Thursday, 9 May 2013

The three Rs

Today I thought I'd share some of the resources we've found helpful for Ethan to use at home. Ethan has a very enquiring, sponge like mind and he often asks me questions I don't know the answer to (mostly Geography and Science based questions!), so anything that helps him access the information he wants and further his learning is invaluable.

Ethan learning about Vikings
One great resource has been Living Paintings they provide "A FREE library of Touch to See books bringing to life the visual world for blind and partially sighted people." They make raised versions of pictures that can be felt. Each book or resource pack comes with audio descriptions which direct the fingertips across the raised pictures, describing what ca be felt. The audio commentary tells the story of the image being shown and brings it to life. As well as fiction they provide factual resource packs, Ethan has particularly enjoyed these. Each pack comes in a box with a number of raised pictures relating to the particular topic, audio cds, a copy of the audio script and coloured images of the raised images. The descriptions of the pictures is always very clear and the scripts giving the information are always interesting. There has been a great selection of narrators - Timothy Spall was the most recent one we had on the Explore the Seashore pack! When you have finished with the pack you simply stick on the pre-printed label provided and pop it in the post - easy peasy!!

We have used Living Paintings since Ethan was small - using their picture books - and will continue to use it as Ethan gets older. They have a great range of resources for all ages and really are a great charity. Even if you don't need to uses their resources - go and check out their website on the link above - they are also on Twitter @LivingPaintings.

Another free resource we have been able to make use of is Clear Vision who are a UK postal lending library of mainstream children's books with added braille. The books provided have clear brailled sheets inserted in the books meaning Ethan is able to read them alongside a sighted reader. They provide books with Grade 1 and Grade 2 braille. Clear Vision would also be a god resource for a visually impaired adult wanting to read a picture book to their children. Send you six books to begin with and you can swap them 3 at a time. Again, as with Livivng Paintings, you are provided with a pre-addressed label and it is simply a case of putting the books in the envelope provided ad popping them in the post. As Ethan is now a fluent Grade 2 braille reader and is getting ready for longer books, we are starting to move away from Clear Vision and he has now joined the RNIB library. Clear Vision has been a really useful resource and we have been very grateful for the service they provide.

As we have only just joined the RNIB library, I'm not going to say much about it now and will blog about it at a later date!

A resource I'm afraid others won't have access to is Ethan's LSA at school (although hopefully people will have their own version of her!) who has been excellent at brailling up copies of Beast Quest and Mr Gum books for Ethan to read - she is brilliant!


Story Writing
Ethan has the classic Perkins Brailler to do his writing on. For those of you who haven't come across one before - it's a bit like an old fashioned typewriter! It has six keys for making the various braille notations. We were given ours via the RNIB (I think!) Ethan's machine is a reconditioned second hand one that someone else no longer needed. It was donated by the previous owner, and as Ethan will be a lifelong brailler it will get a lot of use! As with everything made specifically for those with an additional need, Braillers aren't cheap (approx £600) so we were very pleased to be given one! 

The next step for Ethan will be to get a BrailleNote - these are basically Braille computers. Ethan's VI support are in the process of applying for funding for one for Ethan as he has nailed Grade 2 braille already! These machines, from what I've been told, are fantastic (and VERY expensive) they can be connected to printers, hard drives, embossers and more. I think they can even connect to laptops via bluetooth so the teacher will be able to see what Ethan is writing as some computer wizardry changes the braille into text - clever! I hope to blog about the BrailleNote in the future once Ethan has his and everyone has worked out how to use it!


Ethan's school has lots of maths resources supplied by his VI team to make maths accessible. At home we have purchased a few things which were useful when Ethan began learning maths concepts (I have put links to where you can get hold of these items under the pictures)

Snap cubes
Snap cubes - good for helping with counting, adding and subtracting. Ethan doesn't need to use them anymore as his math skills are more developed, but they are now used for Jasper's maths homework!

Fraction/Percentage Tower Cubes
Fraction/Percentage Tower Cubes
Fraction/Percentage Tower Cubes - useful for comparing the sizes of fractions (particularly handy as I am rubbish at explaining fractions!)

Braille Playing Cards
Braille Playing Cards - Playing cards are a great way of improving numeracy and there are loads of different games that can be played to improve number skills (just google "playing card games for numeracy"). The RNIB shop has a selection of large print and Brailled playing cards.

Times Tables Double Audio CD
Times Table Challenge CD
 Times Tables CD - Maths really isn't my strongest subject (Ethan gets his maths skills from his dad!) and I am fairly poor at my times tables (I still have to use my fingers for my 9 times table). The solution to this lack of skill on my part was to get someone else to help Ethan with his times tables - in this case a CD! We opted for a double CD called Times Table Challenge. On the first CD you listen to each set of times tables, repeat and then sing along! It covers the 2 to 10 times tables. The second asks questions to see if they have been learnt.