyslexia perhaps? It isn't that I don't know my right from my left; it's just that I can't seem to name them correctly with any consistency. One day, when Rebecca was in third or fourth grade and no longer had Atraveling vision,@ she came into the living room to ask if I knew where the three-hole punch was. Either her sister or dad had used it and failed to return it to its proper place on the kitchen shelf. I glanced around, spotted it abandoned on the floor and replied, 'It's right here, on the floor about five steps to your left."

Rebecca confidently headed off, as I suddenly realized it was to my left all right, but since she was facing me, it was to her right.

ANo, no!@ I exclaimed. AI meant your uh@Cthe word had deserted meCAuh your other left.@

Becca stopped in her tracks and shot me the most incredulous of looks. Then she slowly and patiently asked, AWould that be the `left' that the rest of us call `right,' Mom?"

That incident proved to be a learning experience for Rebecca. Even today if I give her directions, she takes an exploratory step or two in the direction I name and waits for me to correct myself. Wise move.

Playing APopeye@

Rebecca had always attended public school in our small town. Over the years, as her vision deteriorated, her friends adjusted quite matter-of-factly. When she was in fifth grade, Rebecca had to have both eyes removed. They were replaced with ocular prostheses, often called Aglass eyes,@ though they are now made of some wonderful type of plastic. Becca, along with her classmates, took this new development in stride.

Shortly after Rebecca's return to school while her body and her prostheses were still adjusting to each other, she attended an all-school assembly with her class. During the assembly, Becca suddenly sneezed, and out popped one of her prostheses!

The young man sitting next to her saw where it had landed, retrieved it for her, and handed it to her, saying simply, AHere's your eye, Becky.@

AThanks a lot,@ she replied, and as unobtrusively as possible, popped it into her mouth to clean off any dust and dirt, then, replaced it in its socket. After the assembly, she went to the school nurse because she wasn't quite sure if there was something else she should do to clean the prosthesis and avoid infection. Apparently, she explained the situation to the nurseCby this time a very good friendCby saying, AI just got through playing Popeye.@

The very idea quite discombobulated the poor womanCthis was not an everyday event in the life of a small-town school nurseCand she called me in a bit of a dither. Well, we all were pretty new to this prosthesis business, but I knew enough to be able to reassure her AAs long as Becca reports no discomfort that would indicate dirt in the socket just rinse the eye, right in place, with some sterile saline. We'll do a thorough cleaning of the socket and prosthesis when she gets home.@ That nurse eventually went into a different kind of nursing and has now retired, but I still run into her around town and she always recalls Athe day Rebecca played Popeye!@

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Kids are amazingly forthright and direct, and also wonderfully accepting once their questions have been answered. Fortunately, Rebecca has never been bothered by honest questions about her condition and has always been willing to answer them as clearly as possible. A family friend has a daughter about five years younger than Rebecca. When this little girl was about six, she evidently began to think about Rebecca's blindness in practical terms. The kids were having a snack one day when Helen turned to Rebecca and asked, AHow do you find your mouth?@

This was one question Rebecca really couldn't answerCyou don't need to see to find your mouth, you just do it! Finally, Rebecca said, AWell, close your eyes and take a bite of your cookie.@

Helen did.

AHow did you find your mouth?@ Rebecca asked.

A big smile spread over Helen's face and she looked relieved. Apparently, it had bothered her quite a bit that Becca might not be able to eat without lots of trouble. AI guess it's not a problem, huh?@ she said.

AWell,@ Becca answered, ASometimes it's hard finding food on your plate, or making it stay on your silverware. But no, finding your mouth is not a problem.@ Kids think about the most interesting things and ask the best questions.

Battling Bushes and Dogs

Like most suburban mothers, I ran a Ataxi service@ throughout all the years my daughters were in school. One day I had to pick Becca up early to go to an appointment. We had worked out a system whereby I parked at the end of the drive nearest a side door. Becca would step out that door and I'd toot the horn once, so she knew I was there.

That day, she appeared on time, backpack over one shoulder, white cane in the other hand. She had to come down a short paved path and make a 90 degree turn onto the drive, a route she traveled regularly. But for some reason, this day, she made her turn a few steps early. Her cane promptly encountered a low yew bush planted beside the walk. Realizing her error, she took a small step back but her cane had become quite thoroughly entangled in the yew's branches. She proceeded to engage in what resembled a sword fight for perhaps 30 seconds before managing to extricate her cane. This looked so funny that by the time she opened the car door, she found her mother quite collapsed with a fit of the giggles. After I'd recovered enough to explain myself, we both collapsed into another fit of the giggles and arrived at our destination still periodically chuckling. This has evermore been known in our family as the tale of Rebecca and the Dangerous Yew, which she bravely battled into submission with her sword-cane.

