“Unstoppable”

I’m excited to finally have these, “Unstoppable,” Braille T-shirts available so that everyone can show the world how, “Unstoppable” they are.

Why did I choose the word, “Unstoppable?”

Two reasons.

Reason 1.  My Aunt Say.  For those of you who have followed my blog for a few months now, you may remember me writing about her.  Last October, at the age of 48, she suffered from a stroke.  For the first few days following the stroke, she was paralyzed on her left side.  Two months later, she walked into her newly remodeled house (a welcome home surprise from her sisters) with the assistance of a cane.  Today, she is walking, cooking, cleaning, and …driving!   She is, “UNSTOPPABLE.”

Reason 2.  My Mini-Me, my Marley.  She is the ultimate mirror of her mommy.  At the exact same age, she displayed the exact same symptoms, and we have the exact same diagnosis of Optic Nerve Atrophy.  Just like her mommy, she doesn’t let anything stand in her way.  She is a determined, courageous, creative, passionate, and UNSTOPPABLE little girl.

Are you Unstoppable?  Show it off by wearing one of these, “Unstoppable,” Braille T’s.

 

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How to Make a Sweet and Simple Braille Valentine

25 hand made Braille Valentine's Day CardsWhat can be sweeter than a home made Valentine’s Day card for a preschool Valentine’s Day party?  Hand made Valentine’s written in Braille.

I’ve never really considered myself the, “Crafty Mom.’  I like to think of myself is the, “Creative Mom.”

What did I do to create these adorable sweet and simple Valentines?

Step 1.  On the unlined side of a 3×5 index card, I wrote in Braille, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” on the top left, and, “Love, Marley,” on the bottom right.

Step 2.  I measured, folded, and cut rid construction paper just big enough to glue behind the card, hiding the lined side of the card, and creating a red border around the white.

Step 3.  Marley placed tactile bubble heart stickers on the top right of the index card.

Step 4.  Marley glued the index card onto the red construction paper.

Step 5.  With a hole puncher, I punched two holes on the bottom left and tied a red bow.

Step 6.  Daddy wrote the same words in print on the back of the card.

I thought about glueing Hershey kisses onto the card, or taping a heart sucker to the back, but decided against adding any extra sugar since I knew she’d be coming home with a box full of sweets.

I shared the photo on Facebook yesterday.  My mom called after seeing the photo and asked where I’d bought them from.  She said they looked professionally done.  I told her, “Nope, they were a Marley and me project.  They were simple.  They were easy.  They were fun!”

 

 

Happy Birthday Louis Braille

Happy Birthday Louis Braille

Six dots. Six bumps. Six bumps in different patterns, like constellations, spreading out over the page. What are they? Numbers, letters, words. Who made this code? None other than Louis Braille, a French 12-year-old, who was also blind. And his work changed the world of reading and writing, forever.

Louis was from a small town called Coupvray, near Paris—he was born on January 4 in 1809. Louis became blind by accident, when he was 3 years old. Deep in his Dad’s harness workshop, Louis tried to be like his Dad, but it went very wrong; he grabbed an awl, a sharp tool for making holes, and the tool slid and hurt his eye. The wound got infected, and the infection spread, and soon, Louis was blind in both eyes.
All of a sudden, Louis needed a new way to learn. He stayed at his old school for two more years, but he couldn’t learn everything just by listening. Things were looking up when Louis got a scholarship to the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris, when he was 10. But even there, most of the teachers just talked at the students. The library had 14 huge books with raised letters that were very hard to read. Louis was impatient.
Then in 1821, a former soldier named Charles Barbier visited the school. Barbier shared his invention called “night writing,” a code of 12 raised dots that let soldiers share top-secret information on the battlefield without even having to speak. Unfortunately, the code was too hard for the soldiers, but not for 12-year-old Louis!
Louis trimmed Barbier’s 12 dots into 6, ironed out the system by the time he was 15, then published the first-ever braille book in 1829. But did he stop there? No way! In 1837, he added symbols for math and music. But since the public was skeptical, blind students had to study braille on their own. Even at the Royal Institution, where Louis taught after he graduated, braille wasn’t taught until after his death. Braille began to spread worldwide in 1868, when a group of British men, now known as the Royal National Institute for the Blind, took up the cause.
Now practically every country in the world uses braille. Braille books have double-sided pages, which saves a lot of space. Braille signs help blind people get around in public spaces. And, most important, blind people can communicate independently, without needing print.
Louis proved that if you have the motivation, you can do incredible things.   This bio was taken directly from the American Foundation for the Blind 

A Tribute to Braille, Literacy, and Jerry Whittle

 

Last Thursday, I spoke to a man who has impacted thousands of blind people.  He was the man who taught me Braille.  From day one, when the doors opened, he was there at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.  This man’s name is Jerry Whittle.

