– Welcome everyone, we’re glad to have you for a FamilyConnect through APH creating learning environments with items in your home.

– Hi everybody, yes, I’m Alan Lovell, and I’m with the APH ConnectCenter and FamilyConnect, which is what brings you this webinar today. I just wanted to speak briefly and then I’ll follow up at the end because we are at the ConnectCenter funded by grants and we want to make sure we’re bringing to you the kind of content that’s helping you, COVID-19 related or not. And the ConnectCenter is made up of course of an information and referral hotline FamilyConnect.org but there’s also CareerConnect and VisionAware, aphcareerconnect.org and visionaware.org. And we are always in search of content for those websites. In this case we’re talking about how you can use general household items to educate your kids. And Sara Edwards is here to help us with that. She is, I was telling her a little while ago and I like to see this, it happens more times than you would expect in our field, she’s a mother of two visually impaired children first turned TVI and I’m sure she had to wing it a lot prior to becoming a professional. And that’s going to you know a lot of her ideas and techniques are come out in what she’s going to show us today. So, if you have any questions put them in the chat. We will either stop at a midpoint to check in on the questions or if the chat fills up on a particular subject Leanne will stop us and say, hey, let’s talk about this a little bit more. And I’ll follow up with you at the end, okay. So, thank you, Sara Edwards.

– All right, well thank you. I appreciate you guys asking me to come and talk to you today about creating learning environments in the home with items that we already have. Excuse me, like Al mentioned I am a parent first, I have a 17-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter who both have leber congenital amaurosis, so they light perception only since birth. I then became or I went back to school and became the TVI and the DTV, and I currently work for the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired and their outreach program. So, I do travel a large portion of Illinois and work with families in the home. I wanted to, you know I thought like talking about using items in the home today, oh, you know what, I should share my, sorry, I should probably share my screen before I get going here. Let’s put that up. All right. Here we go. Just to give you an overview of what we’ll talk about today is that I understand that all of the activities I talk about may not be appropriate for your child or your student’s specific needs, especially after we saw that poll. You know we have professionals that are working with students of all age groups. And obviously all of our students and children they just have different needs, they have different interests but what I do hope that at the end of this hour, hour and half is that you do walk away with some activities that are appropriate for your student, maybe even you can make some adaptations, you know to make them even better for your child. And you know activities that you can incorporate into your daily routines or your classroom routines if and when we get back into the classroom. And I think it’s especially important right now since we are all at home we need to keep finding those activities to keep our students engaged and keep them learning. And as I share these activities I think you’ll find that they really do help make your student or your child make progress in many developmental areas. So, as we all know for our children and students their hands are their eyes so whether or not they have usable vision they do rely heavily on their touch as we all know. Instead of using vision as their primary information gathering sense they are, in allowing other senses to provide that supplementary information our children, their touch is their primary sense and then their available vision and the other senses actually become their supplementary. So, touch is used for all their task throughout the day and that includes, excuse me I had a scratchy voice, and that includes their exploration, any play that they might engage in, any reading and writing activities, their independent living tasks, and just learning, developing concepts, every day and all day. So, these activities are really going to target their sense of touch and some other developmental areas. So, some developmental areas I will touch on today are sensory, cognitive or concept developmental and fine motor skills. So, as I mentioned before these activities really do encourage progress in all areas and I will explain more as to how and exactly what these activities focus on. And all three of these mentioned, the sensory, concept development, and fine motor really lead into the development of pre-braille skills. And I don’t want that, you know those words pre-braille skills to scare anyone if their student or child is currently not a braille reader or writer because these skills that these activities that I’ll share with today that they’re beneficial for everyone whether they are braille reader, writers or not. So, let’s start with the sensory development and I do want to point out ’cause as I keep going so if you do have a question, you know flag me down through either Leanne or Al and feel free to stop me if there’s a question ’cause I’ll just kinda keep on going just because I want to be mindful of time. So, starting with the area of sensory development our students most at an early age begin to use their sense of touch in meaningful ways. This enables them to develop one, that tactile perception, which is understanding what the hands are feeling. You know identifying objects just by touch not through their vision, so able to identify familiar objects in their environment or maybe identifying different textures for example. It also helps them develop this tactual discrimination that we’re often promoting and the ability to differentiate sensory information received by touch. And if you think about how we all have receptor skills in our skin. We’re able to differentiate those sensations such as different levels of pressure or vibration, pain, or different temperatures such as hot or cold. Another important skill for reading readiness is auditory discrimination, and that’s just simply how the brain perceives and interprets sound information. We begin with the sound awareness and sound location gradually moving to that highest level, which is phonological awareness or making that meaning from spoken sound. So again, this will all make more sense as I start sharing some activities as to how we really target these sensory skills. And I do or I should mention you know many of our kids are or can be tactile defensive as we introduce different textures and encourage them to touch you know different items in their environment. I know that that can be challenging and frustrating as they pull back and are kind of resistant but I personally as a parent and a teacher I kind of like to see them do that. I think that’s a good cognitive skill when they kinda pull back because it kinda tells me that they are saying, you know if they can’t communicate they’re saying whoa, I don’t know where you’re going to put my hands, I’m not feeling comfortable with this. And so, I like to see that cautious behavior because I’d rather see that than just them willing to take their hands and explore anything. The next area that we’ll talk about is concept development. There’re numerous concepts that need to be taught to our children and students to be successful readers or writers but today I just want to highlight on those concepts that do relate to tactual perception and discrimination. So, when we look at the hierarchy of concept development we start with awareness of tactile characteristics and the identification of those characteristics. So far example we often start with teaching our kids different textures or object characteristics such as whether something is hard or soft, or rough or smooth for example. We then move up and group them into categories where we can match or sort objects by a common characteristic, you know so we might put all of the soft items in the bowl to our right and all of the hard items in the bowl to our left so we’re sorting by a common characteristic. And then we move up to actually tactually identifying objects that share all of their physical characteristics so this is where the understanding of same or different comes into a play. So that’s a little higher up on the hierarchy of concept development. Many of the activities I share with you today will also include spacial an directional concepts and those are very important for reading readiness as well. They relate to body position and awareness and it really helps our kids understand where they are at in their environment or in relation to other objects. I think it’s important to remind everyone that when we talk about concept development and incorporate activities to teach different concepts we really need to provide meaningful experiences to our children that’s how those connections are made. Research has shown that the brain makes those connections as the more we repeat activities and include activities that are actually meaningful for them. So that’s why when I mentioned earlier if you need to adapt these activities please do so, you know adapt them so that they’re meaningful for your student or for your child in order for those connections and associations to be made. Because if we just give them input without any associating meaning to that then that input simply becomes noise to our children and then they unfortunately aren’t learning. The last area that I’ll talk about is fine motor skills. These are especially important in writing and reading, hand and finger strength. There’s actually two sets of muscles that control the movements of our hands and fingers and without the necessary strength in these muscles students will not be able to press the keys on the braille writer with enough force for their writing to legible. And this is actually and the next one finger isolating, these two are actually the reason that years ago when I started teaching in our early intervention program why I started creating activities that really focused on hand and finger strength and finger isolation because I did have one of my first students was getting ready to enter an early childhood program and I really stressed the important just from being a parent I knew how hard their little fingers really, you know have to push down, how hard they work, and how strong they need to be and the more I explained it to the parents, you know of course they had no understanding and they still really weren’t quite getting it because until you see it ya don’t get it. So, I actually brought in a braille writer one day into the home and had Sammy sit down and scribble, you know just play with the buttons on the braille writer and I have to say Sammy she was not necessary a petite girl. I mean they were farm, a farm family and strong family and Sammy at almost three was very strong as well and so you would think that she didn’t have any problems but she sat down at the braille writer and started scribbling, playing around with it and she was not making one indentation on that paper. And it just really was the aha moment, particularity with that family of the importance of really working on hand and finger strength and finger isolation to prepare them for an earlier childhood program. You know and working on braille skills on a consistent basis every day. So that’s why many of the activities I’ll share with you today really focus on that hand and finger strength and that finger isolation. So, finger isolation typically begins to develop at an early age around 10-months-old that’s when children start pointing, isolating their fingers and pointing. But isolating fingers in sequence actually develops anywhere between the ages of one and five years. And when I say isolating and sequencing and that’s where you know take your pointers and the index, and then the middle, you know just one finger at a time as you think about you know when we use the braille writer and the total of six keys or three keys on the side. Bilateral hand use, again this is another skill that we really encourage with our younger ones as they grow older they simply need to use both hands together in a coordinated way either in a symmetrical or alternating movement. So, another reason why we try to find activities to encourage the bilateral hand use and if they have a dominate hand then we try to find ways to encourage them to use that weaker hand as well. And light finger touch again this is fairly straight forward but we want them to have control of their hands and fingers but using a gentle pressure when moving items across the surface. Okay, so all three of those areas, sensory, concept development, and fine motor skills leads into what we call pre-braille skills. Pre-braille skills lay the foundation for formal instruction for the braille code and they are needed to effectively read and write braille. But as I mentioned earlier I don’t want that to scare you or turn you away from any of these activities because the skills that they’ll develop in all of these areas whether they are braille readers or writers or not is extremely beneficial for all of our children and students. So that was a very quick background as to why I think the activities I’m going to share with you are so important and what areas we’re going to touch on but before I start sharing the activities I wanted to share a quote, oh, you got a question, Leanne.