About the same time as the yew incident, Rebecca encountered another adventure involving her cane. In middle school, classes were held in two separate buildings set close together on the same lot. Rebecca would leave one class a few minutes early in order to cross to the other building ahead of the mob scene that erupted at the end-of-period bell. As she was crossing the courtyard one day, up bounded a large, playful dog who grabbed Rebecca's Astick@ in his powerful jaws and tried to make off with it. A tug-of-war began. Neither side could win, but neither would back off, either. Fortunately, a couple of Rebecca's classmates chanced to look out the window and see her predicament. With the teacher's permission, three young men came running out. Two got the dog to let go of his Astick@ and held him at bay, yelling, AMake a break for it, Becky!@ The third boy quickly escorted Becca the rest of the way across the courtyard and into the other building. Of course, they all found this riotously funny, and that cane, now long since retired, still bears quite a number of canine tooth marks.

Laughter, the Best Medicine

Living with illness and disability is certainly no day at the beach; over the years our family has shed many tears. But Rebecca came into this world with a sunny disposition and a sense of humor that has never completely deserted her, even during the worst of times. Her ability to laugh has saved us all. Sure, sometimes it was a kind of Ablack humor,@ but we've managed to laugh our way through some pretty horrible things. Nowadays, I read about current research that shows that laughter actually can be a useful therapy. I believe itbut, I'm glad we learned to laugh even before it became Amedically correct.@

Sally Caroline and her husband, Peter, have lived in Hamilton, Massachusetts, for 24 of the 27 years they have been married. Their daughters, Rebecca and Melinda, are now adults and on their own. For many years, Sally worked as a special education tutor. When the grant money that funded that position ran out, she began a new career in retail sales which she describes as Anot as challenging, but a lot of fun."

From The Bookshelf

Walking Alone and Marching Together

Edited by Dr. Floyd Matson

Published by the National Federation of the Blind

Review by Barbara Pierce.

Reprinted from the Buckeye Bulletin, newsletter of the NFB of Ohio.

Walking Alone and Marching Together tells the story of the National Federation of the Blind from its beginning in 1940 until its 50th birthday in 1990. This book, written by Dr. Floyd Matson, is absolutely spell-binding. I have always been interested in the history of the blind and, in particular, the history of the blind movement.

Even though I had already read many of Dr. tenBroek's speeches and had certainly read anything that I could get my hands on that had been written by Dr. Jernigan, I could not put this book down once I began reading. I purchased a cassette version of the book during the 1990 National Convention. I refer to it for information from time to time, and I am sure that I will read it from cover to cover again.

This book may be purchased in print, in Braille, or on cassette, with or without the dubbed-in voices delivering the various speeches, by writing or calling the National Center for the Blind. You may also borrow a cassette copy of the book from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

It goes without saying that this is an excellent source of information for anyone doing research about blindness. It is not too late to see that your local library has a copy of this book. Contact the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, (410) 659-9314. (Calls will only be accepted between 12:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Prepayment is required by check, money order, purchase order, or credit cardCDiscover, Mastercard, or Visa.)

The World Under My Fingers:

Personal Reflections on Braille

Edited by Barbara Pierce

Published by the National Federation of the Blind

There has been a need for some time for a small, easy-to-read compilation of articles about the importance of Braille. Many of the new Braille literacy laws around the country require that parents be given pertinent information about Braille before they are asked to express their opinion in an IEP meeting about whether or not their blind children should be taught Braille. Parents needed an accurate source of information about Braille from those most knowledgeable about its true usefulness in the lives of blind and visually impaired persons. Clearly, those most knowledgeable about Braille are those who use it daily, or, in some cases, those who have suffered because of lack of instruction in this functional reading and writing skill.

The World Under My Fingers, published in large-print paperback and edited by Barbara Pierce, is the National Federation of the Blind's response to this need. Some of the essays were first published in Future Reflections, the National Federation of the Blind Magazine for Parents of Blind Children, and others were written specifically for this publication. It is available from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, telephone 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time (410) 659-9314. The cost for a single copy is $1. A carton of fifty is available for $50.