For almost 35 years, Mr.Whittle was on the front lines combatting  the staggering statistics of literacy amongst the blind from a corner classroom on the second floor of a French style building on South Trenton St, in a small town in North Central Louisiana.

Picture a society where only 10% of children are taught to read.

Now, picture a society where 75% of working capable adults are unemployed.

What right minded person would allow such a thing?

Well… Newsflash!  You are living in that society.

10% of blind children are being taught Braille.  75% of blind adults are unemployed.  Let me also add, 90% of the blind who are employed are Braille literate.

When I stepped into Mr. Whittle’s classroom in January of 2006, I barely knew the Braille alphabet.  I was a few months shy of turning 23.  I was no longer succeeding in my mantra of, “Fake it till you make it.”  Nine months later, I was timed at reading over 90 words per minute.  For someone learning Braille as an adult, it is rare to reach even the speed of 60 words per minute.

To you, Mr. Whittle, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for granting me the gift of literacy.

I now fight the same fight for my Marley.  Here is a photo of Marley writing a letter to Santa in Braille on her Perkins Brailler.  
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After his many years of writing plays for the NFB National Conventions, that even yours truly just so happens to have had a chance to star in once upon a time, he now spends his time writing novels.  You can find his works on Amazon.  If you are looking for a Christmas gift for the bookworm in your life, than you should check out on of Mr. Whittle’s works.

Until I blog again, make it a great day.

 

A Braille Story Time & Braille Letters to Santa

The Nevada Organization of Parents of Blind Children  would like to invite families with blind children to A Braille Story Time & Braille Letters to Santa  We will be reading stories in Braille, and provide a station for your children to send Santa a letter in Braille.  You may bring letters already written in Braille, or have one of our elves, who happen to be blind, help your child Braille out his/her letter.   This event is free to all families with blind children. Las Vegas Saturday December 13th 10:00-11:00am Child's Play Las Vegas  7260 S. Cimarron Rd. Suite 100 Las Vegas, NV 89113 Afterwards, stick around and play in the indoor playground and take advantage of the group rate of $8 from 11am-10pm.   Reno Friday December 19th at 3:30-5:00pm Itsy Bitsy Learning Center 1880 Prater Way Sparks, NV 89431 This event is in conjunction with Itsy Bitsy Learning Center's Christmas Program.   For more information on this event or the Nevada Organization of Parents of Blind Children contact; Terri Rupp in Las Vegas at 702-524-0835 Belinda Martinez in Reno at 775-771-0567 NVOPBC would like to give a special thanks to Child's Play Las Vegas and Itsy Bitsy Learning Center for their partnership and participation.  We believe that all children are entitled to a fun and thriving place to play, learn, and grow.  We believe all children should have access to a bright and powerful future.

The Nevada Organization of Parents of Blind Childrenwould like to invite families with blind children to

A Braille Story Time & Braille Letters to Santa
We will be reading stories in Braille, and provide a station for your children to send Santa a letter in Braille.  You may bring letters already written in Braille, or have one of our elves, who happen to be blind, help your child Braille out his/her letter.
This event is free to all families with blind children.
Las Vegas
Saturday December 13th 10:00-11:00am
Child’s Play Las Vegas
7260 S. Cimarron Rd. Suite 100
Las Vegas, NV 89113
Afterwards, stick around and play in the indoor playground and take advantage of the group rate of $8 from 11am-10pm.
Reno
Friday December 19th at 3:30-5:00pm
Itsy Bitsy Learning Center
1880 Prater Way
Sparks, NV 89431
This event is in conjunction with Itsy Bitsy Learning Center’s Christmas Program.
For more information on this event or the Nevada Organization of Parents of Blind Children contact;
Terri Rupp in Las Vegas at 702-524-0835
Belinda Martinez in Reno at 775-771-0567
NVOPBC would like to give a special thanks to Child’s Play Las Vegas and Itsy Bitsy Learning Center for their partnership and participation.  We believe that all children are entitled to a fun and thriving place to play, learn, and grow.  We believe all children should have access to a bright and powerful future.
No registration required.  However, we simply ask that you RSVP on our Facebook group event page so that we have a rough estimate of how many families to expect.