– I have a quick question so this is a good time for me to stop you. We have a quite a few people that really would like access to the PowerPoint and I wasn’t sure if you wanted it shared with or without your notes.

– I mean they can have my notes, I’m fine.

– Okay, that’s okay, I have some people that say no, so I was just checking. I will send that out in an email right now so that they have it.

– Okay.

– Okay.

– That’ll work.

– Go for it, it’s all yours.

– All right, thank you. Okay, so before I go into the activities I wanted to share a quote I know that we always or we always say or we always hear, I don’t think outside the box or that we always say like, think outside the box, you know as we create. So, I kinda giggled when I found this quote it says, “I don’t think outside of the box, I think of what I can do with the box.” I thought this was very important for today because many of the activities do incorporate just a simple box, a shoebox. I have a room in my basement of just for items that I use for or with my families and then I also have shelves of you know recycled material, of many cans, many boxes. You know my husband’s always like, “Okay, I’m going to go throw this box out in the recycle.” Oh, no, no, no, you’re not ’cause there’s like 10 different things I can do with this box. So, I always say, “That don’t think outside of the box anymore think of what you can do with the box.” All right, so to get started this is just a list of 20 materials and then I will be able to show you over 30 activities just from these 20 materials that I have listed right here. And on this list I have a box, textures, or any fabric swatches, clothespins or chip clips, foil or any kinds of paper, vegetables and fruit, paint, tape, string, glue, paper plates, ice cube trays or muffin pans, water, turkey basters or bulb syringes, pom poms or cotton balls, tongs, ball, rubber bands, ketchup bottles, play dough, and objects of varying characteristics so that would be feathers or beads, you know sandpaper. You know whatever it is just that was a very big number 20 but there’s many things in the home that have different textures that can be used. So again, this was just a simple list of 20 materials and now I’m going to show you all of these activities that you can incorporate just from these materials that I believe are typically found within your home or maybe your neighbor or a family member has these if you don’t, and if not, they are inexpensive at a dollar store. So obviously I work inside people’s home so I don’t go and get anything expensive because I like to either be able to leave these in the home so the family can continue with the activities and especially now since I’m working virtually and I don’t know home much more longer, I have a feeling it will be for a while, working with the families through video, these are items that they have and they can put these activities together and work with their children. I do want to point out that obviously not all of these materials are necessarily child friendly so please provide the appropriate supervision with your child when providing or making these activities and I should also point out that not all of these activities, you know I did not come up with all of these activities on my own. I mean some did just from personal experience working my kids but I also got many of these ideas with coworkers or other therapists I work with and even families. Families are extremely creative because they know their, or they know their children best. So, I’ve been able to steal some activities from them as well. And I’m sure a few of them if you’re big on Pinterest you might recognize a few. And I want to remind as I go through please think about any adaptations that you could make to fit your child’s needs. So here we go and I just want to keep an eye on time. All right, so the first four activities that I’m going to share with you simply come from having a shoebox or Amazon box or whatever it is that you have, different textures or fabrics, swatches, and then clothespins or chip clips. So, the first activity I want to share is I can take a box or I call it, just we’re going to make texture cards just to put this, texture cards. So, I take a box and then I just cut squares out of the box-

– [Leanne] So you can stop sharing your screen and actually, for a moment, they’ll be able to see you better.

