The Braille Monitor                                                                                               April, 2002

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The Serious Work of Play

NOPBC-Sponsored Activities for Parents and Kids

by Barbara Cheadle

From the Editor: One of the most exciting strands of programming at NFB conventions today is the range of opportunities for families of blind children. The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children is planning another extraordinary group of seminars, workshops, discussions, and family activities for Louisville this summer. Here is the rundown as described by division president Barbara Cheadle:

The Ryan Family from New Jersey walk down a hall at convention.   They are younger brother James, mother Valerie, Conner using his cane, and father Edward
The Ryan family from New Jersey walk down a hall at convention. Left to right they are younger brother James, mother Valerie, Conner using his cane, and father Edward.

The average person might find this title a little exaggerated. But wildlife experts and early childhood professionals know better. Those lion cubs on television, who look so cute as they ferociously stalk and pounce on Mother's twitching tail, are developing, through play, the skills they will need for life in the wild. How well they learn these skills as they tumble, growl, and play their little cub games may mean the difference one day between a full stomach and starvation.

Although our culture has evolved far beyond the need for children to develop hunting and gathering skills for survival, play continues to be fundamental to the normal physical, emotional, and social development of our species. Serious? You bet it is! Through play children develop strength, muscle control, and dexterity; they learn what they can (and cannot) do with their bodies. Manipulation of toys lays the foundation for the myriad of physical skills needed in everyday life and on the job--skills like zipping a coat, using a hanger, unclogging a drain, using a power drill, unlocking a door, and yes, even typing on a computer keyboard. Playing house gives children a chance to practice the roles they will someday play as moms and dads. Playing with clay, cutting, pasting, and drawing pictures stimulates the imagination and encourages creativity. Outdoor games provide a foundation for good physical health and exercise habits, and team sports teach essential skills in working with others to achieve common goals--a crucial ability in today's business world.

Blind kids need this wide range of play experiences every bit as much as sighted kids. They need to run; crawl; jump; climb; slug, pitch, or bounce a ball; ride a bike; karate punch; and do cartwheels too. Do art, play tug-o-war, climb a rock wall--why not? But that's the rub. Too many times the answer to the question "Why not?" is "No, you can't." More often than not, that "No" is rooted in ignorance, low expectations, overprotection, misconceptions about blindness, or simply--in the face of so many educational needs--not enough time.

Kirt Manwaring of Utah explores the open mouth of an alligator while his sister Kelsie watches.
Kirt Manwaring of Utah explores the open mouth of an alligator while his sister Kelsie watches.

Well, the NOPBC will brook no why-not excuses this year at the 2002 NFB Convention. Dr. Ralph Bartley, Superintendent of the Kentucky School for the Blind, has generously offered the full use of the campus (located just minutes from the convention hotel)--including two gyms, a track, art classrooms, and a playground--for a full afternoon (2:00 to 6:00 p.m.) of play for the whole family on Wednesday, July 3.

But like all good recreation events this day will begin with a warm-up activity. Wednesday, July 3, seminar day, will begin with the usual NOPBC seminar general session at 9:00 a.m. (registration at 8:00 a.m.) in the Galt House Hotel. As was the case for the past two years, kids are invited to attend the first forty-five minutes of the general session to hear other blind youth speak about their experiences in sports or arts. At 9:45 a.m. the session will break briefly to allow children and youth ages four and up to depart for the Braille Carnival, also conducted in the hotel in a nearby meeting room.

As soon as that transition is complete, the general session will continue with lively presentations from blind adults, parents, and early childhood teachers about how to include blind and blind multiply-disabled children and youth in the full, rich range of play, recreation, and artistic activities available to their sighted peers. Among our guest speakers will be a representative from the Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS) of Louisville. Parents will recognize the VIPS Newsletter as the source of many good articles reprinted in Future Reflections over the years.