The following reports are from our Long Island, New York; Pennsylvania; Tennessee Valley; and Michigan affiliates of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. For more information about the NOPBC and the nearest state or regional chapter to you, contact:

Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, President

National Organization of

Parents of Blind Children

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21230

(410) 659-9314 or (410) 747-3472

National Organization of Parents

of Blind Children

Goals and Objectives

1. To create a climate of opportunity for blind children in home and society.

2. To provide information and support to parents of blind children.

3. To facilitate the sharing of experiences and concerns among parents of blind children.

4. To develop and expand resources available to parents and their children.

5. To help parents of blind children gain perspective through partnership and contact with blind adults.

6. To function as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind in its ongoing effort to eliminate discrimination and prejudice against the blind and to achieve for the blind security, equality, and opportunity.


by Liz Regan, President

Long Island, New York

Parents of Blind Children


Our daughter Kerri was just 2 pounds, 3 ounces at birth. She was diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity. After many surgeries and procedures in Boston with the great Dr. Hirose we discovered Kerri would be blind. A lot of research and networking got us on the right path for early intervention. Our preschool had support groups for parents.

Like many of you I first discovered Future Reflections on my own over eight years ago. I found it to be a comforting friend. I anticipated each arrival and searched for new information in each article. I was amazed how parent groups got started; some were large, some small, but all had the same general purpose: to help parents learn to become the best parents they could be for their visually impaired baby or child.

In 1992, when Kerri was five, we prepared ourselves for kindergarten NOT by getting supplies ready, but by going to our first National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Charlotte, North Carolina. When we came back we felt it was time to start an NFB division of a parent group on Long Island.

We have been established since 1993. We started out with monthly meetings and now meet every couple of months. Kerri and I attended the NFB Dallas Convention in 1994, and our whole family, including brother Matthew, age 5, and Nana, too, attended Chicago this summer. (Grandparents are very important. Nana learned all about IEPs and daily living skills at the convention.) We take the new knowledge and skills we learn at the convention back to our group on Long Island.

Although we are a small group we have much active participation. Parents from our group go to Albany and Washington D.C. for legislative meetings and seminars; we sit in on meetings of the Commission for the Blind; we get involved in letter-writing campaigns; speak at conferences; and set up displays and hand-out literature at fairs. Our focus this year is to have our parents get involved as active members in their respective PTAs, specialized PTAs, and school board meetings. We feel this will give the needs of our kids more visibility and give us more leverage to see that these needs are met.

In stressful times I sit back and review where we started out and where we are today. As volunteers we can get discouraged and disappointed when we have a low turnout at a meeting, or the outcome of a meeting doesn't meet our expectations. But it all falls into perspective when we watch our children glow as they speak to others about our involvement in their lives, their futures, and the future of other blind people. My enthusiasm is renewed when I see the accomplishments of our children, the happiness on their faces, and those of their families.

For more information about the Long Island Parents of Blind Children contact Liz Regan (516) 735-0253.



by Michael Wolk, President

Pennsylvania Parents of Blind Children

POBC/PA had significant progress during the past two years. After several years of inactivity, the state parent group was revitalized in November 1994 with the election of new officers at the NFB of PA State Convention in Pottsville. Pennsylvania has also established two local parent groups: the Lehigh Valley POBC (chartered May, 1994) and Erie POBC (chartered Spring 1995) under the leadership of Lisa Mattioli and Karen Giblin respectively. Each of the local chapters has had a steady increase in membership and the state organization offers membership-at-large.

POBC/PA notes the following list of important accomplishments:

(1) POBC leaders have assisted several parents by advocating for their children at IEP meetings.

(2) Five members attended the 1994 NFB Convention in Detroit. This figure doubled as ten members made the trip to the 1995 NFB Convention in Chicago. Lehigh Valley POBC received a grant which was used to sponsor a first-time family to attend the 1995 NFB Convention.

(3) A Parent Luncheon and Seminar was held at the 1994 NFB Of PA Convention in Pottsville. Barbara Cheadle, President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), spoke at the luncheon regarding the benefits of the NOPBC. Several blind adults related their experiences as blind children and as adult job seekers. Lisa Mattioli relayed her viewpoint as a parent who has raised a successful blind child. The Braille literacy video AThat The Blind May Read@ was shown at the conclusion of the luncheon. The parent feedback regarding this seminar was so positive that an integrated agenda is being planned for the November 1995 NFB State Convention in Pittsburgh.

(4) A $500 grant was used to purchase 14 copies of AThat The Blind May Read@ which will be circulated throughout the state to Intermediate Units, school districts, and libraries.

(5) Erie POBC has developed a tutorial program for the benefit of classroom teachers and aides who have no experience educating blind and visually impaired students.

(6) Lehigh Valley POBC obtained funds from a local Lions Club to provide extended school-year Braille instruction for four children. Eighteen classes were taught over a six-week period by a graduate of Kutztown University.