– Oh, okay. Is that better?

– [Leanne] Perfect.

– Okay, all right I’m wondering, okay, well okay, I’m just processing what I need to do but that’s okay. All right so take a box and cut squares, you know however big or small you’d like. I usually try and keep them the same size and then I glue a texture, that’s kinda hard to see, I glue a texture on one side of the card. So, this card I have like a soft texture, on this card I put different pom poms so it’s kind of bumpy. This card I have Easter grass. And then there’s things like sandpaper. This is a great texture, this is like a burlap, sorry, it’s kinda hard to see, a burlap. The point is you make cards, put a texture on one side and then if you have older students or want to expose them to braille you can braille the texture on the other side so then that way they can feel the braille and read the texture and then flip the card over and feel the actual swatch, the fabric that you have. That does encourage some wrist rotation so just from talking with like my OT and PT friends they always want to see our kiddos kinda work on that wrist rotation so doing so will encourage that. And as the textures are added, as you make more cards, you can play a matching and sorting game. You know so you have the card with the soft material and then you want to request them to find or match the other card that has the same concept development, the same texture, and have a little matching sorting game with them. You can also scatter the cards around the child and as the child searches tactually searches for the cards you want to include those positional terms to help with body and spacial awareness, such as you know it’s next to your left foot or it’s behind you. Another activity that you can incorporate into this is by getting clothes pins or chip clips, sometimes chip clips are easier for our kiddos because it’s a wider surface area for them to open and close. And then you can add the same textures to the chip clips or the clothes pins and you can have them match the clothes pin to the textured card. So, I have the clothes pin with the different pom poms and so you can call that whatever you want, maybe call that bumpy. And then they find the bumpy card and they can attach the matching clothes pin to the matching card. This encourages hand and finger strength and it also encourages finger isolating as they’re opening and closing the clothes pin. And then you can also when they’re doing the clothes pins you can encourage them to open and close the clothes pins with a different finger. So, it’s not always their thumb and pointer finger that opens and closes but maybe they need to use their thumb and middle finger or maybe the need to use their thumb and their pinkie to open and close. And as you do that, as you see I just was not very good with my pinkie that does encourage finger isolation and that hand and finger strength. One step further you can actually add textures to the side of a box. So, I have just a small box and I’ve added pom poms to one side, I’ve added, I’m sorry it’s kinda hard, a smooth surface on another, burlap material on the third, and then a soft fuzzy blanket on the forth. And again, you can have them match the clothes pins to the correct side that has the matching texture. And again, it’s that finger isolation concept development. If they’re not ready to match textures you can always have them just add clothes pins to the box, you know and have a line of clothes pins on the box. They don’t have to work on texture identification right now depending where they’re at and you can just keep placing clothes pins along the side and that’s still going to encourage that finger strength and then they can start counting. So maybe that a concept development that you need to work on or that they want to work on. If you don’t have a box handy you can always do the same idea with just a paper plate and you think of a pizza, you know and you add, I added six different textures to this paper plate. So, I have the soft texture, the smooth texture, a burlap, which is really hard to see with the lighting, and then the Easter grass, and the soft texture, and then the string of beads. And so, you can do the same thing as far as matching the clothes pin to the side of the pizza or paper plate, the paper plate with the texture. So those are four activities that you can do simply with textures, and a box, and clothes pins, or chip clips. Don’t forget, sometimes like I said, the chip clips are easier. I’m going to go back and share my screen real quick.

– [Leanne] I was going to say and then you had, while you’re working on sharing your screen some other suggestions where you could also have older students use it as a memory card game. One person did say, “Beware of sandpaper it can be sometimes over sensitive.” And then you might get to it but someone is curious if you have any specific materials or techniques for O&M? And I’ll just leave at that, doesn’t mean you have to rush through your presentation.

– Okay, okay, all right. There it goes. Okay, the next couple of activities that I want to talk about include some painting, a little bit of art. I actually got this idea when my kids where little they went to what they called a Vision Activity Day and it involved foil and some paint, and we can take it one step further and introduce some vegetables and fruits. So, the foil painting, I have an image on the screen, it’s actually a picture of little hand tactually exploring a piece of foil that has creases. It’s not completely flat so it’s got some edges and some creases in it. And that is exactly how we want the foil to be when we engage in foil painting. So, you can get a piece of foil and encourage the child to crumple up the foil so there some bilateral hand use, you know they make a ball of the foil and then they can unfold it. And again, we don’t want them to completely flatten it, we do want the creases, we want the little edges to it. And then they can paint on the foil. And actually, this ended up being kind of a cool activity for my kids and they still have the paper. So, with their vision they were able to see the shininess of the foil and it just gave them some tactile feedback when they engaged in the art activity next to their peers. As they’re painting you want to encourage the alternate use of their fingers being used. And if they do have some resistance to paint they can use those brushes or sponges if they don’t like to get their hands messy. And then as far as the O&M question I don’t have anything O&M specific but for little ones like in all of these activities I really stress those directional terms, you know because many of the kids I work with, you know they’re just learning their body awareness so I really stress with the parents, you know even like with their painting if they’re painting up or down, left or right and really using those positional and directional terms to help them understand their body and their special awareness. And so, you can do that with the painting as well as they’re moving their hands around the paper. Then you can also include some vegetable and fruits. So, vegetable and fruit stamping really is packed with some sensory experiences. We want to first let them explore those vegetables and fruit as a whole. Here is some concept development learning for them because you know a fruit or a vegetable as whole is different when we take the peel off or cut it into pieces, right. So, if you think about a banana as a whole with a peel it’s still a banana when you take the peel off and maybe even cut it but that’s a concept that we need to teach our children since they can’t visually see that that’s still a banana. So, there’s some concept development. But then as you cut the fruits and vegetables and after they’ve explored them they can explore the by feeling, or smelling, or maybe even tasting then they can use those pieces of fruit or vegetable to stamp. You know dip them in some paint and stamp the foil or stamp other paper if you have other paper. This will encourage some hand and finger strength as well as bilateral hand use. And you again really wanting to alternate their hands so they’re not always using their dominate hand. Okay, the next few activities would include the clothes pins again or chip clips and having some tape and some string these activities are going to focus on hand and finger strength, finger isolating, bilateral hand use, tactile perceptional, tactile discrimination and concept development. So, the first thing you can do is just make a little clothesline in your home with that string and tape. I prefer painter’s tape just because it doesn’t typically or shouldn’t ruin any finishes on the wall or on furniture. And those painting that we just talked about those foil paintings or those vegetable paintings they can hang those paintings up to show because you know every kid likes to show off their work. And again, this brings back the clothes pins and they can, you know hand and finger strength, and finger isolation to show off the work that they’re so proud that they’ve created. If not pictures there’s always something to be used. For example, if a child loves playing with dolls and they have little doll clothes they can hang those little doll clothes on the clothesline and they get the same outcome. When I teach big and small I always suggest the family to use everyday items. So sorting or folding laundry you can have the child, yep, you got another question for me?