A Happy 5th Birthday to Marley with a Celebration of Braille

Miss Marley with ehr new Hello Kitty, both of them in glasses

Today was a very special day in our house.  Marley finally turned 5.  We’ve been talking about this for months.  We celebrated with a combined birthday party with Jackson’s 3rd birthday last month on a birthday picnic adventure.

All week longMarley’s been asking me, “Is it November 6th yet?”  Before I even got out of bed this morning, there she was next to my face,  “Mommy it’s my birthday today!”

birthday candles in birthday pancakes

How did we make this day extra special one for little Miss Marley?  It started with a birthday breakfast with birthday presents, and birthday candles in her birthday pancake.  Next, we brought cupcakes to share with her class, where the birthday song was sung to her again.

birthday cupcake at schoolLastly, we ended the day with reading three of her new Braille books before bed tonight.

About a month ago, I asked my friends and family to join us in helping to grow Marley’s personal library by sending her books in Braille.  Marley loves books, and I want to continue fostering that love by giving her as many books as possible.  I personally Braille most of our books, but the process is tedious and time consuming.

For those of you who participated in Marley’s Braille birthday, I want to send a special thank you to each and every one of you.  Expect a Braille holiday card made by our very own Miss Marley in the mail in the near future.  And for any others who want to contribute to Marley’s love of literacy and Braille, feel free to contact me for where to send a book.

Books have been ordered and are coming from all over the country.  This is one lucky and loved little girl.

Titles on the way to Marley’s Braille book collection so far;

“101 Dalmations Meet the Puppies”

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”

“The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto”

“Riddles and More Riddles!”

“Fourth of July”

“Plattypus Probably”

“Snake Charmer”

“Crickets, Jokes, Riddles and Other Stuff”

“Elmo says Achoo”

“Thomas the freight train”

“1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”

“A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” with sound and music

“Ahoy There, Little Polar Bear”

“Clifford’s puppy days Pumpkin Patch Puppy”

“Dora the Explorer, I love my Mami”

“The Great Turkey Race.”

“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: Together Forever”

“A Color of His Own”

“A Pocket for Corduroy”

“Alexander and the Terrible,Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”

“Amelia Bedelia: Bookworm”

“Amelia Bedelia: Rocket Scientist”

“10 Fat Turkeys”

“Angelina and the Butterfly”

“The Cat in the Hat”

“Green Eggs and Ham”

And a $40 gift certificate to Seedlings from Marley’s Great Grandma and Great Aunt Faith.

Once again, Aaron and I thank every single one of you from the bottom of our hearts for participating in such a memorable birthday.

 

 

E is for Educate, F is for Farm

Marley, Jackson, and I under the McKee Ranch sign

Every day is a day to educate the world about blindness.  I especially love when I am given the opportunity to tell a child about my cane.  You see, I am not totally blind.  I have some vision, but not enough to read print, and prefer to use a cane if I want my steps to be confident instead of uncertain.  Not all blind people are totally blind.  Some may prefer to use the term visually impaired or having low vision.  Visual acuity measured at 20/200 is what is considered legally blind.  Not every blind person uses the same terminology, just like they may not use the same tools.   A person may choose to read Braille, while another person may choose to use magnification devices.  A person may choose to use a cane, while another person chooses to use a guide dog.

I walked around without a cane for 22 years of my life before being introduced to the National Federation of the Blind and attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind, what is commonly referred to as the Bootcamp for the Blind.  This was when I received my very first long white cane, where I learned how to read Braille, and was introduced to the NFB’s philosophy that whether blind or sighted, if a person is given the opportunity, and the training, they too can compete equally with their sighted peers.  This also,  was where I gained confidence to travel independently.  So, when a child asks me what that stick is, and the parents tell them to shush.  I jump at the opportunity togive a lesson about the cane and the common misconceptions about blindness.

