Issue: 4 Term 1 2008
In this issue there is a lot of information that means you will need that second cup of
coffee while your feet are up and you are ingesting some of this information. We have
some great articles and bits and pieces that I am sure you will find interesting.
In this Newsletter:
O&M Question and answer
Autism and Vi
Accommodations and adjustments by Mike Steer, Gillian Gale and Francis Gentle
Review of the Victor Reader Stream and lots more….
Michelle Rzepecki Completed HSC 2004
1. Where did you go to school
I went to Castle Hill High School and I have Rodmonochromatism.
2. What did you find the hardest thing to cope with at school?
Well I have to wear sunglasses so that was a bit hard to stick out but once everyone knew why it never
made a difference and not being able to see the board was hard and annoying, also the numbers on the
doors were too small to read but once I memorised the school building order is was fine!!
3. How did you find the socialising aspect of school life and what sorts of problems did you
encounter if any? How did you work around any problems you encountered?
I didn’t have many problems, mainly just finding my friends, we would always sit in the same spot but
when it rained we would go inside, so I would just yell down the corridors, 'guys where are you' until
they saw me.
4. What technology did you find most useful at school?
I used a miniscope to see the board and had certain things enlarged.
5. What were those essential skills that the vision service provided that you feel that were
In high school it wasn’t as important but simply having someone there that understood and was there to
help was good. Oh and of course my teacher told me all about the Vision camps :-) which were amazing
and definitely essential to any vision impaired student!!!
6. What do you feel could have been provided that was not?
Maybe more contact between vision impaired students, I had students at my school who I didn’t know,
who also had vision impairments, its good to have some support, especially for younger students starting
7. What did you do after leaving school?
After my HSC I went and did a gap year in Germany. I needed to just take some time to be myself and
discover the world so to say, well and what better way than to send yourself to another country, by
yourself for a year!! It was the best year of my life!! I worked at the Stephan Hawking School, a school
for disabled. I worked in a boarding house with a group of 17 kids aged between 16-20, all with a range
of disabilities, most in wheelchairs. I had never done this type of work before but when you are thrown
in the deep end you just have to swim!! These kids, well most were around my age, are amazing and
even now, 2 years later, I am in close contact and many remain close friends. I lived with 3 other
flatmates who I never met before but are also some of my closest friends now. We travelled all over
Europe together. Europe has the best transport system and I found I could completely, with out a
problem find my way around. I could go on for ages about my gap year, it was simply so great, I have
already been back to visit all my kids and friends!
8. What are your plans for the future?
Well at the moment I am studying, a BA management in tourism and BA arts in International Studies, in
my second year and enjoying it, in my fourth year I will study in Chile for a year. After uni, well I'd like to
go into development tourism, setting up projects in less developed countries, tourism as an alternative
income. We'll se as it always changes!
9. What do you do now for fun?
Well I hang out with friends, just going out. I love going camping and hiking. I also used to play Goalball
for NSW. I’m also involved with GASS (German Australian Students Society). We organise an exchange
program sponsored by German Companies. I received a scholarship in yr 11 from this organisation and
now I run it, which is a heap of fun and great way to stay in contact with all the students from my
10. What technology do you use now and hope to use in the future?
I still use my miniscope at uni and whenever I need it, like reading street signs or bus numbers.
11. Where would you like to be in 10 years.
In ten years? I’m not sure I prefer to just enjoy the 'right now' but I would like to have a job that’s
making a difference and I want to travel the world, maybe I will have gotten to Africa or Asia by then!
Thanks for asking me all these questions.
** If you have an ex student who would like to tell us their story please let
me know. We would especially like to know of any HSC students from last
year to tell us how they went and what their plans are.
Calling all Vision teachers who have a KINDERGARTEN student!!
Let’s communicate and share some resources, ideas and help each other.
If you have a braille using kindergarten student email
Lyn at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s start helping each other out.
Lyn is really keen to organise a Kindergarten sharing group with anyone else who happens
to have a kindergarten student.
ORIENTATION AND MOBILITY
The O&M Agony Aunt Section
Why can’t I do the O&M for my primary school student when she is moving
around the school doing real things?
Isn’t it better for her to learn cane skills and guided travel skills when she
actually needs them?
Why do I need to do separate O&M lessons?
You have brought up an interesting topic for discussion.
As a good teacher you know that making lessons meaningful is important and this
applies to O&M just as much as it applies to anything else the student learns.
Perhaps you could consider the following:
When your student is walking to Library or Lunch or on an Excursion, she is,
hopefully, walking with her friends. This is a time when she can chat with her
friends without adult interference, learn about peer norms and have some „switch
off‟ time between activities. If you are trying to instruct her in cane or guided
travel techniques or environmental awareness at this time she can‟t do these
other things – the hidden curriculum that is so important for students with vision
impairment to access if they are to be part of their peer group
If your student is to learn good cane techniques that will ensure her safety now
and in the future, she needs to be able to focus fully on skills when they are
introduced. It is hard to learn new things and to work towards fluent use of skills
if there are too many distractions. Walking to activities as part of a class group
and socialising with your friends at the same time is a big distraction
When your student is moving between activities, you would still be addressing
her O&M program by monitoring skills she has learned in O&M lessons. If the
skills are well learned, a simple prompt can be enough for her to correct her
techniques and not be too intrusive.