(7) POBC/PA generated 132 letters during the 1995 Braille literacy letter-writing campaign.

Editor's Note: As this goes to press the NFB and POBC of Pennsylvania just completed an outstanding state convention in Pittsburg. Parent attendance more than tripled from 1994, and the atmosphere was charged with enthusiasm as plans were laid for a year full of growth, progress, and new programs.


The POBC\PA set forth a new Vision for the Future:

-The POBC/PA will be a strong, active, vital, resourceful, recognized, respected, and influential advocacy organization for blind and visually impaired children in the state of Pennsylvania.

-POBC/PA will represent blind and visually impaired children and their parents throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania with membership in every county and major city.

-POBC/PA will be active and successful in state and federal legislation including the passage of a state Braille Literacy Bill.

-POBC/PA will develop positive interdependent relationships with Pennsylvania state service providers and educators and favorably influence the provision of necessary services, education, and assistive technology.

-POBC/PA will be fully networked among Pennsylvania parents and children, the NOPBC, the NFB of Pennsylvania, and the NFB in mutually cooperative, resourceful, and successful relationships.


POBC/PA adopted the following Mission Statement:

The POBC/PA is a statewide parent advocacy organization that creates a lifetime of security, equality, independence, and opportunity for Pennsylvania blind and visually impaired children and their families.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Parents of Blind Children please contact Michael Wolk (610) 398-3533.



Pat Jones, President

Tennessee Valley Parents of Blind Children

Last Spring I took the initiative to get some parents together in our area to talk about our common problems. The response and turnout was so great that Barbara Cheadle, President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, made last minute plans to fly out and help us organize as an affiliate of the NOPBC and the NFB of Tennessee. (I have been to state and national NFB conventions, and NFB members have supported me all the way in advocating for the twin granddaughters which my husband, Jerry, and I are raising. There was no question, then, that this would be an NFB group.) About 30 people (parents, kids, and Federation members) attended our organizing meeting on Saturday, June 3, 1995.

The first activity we organized was a trip to the aquarium here in Chattanooga. They did a wonderful presentation for our children. We saw the skull of a shark, a brown rat snake, a boa constrictor, a box turtle, a neon-green tree frog, and an alligator. The instructor patiently took his time with everyone who wanted to see the displays hands-on. I can't put into words how excited I was about how well this was done.

After the hands-on exhibit, we were free to tour the aquarium or spend time with the exhibits outside the aquarium. My twins' mobility teacher was there, and she did a great job of pointing out and explaining the many interesting exhibits.

We then all met and went to a nearby park for our picnic. (By the way, it was 98 degrees that day.) We had 41 people at our picnic, including members of the local NFB chapter who have been supportive advocates for our children. The children all played on the playground before and after our meal of barbecue, chips, baked beans, and munchkins. A local barbecue place furnished the first three items, Dunkin' Donuts furnished the munchkins, and Golden Gallon furnished our drinks.

We took pictures at the picnic and at the aquarium for our scrapbook. Everyone said they had a great time. One parent said she had never felt as good about being with a group as much as she did with our Tennessee Valley POBC.

This fall we are planning some educational/IEP support meetings for individual parents who want advice and guidance about their childrens' programs. We also plan to have a hay ride and Christmas party for the children. I think we are off to a great start here. By the way, we call ourselves the Tennessee Valley POBC because we pull from an area which includes parents who live in nearby Georgia.

For more information about the Tennessee Valley Parents of Blind Children please contact Pat Jones (615) 499-6017.


by Dawn Neddo, President

Michigan Parents of Blind Children

For the last year and a half the NFB and the Michigan Parents of Blind Children have offered a Saturday tutoring program for blind children. The program is held the first and third Saturdays of the month from October to June in a public junior high school in the metro Detroit area. NFB members donate their time to work with blind children of all ages on a variety of skills.

We have had children from ages 15 months to 16 years. Some come from as far away as 50 miles. We get partially sighted children whose school districts won't teach them Braille or cane use. We have totally blind children who do not get sufficient Braille instruction from their schools. In our tutoring program they learn from someone who reads Braille tactually the way they do.

In addition to Braille each session offers orientation and mobility lessons from a blind instructor. Other subjects have included math, abacus, tactile maps, social skills, self-esteem, and Braille 'n Speak use. We add any topics that parents feel their children need.

