Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Deafblind preschool (at home!)

setting up a classroom for deafblind preschooler
It's back-to-school time and Mason's PT/OT are already in effect on a homebound basis through the local school district. It takes awhile to get everyone hired though, so we are still waiting on speech services and special education to begin. In the meantime I didn't want Mason to get behind so I set up a classroom for at home. But teaching the "3 Rs" isn't going to be as simple for Mason due to his vision, hearing and speech impairments (and not knowing just what he can see/hear). And believe it or not, there is only one "preschool for the deafblind" that I know of in this country and that is at Perkins School for the Blind outside Boston. Since it's across the country and not a financial option, we had to think outside the box and make his classroom with some unique adaptations.

First, we moved Mason's resonance board (made by Grandpa--it's AWESOME!! under his active-learning-style  "little room" to help him discover new things on his own. His bouncy horse (RodyMax) and spinner top are some sensory integration activities he really enjoys.

Here are some of the other centers:
Braille book corner for special needs homebound preschool
The reading corner has board books with Braille, touch and feel elements, rhythmic text and some with built-in sounds. We may add some audiobooks. The felt letters are just for tactile fun.
home classroom toys with assigned storage for deafblind child
His toy shelf has been marked with bright tape so he doesn't bump his head when rolling around. It also helps provide boundaries to the shelf. Each toy has an assigned location so he can become familiar with how to find them. I hope to soon label these locations with both text and Braille. Unfortunately the mere existence of this shelf in this room may have to be changed if we hope to accomplish any learning -- he has quickly decided this is the only center in the room that he cares about. He is such a 4 year old ;)
make your own classroom for deafblind child
The CD player and Ipad will be indispensable in helping Mason learn shapes, colors, numbers, ABCs, etc -- he relies on bright colors, clear sound and movement to put all the pieces together. Songs are great teaching tools for him and should help with many aspects of his education; however we will have to be particularly creative in how we present concepts of time - days of the week, months of the year, seasons. We are still considering some helpful approaches for that as simply knowing the rote of Monday, Tues, Wed, etc will not give him an understanding of what I am meaning by those words. Learning about the weather will involve being outside in various conditions.

using a light-up pointer to teach colors to kids with special needs
For teaching colors, along with some fun ipad videos in bright colors, this poster is useful in conjunction with a nifty light-up pointer. The colors on the pointer change, so I can point to the color it is as it changes and name it. The bright light holds his attention (but not as much as the toy shelf!). We have another poster for parts of the body, ABCs, etc and hope we can reinforce those concepts with sensory play as well.

communication + speech ideas with Ipad, Talk Bar, and Abilipad with bluetooth keyboard
We want Mason to become familiar with letters, both in print and in Braille. Now that he tolerates some play with his hands, he is a bit less defensive when feeling the bumps of Braille (it will take a lot of work though). To help, we got him some Braille magnet letters to explore, and we found a bluetooth keyboard that works with his Ipad and labeled the keys in oversized type and Braille. On his Ipad we installed Abilipad, and turned on the text to speech function. It names each letter as he pushes any button which he finds to be great fun (he loves hearing silly sounds, and the TTS voice qualifies). Sometimes I sit with him and talk to him using it and he listens to it spell words as he feels my fingers type. It may take years and years or it may never "sink in" but at least we want to expose him to one method of communication that would allow him to "talk" most easily with the general public--typing on a regular keyboard!

Using a lightpad and manipulatives to teach numbers to kids with low vision
Mason's light pad should be very useful in helping to teach counting, sorting, shapes, colors, etc.
shapes center in deafblind preschool
 Mason got a very cool "Talk Bar" for his birthday from Grandma and Papa. For now, we added shapes and are using it in conjunction with shape songs in a flipbook and on CD. He likes to hear the loud echo on the talk bar when the shape is named when he touches it.
We have some fun for therapists in the room also - play dough, hand toys, speech devices, sequencers and switches, etc. We aren't working on everything in the room all at once. It will take a long time to teach each concept. So for now we are just planning for the future, what we hope he will eventually learn, and starting at the beginning. We want to teach him these in an environment he feels safe so he can begin to thrive and learn to trust ... ultimately, in the One who made Him!


  1. This is such an awesome enviroment for him to learn. Wow! this little fellow has come a looooog way. Please hug that little preschooler for me!


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