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    Presented by Jennifer Urosevic and Lee-Anne Cross, Texas Focus Conference, June 2003.Use personal judgment and close supervision to ensure childs safety when using these activities.

    CREATING EDUCATIONAL TOYS ANDACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN WHO ARE BLIND

    OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED

    JENNIFER UROSEVICORIENTATION AND MOBILITY INSTRUCTOR

    EARLY INTERVENTION SPECIALIST

    CANADIAN NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR THEBLIND

    LEE-ANNE CROSSEARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATOR

    EARLY INTERVENTION SPECIALISTCANADIAN NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR THE

    BLIND

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    Presented by Jennifer Urosevic and Lee-Anne Cross, Texas Focus Conference, June 2003.Use personal judgment and close supervision to ensure childs safety when using these activities.

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    Presented by Jennifer Urosevic and Lee-Anne Cross, Texas Focus Conference, June 2003.Use personal judgment and close supervision to ensure childs safety when using these activities.

    INTRODUCTIONConcept development and sensory awareness begin in infancy and continueto develop throughout a childs life. They are intertwined in every part ofones life, whether as a preschooler learning left from right, as a childlearning Braille, or as a teenager learning to use cardinal directions. When

    these skills are continuously reinforced in all aspects of a childs life, andthroughout daily routines, the child will ultimately gain greater independence.

    In our fast-paced society, it is tempting to search for the perfect toy whichwill teach children, while overlooking the many opportunities and tools whichexist within our own homes and communities. The benefits of usinghousehold items and daily routines are many.

    We need to provide activities and opportunities which are rich, varied, and

    which help to develop concepts and life skills. It is easy to begin to searchfor the ideal toy, flashy and bright, which will teach these skills. Andcertainly, these types of toys do have a place in a childs play. However, weneed to question which type of activity the child will learn more from: anelectronic toy which has only hard plastic textures, with sounds which arenot meaningful except within the context of that toy, or household objectswhich the child will experience throughout daily activities.

    For example, an electronic toy can teach a child to sort shapes, with soundswhich correspond to a picture of an animal on each shape. These pictures

    or plastic shapes of animals are likely meaningless to a blind or visuallyimpaired child, and thus the sounds may be meaningless too. Over-reliance on toys to develop concepts may lead to the risk of developingempty vocabulary and over-simplified concepts. In contrast, the child coulduse a cutlery tray and cutlery to sort; the sounds will be familiar, the shapesare more interesting and give more auditory feedback, the child can matchas well as sort, count, and create sets (sequencing and pre-math.) The childmay easily transfer this shape sorting to a functional task of setting the table.This activity could also involve a daily routine of washing and drying dishes,

    and setting the table. Differences in size and shape of utensils may also bediscussed. The activity of sorting shapes thus becomes a life skill as well.

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    Presented by Jennifer Urosevic and Lee-Anne Cross, Texas Focus Conference, June 2003.Use personal judgment and close supervision to ensure childs safety when using these activities.

    Use of household objects is more likely to be appropriate and respectful of achilds culture and circumstances. Some cultures continue to live a simplelifestyle, with an absence of modern technology. Families with lowerincomes may feel pressure to spend money on the latest and greatestelectronic toy if we inadvertently give them the impression that this is what

    their child needs. Sometimes the very fact that we, as professionals, areusing a particular toy conveys a message that this is the best item to use.We need to be aware of the values and resources of each family. Use oftheir own household items and routines makes this easy and effective.

    Families are now living extremely complicated lives, filled with manydemands on their time and resources. Teaching through the use of dailyroutines allows learning opportunities to occur on a consistent and frequentbasis. Transfer of skills from play situations to life skills will also occur more

    smoothly. And finally, using homemade materials is cost effective andenvironmentally friendly.

    Professionals and parents of children who are blind or visually impairedcontinually seek new opportunities to teach and reinforce concepts andsensory skills to children. This document is intended to provide parents andprofessionals with hands-on activities and resources to enhance thedevelopment of concepts and sensory skills by using tools that are easilyavailable. Toys and activities that will be described are homemade usinginexpensive and accessible items. The advantages of using real objects (as

    opposed to toy representations) are many, as are the advantages ofteaching through daily routines and opportunities.

    We have drawn heavily on the approaches of Maria Montessori and LilliNielsen in the process of collecting the activities contained in this book.

    This collection is merely a beginning: we have included a sampling of ideaswhich we believe to be most useful. There are an unlimited number ofactivities to be found or created. We have chosen a binder format so that

    you can easily add new activities to this collection.

    Be creative, be imaginative, be safe and have fun!

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    Presented by Jennifer Urosevic and Lee-Anne Cross, Texas Focus Conference, June 2003.Use personal judgment and close supervision to ensure childs safety when using these activities.

    THE MONTESSORI APPROACHThe Montessori approach to early childhood education makes use of itemswhich promote life skills as well as skills in all developmental areas.Montessori activities are hands on tasks which provide a solid groundingfor later abstractions. Because of the strong foundation laid, these more

    complex tasks are more fully understood and are not carried out as mererote operations. Materials developed within the Montessori approach aresimple, and often made of natural materials which are rich in sensoryfeatures.

    The underlying principle in Montessori theory is that the learning capacity ofa young child is fundamentally different from that of an adult. The differenceis not merely the quantity that can be learned: unlike the adult the childappears able simply to absorb, without effort, through participating in an

    activity. The young child has an absorbent mind, which lasts until the childis approximately six years of age.

    The first phase of this absorbent mind period is from birth to three years;the Montessori theory emphasizes that this is the most formative time in achilds development. During this phase the child absorbs all availableimpressions in detail, and each impression is instantly incarnated into, andsuperimposed upon, all previous ones. The child responds most to humanstimuli, especially the human voice.

    Utilizing the surroundings as substance to absorb, the early absorbentmind helps create, at about age three, the childs basic human abilities.

    In the second phase of the childs development, from age three to six, theabsorbent mind continues to function but now appears to be more specific.The mind is focused on certain impressions gained through intentionalinteraction with the material as well as human environment. These newexperiences integrate the abilities earlier created.

    The Montessori method always starts with the concrete and graduallybuilds up to the abstract. For example, a child may begin by grouping andcounting beads, and then progress to understanding literal and materialsense, and what is meant by adding quantities, before proceeding to workwith numbers themselves.

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    Presented by Jennifer Urosevic and Lee-Anne Cross, Texas Focus Conference, June 2003.Use personal judgment and close supervision to ensure childs safety when using these activities.

    Maria Montessori had one aim: to assist the childs natural development.The end result of this development would be a self-sufficient, well-adjustedadult. Therefore, any assistance we offer to the childs development must,by definition, foster independence and self-sufficiency.

    The Montessori approach fosters independence in two ways. First, itprovides freedom and independence in learning. Second, it helps the childacquire tools for living: that is, the skills and abilities which give a personchoices in life and which make one free from dependence on others.

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    Presented by Jennifer Urosevic and Lee-Anne Cross, Texas Focus Conference, June 2003.Use personal judgment and close supervision to ensure childs safety when using these activities.

    LILLI NIELSENS ACTIVE LEARNING APPROACHLilli Nielsen is a world-renowned educator of children who have visualimpairment in addition to multiple disabilities. She has published numerousbooks, lectured all over the world, and completed scientific research onspatial relations in congenitally blind infants. Lilli Nielsen has developed an

    Active Learning Approach which emphasizes the use of household itemsfor sensory stimulation and concept development.

    Lillie Nielsen has stated that children who are at very young developmentallevels cannot be trained or taught. If we provide too much direction, andtoo much hand-over-hand assistance, we m