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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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tac-Tivities Using APH Products

By Kristie Smith

Last summer I browsed through one of my favorite catalogs for teaching children who have a visual impairment, American Printing House for the Blind (APH). I honestly love the items and enjoy creating activities that will help children who have visual problems understand concepts like their peers who are sighted.  I have also been fortunate to be a blogger for APH's blog, Fred’s Head.

As an educator, I list my students and then comb through the amazing items as I am looking over my IEP goals for each child.  Some of my favorite items (although they are too numerous to mention in this paragraph) are:  Tactile Town, exercise kits, All-in-One Board,  mini litebox and materials that go with it, the literacy set, The Sunshine Kit, The Game Kit, Focus in Mathematics, The Draftsmen Kit, Talking Calculator, Computation Braille cards, clocks, the Sensory Kits, and so many more.

In my first year of teaching children with a visual impairment, two of the best who have since passed away, taught me to be a better teacher. Betty Donovan and Susan Matlock at different times sat me down and said, “Stop spending your own money. APH has everything you need and more to educate and level the field of learning concepts for our students.”
My focus is to demonstrate that through fun, Tactile Town, Recipe Cards, the exercise equipment and more that educators can teach IEP goals and concepts that are creative, enjoyable and will create a long-lasting learner who will be equipped for employment in the future. The materials APH offers will help people who have a visual impairment have an enjoyable and worthwhile life--all human beings have a soul, and everyone has something to offer.  

After thirty years of teaching, I have discovered that any child, any age will learn and have long-lasting learning if they are having fun and feeling productive.  One year our school motto was, “Leave no child behind!”  That phrase rings loudly in my ears when I analyze my caseload each year.  All children can learn! They may learn slower or through very small steps, however, ALL CHILDREN CAN LEARN!

         "To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart." —Pearl S. Buck

The Game of Life Skills

“It’s all in a Day’s Work”
APH offers many creative and concept-building materials that help level the playing field of academics for our students with a visual impairment.

This entry will demonstrate how much fun and how many amazing goals and objectives can be accomplished through Tactile Town and one of my other  favorite products, “Focus in Mathematics,” as well as many other amazing items. 

The following activities may help children of all ages to understand orientation and mobility, directions, math and daily living skills using these many amazing products.

THE BANK (Math, Compensatory and Expanded Core Curriculum)

  • ·       Use the felt board and create a community. Ask the student to name the town, for example, “Adelio Town”.  Simply label and place buildings around the board with either Braille from the Braillables (APH) or the large print letters (APH).   
  • Make a spot for a library, school, bank, a pond, a grocery store and two houses.  Make a compass rose on the other small felt board naming the directions.  Ask the child to move his or her movable person from the house to the bank and then to describe to you the route he chose.
  • When the child goes to the bank, use real money (one dollar, two dimes, one nickel and one penny) Ask her to identify the money and to count it back to you.    
  • Use the blocks of ten from the “Focus in Mathematics” kit when she is counting out the dimes, one nickel and the penny.  (Hands-on will keep the child from guessing and will help her to understand the true value of each).  There is no guessing when a student uses real manipulatives once they are asked a question.  (Set the student up for success. If they are stumbling, give hints or choices and then role-play the scene again.) 
  • Use a toy register and allow the child to play banker.  Help him to count out the change and identify the coins by feeling around the outer rims of each.  Ask him to hand you .26 (26 cents), then .37 (37 cents).  On the tactile number line, identify what negative and positive numbers are and how the dollar represents 100% and that the cents are parts of the whole.  (This is a wonderful activity for recognizing wholes and parts of a whole as well as a great introduction into fractions.  (Focus in Mathematics is an exceptional to use for this objective.  
  • Use the iPad and look for apps that will identify money.  You place the bill where the window on the iPad is and it will read the amount aloud.  (Thank you, Dawn Adams, for this wonderful tip.  
  • I once watched a teacher label real food items from the grocery store with Braille.  The child and she pretended to call and set up a time for the manager to assist with the cost of the food. They role-played the entire grocery store scene with the exception of the little girl reading the Braille on the canned goods.  The child used her Talking Calculator to estimate the cost of what she could or could not purchase.  
  • Change the position where the bank is and ask the student to guide you using the compass rose on the felt board.  Once the two of you arrive at the bank, the two of you will practice writing her name from the tactual letters from APH.  Explain concepts for writing a check and other reasons for learning how to write in print.  
  • Talk about counting out dollars to make a five-dollar bill, a five-dollar bill and five ones to make a ten-dollar bill, etc. 
  • Use “The Game Kit” with the smaller board.  Roll the dice and as the child advances up the board, he must read the Braille or large print number.  If he lands on the number five, he draws five cards from the game kit index cards and selects one card.  The card may read, “Hand your teacher .36 using dimes, nickels and pennies. 
  • Practice using an ATM machine.  Use one of the Money App’s for the iPad.  
  • Take your student through the line of a bank and practice greeting the bank teller and asking questions. For example, he could ask the teller for change from a one hundred dollar bill and ask the teller to count the change aloud.  Have the child also use the Money App to check the change for himself.