E is for Educate.

A cane is a tool for independence.  The metal tip reverberates sound and vibrations of texture to allow the user to use echo location to gather information.  The fact that this cane, the long white cane, does not fold, means very little information is lost from the tip to the handle.  A simple tap can let you know if the building is in front of you or slightly to the left.  While walking through a parking lot, echo location from the metal tip informs you upon coming up to a parked car or even a shopping cart.

“What about those canes with the red handles?”

Those canes with the red handles are shorter, heavier, have a plastic or rolling tip, and since they fold into something that can be tucked into a desk drawer, backpack, or purse, are not what I’d prefer to choose for a mode for independent travel.

The long white cane allows me to travel with speed, accuracy, and confidence without the aid or assistance of a sighted person.

F is for Farm

Our most recent lesson on blindness was given to a family on a hay ride during a visit to our local neighborhood farm.

hay ride

You read that right.

hello Mr. GoatWe’ve got a fully functioning farm complete with all sorts of barnyard animals to pet and feed only two miles from our front door.

hello Mr. Horse

We visit McKee Ranch every October when it is transformed into a pumpkin patch.

hello Mr. chicken

We can’t forget about the old fashioned merry-go-round.

Jackson on the merry-go-round

The highlight this year were Marley and Jackson’s first time riding a pony.

Marley on the pony

Jackson on the pony

And Marley even got to meet Farmer McKee himself.

Marley and Farmer McKee

All in all, I’d say it was a great day!

Oh Miss Marley on the farm

Oh Miss Marley on the farm

E I E I O

And on the farm we had our canes

E I E I O

With a tap tap here

With a tap tap there

Here a tap

There a tap

Everywhere a tap tap

Oh Miss Marley on the farm

E I E I O

 

“WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS”

As we continue on through our Marley and Me saga, I make it a point to make blindness and the word blind something Marley will relate to with proud and possitive feelings, not ugly or negative ones.

So often in the world blindness is accompanied with sadness, pity, shame, grief.  It is my goal to abolish any negative ties to blindness in my daughter’s world.

If the world could only view things through the eyes of an innocent child, it would be a much more beautiful place.

During one of our discussions about the word blind, I had explained to Marley how people who need to read Braille and use canes are called blind.  Marley’s response, “And we’re all human beings!”

One of my favorite photos from this summer.  Even with reaching around with both My cane and Marley's cane, we still barely manage to make it halfway around that giant redwood tree.

One of my favorite photos from this summer. Even with reaching around with both My cane and Marley’s cane, we still barely manage to make it halfway around that giant redwood tree.

 

Marley and Me Musical Chairs

Photo of Marley and me

I feel like I’m in a real life game of musical chairs.  First I was the blind child, then the blind student, then the blind parent, and now I’m sitting in the seat as the parent of a blind child.

This blog has been a draft in progress, and I’m finally ready to share it with you all.

About 2.5 years ago, we brought my daughter into see the pediatrician for a double ear infection.  This was when it was first brought to our attention that she had a nystagmus.  After a few trips to the eye doctor, we were given the diagnosis of Spasmus Nutans.  This is the combination of the Nystagmus, Amblyopia (lazy eye), and a head tilt in response to the other two symptoms.  We were told that this was common in eye development in toddlers and it should correct itself by school age.

Over the next 2 years it looked as if it was somewhat getting better, only showing when she was really tired or concentrating to see something at a distance.  But  as her fourth birthday came around, we noticed more and more signs that perhaps we were just looking for it to get better because the doctor said it would

I noticed that she was having difficulty seeing the letters in her books while we were working on reading and writing.  My husband noticed she was having difficulty tracking things at a distance.  Some of my close friends noticed that when she went to grab an object, it looked as if she wasn’t reaching directly for that object but more feeling for it.

I couldn’t believe I let two years go by since her last eye check up.  When I called to make an appointment in January, the first available appointment wasn’t until May.  This wasn’t acceptable, especially to a worried parent.  After asking around, I found another ophthalmologist who came very highly recommended in my network of moms.  I also decided to contact the school district to see if she would qualify to get into their preschool program, because if she would be needing any services I wanted to start the process sooner than later.