Allen Harris, our Michigan affiliate president, Joy Harris, our Detroit chapter president, and Steve Handschu our I.E.P.C. advocate and a member of the Michigan Commission for the Blind, are the leaders of the teaching team. Others who have taught are Donna and Larry Posont, Lee and Lyle Thume, Laura and Donna Biro, Sharon Kingsbury, and Sue Drapinski.

During the sessions children have an excellent opportunity to interact with blind adults and other blind children. Friendships and role model relationships are developed which are later reinforced when the children and adults see each other again at NFB conventions and day camps.

During the tutoring sessions we hold a parents meeting where we discuss the many issues that are important to our children's future. We support each other and share ideas and common frustrations. Having our meeting during the tutoring time has worked well. It gives us time to get to know our children's blind role models and learn from them. We also use the time to plan for NFB conventions, to organize fund raising, to coordinate strategies for promoting Braille literacy, and to plan other activities.

Our last session is a pot-luck picnic with our tutors and the families that have participated in the program. We meet in a nearby park and our NFB state president, Allen Harris, cooks hot dogs for all. The children play and make plans for seeing each other at our Michigan NFB day camp, which is held in July. The parents and tutors and their families enjoy each others company and everyone has a great time.

A tutoring program is a lot of work and requires a big commitment from our adult blind NFB members. Without them there would be no tutoring program. But seeing our childrens' progress each year makes us realize that the time and commitment is definitely worth it.

Another worthwhile program which requires time and commitment is our July NFB day camp. We just completed our eighth day camp program this summer. We have made changes and refinements over the years, and we believe this year was our best.

We invite blind children and their families to join NFB chapter members on five separate field trips. This summer we went on a train ride, explored a fire engine, went rollerblading, spent a day at a wave pool and water slide, went to the zoo, toured a farm, and went to the beach. Each day we had a picnic lunch.

During each of our field trips the children observed blind adults barbecuing, rollerblading, and swimming. The children quickly learned that blind adults do all the things other adults do. But the learning did not stop with our blind kids and their families.

For example, the train trip guide asked our trip coordinator what to do with the group. She said that when she gives the narrated tour she makes such comments as, ALook to your left and you'll see@ She then asked what she should say instead, so that she didn't hurt anyone's feelings. A brief discussion about the NFB and our philosophy reassured the guide that blind people use look and see just like everyone else, and that the same narrative she used for others would be fine for our group, too.

When the day camp ended we were all a little bit stronger in our common belief that blind children are not different from other children.

For more information about the Michigan Parents of Blind Children please contact Dawn Neddo (810) 363-1956.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

New Video

Myra Lesser, a former member of the NOPBC board asked that we announce the following:

Last year I produced a video called AHere I Come Ready or Not.@ It shows how the people in my son's school (classroom teacher, counselor, principal, nurse, P.E. teacher, other students, parents, etc.) adjusted to having a blind child in school with them. The video has been well received by teachers and parents all over the U.S.

Now I have produced another video called, AWhat's It Like to Be a Kid Who's Blind?@ I made this video to show elementary school children what blind kids do. Again, my son Alex is the subject. In the video I present and encourage a positive view of blindness, and demonstrate that Alex's interests and abilities are similar to those of other kids his age. Alex is seen riding his bike, roller skating, swimming, reading (Braille), climbing at the playground, etc.

The video can be used with any elementary group of students to raise general awareness and understanding about blindness. It can also be used in a school where there is or soon will be a blind child in attendance.

The video is 18 minutes long and is best suited for elementary school-age children. The video is $25 and can be ordered from: Myra Adler Lesser, 137 Lesser Lane, Chicora, PA 16025. Make checks or money orders payable to Myra Adler Lesser.

Activity Book Available

Ramona Walholf (see photo below) sent us the following announcement:

Julie and Brandon, Our Blind Friends is an educational activities book produced by the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho.

This book provides a unique approach to helping educate the general public about blindness, and those who have seen it have loved it! The book has twenty-four pictures to color, seven Braille activity pages, descriptions and pictures of tools and techniques used by the blind, a short story by President Maurer, and more! It is designed to be used by sighted children from kindergarten to middle-school age. However, we have found that many adults enjoy these activities, also.

Individual books sell for $4.00 plus $1.50 shipping. Twenty-five books or more may be purchased for $3.00 each, plus shipping charges of $5.00 for each group of 25 books. Make checks or money orders payable to National Federation of the Blind of Idaho, and send them to 1301 South Capitol Blvd., Suite C, Boise, ID 83706. Be sure to tell us where to ship your books.

Resource Information

Do you want to buy a popular book on tape for a blind child? Are you in the market for a Braille printer or other Braille-related technology? Have you decided to learn Braille but don't know where to find a teaching manual?

The Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) regularly publishes reference circulars and bibliographies which can help you locate these, and other blindness-related materials, supplies, equipment, and literature.

The reference circulars and bibliographies listed below are available free on request from: Reference Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20542

Reference Circulars:

* Assistive Devices for Reading, 1993

* Bibles, Other Scriptures, Liturgies, and Hymnals in Special Media, 1993

* Blindness and Visual Impairments: National Information and Advocacy Organizations, 1990

* Braille Literacy: Resources for Instruction, Writing Equipment, and Supplies, 1994

* Building a Library Collection on Blindness and Physical Disabilities: Basic Materials and Resources, 1990

* Deaf-Blindness: National Organizations and Resources, 1993

* Guide to Spoken-Word Recordings: Popular Literature, 1995

* Information for Handicapped Travelers, 1987

* Learning Disabilities: National Information and Advocacy Organizations, 1990

* Parents' Guide to the Development of Preschool Children with Disabilities: Resources and Services, 1992

* Physical Disabilities: National Organizations and Resources, 1994

* Reference Books in Special Media, 1982; Addendum, 1987

* Sports, Outdoor Recreation, and Games for Visually and Physically Impaired Individuals, 1991


* Accessibility: A Selective Bibliography, 1994

* Assistive Technology: A Selective Bibliography, 1992

* Disability Awareness and Changing Attitudes, 1991

* Library and Information Services to Persons with Disabilities, 1989

VI Teachers Fail to Make the Grade

On Sunday, January, 15, 1995, the Detroit News and Free Press carried the following headline on its front page: AWhen our teachers don't make the grade.@ As might be expected, the article was about the competency of Michigan teachers.

Apparently since 1992 all new teachers in the state have been required to take a basic skills test and tests in each subject they plan to teach in order to get a Michigan teaching certificate.

The article showed a chartCa report cardCof the best and worst results of subject area tests in 1993-94. Sadly, but predictably (so parents of blind children in Michigan tell me), the teachers of the visually impaired head the list for worst scores. fifteen new teachers took the visually impaired subject area test. 40% of them failed it.

Among the top scorers were teachers of the learning disabled and emotionally impaired. 98% of teachers in both these categories passed their tests.

Extended Year/Summer School

for Disabled Students

Late in 1994 a federal judge in Maryland made a ruling that loosens the guidelines and opens up the possibility of yearlong schooling (extended year services) to thousands of disabled students.

The Maryland Disability Law Center sued the school district of Montgomery County in 1991 on the behalf of 12,000 Montgomery students with physical or mental disabilities.

According to The Washington Post staff writer Amy Goldstein (ADisabled Students Win Battle for Yearlong School,@ Friday, December 30, 1994): AThe lawsuit contended that Montgomery has violated federal disability law by offering summer schooling only to disabled children shown to be likely to regress in their skills between school years. Federal law requires looser rules, the plaintiffs argued.@

Apparently U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis agreed. He ordered the school district to provide extended school year services to several additional categories of disabled children.

AThe categories,@ continued Ms. Goldstein in her article, Ainclude youngsters who make less progress than expected during the regular school year, who are on the verge of a major breakthrough in their skills, who exhibit disruptive behavior that might worsen over the summer, or who have other special circumstances that the judge did not define.@

The order further enhanced the role the parents have in helping make the decision about extended school year services, and compelled the school district to make the decision earlier in the year.

1996 Braille Calendars

AAF Braille Calendars

Once again the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults (AAF) has FREE Braille calendars available. These Braille only, pocket-size calendars are available upon request from American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, Braille Calendar Request, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, phone 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. eastern time (410) 659-9314.

Winnie-the-Pooh's 1996 Calendar.

From the National Braille Press comes this announcement:

This delightful print-Braille 1996 Winnie-the-Pooh children's calendar features poems, pictures, and vignettes on the top half of the calendar layout, along with the traditional calendar days of the week on the bottom half.

This is the same Pooh calendar you can buy at your local bookstore, but the calendar face itself, containing the days and dates, are embossed with Braille right over the print. The poems and quotes are Brailled on transparent plastic sheets so the whole family can enjoy the ABest Bear in All the World.@ To order this print-Braille book please send $7.99 to National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115. Calendars will ship in December.

Toy Helpline

We have been asked to print the following announcement:

The National Lekotek Center is pleased to announce the Lekotek Toy Resource Helpline, 1-800-366-PLAY (TTY 708-328-0001). Made possible by Toy Manufacturers of America, the Lekotek Toy Resource Helpline addresses an important need: to facilitate successful and rewarding play experiences for children with disabilities. Individuals can reach the Helpline by calling Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Central Time). A certified Lekotek leader is available to answer questions on toys and creative play ideas for children with disabilities.