– [Leanne] You can wait till you pause, that’s okay. It was just a quick question is, did you have a preference between acrylic paint or tempera? If you have one and then I’ll chime in as well.

– Yeah, I actually when I do the foil painting I just go get like the little finger paints, just the little tubs of finger paint that are usually pretty washable. So, I don’t like got to a Hobby Lobby store just because when I’m in people’s homes I definitely don’t want to use anything that might stain or harm anything. And so, it’s usually mini tubs too so then I can just leave it or if we spill it it’s not that much.

– [Leanne] Okay, and I was going to say tempera paint is usually washable and so if you’re worried about clothing you might want to make sure you’re using tempera paint.

– And I do, so this is an activity, the foil painting, you know I always talk to the families beforehand of course, you know I just don’t come in with paint, you know come in before. And then you know get an extra-large t-shirt or something you know to serve as a smock for them so they don’t get it on their clothes. And another good thing too is just going to the, if you are going to do that activity just buying a cheap, cheap plastic tablecloth at the local dollar store and putting it down so it can be easily thrown away when you’re done. Okay, so sorting, we were talking about big and small and so when sorting or folding laundry you can have the child sort towels or socks by size, you know have the big towels go to your left or the small towels go to your right, that’s nice like washcloths and big towels very easy to differentiate for the most part. Shoes also come in handy teaching big and small you can have them pair shoes that are big and small or same and different. Seems like every home I go into has a pile of shoes at their door so they can sit down and kinda sort their family shoes by size. Add a little fun to this activity you have that clothesline that we just talked about they can hang all of their socks, their small socks up on that clothesline. So again, just really trying to incorporate different ideas to encourage that concept development and hand and finger strength and finger isolating just combined into all these different activities. You have the clothesline you can bring out those texture cards again, you can have the child find or sort the cards by texture. You know find the rough card or find the smooth card and once they find that they can hang the requested picture up on their clothesline so you can make a little game out of that as well. Okay. All right, the next three or so activities are going to need or you will need a box, different kinds of paper, glue of some kind, and a paper plate. And so, one of the, all of these activities again I feel like this is repetitive they focus on hand finger strength, finger isolation, bilateral hand use, tactile perception, discrimination and concept development. The first activity’s just crumpling paper, you can take different weighted paper, such as foil, you know regular printer paper. Now that my kids are older we have a lot of braille paper, which is you know heavier, kinda like that card stock weight. And you can have them crumple the different papers again kinda like when they were doing that foil. It’s encouraging bilateral hand use and hand and finger strength to make some balls out of the paper. And then you can make a game out of it, remember those shoe boxes, you can put a box across the room and have them run across the room and put the paper ball in the box. You know for little ones if they tunnels or mats you can use those and kind of make an obstacle course out for them and then they can run back and crumple up another piece of paper and run back across the room and throw it in the box. When working with little ones this is a great energy burner and it incorporates some spatial and directional concepts as they’re trying to locate where the box is located and then as they come back across the room to get more paper. Once the box is filled with those paper balls you can hide objects inside that box, excuse me, and have them identify those objects by touch. So, we would want to pre-teach object characteristics such as hard, soft, rough, smooth, big, and small. And then you would include those items with those learned characteristics in the box. So, you know if you were working on rough and smooth you could hide a bunch of objects that had the rough textures or the smooth textures and hide those underneath or among those paper balls and then they kinda have to dig in there and find the requested textured object. Another activity when they crumple the paper is you can get a paper plate and some glue and just simply made a collage. I do this often with tissue paper just because tissue paper is easy to rip and again encourages bilateral hand use and some hand and finger strength. And most kids really love to rip paper, they like that sound. So tissue paper is great, magazines are also great because that’s typically easy enough for them to rip. I try to steer away from newspaper even if you can find newspapers anymore but I don’t like to use newspapers ’cause then they have all the ink on their hands. So they can rip that paper, everybody loves doin’ that and then they can crumple it and then we glue it on a paper plate and it makes a collage. If you work with kids and have light boxes, I just simply put up a white piece of paper on the light box and use the tissue paper and we make a collage out of that. Because it’s all very much see through and if they have any usable vision that’s always been pretty encouraging. So you know depending on the season you know I might make, I’m trying to think of an object or something like you could outline a star and have them use yellow and orange tissue paper on the light box and crumple up the paper and then glue it. And that star template obviously you could help guide them into that correct shape. And then like I said usually with the light box it helps them and encourages them as well. So that is another activity. Okay, the next activity I’m going to talk about really just involves water. So we know everybody typically has water at home, you would need ice cube trays or muffin pans, water, and then anything like with a bulb syringe or a turkey baster, you know something that you can stick into the water and retract water so that they can squeeze it back out. This is going to help with bilateral hand use and hand and finger strength. And the great thing about this activity is that you can do it during bath time or outside when it’s completely hot and uncomfortable outside. So your kiddo can squirt water using the turkey baster or bulb syringes into the ice cube trays or muffins pans. So maybe you might have a bowl of water or bucket off to the side and so they will fill up their turkey baster and then have to feel around you know in that muffin pan or ice cube tray and fill up those little areas and whatever you choose to use with their water. So they may have to use both hands to squeeze and that’s okay because that’s another hand or hand strengthening exercise. And I always encourage the families to have them use the less dominate hand in this activity as well. So alternate use between right and left hand so if they use their right hand and say, okay, now let’s try with your left hand. I personally like using the ice cube trays or muffin pans because they can feel the water rise in the container much quicker than if they had a larger container like a bowl or a cup. So since our children are going to be feeling around for where those openings are and whether that water is going in and filling up they’ll have more success with the smaller area than like a large bowl or a bucket. If your child or student has some usable vision they can also add some food coloring to the water if that would increase some interest. With that being said to about the smaller areas if easier they can always use cups to fill up a bowl. Again that helps with wrist rotation as they’re filling up and pouring. This is a good activity in the bathtub too ’cause they can get pretty messy. Okay, the next couple activities include tape. These are probably some of, these activities I probably like the best because they are so simple and most of the kids have really like, they just could do this for an extremely long time. And I just love it ’cause it’s just so simple, all you need is tape and paper. And I again usually use painter’s tape because it’s blue and it provides some contrast against a wall. Typically you know the walls are lighter or some kind of surface area so if our children do have some usable vision. It does give them a little bit more contrast. These activities help with finger isolation, bilateral hand use, hand strength, concept development, and the use of directional terms. So the first activity is just peeling the tape. I place different lengths of tape on a surface. This slide has an image of a toddler standing at a toddler size table and has about five or six pieces of tape taped to the surface and he’s working on peeling that tape off. You can put it on a surface like a table or you can put it on the walls, windows, doors. I usually start with smaller strips of tape and then lengthen the strip as the activity continues. Once the tap is in place