Future Reflections Summer/Fall 1999, Vol. 18 No. 2


From the Blind Kid Listserv

In The Car Seat
Slate and Stylus

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children is the sponsor of the Blind Kid List. It is one of many of the Internet mailing lists hosted by the National Federation of the Blind’s computer board bulletin service, NFB Net. Started in mid-January of 1999, it provides a vehicle for people interested in the welfare and development of blind children to share ideas, information, and resources. It is also a means of communication between members and supporters of the NOPBC. The list name is <blind kid> and the digest name is <kids-d>. To subscribe to the list or the digest, or to any of the other NFB lists, send a message to <[email protected]>. Leave the subject line blank, and write the word "subscribe" followed by the name of the list to which you are subscribing in the body of the message.

The following items are samples of the information and ideas shared by members on the Blind Kid Listserv:

In The Car Seat

March 8, 1999

I just wanted to report that I made Annmarie an apron last night to wear while in her car seat or bouncy seat.

I used an old child’s T-shirt, size 7-8. I cut off the sleeves and cut a slit up the back. I left the collar intact to slip over her head.

I sewed on a variety of items I found around the house. Some things that are small are sewed on in several places. For example, I found a seashell that had a lot of holes in it so I stitched it on in 3 or 4 spots using lots of thread. It will go straight to her mouth, I’m sure, but it will have a T-shirt attached, and shouldn’t come loose without my having pretty fair warning.

I sewed on an antique doily that has an interesting texture, some cloth yo-yo’s, a belt-buckle, the sea shell, a ring from a baby bottle, and a measuring spoon. I can change the items easily by cutting the threads and sewing on something else. It only took about an hour, and it didn’t cost me anything at all.

It has not been "beta tested" yet, but I will let you know how it goes when Annmarie tries it out for the first time!


Editor’s Note: I didn’t see a follow-up report on the Listserv, but just a few weeks ago I saw Kathryn at a recent NFB chapter picnic, and she reported that her homemade "activity apron" worked out wonderfully well.

Photo of Nikos Daley with Raymond Lowder's hands under Nikos's over the slate.

Raymond Lowder (left) uses the
"hand-under-hand" technique to
demonstrate the slate and stylus
to Nikos Daley.

Slate and Stylus

Edwin Zehner, president of the Illinois Parents of Blind Children (IL-POBC), was instrumental in helping get our Listserv started. He had initiated a Listserv for the IL-POBC, a Division of the NFB of Illinois, which we later converted into the NOPBC Blind Kid Listserv. Shortly before the conversion, in December, 1998, Ed sent this message out on the Listserv about his adopted daughter and her use of the slate and stylus:

Our daughter is from Thailand and is totally blind. My wife Wichuda raised her as foster mother for about a year and a half until she was three. Then she was raised by other people while Wichuda and I made a home in America and initiated the formal adoption processes.

She has lived with us in the United States since January 1996 (she was aged 8 at the time), and has made great progress in many areas. I credit much of this progress to three things: 1. My Thai wife Wichuda’s prior contacts with many "competent blind adults" in Thailand. Those contacts included an incredibly capable blind grandmother, and a working relationship with leaders of all the blind organizations in that country. This instilled in our family a philosophy very similar to what we later encountered in NFB literature. 2. Our reading of NFB literature and contacts with active NFB members, and 3. Our daughter’s own very positive attitude and drive to learn how to "do it by myself" – an attitude encouraged by Mom since she was one year old.

Our daughter’s attitude and the parents’ expectations is no small thing. After only three years’ coaching with the cane, (with at least as much input from parents as from "certified" mobility instructors) she is already being compared favorable with blind teen-agers 6-7 years older than her (who had more protective upbringings). Also, after only three years speaking English in the United States, she is already reported to be reading books in English Braille at grade level in her fourth grade class (her regular teacher places her right in the middle of her class in current reading skills). It has been a lot of work, but I credit most of the successes to application of NFB principles.

Not that Thailand didn’t have benefits. For example, in Thailand, all blind children learn the slate and stylus in kindergarten (in third-world countries, who can afford Perkins Braille writers?). We insisted that slate skills continue to be used in the United States, despite resistance from her first Braille teacher. Today, by choice, our daughter does 80 percent of her schoolwork and 100 percent of her homework on the slate. I just LOVE the flexibility (and relative quiet) the slate provides. For example, she goes to baby-sitters after school every afternoon, and she is almost always able to complete her homework before coming home, just like sighted kids do. I have the impression this is rare for the average Braille writer-bound blind child, and I think that is a great pity.

Sorry to ramble so about my kid. Hope it was fun reading!

Edwin Zehner

A few months later, Edwin came across the following two messages from a different Listserv, and forwarded them to the Blind Kid Listserv. This "cross-pollination" of ideas and resources among Internet lists creates a rich source of material. Here are other ideas about the slate and stylus:

February 24, 1999

At the Oklahoma School for the Blind we introduce the slate and stylus to our students in elementary school (around the fourth or fifth grade). Most of this depends upon the child’s ability to use the Braille writer effectively.

We also tell our students that the slate and stylus IS the paper and pencil for the blind. Once our students reach the seventh grade, the use of the slate and stylus is mandatory for most note taking in the class (because of the noise level which is annoying for the low vision students but also because we hope we are teaching them that they must be proficient in note taking with the slate).

We also have quarterly "contests" for the Braille writer students and the slate and stylus students. The students must show an increased proficiency with the Braille writer and the slate and stylus in order to move toward the "tech-end" of the Braille writing spectrum—Braille ’n Speaks and computers with refreshable Braille displays. Most students work willingly in one area in order to move toward the "fun" stuff. It’s amazing what happens when there is an incentive.

Shonda Brisco
Library Media Specialist
Oklahoma School for the Blind

February 24, 1999

I’m very interested in the topic of when, or if, the slate and stylus will be taught. I work in the adult rehab field. I train vocational rehabilitation teachers (VRTs) to teach Braille. Since I am myself a Braille user, I have had to decide which tools I will use and the slate and stylus are certainly included.

One of the stories I tell rehab teachers during Braille training concerns my own reluctance to use a slate; I only learned to use it because I liked my rehab teacher and didn’t want to disappoint her (I became blind in my 30’s). To make a long story longer: I found myself in a hospital emergency situation with my husband who was the patient. It was the middle of the night, and no sighted person was available to help me. I desperately needed to make a phone call and had to write a phone number. I remembered that I had a slate and stylus in my purse. I tore a page out of a magazine and was able to complete the telephone business. I will NEVER be caught without a slate and stylus! I had to understand on a personal level why I needed the slate.

People who are blind need the slate and stylus—it’s our pencil.

Gloria Wood
HRD Specialist
Texas Commission for the Blind