ABC Newsletter Winter 2015

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A Note from the DSB Child and Family Staff

Thank you for carving out some time to read this newsletter. “Carve”…get it? We hope you will find the articles helpful as you raise your blind child/ren.

Is this your first time reading our newsletter? Maybe you need more information about how we serve blind/visually impaired children in Washington State. Perhaps you have ideas about future topics of interest. And, maybe you just want to chat about what’s next for your child. If you haven’t yet connected with DSB children’s services, please contact our statewide consultants:

  • Janet George, 206-906-5530, serves Washington residents west of the Cascade Mountains.
  • Debbie Brown, 509-456-2933, serves residents east of the Cascade Mountains

In this issue:

A SCILS Experience

By Elijah McCalmont

This last summer I went to SCILS camp for the first time. The thing I liked the most about camp was going to Jack Straw and learning to tap dance. I like the tap dancing because I've never done it before and I liked hearing the rhythm of the taps. We also went on a sailboat during camp and it was so fun because we got to steer the wheel.

I also met a friend at camp. I don't normally get to meet other visually impaired kids. I think it's a good experience because you get to do things that sighted people do. I can't wait for next summer to go again!

SCILS – Summer Camp for Independent Living Skills – is a program for blind and vision impaired campers ages 9-13. Currently there are two locations where SCILS is held: In Spokane and in Seattle. Both camps focus on the Expanded Core Curriculum for example, self-care skills, recreation activities, orientation and mobility, social skills, technology. Students practice the skills they have learned all school year.

In Spokane SCILS is a weekend camp with activities such as outings where the campers take public transportation to get to their destination. SCILS Seattle is a week long day camp where participants take part in a variety of activities including making lunches and snacks to take with them on their outings.

DSB hopes to sponsor more SCILS camps in other areas so watch our website for information.

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What’s All This about UEB?

In November 2012, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) voted to adopt Unified English Braille (UEB) as an official code for the United States. The motion reads as follows: "The official braille codes for the United States will be Unified English Braille, Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision and published updates; Music Braille Code, 1997; and The IPA Braille Code, 2008."

BANA has affirmed January 4, 2016 (Louis Braille's birthday) as the date by which most phases of the transition to UEB will be completed or plans for completion will be in place.

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Reflections on Braille

By Janet George (DSB)

More than 41 years ago I was feeling very left out. My father had a “reading club” which met every Sunday morning. My brother would perch on the back of my father’s wheelchair looking over his shoulder and my sister would sit in his lap. My place was always sitting on the half wall leaning over against his shoulder. He would help each of us to read the Sunday paper according to our then reading skills. But more and more I was being left out.

More often than not, I could no longer see the print in order to read it. One day, in frustration I began to cry. My father saw my problem and suggested I ask my mother and uncle, both also vision impaired, to teach me braille. “Then,” he said, “you can bring a story to read for us”. And so I did. I spent the next 8 weeks learning the complete braille code as fast as I could. And, I was the proudest person that first Sunday I read to my family. NO, I cannot recall what that story was about, but I sure do remember how thrilled I felt to have rejoined the “reading club”.

Since then I’ve used braille through all my schooling, right through to my master’s degree. So much has changed. When in high school the only tools I had to access the general ed curriculum were: a reader (usually a family member, a classmate or a friend) a tape recorder – to record my classes or sometimes what was being read to me. A manual typewriter to produce my homework. My brailler, used mostly at home as it is so noisy and, for class notes, a slate and stylus.

Writing all that down made me smile, yes, so much has changed. Today as I sit here writing this article I have different tools to access information. A talking computer, a talking phone which I can even talk back to and ask to do things like send mail, texts, make a phone call do web searches. A scanner so I can read printed documents.

But so much has also remained the same, my braille writer, making lists I want to keep track of without having to lug around a computer or note taker, making labels for pantry goods, office files, books. My braille display which helps me to proof documents or emails I’ve written, verify information and spelling that my screen reader just doesn’t seem to pronounce correctly or to use when I’m in a meeting to follow along in documents that have been handed out to the group.

