Posts Tagged ‘DeafBlind DeafBlind Hope’

This month on Home and School Mosaics I talk about culture. Most people know that there is a Deaf culture with that capital “D”, but many ask if there is such as thing as DeafBlind culture. I have always said no because there aren’t that many of us, and we seldom meet. A random happening on my Facebook newsfeed got me wondering if that is changing. We all search for our identities. For some, it is easy to find. For others, we go through life not quite fitting in anywhere. For the DeafBlind like me, we seem to be building something new, our own identity. It is a lifestyle based on touch. It is being called Pro-tactile. Come explore with me.


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My purpose in posting this on Homeschool Mosaics was not to just brag about my younger son’s wedding day (which you know we, parents like to do) because if you aren’t involved in the wedding it can be boring hearing about it in great detail, but I wanted to give people a glimpse into my way of experiencing a memorable event, the hard work that tactile ASL interpreters have to do, and the importance of SSPs, interpreters, and people willing to understand the needs of the DeafBlind. I am sharing it now with you, my friends, in the hopes that you will enjoy it, too. Everybody told me they cried, which wasn’t my intent LOL, but I will give you fair warning that some say you might need tissues handy.http://homeschoolmosaics.com/the-wedding/

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Have you ever been told or said that you can’t do something because of limitations or even disabilities? Well, let me share with you what I have learned through my own limitations and disabilities. Check out my post for this month on Homeschool Mosaics and then stick around and check out all the other great and wonderful writers found all in this one terrific place!

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I have missed a few months updating my blogs. I am really sorry. Unfortunately, I have been very ill, and I had emergency surgery a month ago today. I have been told that I almost died. Of course, I am thankful to God that He still has more for me to do, so I am still here. Life is good. I am ready and looking forward to Heaven, but I want to stay here for as long as God will allow me to serve Him. I will now get back to more regular updates of what is going on in my life, homeschooling, and DeafBlind Hope with my journey through the Dark Silence. Today’s post is a little of all three of those.

I have had a few shares of my own column on Homeschool Mosaics, but I haven’t plugged myself. I even missed last month’s post I did because I was having surgery. So, I think I should catch up a little. And don’t forget, there are other writers even more talented and interesting than me on Homeschool Mosaics every day, so check them out, please. I haven’t been able to plug for them due to being so sick and then recovering for surgery. These writers are certainly worth looking into. Now to see my post for last month and this month go to http://www.homeschoolmosaics.com.

My post for May is at http://homeschoolmosaics.com/om-cane-skills/. I hope you enjoy it. I also had a post of my column go live today as well. It is found at http://homeschoolmosaics.com/guide-dogs-the-perfect-upgrade/. I think you will find some uplifting stories here about my wonderful guide dog, Joey.

I will come back soon and tell you about my experiences in the hospital from a disabled perspective.

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Homeschool Mosaics is my newest writing venture and connects in topic to my posts here at DeafBlind Hope: The Journey. I will be writing there about my journey in the Dark Silence as I teach children and help other DeafBlind people. There are many other readers at Mosaics, all from different aspects of life and homeschooling. Come check it out. We are also having a Facebook Launch Party tonight at 8:00 pm EDT with lots of prizes including those from DeafBlind Hope involving braille and ASL. Definitely show up for that! We have lots of big name sponsors for this events. You don’t want to miss it. Oh, and my column’s name is Homeschool Touches: Living and Schooling Through the Dark Silence.
Ok, here are the links: http://www.homeschoolmosaics.com
and https://www.facebook.com/events/230738350358421/
The Homeschool Mosaics Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/HomeschoolMosaics. Stop by and LIKE us!

I will be there. I hope you will be, too.

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I have been unable to post for a while now. I became sicker and sicker with my asthma. I had a migraine for the week after Thanksgiving working on a speech I had been asked to do as keynote speaker for a technology seminar. I never got to give it, unfortunately. Saturday afternoon, I was found on my bed semi-conscious. I had evidently gotten up and tried to ask for help earlier, but I don’t remember it. Little Joe kept trying to push me up and licking my face. His urgency is what got me moving at all I am sure. I spent Saturday thru Wednesday in the hospital with pneumonia and exacerbation of asthma. I had IV antibiotics and IV steroids. I was back at HKNC for 5 hours when they had to return me to the hospital. I came back the next day. I am still confined to my bed and unable to speak because I don’t have enough air, but it is getting better slowly. I am still on steroids. I will say that my signing is getting much better because I have no choice, but to sign everything. I also was unable to hear anything since being profoundly deaf, I have to concentrate to understand. I was totally unable to do that. The hospital had to bring in a tactual sign language interpreter for me. I was able to do it fortunately. God does provide in all things. Pray for me as my chest still hurts and I am still wheezing.