Federationists of all ages including the very young enjoy dancing at hospitality night.
Federationists of all ages including the very young enjoy dancing at hospitality night.

At noon the general session and the Braille Carnival will adjourn. Parents will pick up children at the Braille Carnival or child-care (NFB Camp), then gather at the hotel entrance to board buses for the short ride--about two miles--to the Kentucky School for the Blind campus. This is not a field trip for the kids alone. The activities on the campus are for the entire family--all children, including teens, must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

On campus everyone will gather in the cafeteria for a box lunch and to review the afternoon's choices. Activities for the family are divided into four main catagories: Play in Early Childhood, Recreation and Sports, Arts and Crafts, and Cooking Demonstrations.

Play in Early Childhood: Stations, everyone-play stations, that is. Co-sponsored by the Louisville-based Visually Impaired Preschool (VIPS) program, this activity features interactive play stations for parents, babies, and toddlers. Parents will also have the opportunity to discuss early movement and travel with Joe Cutter, noted pediatric O&M specialist. [Note: This is not a childcare program. However, we have arranged for volunteers to provide limited childcare services on campus for babies of parents who wish an hour or two free to enjoy the other afternoon activities with their older children.]

Recreation and Sports: Dads, this is your kind of day. There will be something fun to do for everyone--kids and adults, blind or sighted. Although there will be some lecture opportunities discussing adaptations for P.E., for example, the real emphasis is on doing. Relay races, water fights, tug-o-war, a goal-ball clinic, track events, and maybe even a rock-climbing wall are just some of the many games and activities planned for the day. Oh, and to add to the fun and to create an equal playing field for all, sleepshades (blindfolds) will be provided for everyone. The events will be organized and conducted by blind adults and college students skilled in the various recreational activities. Again this activity requires that children be accompanied by a family member or other responsible adult. Debbie Bacon, a blind woman with extensive experience in organizing youth-enrichment programs for the Society for the Blind in Sacramento, will coordinate the recreation programs with assistance from Kenny Jones, former coach at the Kentucky School for the Blind, and Marla Palmer, NOPBC board member and recreation specialist.

Arts and Crafts: Coordinated by Angela Wolf, President of the National Association of Blind Students, this program is designed to provide a challenging art activity to kids approximately ages six and up. Angela Wolf, herself blind from birth, has directed art programs for blind children at the summer Buddy Program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Unlike the recreation activities, in this activity we will ask that parents leave their kids under the direction of Angela; her assistant, art teacher Amy Rich; and other volunteers. While the kids are busy doing art, parents can talk about art with blind artists such as sculptor Steve Handschu and participate in a presentation about art and tactile representations of art from Art Education for the Blind.

Cooking Demonstrations: An important component of play at a certain stage in a child's development is playing house. Of course kids and parents have to believe that homemaking skills, such as cooking, are practical and possible for blind people. In these demonstrations blind homemakers (two men and two women) will cook or bake a recipe from scratch while parents and kids watch and ask questions. The best part? Everyone gets to sample the product at the end.

The activities will begin at 2:00 p.m. and conclude with a wrap-up session back in the cafeteria at 5:30 p.m. Buses will depart for the hotel at 6:00 p.m. Water, drinks, and snacks will be available for children and adults throughout the afternoon. A nurse will also be on duty throughout the afternoon, compliments of the Kentucky School for the Blind. To the greatest extent possible we want to include all children in the recreation and art activities. This means it is crucial that parents preregister for this year's seminar. If your child has special needs and you are not certain whether he or she can participate in the activities of the day, please advise us immediately. To the extent that we have the resources and volunteers to do so, we will provide alternative activities if parents have preregistered and advised us of their child's special needs in advance.

Full as the day has been, it's not over yet. At 8:00 p.m. back at the hotel families can gather to talk and unwind at the NOPBC-sponsored Family Hospitality. Teens can wrap the day up with special discussion groups at 8:30 p.m. (registration at 8:00 p.m.). There will be a discussion group for blind teen women, one for blind teen men, and one for sighted siblings and children (teens) of blind parents. These kids-only--no parents allowed--groups will be led by experienced volunteer youth leaders.