Little Angel Health Network

We have been asked to print the following announcement:

As a parent of a special child your role in managing your child's health is crucial, for nobody cares more or knows more about your child than you. In order to do your best for your child, you need to know everything about his or her condition. The Little Angle Health Network was created to give parents access to the latest medical information. Our staff scans a database of hundreds of medical publications containing the latest research and answers specific questions and concerns in a customized confidential report. And best of all, in language you can understandCnot confusing medical terms. The reports are not meant to be used as diagnostic tools or to replace a doctor's advice. Please share the information with your child's physicians, therapists, and teachers.

We will also help you network with other parents whose children have similar conditions. For more information write to Little Angel Health Network, P.O. Box 644, Ringwood, New Jersey 07456.

New Seedlings Catalog

We have been asked to print the following announcement:

SEEDLINGS Braille books for children announces that the new 1996 catalog is now available! This catalog contains over 230 low-cost Braille books for children ages 1-14! Thirty-two new books were added this year, including: (for pre-schoolers) print-and-Braille books with Asound buttons@ to push; (for beginning readers) easy-readers such as Daisy-Head Mayzie by Dr. Seuss; (for older children) award-winning fiction such as Missing May by Cynthia Rylant; and selections from popular series such as The Baby-Sitter's Club, The Boxcar Children, and Goosebumps.

Seedlings is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing high-quality, low-cost Braille books for children. To receive a free catalog or for more information call 800-777-8552, or write Seedlings, P.O. Box 2395, Livonia, Michigan 48151-0395.

Musical Sponges

We have been asked to publish the following announcement:

Steiga Limited announces the totally water-safe musical sponge. They are new in America, but already a proven success in Europe. The sponges come in assorted shapes. Each plays a different tune. We have dinosaurs, teddy bears, whales, pigs, ducks, hands, hearts, and feet and much, much more. Priced to sell, these musical sponges are designed to attract buyers of all ages. The average size is 8"x5"x2". We manufacture this product in Canada but ship from Niagara Falls, New York. For more information contact Steiga Limited, 1815 Meyerside Drive, Unit 6, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5T 1G3, phone (905) 670-9009, Fax (905) 670-1810.

Books Aloud, Inc.

We have been asked to print the following announcement:

Books Aloud, Inc. produces and provides unabridged free loan books on cassettes for children and adults who are blind, visually impaired, physically disabled, retarded, hospitalized and unable to read, shut-ins, and learning disabled.

Over 6,000 titles are available for disabled readers of all ages. A catalog is available for all clients. New listings appear in quarterly newsletters. For an information packet which includes an application and a disability verification form write to Books Aloud, Inc., P.O. Box 5731, San Jose, California 95150-5731. Cassettes are available from our office in the upper basement of the Martin Luther King Main Library, 180 West San Carlos Street, San Jose, California 95113-2096, phone (408) 277-4878 or (408) 277-4839.

Kudos for Maryland's Braille Bill

The following item is reprinted from The Braille Spectator, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland:

Joanie Reisfeld is a vision teacher in Montgomery County. Her comments were posted on NFBNET, the NFB's electronic bulletin board, on June 14. This is what she said:

Hi guys. In Montgomery County we are offering the opportunity for our visually impaired students to learn Braille each year at the annual review conference. Since the Braille Bill in Maryland is now law, it has opened up this opportunity to many kids we might not have considered in the past.

I had the experience this year of teaching a low-vision student of mine Braille. In two years she went from not knowing any Braille to reading on the eighth-grade level. She is now reading independent reading books, taking them on baby-sitting jobs, and has her lunch menu in Braille so she doesn't have to ask her mom what is for lunch everyday in school.

This is a kid who depended greatly on a CCTV in every class at school. Large print was never large enough. I could ramble on forever!!! Anyway, I am grateful that all the different organizations in the field are working together toward these important issues.


We have been asked to print the following announcement:

Introducing Tack-Tiles7 Braille SystemCcreating new pathways to Braille Literacy. System components: 320 Tack-Tiles7 [toy-like tile/blocks with raised locking bumps in the configuration of Braille letters and signs]; 5 each of 64 different Braille tile configurations including 5 with smooth blank surfaces; 4 palm-sized slates approximately 5x7 inches; and 4 worksheet-sized slates approximately 10x15 inches.

