I snapped some shots of Jack doing a little reading the other day.
I was browsing through my pictures wondering what to write about. I saw these shots of Jack enjoying one of his "make a sound" books and I remembered that I had promised a reader that I would write about low vision.
Back in February of 2009, we learned that Jack is actually legally blind in his "good" right eye. As far as we can know from the testing, Jack can perceive light through his left eye but the optic nerve does not send a signal to the brain showing any images from the left eye. Jack's vision in his right eye tested at 20/300. We'll see Dr. DiCarlo again later this month and Dr. DiCarlo may be able to obtain a more accurate figure since Jack is much more verbal and might be more cooperative with the testing this year.
As soon as I had the chance, I began combing the internet for information and resources. I was still back in fix-it mode and I just knew that there had to be a way to make this manageable so that it would not impact Jack's development too much. Yeah, I laugh now. Of course, it impacts his development!
I digress...we are still very early in our journey with Jack's vision and it is just one of many factors that Jack is dealing with. For now, we are putting large print along with braille in Jack's environment
It actually says refrigerator and there is one on the freezer that says freezer.
Dr. DiCarlo told us that Jack needs letters 2 to 3 inches high for near work so I printed the labels with the biggest font that would fit on the surface. It was easier for things like walls and doors to rooms but I had to go with smaller than 2 inch letters for the refrigerator and freezer or else the labels would not have fit. I then used a braille labeler to label each of the printed labels with braille as well. At first, we would call Jack's attention to the label and get him to feel the braille just so he would notice it. But the idea is to just have accessible print and braille in his environment so that it will be familiar and so he can incidentally pick up on some reading skills just like a sighted child who sees written words everywhere does.
I also began seeking out resources for obtaining print-braille books. I used my labeler to add braille to some of Jack's already favorite books but it takes a lot more time and effort than you might imagine to add braille labeling to a book. Luckily, there are resources like Seedlings Braille Books for Children. They have a program called Anna's Angels. You can sign up a child with a visual impairment and he/she will receive two free books. You can sign up yearly. National Braille Press has a program called ReadBooks!. They will send you a bookbag full of great information to get you started as well as free print-braille book for your child. The Braille Institute has a program called Dots for Tots. In this program, your child will receive a multi-sensory story book kit a few times a year. All of the above also have print-braille books available for purchase. The Kenneth Jernigan library will send you print-braille books that you can borrow for up to three months. Your local librarian should also be able to help you sign up for your state or other local agency library for the blind. You can have books delivered to your local library or to your home.
This list of resources is not meant to be comprehensive. These are the programs that we have become involved with and we have been very pleased with the quality of materials that we received from these places. Jack is not yet reading braille or print although we know that he recognizes some print words such as pharmacy and Baby Einstein. At this point, we are still focused on just having both braille and print as a natural part of his environment.
I hope you found this helpful. If you know of other resources that also provide free or low cost high quality print-braille books, please leave a comment and let me know!
Don't forget to check out this week's installment of Life is Therapy.