An effective O&M program encompasses a range of skill areas. Some of these
were discussed in Issue 2 or “It‟s Vision Time”. It would not be possible to
address all of these areas only during incidental learning times
Keep up the good Work
From Oamer Gail Constable
Mike Steer, Gillian Gale & Frances Gentle
The Renwick Centre,
This article focuses on the special provisions necessary to promoting equality of access
for students with vision impairments when undertaking educational assessments and
tests with sighted peers in regular community school classrooms. In it we propose and
elaborate upon five categories of accommodation and develop their theme with a
discussion of when to use the accommodations. Special provision policies are
discussed and five common principles presented that underpin accommodation policies
that are intended to maximise the participation of students with vision impairments.
Assessment is, as Heinze (2000) points out, “a complex task that requires careful
planning and consideration by members of the student‟s educational team” (p. 27). It
generally provides the basis for long-term educational decisions, and it is important,
therefore, for teachers, parents, students, family members, and caregivers of children
with vision impairments to become aware of the assessment process and the several
types of accommodation that are used. Many of us in the field have for years
associated the term „accommodation‟ with the mechanism through which the focussing
apparatus of the eye adjusts to objects at different distances. However, in the context of
educational assessments the term has quite another meaning. Educational
accommodations, as Elliott, Thurlow, Ysseldyke, and Erickson (1997), have asserted,
are alterations in the way that an assessment or a test is administered, and are
provided because of a particular student need. These alterations are obviously enough,
not made in order to give a student an advantage, but to level the playing field. When
students with vision impairments use assessment accommodations, it is so that they
can show what they know, without being impeded by their disabilities. As an example,
imagine Bruce, who has Lebers Amaurosis and is working towards the same
instructional goals or standards as other students in his classroom. To participate in the
assessment, he needs either (a) an electronic braillewriter or a laptop with speech
output software to write his responses and (b) extended time to complete the test. By
his teacher providing these response and timing accommodations, Bruce (and other
students with significant disabilities) who would previously have been excluded from
classroom assessments are afforded the means to participate with their non-disabled
Educational accommodations. Accommodation policies between school systems can
vary tremendously and it is not uncommon for parents to discover that an
accommodation permitted in one school system is prohibited in another (Lehr &
Thurlow, 2003). Part of the reason for this variability is possibly due to the lack of a
good research base for identifying appropriate accommodations. A set of universally
approved educational assessment accommodations appears nowhere in the current
literature. However, most authors agree that accommodations can be organised into a
number of categories. It is the purpose of this article to focus and elaborate upon these.
Decisions. Decisions about assessment accommodations should at best be based on
an estimate by a Vision Support Teacher, as part of an Individualised Educational
program (IEP) team, of what a particular student needs in order to be provided with an
equal opportunity to show what s/he knows without the impediment of a vision
impairment. They might also be the responsibility of the school‟s Curriculum
Coordinator or the Learning Support Team Coordinator. This underscores the
importance of making sure that the educational decision-makers know the purpose of
an assessment and the skills or constructs it is trying to measure. These factors,
together with the student's needs, determine the appropriateness of specific
As Elliott et al. (1997), have pointed out, the IEP team will also have to make decisions
about the kinds of accommodation a student needs. Further, it is important that
accommodations do not compromise what the test or assessment is purporting to
measure (Gentle & Wegener, 2002). For example, should a student be permitted to use
a talking calculator during an assessment? Should the student memorise the formulae,
or should these formulae actually be provided by the examining body? If a test attempts
to measure the use of formulae to solve problems, then the IEP team might decide that
allowing a student to use a talking calculator is appropriate, should one be needed. If
this same test is also an attempt at measuring a student's ability to apply formulae in
order to derive answers, the IEP team might decide that supplying the formulae would
also be appropriate. If however, the test is an attempt at measuring a student's ability to
recall formulae and apply them to calculate correct answers through a step-by-step
process, then the team might decide that neither of these support mechanisms would
be appropriate. With regard to the types of accommodation used in external exams, in
New South Wales, the State Government‟s Department of Education and Training‟s
Board of Studies make these sorts of determinations (NSW Board of Studies, 2005).
Edgemon, Jablonski and Lloyd. (2006), have provided a useful summary of research
related to the use and usefulness of five major categories of accommodation.
Categories of accommodation. Although assessing and testing students with vision
impairment requires consideration of many types of accommodation, these generally
fall into the following five broad categories: Accommodations that are: (1) presentation-
(4) response-related, and
(5) aids-related (Jablonski, Edgemon, Wiley & Lloyd, 2005).
Because of the complex nature of accommodation provision, some of the examples in
the following sections overlap and can apply to more than one category. Each of these
five broad categories of educational accommodation is presented and discussed:
1. Presentation-related accommodations. These allow students to access test
directions or content in ways that do not require them to visually read
standard print. Alternate access technologies include electronic braillewriters,
computers plus screen enlargement with voice output software (University of
Kansas, 2005). Presentation-related accommodations can also refer to test
instructions, and sometimes they are used for all or parts of a test (Gentle &
Wegener, 2002). The following are examples of some of the sorts of
accommodations in this category:
Provision of an audio tape or compact disk
Provision of a Screen Reader - a computer application that converts text
to synthesized speech or to braille (read with an auxiliary braille display).