After a series of assessments with the school nurse, psychologist, vision test, and hearing test, we sat down to our first IEP (Independent Education Plan) this last Tuesday.  It was determined that my daughter qualifies to start preschool under the fact that she would be a blind/low vision student.  Keep in mind that we hadn’t yet seen the new eye doctor.  There was much discussion about what accommodations and services she would be given  As I’d expected, there was much disagreement on the topic of Braille.  The low vision specialist claimed she felt my daughter has too much vision to learn Braille, that it would slow her down and confuse her.  Knowing the IEP process, and knowing that I was able to ammend it if I felt need be, I simply told them that if they didn’t want to teach her Braille in preschool, that was fine with me.  I am already teaching her Braille, and by the time the school district is ready to approve Braille instruction, she’ll already be fully reading uncontracted Braille, and far ahead of her peers.

A few days later, on this last Friday we visited her new eye doctor.  It turns out that she doesn’t just have the three sypmtons that make up Spasmus Nutans.  She’s got Optic Atrophy just like her mama.  It’s very possible it was a dormant gene that appeared in me, then I passed to her.  It could be that since we weighted two years without treating the Amblyopia, it caused the atrophy in the eye.  It could be a fluke coincidence.  However, all that matters is, she’s got the same eye condition as me.  The doctor also told us that her vision loss is severe enough that Braille would be best for her. Forcing her to read print would only strain and stress her eyes thus possibly making things worse.

I’ll be honest.  This weekend consisted of a whole lot of tears, a whole lot of guilt, a whole lot of grief, a whole lot of anger, but also a whole lot of of inpouring of love and support.  It also consisted of a whole lot of pride.  On sunday morning, I heard my daughter chatting away while she was eating her pancakes.  My mommy ears perked up when I heard her say, “X is 1 3 4 6.”  I then asked her to show it to me, which she did on the little wooden Braille block that we play with.  She then told me that X was her favorite letter in Braille.  I was overwhelmed by the comforting feeling that no matter what, everything will be fine.  She is a happy, healthy, beautiful, bright, and strong little girl that will succeed in whatever her heart desires.

With my own personal experiences, with the resources and support through the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Federation of the Blind, with the love of family and friends who will treat her like every other little girl out there and not like a child that needs to be tended to or coddled, I plan to surround her with nothing but positivity and make sure that she grows up to be a confident young lady doing whatever she wants to in life.

So…to my dear sweet Marley, this song is for you, because you’re amazing just the way you are.

If Only I Had Braille When…

If only I had Braille when…I was a child learning how to read.

If only I had Braille when…my classes took turns reading out loud and I was skipped over because I couldn’t even read the large print books that the schools provided me.

If only I had Braille when…the waiter handed me the menu when I sat down with my friends at a restaurant.

If only I had Braille when…my kids asked me to read the signs on the trails where we were hiking.

If only I had Braille when…my son had a 102 degree fever and I had a brand new box of medicine and didn’t know the correct dosage to give him.

If only I had Braille when…I was reading the directions on the box of blueberry muffin mix.

If only I had Braille when…I wanted to read a nutrition label on a granola bar wrapper.

If only I had Braille when…my kids find a new book and want me to read it to them.

If only I had been offered Braille as a child instead of fighting to learn it as an adult.

If only Braille was as common as print.

If only all blind or visually impaired children were taught Braille so they wouldn’t have to struggle to read as adults.

Braille is something that I am very passionate about.  Tonight as I was reading my children their bedtime stories, I started thinking, “If only I had Braille when…”

Did you know that only 10% of blind or visually impaired children are taught Braille?

Did you know that as a child I struggle to read large print, falling behind in school, and working twice as hard as my peers to keep up?

Did you know that I didn’t fully become literate until the age of 23 when I finally learned Braille?

What if only 10% of sighted children were taught how to read.

I have to admit, I haven’t thought about these things quite as much in the last few years.  However, now that I am teaching my own daughter how to read and write, and now that I am personally transcribing many of the books that are on their bookshelves into Braille so that I can read to them because it is faster than waiting for new Braille/print books.  As a child, I used to wish that I could be either completely sighted or completely blind so that I wouldn’t have to be stuck in the middle, always having to explain my so called disability.

Now all I wish for is for more Braille.

More Braille for blind children learning how to read.

More Braille for blind adults all over the world.

More Braille.  More Braille.  More Braille.