  • ·       Braille or write the following problem:  “Use the child’s name” _________traveled in which direction from the bank to the restaurant.  Next, teach the child how to ask for a menu in Braille, large print or for it to be read to them.  Braille or write out a small menu and ask the student to order at the restaurant. Next, ask the child to pay for the meal.  (They may use their Talking Calculator from APH) if they understand the concept of how much money each item, tax and tip add up.  To ensure that the child understands the money exchange concept, ask them to use the base ten blocks from math kit  
  • While at the restaurant, take out the plastic fork, knife, and spoon from The Mathematics Kit (APH) as well as a paper plate.  Ask the child to spread butter onto a small cracker.  The student may add M&M’s, Chex mix and pretzels to bowl and stir the ingredients with the plastic spoon and serve a treat to someone. 
  • Mix up plastic forks and spoons and place in front of the student.  Time the child and see how quickly he or she can sort the plastic utensils.  
  • Ask your student to make a new item for the restaurant.  Simply mix M&M’s with Pretzels, and Chex Mix into a large bowl.  Melt white chocolate morsels in a saucepan and spread over the mixture in the bowl.  Spread the mix out onto wax paper and let cool.  
  • Take out the Braille Writer and paper (APH) and encourage the child to make up a name for their own restaurant.  (You can do this for them if they struggle or are too young to Braille or write and create a language experience story.) Use the Draftsmen Kit (APH) and allow him or her to illustrate what they want their restaurant to look like.  Another idea is to use the blocks from The Mathematics Kit (APH) and build a restaurant.  
  • Use the All-in-One-Board to design a new restaurant and practice left and right hand movements.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Leader Dog Summer Experience 2013

Are You Looking For Something To Do This Summer?

Are you a teenager who could use a week of fun, outdoor activity and friendship this summer? Does kayaking, rock wall climbing and tandem biking sound good to you? Would you enjoy the challenge of developing new travel skills and stretching your independence? If so, the Leader Dogs for the Blind Summer Experience was designed with you in mind.

The Summer Experience program combines outdoor camp activities with things exclusively Leader Dog—audible pedestrian GPS training and the opportunity to try-out the guide dog lifestyle. The combination will help you increase the skills you need to live independently!

The Leader Dog Summer Experience is for boys and girls ages 16 and 17 who are legally blind. The program is completely free including airfare—and everyone receives a free Kapten PLUS audible pedestrian GPS device to keep. The Leader Dog Summer Experience is scheduled for June 21—June 28, 2013, so now is the time to complete and submit an application. For more information and to start the application process, go to or call Leader Dog’s Client Services department at 888-777-5332.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Things People Say

By Donna Jodhan

Sometimes, I like to just sit back and take a short journey down memory lane.  One of my favorite journeys is to try and recall some of the funniest things that have either been said to me as a blind person or to one of my blind friends.  I am not trying to poke fun at the sighted world but rather, I am hoping that this editorial will help to educate the sighted world.  So, for better or worse, here are some of my favorite things.  

  1. When a sighted person asks me if I could fax them a Braille copy of my article.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Braille, it is made up of a series of dots.
  1. When a sighted person says to a blind person with a guide dog “Isn’t it nice that your dog is able to see!”
  1. When a sighted person comes along and tells a blind person with a cane “Is this your ski pole?”
  1. When a sighted person says to another sighted person “Isn’t it nice that your blind friend is able to walk!”
  1. When a sighted person says to me:  “I did not know that you could follow the news!”
  1. When a sighted person says:  “I did not know that blind persons could work!”

I think that by now you get the picture so I’ll end my list here. 

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your freelance writer and reporter wishing you a terrific day.

If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
(Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all)
(Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility)
(Weekly features on how to increase your success with your business ventures)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Everybody Plays! How Kids with Visual Impairments Play Sports

Everybody Plays! is a fun storybook written by Cindy Lou Aillaud and Lauren Lieberman that follows an elementary school-age child to a sports camp for children who have visual impairment, blindness, or deafblindness. Written at a 4th grade reading level, readers learn about sports and recreational physical activities that are enjoyed universally and about specific sports designed for persons with visual impairment and blindness.

The young storyteller describes how sport modifications and equipment adaptations help the campers have a blast when they learn about sports and play with new friends and coaches. Young readers learn about Paralympic sports and are encouraged to identify the Paralympic sports that the storyteller experiences while at camp.

Each sport and recreational activity has a Listen Up! page that introduces the sports novice to each sport or activity. If a reader does not need the detailed explanation of a particular activity, the print, braille, and electronic books are designed so the Listen Up! pages can be skipped.

The braille and large print versions both come with CDs. 

Monday, March 04, 2013

Reference Guide for Using VoiceOver on iOS

This useful guide defines gestures, bluetooth keyboard commands, and refreshable braille display commands for using VoiceOver on iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone. The guide was compiled by a TVI and certified O&M specialist as well as a manager of assistive technology and accessibility. 

A few of the topics covered are:
  • Bluetooth keyboard commands
  • Refreshable Braille Display commands
  • Rotor commands
  • Basic commands
  • Using various apps
  • Entering, copying, and editing text
 Many sections include tables for specific actions and the corresponding gestures or commands.

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The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

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