Future Reflections                                                                                          Spring, 2002

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The Serious Work of Play

                                           Activities for Parents and Kids Sponsored by

                                    The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

                                                       NFB 2002 Convention

                                                         July 3 – July 9, 2002

                                              Galt House Hotel, Louisville, Kentucky

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 stimulate the imagination and encourage 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.

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. Many parents will recognize the VIPS Newsletter as the source of many good articles that have been reprinted in Future Reflections over the years.

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 categories: 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 PE, 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. Meanwhile, parents can participate in an art presentation conducted by Art Education for the Blind and blind artists such as sculptor Steve Handschu.

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 pre-register for this year’s seminar. If your child has special needs and you are not certain whether or not 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 pre-registered 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 up the day 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

                                                           *$5 DISCOUNT FOR
                                                         EARLY REGISTRATION

                                                         $10, one adult (no children)

                                                         $15, one adult plus children

                                                         $25, two adults plus children

                                                         $35, three adults plus children

If you pre-register 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 3rd: Braille Carnival, bus transportation, box lunch, snacks, activities at the Kentucky School for the Blind campus, Family Hospitality, and the Teen Discussion Groups. It also includes all other NOPBC-sponsored workshops throughout the week. It does not include NFB Convention registration, which is $10 per person (adult or child), or NFB Camp (childcare) fees.

                                                          BRAILLE CARNIVAL

                                                             Wednesday, July 3
                                                            10:00 a.m. – Noon

In honor of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, all of the activities at this special carnival—games, prizes, competitions, demonstrations— have a Braille theme. NFB divisions, state affiliates, Centers, and other agencies or organizations for the blind have volunteered to set up carnival booths for this festive affair. Melody Lindsey and her carnival crew have collected lots of neat prizes—after all, what’s a carnival without prizes? But don’t worry, you don’t have to know Braille to enjoy the carnival. In fact there will be fun things to do for all children (blind or sighted, Braille literate or not) ages 4 and up.

NOPBC Schedule of Events

Wednesday, July 3

8:00 a.m. Registration for NOPBC Activities, Galt House Hotel

9:00 – 9:45 a.m. The Serious Work of Play: General Session for the family

9:45 – 10:00 a.m. Children and youth adjourn to the Braille Carnival

10:00 – Noon Braille Carnival for children and youth

10:00 – Noon The Serious Work of Play: General Session for parents

12:30 p.m. Bus departs for the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB)

Activities from noon to 6:00 p.m. take place at the KSB campus

1:00 – 6:00 p.m. The Serious Work of Play: Activities for the family

6:00 p.m. Bus departs for the Galt House Hotel

NOTE: All evening activities take place at the Galt House Hotel

8:00 – 10:00 p.m. NOPBC Family Hospitality. Relax and chat with other parents, teachers, and blind adults while kids roam and play around the tables.

8:00 p.m. Registration for Teen
Discussion Groups

8:30 – 9:30 p.m. Teen Discussion Groups (three groups)

Guy Stuff. Blind young men (teens) will engage in guided discussions about dating, making friends, being comfortable in social situations, relationships with parents, sports, and other topics of importance to teen men.

I Wanna Talk About Me. Blind young women, ages 13 to 18, will engage in guided discussions about dating, grooming, making friends, being comfortable in social situations, relationships with parents, and other topics of importance to teen women.

Where Do We Fit in the NFB? A guided discussion for sighted sibling teens and the sighted teen children of blind parents. The discussion will address individual issues and concerns sighted teens have about blindness and about growing up with a blind family member.

Thursday, July 4

 Cane Walk:This session is repeated twice:  9:00-10:00 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 direct 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). Teens, blind and sighted, are invited to drop-in anytime at this room for games and music, or just to hang-out with other teens. Supervised by BISM counselors.

Friday, July 5

1:00-5:00 p.m. Parent Power: NOPBC Annual Meeting. Our annual meeting includes a brief business meeting, elections, state parent division reports, updates on educational issues, and other reports on new programs and initiatives of the NOPBC.

6:30-8:30 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. Our 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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