Monday, January 4, 2010

Literacy for a Preschooler with Visual Impairment

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.


mommytoalot said...

Jack is such a darling. Look at how much he is enjoying those books. I love your ideas to label things. All of your posts are very informative and helpful.
I sure wish I had you on our team of moms support group here. You are awesome.

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm so happy you're encouraging reading. So many kids these days bypass books for TV and video games...

Rachel said...

That's absolutely amazing. You never think of all that goes into something like that - wow! You're doing such an awesome job adapting his environment to be most beneficial to him!!!

Matt5verse6 said...

How fabulous that there are wonderful resourses out there for obtaining print-braille books and information for parents to help children with visual impairments. What a great post! Best wishes to you and your family in 2010! Happy birthday for a new year. :) P.S. I hope you don't mind if I link to your post. I think it is such great information.

Kindest regards,


sheila said...

Beautiful post! I'd be curious to know how many kids books are in braille. I never thought of it til I read your post.

Sounds like this would even be a great charity to give too.

Sarah and the Gentlemen said...

I love those pictures of him reading his books. Jack is so adorable!

Marie said...

Mommytoalot: Thanks! I'm so glad that the information is helpful to other people too. I can pretty much take credit for none of the ideas. I read and read and read some more and try to utilize other people's great ideas. Sometimes I adapt them a little to be specific for us. I love sharing ideas. So many ideas are just simple little things that make life easier or better. I really wish you were closer too. I think we could definitely learn from each other. The Blonde Duck:I love to read and you learn so much from reading. I would be very sad if Jack did not enjoy books. He seems to have gotten my love of books since he was small. Now, he has his own way with his books but I think you foster the love and enjoyment first and technique can be picked up later. Besides, if he did not read how would he ever get to enjoy your great stories?
Rachel: Thanks. It is very surprising the things you don't think about. We just naturally use our abilities and it is hard to imagine all the things that are impacted by say not being able to see or not being able to hear. We are still constantly having "duh" moments where we realize why Jack does (or doesn't) do things like other people.He really has adapted so well that it is hard to believe how little he sees. It will be interesting to see what Dr. DiCarlo says when we see her again.
Brook: Thank you for cross-posting. I have been wanting to get this information out. You'd be surprised how long it took me to gather this list. I'm sure that many other parents like me start out looking for resources then begin reading on all the different sites and chasing rabbit trails and forget to sign up for the various programs. It's not that gathering all the info from the various sites is a bad thing but if you are wanting to immerse your child in braille, you do need to make sure you sign up. smiles
Sheila: I was surprised to find that a great number of the really popular print board book titles are avaialable in print-Braille. (Meaning the books have both print and braille so that braille readers and print readers can enjoy the same book) I believe that all of these organizations do take donations. I have noticed though that noone seems to have adapted any of those "sound button" books with braille. At the moment, they are Jack's favorites. I think most children with a visual impairment would greatly enjoy those books. I wonder why noone has done it yet?
Sarah and the G: Thanks!

Alison said...

He reads just like Ashlea!!

Marie said...

Alison--is Ashlea going to learn braille too?