you have the child peel the tape off the surface. You can start or help them by peeling one of the ends so that, you know there’s a little bit of start so they get the idea. But then as they understand the concept then you don’t have to start it off for them and the idea is then they really have to use those fingers and isolate those fingers to get that tape peeled off. You know so think about how you move your fingers when you’re trying to get a piece of tape off a surface so they would have to do that too. So that’s actually a great pre-braille skill. And then once they start peeling the tape in the longer piece of tapes then they have to start alternating their hands to peel that tape off because it’s not such a quick rip off. So you think about like if you had a balloon up on a really high string and you were trying to bring it down to you and so you put one hand on top of the other to get that balloon down. Well as they peel really long strips of tape they’re gonna have to use some bilateral hand use to get all of that tape off as well. After the child has peeled off the tape you can encourage them to crumple up the tape, create a ball. Now how many balls can you make with the tape? What if we put it all together and made one big ball? What if we made a small ball and a big ball? So there’s really so many concepts in just this one simple activity. I notice a lot of times when I do this activity with some of my kiddos once they realize that the tape is up there another great skill they start doing is tactually exploring the wall and finding it on their own. So they’re kinda trailing the wall and again we can use those directional terms to help them you know find the beginning of the tape. So it’s just another great experience or a great opportunity to include those positional terms and see their independence and trying to you know find where to start and follow that tape either horizontally or vertically to know where to start. Another thing you can do with tape is you can tape it, tape the ends of their fingers and have them pick up objects. So you can just wrap a piece of tape like inside out so it’s sticky side out of their fingers and then you can place like small scraps of paper or you know pieces of cotton ball or something down on the surface that would be easily enough for them to be picked up just by the touch of the tape. I hope that makes sense. You can alternate the use of their fingers. So again don’t always put the tape on the same finger, you wanna put it on their index finger or their middle finger, or their ring finger, or their pinkie so then they have to alternate which fingers they use to pick something up with that tape. If easier, you can always put the items in a box or on a baking sheet so that their search isn’t as frustrating for them. If they can’t tolerate tape on their fingers due to sensory you can always just dampen the ends of their fingers with water and have them pick up tape or little pieces of cotton ball with that ’cause once their fingers are wet they seem to pick up anything. Another idea with tape and I actually saw this recently is I saw a picture that somebody had taped all of their little kids like little animals figurines or like if you think like the little army figurines, you know just those little tiny plastic toys. I have seen pictures and I’m like this is great idea and what they did, the parent did they just taped all of those figurines down on a surface and so their kid had to peel the tape off to rescue all of their animals or people. So again just another great little exercise. All right, now we’re gonna move on to pom poms and cotton balls in this one we just call blow away. You can throw a couple pom poms or cotton balls down on a table and give them again that turkey baster or a bulb syringe that’s all you need for this activity. And let them have fun blowing the pom poms off the table with their turkey baster or bulb syringe. So they have to keep squeezing that bulb syringe or turkey baster, that hand and finger strength again coming into play to try to get those cotton balls off the table. For students with total vision loss or little usable vision you can put those pom poms or cotton balls on a sheet pan and have them blow from one side of the pan to the other or from the bottom to the top. And again using those directional terms so they understand and building that concept development, incorporating that special or spatial directional concepts of left, right, top, bottom, and up and down. You know move the cotton ball up, move the cotton ball down. I had found some personal experience that cat bells, I didn’t have any with me today but those little balls, cat, I call ’em cat bells, cat balls ’cause I really think that’s what they are, I think I buy ’em in the pet aisle. But they’re not very big, they’re no bigger than a cotton ball and then they have just a tiny bell inside. Those are light enough to be used in this activity and those are good for our kiddos with complete vision loss because then they can hear the movement of that little cat bell rolling back and forth or across the table. And it gives them some auditory cues as the ball or as they’re tracking it. So the idea is of this is using that bulb syringe and really encouraging some hand and finger strength as they are squeezing the turkey baster and bulb syringe to try and move those balls across the table. Keeping those pom poms nearby there’s a few more activities you can use with those. You can also use cut up sponges as I have, excuse me in a tier of an ice cube tray with cut up sponges, and pom poms, and tongs. So that’s all you need for these activities is pom poms, tongs, maybe a box, an ice cube tray or a muffin pan. So the first activity you can scatter those pom poms or other small items around the child as they’re sitting on the floor and as they find the items on the floor you can have them pick those pom poms or sponges up using a pair of tongs and placing them in another box or a container. So again they’re using tongs so they’re opening and closing their hands, that hand and finger strength. And again in this activity you could use those cat bells or cat balls for auditory cues ’cause they would be small enough that you could place those in the tongs as well. If you don’t have tongs you could use those clothes pins or chip clips, tea strainers, you know anything that kind opens and closes. As the child searching for the pom poms again you want to use those directional and spatial terms to build that concept development. You know those pom poms are on your right side, the sponges are on your left side, there’s two behind you, there’s one next to your foot. And you also want to encourage them to alternate that hand use, and if using those clothes pins again alternating that finger use. Using the tongs and pom poms or one of those other objects such as sponges you can have them pickup one item at a time and place them in the ice cube tray or the muffin pan, again filling each spot so putting that pompom in each of those slots. This helps with that spatial directional concepts that can be incorporated and you can have them fill that ice cube tray from left to right, top row first then the bottom row or have them place those items in the openings by moving up and down. So again there’s just so many concept developments that can be incorporated into this activity. And as always if the child becomes frustrated with that search, you know as we scatter things around their body we don’t want them to become frustrated we want them to stick with the activity so you can always place items in a bowl, or a bin, or a baking sheet to eliminate that frustrating and really contain where they are searching. All right, the next activity is walk the ball, this is a very simple activity all you need is a ball. You want them to walk the ball across their body, such as up their legs or maybe across their tummy, or down their arms. I have an image here of a child standing with a ball holding it about at his knee and he kinda has his fingers apart and walking it with his fingers. He’s not grasping the ball, he’s simply containing the ball with just his fingertips. When you’re giving directions or narrating what the child’s doing you want to use those directional terms to build that body awareness and concept development. You also want them to encourage the use of light touch, isolating their fingers and walking the ball. Again we don’t want them to palm the ball, we don’t want them to grasp the ball. We want them to isolate their fingers and walk the ball only with their fingers rather than moving it with their palm or whole hand. All right, now we have some more or another activity with more pom poms and cotton ball. I probably should have had this closer up with the other ones. This is just moving the pom poms or cotton balls across a surface. So this is where we’re going to really encourage that gentle touch. You can use a baking sheet or a piece of paper to provide more direction to the child as when to stop. As they’re moving the item across the page you want to use those directional terms to describe their movements. For example you’re moving it to the top of the pan or you’re moving it to the right. If you don’t have any cotton balls or pom poms you can use checkers or some other items that easily slide.