Screen enlargement software.
Provision of an audio amplification device - Some students may require
amplification equipment in addition to hearing aids to increase clarity.
Provision of tactile graphics - Tactile graphic images provide graphic
information through fingers instead of eyes (Gentle & Wegener, 2002).
Increased spacing between items or reduced items per page or line
Provision of the test in the student‟s preferred literacy format; whether
Braille, large print, audio or E-text. (University of Kansas, 2005; NSW
Board of Studies, 2005).
Provision of specialised braille codes – For example, the Braille Maths
Code and the Braille Music Codes
Highlighted key words or phrases in directions
Provision of cues (e.g., arrows and stop signs) on answer form
Provision of securing papers to work area with tape/magnets (Elliott et al.
2. Time-related accommodations. This type of accommodation extends the time
allowed for tests that are time-limited, or permit those giving the tests to
break its administration into several sections (Edgemon et al., 2006). The
following are examples of some of the sorts of accommodations in this
Allowing a flexible schedule
Extending the time allotted to complete the test
Allowing frequent breaks during testing
Providing frequent breaks on one subtest but if not necessary, not another
subtest (Elliott et al. 1997).
3. Setting-related accommodations. These sorts of accommodation permit
smaller or individual test administration, and other types of environmental
modifications; for example, special lighting, or the presence during the
assessment of a familiar teacher (Edgemon et al. 2006; Gentle & Wegener,
2002). The following are examples of some of the sorts of accommodations
in this category:
Administering the test individually in a separate location
Providing special lighting
Providing adaptive or special furniture
Providing special acoustics
Administering the test in a location with minimal distractions
Administering the test in a small group, study carrel, or individually (Elliott
et. al, 1997)
4. Response-related accommodations. These sorts of accommodations impact
upon the way the student records answers (Edgemon et al. 2006). For
example, a student might dictate an answer to a scribe/notetaker, use a word
processor fitted with Jaws for Windows, use a Perkins or Mountbatten
Brailler, or record answers in large print in a specially prepared test booklet.
The following are examples of some of the sorts of accommodations in this
Allowing marking of answers in booklet
Tape recording responses for later verbatim translation
Allowing use of scribe/notetaker or amanuensis (Gentle & Wegener,
2002; NSW Board of Studies, 2005).
Providing copying assistance between drafts (Elliott et al. 1997)
5. Aids-related accommodations. These sorts of accommodations involve the
use of devices during the assessment and consequently, some of the
examples in the category overlap or are duplicated by examples in the other
categories, particularly with the examples in the first (presentation-related)
category. The following are some of the sorts of accommodations in this
Magnification devices - Some students with vision impairments read
regular print materials and enlarge the print by using magnification
devices. These include eyeglass-mounted magnifiers, free standing or
handheld magnifiers, enlarged computer monitors, or computers with
screen enlargement programs. Some students also use Closed Circuit
Television (CCTV) to enlarge print and display printed material with
various image enhancements on a screen. (University of Kansas, 2005)
Large print. (LP)- LP editions of tests are required for some students with
vision impairments. A regular print test can be enlarged through
photocopying, or an electronic version of a test can be manipulated to
reformat test items and enlarge or change the font as needed. All text and
graphic materials, including labels and captions on pictures, diagrams,
maps, charts, exponential numbers, notes, and footnotes, must be
presented in at least 18-point type for students who need large print. If a
student needs a large print test edition, the test administrator must be
sure it is ordered in plenty of time to be available for the test (Gentle &
Any accommodation that a student needs that does not fit under the four
categories (Elliott et al. 1997).
When to use educational accommodations. Accommodations should be provided for
an assessment, as Elliot et al. (1997) have pointed out, when they are routinely
provided during classroom instruction. In other words, when classroom
accommodations are made so that learning is not impeded by a student's disability,
those accommodations should generally be provided during the assessment. Perhaps
the most controversial accommodation decisions involve reading tests to students and
recording student responses. When a reading test is measuring reading decoding,
providing a reader compromises what the test is measuring. However, if the purpose of
the test is to measure ability to gain understanding or to interpret written language, the
use of a reader would be appropriate. Similarly, if a student with a vision impairment is
unable to record complete thoughts in writing due to the disability, but is able to verbally
express thoughts well, then a tape recorder could be used and later transcribed for
scoring purposes, or an amanuensis might be provided at the time of the test (Gentle &
Wegener, 2002). Not all parts of a test, even within a single content area, necessarily
measure the same skill, so that it becomes important to know (a) the purpose of the test
and its parts, (b) what is to be measured, and (c) what accommodation would be
Special provisions. A major concern for Vision Support Teachers supporting senior
students has to do with where and how to make the application to Government for
special provisions. In Australia these result from Education Department policies
permitting eligible students to demonstrate their knowledge and capability in a variety of
different ways. As examples of this type of requirement, Nagel, writing in the June 2003
issue of Victoria‟s Statewide Vision Report Centre Bulletin, has reviewed modifications
to the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority‟s (VCAA) special provisions that
affect administration of the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). These can be
found at http://www.svrc.vic.edu.au/11'03.html#vcaa, while the Senior Secondary
Assessment Board of South Australia (SSABSA)‟ special provisions can be found at
http://www.ssabsa.sa.edu.au/ssabsa.htm. Special provision policies and guidelines for
the New South Wales Board of Studies may be accessed at
In addition to these types of guideline, two national special interest groups; (a) The
Round Table on Reading Materials for People with Print Disabilities has for the past
decade published a handbook entitled ‘Examination Guidelines for Students with Vision
Impairment”. (Round Table, 1995). This publication is currently being updated, and (b)
The South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment (SPEVI) have included ongoing
assessment as an important principle in their recent position paper Principles and
Standards for the Education of Children and Youth with Vision Impairments, Including
Those with Multiple Disabilities (SPEVI, 2004).