When making presentations my notes are in braille. Yes. Braille is still a very essential part of my life. I have learned that in spite of all the technology today, knowing and using braille has made me a more efficient student and employee.

Besides, all my technology may fail me because of a power outage or low battery. Braille doesn't!

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2015 DSB Employment Outcomes: A Note from the Director

Editor’s Note: At DSB, we are often asked “what kinds of work can blind people do?” Just about anything you can accommodate.

Fall is the time when we look back at the year and celebrate the successes of all of our customers who completed their Vocational Rehabilitation programs and went to work in, or kept, good jobs. This year 169 individuals are now employed in competitive jobs with benefits. Three others gained independence as homemakers in order to free up a family member to go to work, for a total of 172 successes. This is not just about numbers, but about each person who is able to take charge of their life, support their family, pay taxes, and give back to their community.

The following is a partial list of jobs and employers for this year’s specific successes. (The complete list is posted available at LINK TO PDF) The list is always exciting because it illustrates in what an unlimited range of professions individuals who are blind or visually impaired succeed. It also shows the wide variety of employers who benefit from qualified employees who are blind or visually impaired.

It is interesting that out of this year’s 172, three (3) are self-employment/ small business start-ups. Ninety-five (95) are new employment outcomes. Sixty-eight (68) are individuals who were able to the gain the skills, assistive technology, and confidence needed to keep their jobs. This includes two individuals, age 84, who now work competitively as an electrical engineer and an installation helper.

Jobs and Employers of Successful DSB customers
Job Title


Director of Business Development 2nd Sight BioScience
Software Test Engineer AAA of Washington
Social Media and Content Marketer Acronis
Content Quality Editor Amazon
Registered Nurse Auburn Medical Center
Engineeer Boeing
Child and Family Therapist Children's Home Society of Washington
City Attorney City of Mercer Island
Intepreter CTS LanguageLink
Security FPK Security and Investigations
Assitant to the Coroner Grays Harbor County Coroner's Office
Message Therapist Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa
Dispatcher Helpful Hands
Electrical Engineer Heritage Panelgraphics
Corporate Accounts Representatives Hertz
Software Engineer Indeed, Inc.
Property Manager/Owner* inside Out Property Management
Sound Engineering Technician Jack Straw Productions
Geologist King County, Washington
Heavy Equipment Sales Representative Kitsap Tractor and Equipment
Equine Instructor Langely Equine Studies
Social Security Benefits Planner NAMI Southwest Washington
Chief Executive Officer Omnitech Design, Inc.
Occupational Therapist Portland Public Schools
Special Education Teacher Portland Public Schools
Probation/Day Reporting Monitor Seattle Municipal Court
Cosmetologist* Self-Employed
Human Resources Manager Walmart Stores, Inc.
Ferry Supervisor Washington State Department of Transportation
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Washington State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Review Judge Washington State Employment Security Division
Utility Worker Yakima Legends Casino

Items with an asterisk (*) indicate self-employment.

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ToysLikeMe Shopping Guide

Tinker Bell with a cochlear implant? An American Girl Doll with a white cane? Barbie in a wheelchair? If you haven't seen these toys in your local toy store, don't worry, you're not missing anything. They just aren't there. Diversity in the toy industry really has improved quite a bit, but that diversity has yet to extend to disability. And why is that? As a community we realize how important it is for our children to play with toys that represent their lives and their experiences, and yet we still ignore the millions of children growing up with a disability.

This article has been shared with permission from Please visit to read the full article.

PARENTS CORNER: Collaboration On Many Different Levels

By Emily Coleman

My son, Eddie, was born 10 ½ years ago with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia. I learned quickly that I needed caring professionals to surround us and help us determine the best way to educate our son. I realized that without people who really knew blindness in our lives, we would be at a loss. From the beginning of his life, collaboration became not only important, but a lifeline. It also inspired me to get further involved in the field of blindness as an educator.

For the past few years, I’ve been working as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) in Eastern Washington through the WA State School for the Blind’s Outreach program. While working in multiple districts, I was able to collaborate closely with students, parents, and a variety of educators. As a parent of a child who is blind, I learned quickly that everyone brought something unique to the “table” when discussing Eddie. As a TVI, I learned that was true for all children who are blind/visually impaired (B/VI).

