Helping each other to teach a student who is blind

Seedlings LogoLate last month my Seeing Eye dog Whitney and I flew to Orlando to give a presentation at the Florida Association for the Education of Young Children conference. I’d intended on giving examples of ways to teach young children about blindness, but that all changed after we went around the room introducing ourselves.

One woman there was a teacher trainer at Head Start in Tampa. That very morning she’d been told that a three-year-old who’d just enrolled is blind. “I have no idea what to tell the teachers to do with him,” she said. “I thought coming to hear you might be a good place to start.”

Another audience member taught sign language at a nursery school that regularly has teenagers who are blind come in as volunteers. She’d come to find out if there was some way to incorporate Braille in her preschool. Another audience member had taught at a school for the blind years ago. “I came just to hear what you have to say,” she said.

And so, here’s what I had to say: forget my presentation. We need to help this Head Start woman!

Okay, not really. What I actually said was, “How about we move our chairs and sit in a circle?” Everyone there had the handout I’d put together with lists of resources and ideas to teach children about blindness that they could read on their own when they got home, so instead of talking about that we all shared ideas and resources about how to include a child who is blind into a preschool classroom.

At the end of the hour the Head Start teacher trainer walked out armed with the Braille copy of Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound that I’d brought along, and a list of names and email addresses others in the circle had come up with for her to contact for help. Most importantly, she left with reassurances from people in the room who had dealt with blindness before. “I bet you’ll be surprised at what fun this boy will be at Head Start,” the teacher who had taught at a school for the blind told her as she left. “You’ll all end up learning a lot.”


 

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