– [Leanne] For these exercises do you encourage or discourage the use of the dominate hand?

– I encourage if you can to alternate these. So you know obviously they are going to want to use their dominate hand but if possible and you know if possible, you know we want to encourage them to use their weaker hand to some degree.

– [Leanne] And do you or will you cover any that will develop a stirring or mixing skill?

– I am, we are about, I do have, we’re about three activities out of the kitchen.

– [Leanne] Okay, good.

– We’re coming up. Okay, the next couple of activities include rubber bands. So I had some rubber bands here so the first activity is all we want them to do is simply stretch their rubber band. So I am holding a rubber band with two hands and I’m just stretching it. So this is going to utilize that less dominate hand even if it’s just simply holding the rubber band with their weaker hand and their stronger hand’s the one pulling, it’s still utilizing it and it still encouraging that bilateral hand use. And you can take this one step further and encourage them to stretch the rubber band around a container. You know so they kinda, they have to use both hands and stretch it over a bowl or over a box. They can also play a game with a rubber band by, I’m going to try and describe this. So I have a rubber band around the outside kind of across my knuckles and my thumb so when I open my hand I’m opening the rubber band and so a game out of this is they can pass they have to maybe pick an object out of the box or something in nearby, they have to pick something up by keeping that rubber band on their hand and then passing it back and forth maybe to a sibling or to a parent or maybe they’re picking up objects off of the floor and placing them in a box. But again the idea is that rubber band has to stay on their hand so it encourages more of that hand and finger strength. And again you can switch it so that it’s not always on their dominate hand and encourages the weaker hand. Another hand and finger strength exercises are simply using ketchup bottles, which can be found at the dollar store. And I usually dip cotton balls in some type of like scented oil or vanilla from our kitchen cabinet and I put those in the ketchup bottles. And then most of our kiddos like smells and so when they squeeze the ketchup bottle they get a pouf of like vanilla smell or maybe it’s cinnamon. I mean you know use whatever smell they prefer and they get that smell so that’s rewarding. So the more they squeeze that ketchup bottle using both hands, bilateral hand use and strengthening those hands, they’re getting an award. They’re getting a smell that they really, really like. And we’ve actually gotten some kiddos to become more mobile, crawling and walking across the room because we’ll start close like with the vanilla smell that they really like and I’ll stay in front of them and I’ll be squeezing it, and they really like that vanilla, and then I’ll back away, and we’ve seen them start crawling, you know or walking because they want to get to that smell. So then we usually have to make sure we have a cookie or something as they get to the edge of the rim ’cause they’re obviously working for something that they really enjoy. So smell can be very encouraging. Yeah.

– [Leanne] Would you suggest using an empty ketchup bottle or that’s been washed out, or trying to find one that has nothing in it?

