Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Educating and Including Classmates in a Mainstream Classroom Setting

liam walking with cane next to girlLast year my son started all-day Kindergarten  in a public mainstream classroom.  I was (and still am) a huge advocate for inclusion for my son Liam who is deafblind.   One of my biggest hopes and goals for inclusion was all about the "social".  I wanted Liam to feel like he belonged and for him to make friends, for him to be a "kindergartner" and to be included.   Of course I wanted this to be done in a way that makes sense for him and is appropriate, while supporting his unique educational and communication needs.    Last year went very well for our first year and this year is even more amazing.
 
I wanted Liam to have friends.  I realized that, even though kids may want to play with Liam, they wouldn't necessarily know how.  I knew his classmates would have questions; I wanted to encourage them to ask those questions.  I created a book called the "Meet Liam Book".  It is a book that includes real-life pictures of Liam.  It answered "real-life" questions kids had asked me about him before.  Prior to the school year starting, I talked with Liam's teacher to see if I could come in to read the "Liam Book" sometime during the first week of school.  She was very accommodating and invited me to come read the book with to the class.  (I also read to other classrooms in the school that requested it).  It was great!  I was able to read the book, answer any further questions, talk about ways the students can approach Liam, talk to Liam, be his friend, support him, etc.  The students were so excited and sweet.  Liam is a well-loved little boy. He has many friends at school that he loves to be with.  Liam is learning to be a friend right along with them.  
 
I feel that it is important to educate children and allow them to ask questions about students who may be different than what they are used to.  The whole theme of the Liam Book is "using questions to help us be a friend".    I discovered that once his peers learned why he uses a cane, or why he makes those noises, or how he talks with his hands they accepted those things and most importantly accepted my Liam for who he is.  
 

How to Create Your Own "All About _________ Book"

First, you need to come up with your own questions you feel kids may have about your child.  It is also important to mention things that are important to and for your child, things that would help support your child, and ways to communicate with your child.  I originally got the idea for this book from Person Centered Thinking-The ONE PAGE.  I wanted to create a ONE PAGE that Liam's peers would understand and enjoy.  That inspired the idea of  a children's book.  smiley
 
I created my book using Shutterfly.  Most photo places online have options to make books fairly inexpensively (if you watch for coupons:).  My state's Family Support program helped fund my books.  I made a large one to keep at home; I used that one for when I read to classrooms.  I made a couple of smaller versions for the classroom teacher to keep in the class so students could read it and I also made one for church.

Page titles:

  1. This is Liam
  2. Why can't Liam see?  Why doesn't he wear glasses to help him?
  3. Liam enjoys...
  4. Why does he touch everything?
  5. Why does he walk with that stick?
  6. Why does he make those noises?
  7. How does Liam talk?
  8. How does Liam read?
  9. How can I be Liam's friend?
  10. Liam's family
meet liam

Meet Liam

Questions: Using Questions
to help us be a friend.

Why does he walk with that stick?

When Liam is at home he does not need anyone to help him walk around. He knows his way around the house, it is familiar to him. He can even run around the house but we just need to make sure that we keep toys off of the floor so he doesn't trip on them!
 
When Liam is at a new place that he doesn't know, he needs to walk very carefully so he doesn't bump into anything. Liam's stick is called a CANE. It helps him walk my himself. He holds the cane out in front of him so that the cane will help him feel what's ahead of him so he won't bump into it. It would be helpful to Liam to help keep things picked up where he walks so he doesn't trip. It's important to Liam not to move furniture so he can learn to move around without running into things.
why does he walk with that stick
this is liam
This is Liam. Liam loves going to school. He loves to read books. He loves to play in PE class and recess. Liam likes his teachers and he really likes to meet new friends. He likes puzzles and to jump and play with toys. Liam is deaf and blind , which means he can't see and he can't hear.
 
This is a book that answers QUESTIONS that other kids have asked about Liam. QUESTIONS are good! QUESTIONS help us learn more about people and teach us to be their friends!

How does Liam talk?