Fundamental principles. There are, according to current literature on the topic, several
common principles underlying accommodation policies that intend to maximise the
participation of students with vision impairments (Elliott et al. 1997). The most important
of these are as follows:
Base decisions on the student's needs.
Decisions about instructional accommodations must be made with the student's needs
in mind. The key question to ask is, "How are these accommodations directly linked to
the student's learning needs?"
Use a simple form indicating factors to consider when making accommodation
decisions, and document the need for accommodations. The form will help IEP
decision-makers and Learning Support Teams consider the most relevant variables
(e.g., the ways in which the student's disability is likely to interfere with performance)
rather than irrelevant considerations (e.g., which program the student is in, how well the
student is likely to perform). The form used to make decisions should be attached to the
student's IEP to provide official documentation
Arrange that the people who know the student make the decisions about
accommodations. Typically these will be teachers, parents, or guardians, or IEP team
members. In addition to being part of the decision process, parents must be made
aware of the need for assessment accommodations and any impact of their use in their
child's testing program. In some jurisdictions, readers and writers are not permitted to
be related to the student, nor to his/her teacher.
Ensure congruence between what happens during classroom instruction,
classroom testing, and school system or state assessments. The first time a
student receives an accommodation should not be on the day of a test or assessment
(Gentle & Wegener, 2002). There should be a natural flow between what occurs in
instruction and what is occurring during assessment. In some cases accommodations
provided during instruction may not be appropriate for a classroom test or for a state
assessment situation. For example, providing guided practice and prompts to assist a
student in deriving an answer may be appropriate for instruction but not during
Consider the type of test. Some Australian states and territories use norm-referenced
tests (NRT) and some use criterion-referenced tests (CRT). Other states use both.
Norm-referenced tests allow comparisons to norms developed under standardized
procedures; criterion-referenced tests assess whether or not students can do particular
tasks, but do not compare a student's performance with the performance of a
standardization group. Of the two types of test, CRTs allow greater flexibility in
Edgemon, E.A., Jablonski, B.R. & Lloyd, J.W. (2006). Large-scale assessments: A teacher‟s guide to making decisions about accommodations.
Teaching Exceptional Children, 38(3), 6-11
Elliott, J., Thurlow, M., Ysseldyke, J., & Erickson, R. (1997). Providing assessment accommodations for students with disabilities in state and district
assessments (Policy Directions No. 7). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes. Retrieved 21 March,
2006, from: http://education.umn.edu/NCEO/OnlinePubs/Policy7.html
Gentle F. & Wegener, E. (2002). Exam preparation for students with vision impairments. Paper presented at South Pacific Educators in Vision
Impairment International Conference, Gold Coast, 12-17 January 2003.
Heinze, T. (2000). Comprehensive assessment. In A.J. Koenig & M. Cay Holbrook, (Eds.). Foundations of Education. New York: AFB.
Jablonski, B., Edgemon, E.A., Wiley, A.W. & Lloyd, J.W. (2005). Large-scale testing accommodations for students with disabilities. Manuscript
submitted for publication.
Lehr, C., & Thurlow, M. (2003). Putting it all together: Including students with disabilities in assessment and accountability systems (Policy Directions
No. 16). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes. Retrieved 27 May, 2006, from:
Nagel, L. (2003). VCAA changes to special provision. SVRC Bulletin, 11. retrieved 24 March 2006 from http://www.svrc.vic.edu.au/11'03.html#vcaa,
NSW Board of Studies. (2005). Assessment, certification and examination manual. Sydney: Author.
Round Table. (1995). Examination guidelines for students with vision impairments. Sydney: Round Table on Reading Materials for People with Print
Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia, (2006). Special provisions in curriculum and assessment. Retrieved 24 March, 2006, from
SPEVI (2004). Principles and standards for the education of children and youth with vision impairments, Including those with multiple disabilities.
University of Kansas. (2005). Special Connections. Available 23 March 2006 from :
Part 2 on Autism and VI
STRATEGIES TO AID FOUR AREAS OF IMPAIRMENTS
By Marion Quigley
Train to turn body to speaker, head up, hands out of eyes.
Teach concept of „personal space‟ – head up, not leaning towards other person
(talk from where you are), hands to self. Let others set the distance.
Explain implications of speaker‟s tone of voice in relation to mood.
Practise using appropriate comments in situations warranting empathy e.g. “Are
you feeling better today?” "It must be sad to lose your pet.”
