Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Swirly Mats: Bringing the World to Our Kids

Picture of the Swirly Mat Set by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

Since I am the teacher of the visually impaired, who usually has the pleasure of servicing our infants who are blind or visually impaired, I am always on the lookout for exciting new materials. Imagine my delight when I discovered a product from one of my favorite catalogs from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) called the “Swirly Mats”.

Swirly Mats come to you with a protective box and coverings. Each mat is made from plastic with floating beautiful objects.

When you first look at the Swirly Mat, you will automatically place it in front of your eyes and explore the world outside. I have watched adults and children with, or without much sight, pick up the mat and move it around their surroundings while my students who are blind love to feel of the texture of the mat.

Children will often times place the mat on the floor and begin to ‘squish’ the jelly-like fluid with the colorful beautiful shapes furthermore enhancing lower visual and pincher skills.

You will observe different types of mats for different needs. My favorite (although I love all of the mats for different reasons) is the mat for children who have cortical vision impairment (cvi). The colors that are easily identified by the processing system of the brain are the colors: yellow, red, black and white. Since children who have cvi have a visual system that will easily draw them to the colors yellow, black, white and red, the brain easily recognizes the colors (especially if a black or dark blue blanket is placed in the background behind the Swirly Mat).

Another great idea for the Swirly Mat is to place the mat on the Mini Lite Box which illuminates and enhances the high contrast colors.

Therapy makes a huge difference in a child’s quality of life especially during the early years, and when educators and parents use such wonderful items as the Swirly Mat, they are developing bridges in the brain through repetition and quality materials that will develop a child for long-lasting learning.

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