Liams talks by using his hands instead of his voice. Liam uses American Sign Language. Liam has a cool way to FEEL what the other person is signing since he can't see what they are signing.  Liam puts his hands on top of the persons hands he is talking with; that way he knows what they are signing! This is called TACTILE SIGNING.
how does liam talk?
why can't liam see? why doesn't he wear glasses to help him see?

Why can't Liam see? Why doesn't he wear glasses to help him see?

When Liam was born he could hear and see. When Liam was little he got really sick with Meningitis and had to stay in the hospital a long time. He is healthy now but he can't see or hear anything anymore. Even if his eyes are open, he can't see what things look like - like you and I can. He can see if it is light or dark out. And he can sometimes see if people move in front of him. Liam does not wear glasses because they will not help him to see.

How does Liam read?

Liam is learning how to read. He is learning something called braille. Braille uses dots that he can feel. The dots make different patterns that represent each letter of the alphabet. Liam feels the pictures in his books. They aren't like pictures we have in our books that we see with our eyes; they are the kind he can feel!

For example: If the story was talking about a penny, it would have a real penny on the page he can feel. If the story talked about a rock, it would have a rock he could feel on the page.

Liam's name in braille - how does liam read?
liam enjoys
Shut your eyes. That's what it is like to be blind. Now try plugging your ears too. You can still hear some things but Liam can't hear any sound. You can open your eyes now and unplug your ears.
 
Think about what it would be like to do your favoirte things with your eyes shut and ears plugged. Liam doesn't watch TV - he can't see it or hear it. He doesn't talk on the phone; he can't hear the person calling him. Even though there are some of things he can't do, there are LOTS of things he can do!!

How can I be Liam's friend?

Let Liam know you want to talk to him by touching his arm gently. He might put his hand out to you to let you know he is ready to talk with you!
Let Liam feel your identifier whenever you greet him. That could be your ring, or bracelet, or watch! This is how he will know it is you!
Liam would love it if you learned a new sign to sign with him! That would be a nice friend!
You can be Liam's friend by asking him to play with you.
Liam loves to meet new friends. He likes to give hugs to his friends. Sometimes he also would like you to give him a "high five". You could help take Liam's hand and guide him around the room so he doesn't bump into things.

Liam loves to read books and play puzzles with his friends.

how can i be liam's friend?
why does he touch everything?

Why does he touch everything?

Liam feels everything with his hands because that is the way he sees things and knows where things are. He SEES with his HANDS. One way for Liam to know you are near him is to gently tap his arm. He may put his hands out to you... that means he wants to talk with you! He may feel your hands or your wrists to see if you are wearing a ring or bracelet or a watch; those things are called identifiers. Your identifier is how Liam will know who you are.

 

For more ideas about inclusion, see also Supporting and Encouraging Friendships

 

mainstream classroom collage


 

Comments

A Success Story for Inclusion

Posted by sgrubb

Loved this post!

Posted by Kristie Smith

Excellent text

Posted by Mišo

Wow

Posted by Lelan Miller

Love this idea!

Posted by AJacobs11

What an inspiring post!

Posted by AMhank

Oh, yes, the "one page sheets

Posted by AMhank

Posted on January 19, 2016
Updated on: February 7, 2018

Previous comments for Educating and Including Classmates in a Mainstream Classroom Setting

AMhank commented on April 29, 2016

Oh, yes, the "one page sheets" are great!  I will coordinate getting those made with the special education teachers.

I love the idea of a video introduction for Middle and High School.  The kids could even be part of the making of it!

I look forward to seeing more of your posts, your ideas and watching Liam grow and progress.

Liamsmom commented on April 29, 2016

I have to say, your response made me smile.  I too have felt that "fire" to make a change and advocate for my son...I know it all too well:)  I love that your students have someone to advocate for them and give them the supports they need! :)  I love the idea of an 'all about book' for all of your students--AWESOME! We would love to see pictures if you can!!!