Train to approximate social curiosity. Adult to specifically model and practise
typical social conversations, questions and appropriate responses e.g. “What did
you do on the weekend? Did you have fun? I …” “What have you got for lunch?
I‟ve got …” “What music do you like? I like …”
If student shows no interest in other‟s topic teach specific “showing interest
phrases” for student to role-play/rehearse. Set up practice with peers.
Train peers to engage student in turn-taking activity or conversation. Insist on turn-
taking, not peer being „polite‟ and letting student monopolise the activity or
Allow student to indulge in idiosyncratic conversation for limited time then say
“Now it‟s my turn” or “Now I‟d like to talk about my interest.” If needed say e.g.
“Finished with vacuum cleaners. Mary‟s turn.” Can use a timer.
With turn-taking activities start training with brief turns only so waiting for turn can
be successfully achieved. As self-control and turn-taking concept becomes
accepted increase length of turn. This can be timed (audible timer) e.g. for turn
playing musical instrument or count the number of repeats of task e.g. balls thrown
Teach appropriate showing/sharing. Discourage grabbing of other‟s hand to take
object. Encourage asking for or telling “Here it is” and waiting for object to be
placed in or taken from hands.
Teach how to share interests, objects or achievements e.g. use real object in
News Box. Set up structure for relating News – Who? What? Where? When? How
did you feel?
Encourage development of relationships with peers. Generalise familiar activity
shared with adult to activity with peer in stages. First include peer in activity with
student and adult. Then phase out adult‟s involvement. Have peer use same cues.
Use appropriate peer who is patient and can understand the importance of using
the same cues and strategies.
Use social stories to teach appropriate responses in common problem contexts.
Record on tape if Braille, print or visuals ineffective.
Ensure when others leave they always inform student first to reduce sense of
insecurity and as basic courtesy.
Provide alternative activities, venues, combinations of partners for when social
interaction is overwhelming e.g. work in a quiet withdrawal area with one familiar
peer doing a favoured task.
Communication – Receptive and Expressive:
State student‟s name to cue to listen to instruction, information.
Ask student to respond to check awareness e.g. answer “yes” or action (turn head
or body to speaker). Wait for response then continue speaking.
Ask for confirmation of instruction if no response – “What did I ask?”
Train to respond in group to cue “everyone” e.g. “Everyone stop work”.
Use controlled language – short, concrete phrases, allow time between
statements for processing.
Set up predictable daily routines to reduce stress. If student has some vision use
simple, bold visual cue cards. These may be used individually, as sequenced
cards along a line or in a flip-page communication book.
If student is blind, use appropriate real objects as additional cues to assist
processing of language e.g. ball = sport, spoon = cooking, lunchbox = lunchtime,
Braille or tactile book = story time. Maybe symbolic representations (smaller
versions or remnant material) can be used on cards or in communication book, but
only if clearly understood.
Explain unavoidable variations in advance. Keep as many constant expectations
in new situation or with new people as possible. Have routines, prompts and
strategies outlined for all to follow. Use the same simple literal language.
Keep choices to a minimum. Saying “It is time for Reading.” Is less confusing than
saying, “Would you like to get your book out now?” Keep expectations clear e.g.
“First work, then play.”
For a student with severe language difficulties using songs to teach concepts and
singing instructions may help focus and processing.
Communication – Expressive:
Teach meaning of voice cues e.g. loud voice, whisper, crying, laughing, when
each is used and appropriate responses.
Student may echo intonation patterns and accents used by other people,
television, story tapes etc in inappropriate contexts. Reinforce the student using
there own “reading voice”, “playground voice” etc.
If student uses words and expressions copied from adults, check if words used are
understood. Have peers provide good language models.
Specify which words are “not for school” including song lyrics.
For pronoun reversal use person‟s name e.g. “Fred wants a drink” instead of
pronoun I or he. Alternatively try simplifying and avoiding pronoun e.g. “drink
please”, “don‟t want it”. Model a phrase student can use functionally.
To assist language to develop beyond echolalia 1.) Acknowledge attempt to
communicate, 2.) Model simple phrases that can be repeated and used
functionally, 3.) If odd words used within reasonable phrase, repeat phrase
correcting inappropriate word for child to repeat. 4.) If fixated on multiple repeated
echolalia try breaking the cycle by asking a question with a highly motivating
answer e.g. “Do you want juice?”
Restricted, Stereotypic Patterns of Behaviour:
Repetitive and self-stimulatory behaviours in an autistic child are more than a
habit. They represent a retreat into a „comfort zone‟ and are often soothing to the
child. They act as a „life preserver‟ in times of stress.
Assess school and home contexts. What could be causing/increasing stress e.g.
changes to daily routine, changes to family or friend relationships, changes to
physical environment, illness, fatigue, anxiety?
Consider a variety of ways of reducing the student‟s stress and anxiety.
Minimise the effect of change by, as far as possible, keeping the rules and
consequences consistent across settings.
Clearly map out the environment. Teach efficient Orientation and Mobility
techniques. Teach familiar routes and retrace travel in opposite direction. Identify
landmarks which are fixed indicators. Minimise movement of furniture. Re-
orientate to any new arrangement at non-rushed time.
Make the order and context of daily activities predictable to reduce anxiety. Plan
and organise for the week. Prepare student for changes e.g. explain before the
event, introduce to casual teacher before encountering in class.