NOPBC Activities Fees:

$15, one adult plus child or children

$25, two adults plus child or children

$35, three adults (e.g., parents and grandparent) plus child or children

$10, one adult

If you preregister and mail payment by June 1, 2002, you can take $5 off your fee for early registration. The fee includes NOPBC membership and all activities associated with the Family Seminar Day on July 3: Braille Carnival, bus transportation, box lunch, snacks, activities at the Kentucky School for the Blind campus, Family Hospitality, and Teen Discussion Groups. It also includes all other NOPBC-sponsored workshops throughout the week. The NOPBC Activities Fee does not include NFB Convention registration, which is $10 per person (adult or child), or NFB Camp fees.

NOPBC Schedule of Events for the rest of the week:

Thursday, July 4

Cane Walk: This session will be repeated twice: 9:00-10:30 a.m. And 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Parents of blind kids of all ages (babies to teens), teachers, and blind kids can get hands-on experience in using a cane in the hotel under the guidance of volunteer instructors from the Louisiana Tech/Louisiana Center for the Blind O&M program and other volunteers. Joe Cutter, pediatric O&M specialist, will provide the demonstration for parents of pre-school children.

2:00 6:00 p.m. Teen Activity Room sponsored jointly by NOPBC and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM).

Friday, July 5

1:00-5:00 p.m. Parent Power: NOPBC Annual Meeting.

6:30-8:30 p.m. Follow-up Discussion Group for Blind Teen Women.

Saturday, July 6

7:00-10:00 p.m. Creating the Perfect IEP: What Does the Law (IDEA) Require? An intensive workshop looking at the requirements of IDEA and how parents may use this information to write the best possible IEP for their child. There will also be some discussion about the IEP and transition planning for older youth.

Sunday, July 7

2:00-6:00 p.m. Walking the Talk: Why Blind Kids Need to Use Canes. Drop-in anytime discussion group for parents, blind kids, and teachers. Joe Cutter, instructor and discussion leader. Videos, literature, cane demonstrations, questions and answers.

2:00-6:00 p.m. Technology in the Classroom. This workshop will be repeated three times: 2:00-3:00, 3:30-4:30, and 5:00-6:00. Braille teachers team up with technology experts to discuss how and when to introduce various technology devices to blind and low-vision students. When should students learn to use an electronic notetaker? Computers? What is the role of low (or old) technology, such as the slate and stylus and Braille writer? When and how should students learn to use tactile graphics? How do students, teachers, and parents decide which device is best for what tasks?

2:00-4:00 p.m. Beginning Braille for Parents. Drop-in anytime and get a free Braille lesson or demonstration. Discuss Braille-instruction problems and solutions. Pick up literature: Braille contraction charts, sample Braille IEP goals, activities to promote Braille from the Braille Is Beautiful program, etc.

2:00-6:00 p.m. Braille Storybook Hour. This activity for blind and sighted youngsters will be repeated three times: 2:00-3:00, 3:30-4:30, and 5:00-6:00 p.m. Modeled after the Maryland Parents of Blind Children program, this storybook hour features a blind Braille reader, multiple copies of print-Braille storybooks for blind and sighted children to follow along in, Braille Buddies (Braille reading teens or adults), and an activity related to the theme of the storybook. The theme? Hats. The story time begins with a discussion of how different people read (print and Braille). Children are encouraged to read along silently or, if not yet readers, find the page numbers and turn the pages. After the story and a discussion about the story, children can look at and try on a whole table-full of different kinds of hats. This is not childcare for the afternoon. However, parents who are attending one of the above NOPBC-sponsored workshops may leave a child for one session with a responsible older sibling or a Braille Buddy, provided enough volunteers are available to assist.

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