Another helpful thing I have done is using Person Centered Thinkings the "One Page" to give to ALL staff (teachers, principals, etc...) It helps introduce Liam: all his likes, interests, what people admire about him etc...then it also briefly states supports he needs and things that are important to him.  I want people to see Liam as a child first and then also be given tools and supports to be able to interact with him, help, etc... 

So, Middle-School/Highschool....
I probably will be pushing for ASL class to be available as a world Language for starters so that his classmates have the opportunity to learn his language and communicate with him.  I will try to help start ASL and Braille afterschool clubs.   I will also probably come in and speak to the classrooms again (as long as teachers are still willing:)  and have Liam help. Instead of a book maybe a video?  Kids are still going to have questions about Liam and I want them to not be afraid to ask and I want their questions answered!  Most students will want to include Liam and be a friend but just need to be taught and need some support.  I would also be willing to do the same thing for the staff as he will have MANY more teachers.    

AMhank commented on April 29, 2016

What an inspiring post!  Thank you so much for sharing.  I am a former special education teacher and am currently a TVI in training from Montana.  

After I read what you had written, it made me reflect on an IEP meeting that I was just part of for visually impaired third grade little girl.  A book like this about her would have been helpful for the adults in the meeting!  I say that with a bit of a giggle, but also with some seriousness.  As sgrubb stated in her response, the questions about, "why does she need this equipment?", "why does it cost so much?", "why do we need to pay for another specialist (Orientation & Mobility and Pre-Braille skills were added to her IEP this year)?"

I left the meeting sad and disheartened, but it also lit a bit of a fire under me to do what I can to make things turn around in this school district.....I am going to make sure that everyone of the elementary kids that I am working with have an "All About _____ Book," to share with their classmates, teachers and specialists next year!  

Do you have any thoughts about how you will approach this same process as Liam enters Middle School and High School?

Liamsmom commented on April 28, 2016

Thank you for your kind and encouraging words!  I wish you all the best with obtaining your new  degree!  What an opportunity to make a difference. (And, not that I am biased or anything, but you will get to work with some pretty amazing children!:)

-Sandy  (Liam's mom)

AJacobs11 commented on April 27, 2016

Liam's Mom...

I have just become familiar with your posts and have been searching around to find and read more!  I have been a first grade general education teacher for many years and I am in the process of obtaining my degree to teach students with visual impairments.  I am absolutely thrilled to see alll the wonderful ways that you are supporting Liam! (and his classmates!)  

I believe that you are an incredible resource to other young families searching for ways to make the world accessible to their young visually impaired children.  

I look forward to following you and Liam in the future.  I also look forward to sharing many of your posts with future families that I will be supporting.  You have great ideas regarding braille-rich environments and how to make braille accessible for Liam.

I also love this idea of creating a resource where other students can become more familiar with Liam and his strengths and needs as a student but also a friend.  Making sure other students understand Liam is a great way to give them immediate access to each other.  

I will absolute remember this idea moving forward and share it with other families and school staff members!

Lelan Miller commented on April 2, 2016

All of your posts are amazing. I teach O&M to the DeafBlind in Texas and find a lot of your material to be amazing resources. I wish I could meet Liam someday. Lelan

Liamsmom commented on January 20, 2016

Funny you should mention the cost of special education... That topic came up when I was talking to someone recently. And I was thinking that Liam is one expensive little guy. And I am thankful that we live in the country we live in and that he gets all the supports that he needs to help him succeed!  :)

Mišo commented on January 20, 2016

This post is amazing. Regards from Serbia

Kristie Smith commented on January 20, 2016

I love love love this post!!!! Thank you for sharing this amazing family's story!!!!

sgrubb commented on January 20, 2016

As usual I am awe-inspired by what Liamsmom and his teachers are doing for Liam.  He is a success story for inclusion, special education and partnerships between the home and the school.  If that is alright I would like to share this blog with ___ City School District and our local BOCES.  One hears so much about "how expensive" special education is.  "Do we need to offer so many services?"  "why must they be mainstreamed."  Liam shows us all that everything that is done for him, is repaid 100 fold by what he is achieving.