Use activity sequence charts, communication books or social stories in verbal and
Reduce background noise to aid focus on relevant input.
Use Sensory Integration techniques to aid brain processing and calm student e.g.
spinning in a hammock, jumping on a mini-trampoline, bouncing on a large
„therapy ball‟, feet in a vibrating foot spa (dry).
Try Brain Gym (Kinesiology) techniques to aid brain processing, engage hands
and calm student e.g. Brain Buttons, Cook‟s Hook-ups, Cross Crawl.
Reinforce efficient use of two hands for tasks to assist with learning, playing,
moving safely, doing things for yourself, instead of eye-pressing, tapping etc.
Emphasise using hands to complete task not interrupting, losing place because of
Make use of any expressed attitude by the student to be like the other children to
explain peer‟s attitude to inappropriate behaviour.
Capitalise on student strength. Use natural skills in rote memory, preference for
repetition and patterning combined with repetitive movements e.g. bouncing on a
tramp to practise and learn number facts, spelling etc.
If student still needs to engage in his/her repetitive/self-stimulatory behaviour,
identify times/contexts where this is not appropriate (explain reasons) and when it
can be allowed. For example no eye-pressing (flapping, tapping, rapping etc)
when talking or listening to another person, eating, dressing, walking
independently, Brailling etc. Allow some „comfort time‟ in down time e.g. at lunch
break. Say “drumming is for lunch time not class time” or “rapping is for after
school”. If the student‟s behaviour is continually restricted the anxiety produced
will probably break out more dramatically, in less socially acceptable or possibly
more aggressive forms.
Hypersensitivity to Particular Sensations:
Reduce confusion created by noise from multiple sources. Allocate student to a
class with less disruptive noisy behaviours if possible. A single grade rather than
composite class doing one task at a time is easier to focus on. Have a quiet class
working environment as far as possible. During groupwork activities allow small
group containing student to use withdrawal space which can be closed off from
other groups‟ discussions.
Alternatively, if different tasks are being undertaken in the one room allow student
to use headphones to focus on a single input.
Reduce environmental noises by putting mats under chairs, closing windows when
mowing or vacuuming is being carried out nearby, replace buzzing fluorescent
Warn student if there is about to be a sudden loud noise that other students would
expect because of visual clues.
Withdraw from overly loud activities such as concerts, cheering, crowded areas on
wet days etc if student is showing signs of being distressed.
Tactile defensiveness needs to be overcome very gradually. Sticky foods, play
dough, glue, paint, sand, clay can all provoke strong aversive reaction.
Try drier versions of play dough at first. Add coconut or rice.
Use paintbrushes, rollers or stamps not finger painting.
Glue sticks or double-sided tape enable less contact with sticky surfaces. Also use
Contact and push on large pieces of interesting tactile collage material then shake
talcum powder over remaining sticky areas to allow ongoing „comfortable‟
Try using gloves for gardening, cooking, craft etc.
Tastes and Smells:
Cooking lessons can be quite overwhelming for children who have a very limited
range of foods which they tolerate because of their response to their texture,
flavour and smell sensations.
Such a student will probably need to be introduced to these experiences from the
far end of the room or maybe the next room so they can gradually adjust to the
smell first while listening to talk about what is being done.
The next step is to get closer to the food without touching or tasting it e.g. stir, use
tongs, carry a bowl full of the new food, use a blender (possibly with a switch
interface) if the noise is not an issue.
Future transitionary steps involving touch and/or smell and/or taste could include the
following: feeling the food before it is cut e.g. fruit or vegetables; picking up slices briefly
and dropping in bowl; holding non-threatening foods e.g. bread and putting on spread with
knife; washing up dishes with small remainders of new food; trying very small quantity of
new food in familiar food e.g. grated cheese in vegemite sandwich or grated carrot in
Spaghetti Bolognese or mashed banana in milk.
Kevin Frew from the NSW Goalball Association is interested in
promoting the sport in schools. You can ring him on 90063839 to
arrange a Goalball demonstration for your students and classmates or
for a free promotional DVD. They are targeting Year 9 students with
I would like to find out what scientific calculators are being used in high schools. If you are
using a calculator and you recommend it could you email me and let me know. I have had
a number of enquiries regarding calculators and would like to have some first hand
Free software for Calculators includes basic as well as scientific.
Straight from the internet
Have you recently started using Windows Vista? Are your students having
trouble navigating their way through the new setup of the operating system?
At first, it can be quite confusing. What many of you were familiar with in
Windows XP has been changed or moved to another location and that makes it
really hard to get your work done, doesn't it? Well, lucky for all of us,
there are a few things you can do to change everything back to the way it
used to be.
As I'm sure you already know, along with Vista came a whole new Start menu.
If that's the case, you can switch it back to the way it looked in XP if you
like. To do so, just right click on the Start button and choose Properties.
Make sure you're under the Start Menu tab and tick the option for Classic
Start menu. Click OK and then check out your new Start menu.
Once you switch back to the old Start menu, you can also customize it. Hit
the Customize button and you'll see all the choices you have. You can add or
remove items from your Start menu list, you can sort your items and so on and
so forth. For example, you can choose to display your favorites, display the
Run command, expand the Control Panel, use the personalized menus, etc.