– I prefer using one that has nothing in it. So our local dollar stores I can buy these exact ketchup bottles, I have an image here. I mean just like kinda what you find in a restaurant, I can find those in a dollar store usually packaged in two. So two for the price of one. And then I just put like I said cotton balls or something in. Another thing you can do with the ketchup bottles to promote the same skills like if you’re doing an art project you could put glue in them and add glitter to the glue so they have some texture so when they squeeze that out, you know it’s kind of like your own little glue bottle. You could put paint in there and they could smear that around the foil or fill it up with water and when they’re in the bathtub they have their own little squirt toy. Okay, here’s some kitchen, I don’t want to leave the kitchen out because I think the kitchen provides so many opportunities and sensory experiences for our children. So stirring, I actually have something just for stirring. This promotes bilateral hand use because they’ll have to stabilize the bowl with one hand while stirring with the other. Again you can encourage the child to switch hands so both hands can get some strength training. When my daughter was little there was a song that we always sang to get her to stir. And so I hate singing but here we go, and it’s really simple but it’s the only way. And she still, she’s 15 but if we work in the kitchen and we stir she still sings it. So as she’s holding a bowl and then she’s got the wooden spoon then we just say. ♪ We stir, and we stir, and we stir ♪ ♪ We stir, and we stir, and we stir ♪ ♪ We stir, and we stir, and we stir ♪ ♪ And we stir, and we stir, and we stir, and we stop ♪ And so when she was little it was just another way to get her to understand like stop or you know keep on going. It was just another concept builder for her. And we still do it ’cause I mean we’ve done it since she was two and that’s what she just associates with the kitchen. And we made it fun ’cause she likes to sing. So there, and you know somethings are harder to stir so that encourages some more strength, you know some things are easier to stir. So you would know your child best as to what to incorporate. Dough, when you’re making something with any kind of dough, kneading dough with both hands that isolating those little fingers and they can push those little fingers into the dough. You can get out those cookie cutters or a cup and having them press down on the dough. And then those ketchup bottles, you can bring those ketchup bottles back in and you can add icing to the bottles and your child or student can ice those cookies by squeezing the icing out of those ketchup bottles. All right, some playdough activities, just a few different playdough activities. One is placing items or hiding items in the playdough. This is a great finger isolation exercise because our children have to pick that playdough apart in order to find what’s in there. I found that when my children were younger or the children I work with they have to have some type of auditory cue or else it’s really a boring activity. So those little googly eyes that you can usually find like in the arts and crafts, I hide those in playdough because when you shake, at least give them a little bit auditory and give them a little bit of encouragement to pick apart. You can also when playing with playdough you can focus on rolling or pinching. I know that that again be kinda boring for kiddos with complete vision loss so you could make activities that are a little more fun, like making a bird’s nest. So maybe they have to roll out some playdough, and then pinch the sides up of that playdough to make a nest, and then you take smaller pieces of the playdough, and roll out little balls for the eggs, and you put those in the nest. Another activity is to make a porcupine out of playdough and again it can be clay or Silly Putty whatever works. You can use short popsicle sticks, candles, or golf tees to make a porcupine. If golf tees are used I would highly suggest that you actually put the tee in and then have them push those tees down further into that playdough just because those can be sharp, sharp at the edge. And then alternate the fingers as they’re pushing those things in. So the idea is that they’re using their hands and fingers to push an item into the playdough that may give some resistance but hence building their strength. And then think of items in kitchen or in your home that can be used to play with playdough rather than buying those playdough kits that can be kind of expensive. If you have a garlic press you can put playdough in the garlic press and have them squeeze, and they’ll still kinda get those long, you know pieces out or maybe get a bumpy texture. You can put it in a hole punch and squeeze, which they might need some assistance or you use cookie cutters, or lids, you know or the edges of jars, open jars to push down and make different shapes. All right, we’re nearing the end but I have a few more activities that I just have large pictures. So this first one is a tactile walking mat, this was actually made in one of my homes. The back of this tactile walking mat is actually paper. The big wide long paper but you could also make it smaller and then they got different textures or fabrics and they duct taped that fabric onto the paper. So it was basically a walking mat with paper on the back side and different textures on the top surface. So this material actually got a child to be up and walking because he liked to explore the different textures. But the paper on the back side also gave him some auditory feedback so he really liked hearing that paper crumple when he walked across the top of that mat. Now I won’t tell you how many times they had to redo that mat since it was paper on the backside. So they had to retape it numerous times but it definitely worked and it’s something that can be put together in your home. So it was just a tactile walking mat made out of paper and taping different textures to the top. The next one is a sensory walk, it’s the same idea but it’s placing different textures on cutting boards. And you can find these cutting boards at the dollar store, are inexpensive. And so each cutting board has a different texture, kind of like if you think of stepping stones. So this image there’s a cutting board with some kind of large stones to make it bumpy and then it looks like they have kind of like the soft edge of like a mop, like a dusting mop. And then some sponges and then a smooth material so you could make each cutting boards a different texture and kind of give them some stepping stones and it’s a sensory walk. This next picture is a texture board, this is actually an object that one of my family’s made. So they created four different texture squares and they Velcroed it to a, like a side of a box, and so one of their squares has a soft texture, another one is bumpy. I think the third one looks maybe glittery. The fourth one has a bow. Can’t really tell some of the other ones, there’s a piece of foil on another. So they picked out eight different textures, again they glued it to probably like a cardboard square and then Velcroed that to a larger piece of like a, side of a cardboard box. And they made their own texture board so this helped with some texture exploration, texture identification. And then when they pulled those squares off it also gave them some resistance and helped with some hand and finger strength. Here I have pictured a bead container. This is just made out of a Lysol or you know like a wipe, a wipe, cleaner wipe can. And I wrap it with shiny mylar paper so if kiddos have any visual interest this might gain their visual attention. And then on this particular one I poked a hole on top of the lid so that they can pull a bead string through. But if they’re not able to do that just sticking beads inside the container can kinda make like a little shaker or you can put whatever you want in here. But it’s just another nice activity for younger ones nearby and that you can make simply at home with a container and a lid. This next one I have just a roller board so I make this out of, I wanna say like those S.O.S, those green scratchy pads that you use to clean dishes, I’m sorry, I don’t know the correct terminology. But they’re those rough things, they’re the rough sponges that I think you’re supposed to use to scrub your pans so that probably tells you how much I use those. But anyway I make a board out of those sponges and then you can find hair rollers at dollar stores, like a whole bag. And then the idea is that they can move those hair rollers across those sponges. It gives our kiddos some auditory feedback. And again as they’re moving you can say move it to the right, move it to the left, move it up or move it down. And it encourages some bilateral hand movement as well. Last two and we’re done. I call this one cube play, again all I do is take one of those shoe boxes I’ve gathered downstairs, I cover it in back paper, and then I hang whatever my kiddos might like. So on this particular one I have yellow loofah on one side. I hang a wind chime in the middle or I have a gold bow on the other side. So every side of the box had one particular item to encourage some reach and exploration. The idea of covering the shoe box, I’ve got it covered in black paper just to kind of eliminate any visual complexity and help them fixate on one particular object at a time. And then the last thing I have to show you is matching colors, which is that concept development. On your right I have a picture of an ice cream container that has a slat cut across the lid and it’s highlighted in yellow tape. And then inside the bucket I use different colored lids so I have green lids, I have red lids, and I have yellow lids. So even if the child is not able to or not ready to identify colors this encourages some container play. They can tactually find the slot. The lids are nice and big, they’re usually like tea, you know like the big tea lids or like, I don’t know, like your creamer lids. I’m trying’ to think like those big-