Tack-Tiles7 are now available at a cost of $250.00 plus $11.75 for shipping and handling within the U.S. Prices subject to change without notice. Manufactured and distributed exclusively by: Los Olvidados Ltd., P.O. Box 475, Plaistow, New Hampshire 03865-0475, phone (603) 382-1904, Fax (603) 382-1748. U.S. patent nos. 4,880,384 and 5,391,078. Canadian patent no. 136863. Other patents pending.

Tactile Greeting Cards

We have been asked to print the following announcement:

Creative Adaptations for Learning (CAL), designers of innovative legible tactile illustrations has put together a delightful set of tactually illustrated notecards suitable for all occasions. Your personal message may be Brailled, printed, or typed inside the attractively illustrated notecard. Each 5x7 picture is embossed on white plastic and framed on a white card stock backing for durability and easy Braille writing. CAL-tac notecards with matching envelopes are $2.50 each, or 10 for $18.50. They come in the following designs: snowperson (ASeason's Greetings@), 6 balloons (ACongratulations@), flowers in flower pot, three hearts, rainbow over duck pond, waterfall between two mountains, butterfly, moonlight sailing, and bowling ball and 10 pins. Add 10% shipping and handling. Contact Creative Adaptations for Learning (CAL), 38 Beverly Road, Great Neck, New York, 11021, (516) 466-9143.

Computer Games

Recently I received the following information from Bill McIver. Mr. McIver had been my son's Braille teacher for a brief time before he left Maryland for the attractions of Alaska.

After doing some research with vendors and organizations I have discovered that there are a few programs which were written by and for the blind. These programs are all text-based programs. These are the titles: ABaseball: The World Series Baseball Game and Information System,@ AGuess the Capitals,@ Lost Treasures of Infocom," (volumes I and II); AAtlantic City Black Jack,@ ACasino,@ ADestination Mars,@ ADodge City Desperado's,@ ARun for President;@ and ASounds Like@ (a crossword style game). These are all IBM compatible programs and range in price from $15 to $50, with $20 being the average. These software programs may be purchased through Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc. 1 (800) 454-3175 and/or through Ferguson Enterprises (605) 546-2366.

Alas, I have found only one game which may be accessed via an Apple computer. The A-Talk Games is a collection of four games including Trivia Talk, Fortune Talk, Password Talk, and Jeopardy Talk. These games are contained on one ProDos disk and costs $35 and are available through A-Talk, 3015 South Tyler Street, Little Rock, Arkansas 72204, (501) 666-6552.

I continue my search for computer software games which are accessible to blind individuals. At the present time, I am especially interested in Apple or Macintosh based games. If you know of any game style programs which may be accessible to persons who are blind, please contact Bill McIver with the Vision Impaired Program at the Special Education Service Agency, 2217 East Tudor, Suite 1, Anchorage, Alaska 99507, (907) 562-7372.

National Federation Of The Blind

Materials Center


Talking Memo-micro chip tapeless player/recorder:

suitable for recording telephone numbers, recipes or reminders, uses 4 AG13 batteries (included) AIE04R now just $12!

Advance Talking Travel Clock: 3 x 2.5 inch clock with a female voice includes an alarm and an hourly report function, uses 3 AA batteries (included) AIB28T now just $10!

Clapper Talking Key Chain/clock: small key chain announces the time when button is depressed or when you clap your hands, uses 2 A46 batteries (included) AIB03T now just $15!


Checkers: black on white board (12 x 12), checkers are black wooden squares & red wooden rounds...AIG01G  $20

Chess: same board as above chessmen are round or flat tops...AIG02G $25

Combination Checkers/chess: one board with both checkers and chess men...AIGXXG  $40

Dominoes: white with black raised dots includes both print and Braille instructions...AIG11G  $15

Magnetic Backgammon: white magnetic board (14 x 14) includes print and Braille instructions...AIG00G  $18

Magnetic Dominoes: white magnetic board, white dominoes with raised black dot markings includes both print and Braille instructions...AIG03G  $12

Ringing Athletic Balls: rubber athletic balls have a jingle bell inside that rings when ball is in motion. Same size and construction as standard athletic balls. Basketball AIG08G $16. Soccerball AIG13G $16. Volleyball AIG12G $16

Include $3 S/H fee for a one item order. Call for cost of shipping for orders of more than one item. Send orders to National Federation of the Blind, Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, (410) 659-9314. Calls accepted Monday through Friday 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. eastern time. Payment can be made by check, money order, Discover, MasterCard or VISA. C.O.D. orders are accepted for an extra fee. Include the item number and shipping fee with order. Please call for RUSH orders or any other questions!




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