A number of students really enjoy using Skype as an alternative to using MSN
and general emailing. If you are not aware you can download the program for
free, grab a microphone and you are away. Talk to anyone anywhere. Your
recipient just needs a microphone too.
Two new versions of Skype are now available.
Skype version 22.214.171.124 is now available and one place where you can download
it is at http://www.skype.com.
Some great suggestions from Julie and the team:
'Fold Cutter': This is a little plastic tool that has a tiny blade inserted inside it. It is fantastic
for cutting braille label (and contact and other labels) as it leaves the backing paper intact.
This means you can easily peel off the label. It has also made it easy for students to access
braille labels prepared by itinerants as they don't have the difficulty of trying to cut in the
correct position. The ISTV can simply pre 'cut' the label into relevant sections for the student
to peel off later. I've found it great for students to create graphs and diagrams more
independently. These items are a craft item and are generally designed for making a light cut
in card for folding. They are available from the following website:
http://www.stencilstation.com/ NOTE: They are not currently listed under the accessories on
the website but I'm sure if you email the company, you would be able to obtain them. They
cost around $4. I have purchased them several times over the past 3 years.
'Magic Dots': These are packets of gummy dots that are widely available for use in
photograph albums. We've found them extremely useful where glue doesn't work effectively
or when you don't want sticky pages! They are available in most photo processing outlets
and stores that sell photograph albums. They cost around $5.
Hope these tips are useful! ……Julie Bangura
Braillables By: Marie Porter Published and produced by: The Guild for the Blind 180 Not. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60601
STICK FIGURES (man and woman)
1. Space once, OW, o, space 3, OW, o.
2. Write e, w, r, i, space, e, w, r, i.
3. Space, dots 4-5-6, l, space 3, THE, z.
4. Space, number sign, v, space 3 times, dots 4-5-6, l.
This drawing has two figures in it - a man on the left, a woman
the right. It uses 4 lines down and 9 spaces across. The two heads
are formed with the contraction OW and the letter “o”. The arms of
both the man and woman are raised up. The man has straight legs
and turned out feet. The woman has a skirt made by using the
contraction for THE and the letter “z”. Stick figures can be used in all
kinds of drawings. They can hold flags, signs, stand on top of things-
you'll find all kinds of uses for them.
If you are using ZoomText and want some great lesson plans you might find this website
and link useful…………
Check this out: http://atto.buffalo.edu/registered/Tutorials/zoomtext/index.php
I read (and then experienced first hand) how university students are now able
to access their lectures online in an audio format. My daughter could not
attend some lectures at Newcastle Uni earlier this year and so a week later
she had her lectures up on a computer screen as an audio file. Then just a
little later I read in the Newspaper how students at a Canberra University
have just won a global inventors' competition run by Microsoft on converting
lecture notes into audio files and a system that created better web access
for blind students.
For those VIPs who are thinking of going to Uni the possibilities for
accessing lectures and lecture notes will be so much more accessible.
Bionic eye sA Bionic eye!!
Apparently AUSTRALIA is well on the way to develop the world's first bionic
eye, “with a clinical proof of concept expected within three years”, project
The bionic eye is expected to do for visually impaired people what the
Australian-developed cochlear implant, or bionic ear, did for hearing
## For those wanting to teach sighted kids braille and don’t have enough
How about Perky Duck (free software that converts computer keys into
These are coming popular with lots of students these days and
with more and more websites offering free downloadable books is
an area we have to keep aware of. Audio books in no way should
replace braille of LP books but as one of my students says ”I
have so much leisure time and after I have been MSN ing for a
for hours and done my homework I need some downtime and audio
books are great.” This student has already been through most of
the audio books in the school and at the town library. Some of
the places I have found are good for free downloadable books
Project Gutenberg eBooks can be read in any manner the reader
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com
You can download 22 of his free ebooks.
Is there anyone who actually is downloading books at the moment
and can share some of their experiences and what site they are
finding useful?? Please let me know .
Victor Reader Stream…………….
NOW here is a useful and relatively cheap piece of great technology…..
We have just purchased two Victor Reader Streams from Humanware. They are about
the size of a cigarette packet and come with numerous wizardry. Briefly it is a little
machine that can do a number of things. It is a personal recorder that can read out text
files, audio files and music and probably much more but I have not ventured much
further than that at the moment.
One of the most impressive advantages is the ability to navigate around a document. A
student is able to fast forward or backward through a document as fast as a sighted
student can do visually. The student is also able to record voice recordings on any
matter and play back later. My student regularly records her homework each lesson
and then plays it back at home.
I have been able to access a number of English texts that I have downloaded for the
student which is proving to be great.
It comes with a 256 memory card which is not really big enough when considering larger
documents and also the music you might let your student download, so I have purchased some
1GB cards and a card reader. I picked up a great reader that not only reads memory cards but is
also a hub and has 3 USB ports as well. This was around $40.
These are going to prove to be great portable devices that I will want to talk about more
in the next issue.
An exciting new educational service is now available for children who have a vision
impairment and who live in rural and remote areas of Australia!
Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) has recently extended its
services to support school- aged children who have a vision impairment. The new
expanded RIDBC Teleschool now provides services for children from birth to the end
of their schooling.