Last spring, I moved into the position of Outreach Director at the WA State School for the Blind (WSSB) and WA State Vision Consultant with WA Sensory Disability Services (WSDS). In this new role, I’ve been able to take collaboration to a whole new level. I’ve had the opportunity to work outside of my family, and my region, and learn from professionals around the state. It’s been a fast-paced adventure that I’ve enjoyed every day.

When I agreed to take this new position, I had to really think about the role WSSB and WSDS play and how I can best serve their missions and the students who are B/VI in our state. I obviously don’t know everything in regards to educating children who are blind…and I never will. As a parent, and as a teacher, I sought out the expertise of others and guidance through collaboration. This drive to collaborate to best serve kids is also shared by WSSB and WSDS, and so I knew that we were on the same page.

WSSB provides support to students via an on-campus program, but also supports students regionally via technology consultation, distant-education courses, online resources, professional development, contracted services, and more…including assistance with birth-through-3 services statewide. WSDS provides many of those same things, but also works in collaboration with the Deaf-Blind Project, Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss WSSB, and other agencies, including DSB.

The combined knowledge and experience in WA State is substantial, and collaborating is an effective way to serve kids and move them towards greater independence. I invite you to reach out to me as a parent, educator, or consultant if you have questions or concerns regarding your own child or a student who is B/VI. Whenever possible, I’ll be a gateway to other professionals and further expertise, through the act of collaboration.

Emily Coleman

This article was submitted by one of our readers to share her experiences with other parents. If you have a story that you would like to share, please let us know.

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What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 Plan?

Date Updated: 8/25/2015

IEP Defined

The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.

504 Plan Defined

The 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.

Subtle but Important Differences

Not all students who have disabilities require specialized instruction. For students with disabilities who do require specialized instruction, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) [1] controls the procedural requirements, and an IEP is developed. The IDEA process is more involved than that of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act [2] and requires documentation of measurable growth.

For students with disabilities who do not require specialized instruction but need the assurance that they will receive equal access to public education and services, a document is created to outline their specific accessibility requirements. Students with 504 Plans do not require specialized instruction, but, like the IEP, a 504 Plan should be updated annually to ensure that the student is receiving the most effective accommodations for his/her specific circumstances.

For more information, consult Interrelationship of IDEA and Section 504 [3].

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Crafts, Recipies, and Activities: Out With the Winter Blahs! In With the Winter Fun!

Outside the winds howl, the rains pound and the snow flutters down. Nobody really wants to be outside. It is too cold and yucky, but what to do? We’ve read the same books a thousand times already. Hmm! A perfect time to … well, make something. After all grandma and all the rest are coming over. We could make something special to give as a gift or to decorate and, yes, we could even make something delicious to serve them when they get here. Read on, we have a few suggestions. Oh dear! Everybody will get messy, but with a little preparation messes will be easy to clean up, and everybody can help with clean-up so it doesn’t fall to one person.

To avoid gooey, gluey sticky messes on the table, use an old cookie sheet as your workspace. This helps to keep supplies in a designated place so that they will be easy to find and lessens the glue mess on the table. An old shower curtain or something similar on the floor beneath the table would help to catch any fallen bits. These ideas can be used when cooking as well. Spills from the process of measuring will fall onto the cookie sheet and or, onto the shower curtain again helping with clean-up.

Whatever kinds of crafts or dishes, you and your little ones create this holiday season, enjoy and show off. Children enjoy sharing their hard work with others.

Tissue Paper Sun-catchers

Tissue Paper Sun-catchers are an easier approach to suncatchers when you don't want to worry about the mess of paint and melted beads. And, all you need are a few supplies from the craft store. Cut identical thick outlines of any shape from two pieces of construction paper to serve as the frame of the area to be filled with tissue paper squares. Attach the frame to the contact paper, then have the children fill the sticky area inside the frame with colorful pieces of tissue paper. When finished, attach the second frame. Then just hang by a string in the window for everyone to enjoy!