– Peanut butter lids.

– I’m sorry.

– [Leanne] Peanut butter lid.

– Yes, yes, thank you, yes. So this helps with container play. Those lids are nice and big so it helps if they are still working on some fine motor skills. And then they can simple find the opening and drop these in. As they build concept development and are able to identify colors then you can say, you know find the red lid, put the red lid in and take the red lid out. Another container is another ice cream, and I have to, I’m just gonna be really honest, these ice cream containers came from my parents, I did not eat all this ice cream. I’m just gonna put this out there. So they keep these just like I do but they’re the ones eating the ice cream. So on this container I have four openings, they’re smaller. I have them highlighted in each color so on one opening I have color green, another is yellow, the third one’s blue, and the forth one is read. These are smaller because in this particular container I use popsicle sticks and I color the edges of the popsicle sticks so I have red, yellow, green and blue popsicle sticks. And then obviously as they identify and match colors then they have to match the correct opening and drop it in. So this obviously is a little more challenging and it requires some more fine motor skills. They can also count and whatnot. And lastly these bowls, these bowls I find at the dollar store, very easy, I love these ’cause I can leave these at the home. I have a red bowl, green bowl, yellow, and blue, and so you find objects of the same colors. These are things you can leave with the family. You know all the red objects go in the red bowl, all the blue objects go in the blue bowl so it helps with that matching. And again that awareness of the blue bowls on your right, the red bowl’s on left, bringing all of those terms into play. Okay.

– [Alan] Sara, that’s awesome, thank you so much. I’m sitting here watching all this and I’m thinking about so many products that come to mind that are costly but teach the same concept and then you’re presenting concepts that I didn’t even think about. So a lot of time that you’ve spent over the years gathering all this and putting together into such useful information is really something, I appreciate that. I did not do a hard stop in the middle of the presentation you were on a roll. And then Leanne did a good job of peppering in crucial questions but I thought we’d check now with Leanne if there were any questions that we wanted to follow up with.

– Trying to see if there were any that we didn’t actually get to as we were answering many of them as you were going. So that was one thing that was actually happening as you were going through. I know you wanted to finish, did you wanna, to give your closing remarks, Sara?

– Well if, go ahead.

– I mean I feel like at the very end I was rushing ’cause I know we were limited on time. You know I just want to remind everyone to you know adapt however they see fit. And just you know, I just always tell people give yourself more credit. I never thought I was creative, I still don’t really think I am. But sometimes these ideas it’s like give yourself credit, like that was a really good idea, pass it along. Don’t feel, you know just make sure we all know about it. I think ’cause we’re always looking for activities, you know something new to share with families so.

– It’s a really creative use of common sense in a way, you know like these kinds of things don’t occur to just everybody. But you know your spot in the field is important so.

– [Sara] Thank you.

– And Sara, as you were going people were actually sharing additional ideas. So once you would say one thing someone was sharing some other ideas. So you actually had a lot of people’s little brains firing away.

– Good.

– As you were saying something someone would chime in with something else, which kind of helped people take in even more information which was great.

– Good, excellent.

– So I did did send the PowerPoint out, so that went out to everybody, and this is being recorded. Alan, do you have anything that you wanna add?

– Yeah, well and anybody can watch this once it us up on the APH YouTube page. That usually goes up within, oh, what seven days or so, Leanne, right?

– Yeah, that’s about it.

– Yeah, so they’re always will be there to either refer back to or refer a friend. So I mentioned in the beginning these webinars in this particular situation they are available to you from FamilyConnect, which is a function of the APH ConnectCenter. And basically the ConnectCenter is made up of three major informational websites. FamilyConnect clearly is designed for those who are dealing with visually impaired children. And so we curate information, and webinars, and all sorts of information like that to go up on that website. We also have a website for job seekers, aphcareerconnect.org. And then we have visionaware.org, VisionAware is curated around the needs of adults and seniors. But there is also a new landing page or calendar hub if you will that will give you links to all three of those websites and that is aphconnectcenter.org. So a link to all those pages but it’s also a calendar of events. And so we want you to know that if you are with an agency and you would like to share an event to be spread far and wide related to blindness and visual impairment check out aphconnectcenter.org and see if you think that’s a good spot for your event to be posted and we’d happy to do that for you. Also we are always looking for new and relevant information. If you feel like you are an expert in any area and would like to write a blog post or even a researched article contact us. You can get a hold of us at connectcenter.org. You could send your emails there, connectcenter.org and or call our information and referral hotline, which is 800-232-5463. And so we’d be happy to hear from you. And then lastly if there’s something we’re missing that you may not know about but you’d like to know more about let us know. That puts the, you know puts the bug in our ear to write on a particular topic. There are going to be future webinars. There’s one coming up on the 29th of this month. And we appreciate each and every one of you for attending and filter those questions for Sara or those of us who work in the ConnectCenter through to those websites or the email.