The program provides vision impairment knowledge, expertise and resources to the
family and/or school, and aims to ensure that children in regional and remote areas
receive similar quality educational services to those available within metropolitan
RIDBC Teleschool offers regular contact for families and schools through video
conferencing, phone calls, email or post. It is designed to complement local services.
Appropriate resources are mailed out, and are used as instructional material for the
video conferences which take place at a local service venue or in the family home. In
many cases the video conferencing technology support and equipment can be
provided by RIDBC.
Braille and adaptive technology instruction, as well as other core curriculum and
disability specific learning needs, are addressed through individualized programs.
RIDBC Teleschool works collaboratively with the current services and is available at
no cost to the family.
If you would like to know more about this innovative service, please visit:
Phone: Melissa McCarthy 1300 131 923 (RIDBC Teleschool Co-ordinator)
Or email: email@example.com
Working With Lorraine and Lyn
As an RIDBC Teleschool Consultant, I am currently working with two families and their
ISTV‟s Lorraine Barrett and Lyn Winter. My interactions with these two ISTV‟s is slightly
different but works well in both cases.
With Lorraine‟s student, I conduct a regular video conference with the child and his
father. RIDBC Teleschool then provides the family with a teaching package of
resources (affectionately known as „the big blue bag‟ because of the size and colour of
the package). Lorraine lets me know the child‟s interests and priorities and we work
together to determine goals to focus on. Books and toys to meet these priorities are
posted to the family with Lorraine‟s preference of braille formatting. In video
conferences the family and I work together on activities from this teaching package. I
model activities for the father, provide immediate feedback on his interactions with his
child and offer suggestions of ways to extend the activity of generalise the skills to other
With Lyn‟s student, I see the child and her guardian for monthly videoconferences. Lyn
joins in with the video conferences and is then able to provide additional support to the
family as they use the RIDBC Teleschool teaching package during the month. Lyn and I
work together to look at interests and priorities and prepare activities to promote the
outcomes. Lyn is able to use some of the materials in her teaching sessions.
Experience books are made for each student, with braille large print and tactual
graphics in each. I am able to locate information from the Renwick Library to send to
teachers and families. Other specialists, such as OT, psychologist and orthoptists etc
can be organised if children and families require further professional help. Families also
have the opportunity to visit and stay at RIDBC for specialist assessments upon
Just a quick note to let you all know of a useful hotkey I came across
last week. Maybe you know but I didn't so if you don‟t it may be useful.
For students having trouble seeing the screen and who need it enlarged
rather than using normal methods a quick zoom can be achieved by
holding down the Ctrl key while rolling the wheel on the mouse.
I am working with a VI/ASD boy in a neighbouring town re braille and we have some finger/tactile
sensitivity and discrimination issues. We have found the "I do like it" program very helpful and I have
made up quite a few smaller books based on Book 1 and book 2. The other thing that I stumbled upon
is using that plastic braille paper that use to be used a lot for doing duplicate copies of braille books (is it
called thermoform paper). Using a perkins braille machine I braille straight onto that paper and it
produces dots that are slightly more defined than the normal braille paper and it has really helped my
student. My student is quite good with remembering the dot combination for writing so we continue to do
a lot of talking about what is under his fingers. I have broken the cell up into top row, middle row and
I would be interested in hearing about any other things you hear about or find useful please.
AT-Vision Impairment Queensland Vision Service
Can I change a PDF file to a word file so a student can use it on their laptop??
With Omnipage 16 yes you can!
The latest version of the scanning software Omnipage is now out and sells for about $200. The great
new feature is the ability to convert a PDF file into a word file. One of our students who is learning braille
but not yet up to reading at the same speed as her peers has most of her work scanned and accessed
through her laptop computer and Jaws. One of the difficulties of having to scan sections of a text is the
time involved. As with a lot of texts these days they come with a CD copy of the text. These are normally
in a PDF format and therefore cannot be edited. With Omnipage 16 the text can now be converted to a
word file which eliminates the scanning process. Of course there is some editing of graphic etc but it
cuts down the scanning time enormously.
I usually like to check with the publishers that they are happy for this to be done on a one off basis.
Is there a professional and easy way to produce tactile graphics using a Piaf
The answer is Corel Draw!
If any team is using Corel Draw to design tactile graphics make sure you let me know. We are using
Corel Draw to prepare tactile graphics for students. The already prepared graphics are printed straight
onto Piaf sheets and run through a Piaf machine. We use hundreds of already prepared tactile graphics
that can be easily modified to suit the student. This not only produces professional looking graphics for
the student but also saves hours of time reproducing something that has already been produced. My
tactile graphics catalog has just been undated so now there are nearly 1000 already prepared graphics to
choose from. If you are interested they are free and I am happy to send you a copy.
Thought you may like to know that you can purchase light weight, blue coloured bell balls (approx. size of
a basket ball) from modern teaching aids. Cost is only $39.90 each!
Modern Teaching Aids PH: 1800251 497 www.teaching.com.au fax: 1800151492
You can download an order form online.
For some reason this item isn't in their catalogue. stock code: SY005 Light Bell Ball $39.95 Cheers
That’s it for this issue……….Kym
If you have any suggestions, comments or input please email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: 0408409344