Tactile Strategy: Use textured paper like glitter cardstock or other scrapbook paper to serve as the suncatcher's frame. Try crumpling some of the tissue paper squares so they feel wrinkled to the touch before sticking them on. Use small pieces of colored transparency sheets or confetti to add dimension and texture variations to the suncatcher.

Ice Balls

Fill balloons with water and food coloring then leave outside to freeze. Cut off the balloons and you've got these striking frozen balls which would show up so nicely against the white snow.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole


  • 2 16-ounce cans sweet potato drained and mashed (or cook and use fresh sweet potatoes)
  • 1-1/2 cup mini marshmallows (divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup portions)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon



In a large bowl, drain the sweet potatoes and mash with a fork until they are mostly smooth. Put your clean hands into the bowl to see if they are smooth.dd one cup marshmallows, 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup orange juice, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Gently mix them together with a wooden spoon. Pour the mixture into a 1-quart casserole dish. ASK A GROWNUP TO PUT THE DISH INTO THE OVEN, set the timer for 20-25 minutes. When the timer goes off ASK AN ADULT to take it out and sprinkle the 1/2 cup marshmallows over the top. Ask an adult to return the dish to the oven. Set the timer for an additional 5-10 minutes longer. Ask an adult to take it out and turn off the oven. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from the Everything Kids cookbook.

With this popular holiday side dish, young chefs can learn the following cooking skills:

  • Use a can opener
  • Melt butter
  • Think "equivalents"
  • Drain liquids from a can
  • Measure ingredients

Notes for the grownups helping your chef:

  • Using a can opener is a useful skill that can be safely taught at home. Always wash lids before opening.
  • To help your young chef measure butter, Make 8 small slits over the paper measurements with a knife. Show the young chef how to count the notches, and then, to cut through, carefully, with a plastic table knife (NO SHARP KNIVES). Finally, peel off the paper.
  • Teach equivalents: 1/4 cup butter is the same as half a stick.
  • Melting butter in the microwave is a very quick process - usually less than 30 seconds - because butter has a low melting point. Every short block of microwaving (5- to 10- second intervals) changes the consistency of the butter, so check the progress regularly. You can always put it back for a few seconds longer.
  • Sighted cooks generally use a see-through glass or plastic measuring cup for measuring liquids and then eyeball the level. It’s easier for a blind cook to use dry measuring cups. When pouring liquids, work over a pie pan or cookie sheet to capture any spills. Pour the liquid into the cup with one hand while touching the rim of the measuring cup with the other hand. When you feel the liquid hit the top, stop. Some blind cooks transfer often-used liquids, such as vanilla or oil, into larger glass containers into which they can dip the measuring spoons.
  • To measure spices, take the cover off so the young cook can explore the size and types of openings. For most spices, it should be possible to dip the measuring spoon directly into the can or bottle and level it off.

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Upcoming Events and Information

Applications for DSB summer 2016 programs will be available in early January 2016. Please check our website for more information.

Summer programs with age groups are:

  • Youth Employment Solutions (YES) Level 1
    For ages 14-15, at Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver, WA. Exact dates unknown, but traditionally this 10 day program starts the second Sunday of July.
  • Youth Employment Solutions (YES) Level 2
    For age 16 through high school graduation, in Seattle WA. Six weeks of YES 2 traditionally runs the last week of June through the first Friday in August.
  • Bridge College Prep
    For high school graduates through age 22, at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. This five week program is scheduled for July 10 through August 12.
  • Summer Camp for Independent Living Skills (SCILS)
    For students aged 9 through 13. Seattle SCILS is held the fourth week of July; and Spokane SCILS is the second weekend of August.

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Resources for Families

Washington State Fathers’ Network

A Powerful Voice for Fathers and Families of Children with Special Needs

FREE Story eBook

Howard and the Amazing Eye Exam. This is a FREE and cute story about Howard the Hedgehog and his first eye exam. You can download the book from:

Cookbook for Blind Children

Stir it Up!: Recipes and Techniques for Young Blind Cooks. The book, in both large print and braille formats, allows sighted parents to read recipes and cooking tips with their visually impaired child.

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