Thank you Jesus for Little Joey.

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Retro Look:

This week has been really great. I received a care package from my Sunday School class at Mabel White Baptist Church, and my son, Brian, flew up here to spend Thanksgiving with me. The care package had several items that I have needed such as lip balm and warm slipper socks plus some fun things including sugar free candy and a red University of Georgia cap. The cap was a nice touch. I really appreciated the package. I have a pic where Joey somehow managed to get the hat on his head when I had laid it on the bed next to him. He was so cute. Joey knows how to make me smile just like my friends at church.

Brian flying in was a nice touch, too. He went to classes with me on Tuesday and Wednesday. He asked my instructors questions, and they taught him some signs. The instructors explained to him all about my training and what we could expect as my vision and hearing decrease. Brian was very attentive, and all the staff here said he was a nice young man. They were amazed at how polite he was and that he said, “yes, sir and no, ma’am” to everyone. I was extremely proud of him, of course.

Thursday, my case manager-Molly- took Brian, Martin (another student), and I to have Thanksgiving dinner at the Miller Ridge Inn. It is a replica of an old inn that stood on the property and the history goes back to 1632. They have a replica town of shops that you can walk through as well. We took pictures at the stocks and listened to the band playing guitars and banjos. The food was very good, even the stuffing was good despite not being Southern cornbread dressing. Molly is very special. She really went out of her way to be with us on her holiday off, and I greatly appreciate it. I could tell that Martin, though quiet, really enjoyed it as well. I don’t think he ever gets visitors. I seldom see him talk or smile except when he is talking about sports. Martin is deaf-blind. He hears nothing, but sees a little better than me. He signs for communication; therefore, Molly signed everything we all said during the meal. Molly made sure he was included in everything. That takes a lot of time and patience, but she does it so well. God is truly using her for special work.

Brian, Joey, and I standing behind photo props making us look dressed in long dress and tux.

"Brian, Joey, and I looking dressed to kill."

Molly and Martin in the stocks like prisoners.

"Molly and Martin in the stocks."

Brian, Joey, and I in the stocks.

"Brian, Joey, and I in the stocks."

That evening Brian and I took dinner up to our room where we had an e-Thanksgiving over the internet on X Box Live with Scott and Brendan at home on their X Box 360. Their food was much better than ours, but the company was great. We spent several hours eating and talking after praying and thanking God for our many blessings. Despite being here and away from friends and family, I actually enjoyed Thanksgiving. You never know what the journey God has you on will bring, but it will always be enlightening and memorable.

I am standing next to the image of Albert Einstein.

It's just Albert and I.

I have only been to the city one other time. This past Sunday, we went to Madame Toussaud’s off 42nd Street. We toured the wax museum and could feel the faces and costumes. I have some pics of Joey and me checking things out. The statues seem pretty real.

HKNC Students standing next to Helen Keller wax figure which is sitting holding a book that has braille dots on it.

"HKNC students with Helen Keller. The book she is holding has real braille dots on it"

This is Steffy. She feels the statues with her hands to “see.”

Steffy is feeling Robin Williams' wax figure in order to see him.

"Steffy is feeling Robin Williams' wax figure in order to see him."

Yes, some blind really do this despite the TV jokes you might hear. DB tend to do it a little more, but I would say it is only for people we really care about wanting to know exactly what they look like.
Friday, Brian and I left very early by cab to the Long Island Railroad. We took the LIRR to Penn Station in Manhattan.
Penn Station

"Penn Station"

Then took the red line down to South Ferry and Battery Park.
Battery Park

"Battery Park"

There we took pictures of the Statue of Liberty in the New York Bay.

Statue of Liberty

"Statue of Liberty"

This is my son, Brian, with the water behind him.

"This is my son, Brian."

 It was about 35 degrees plus very windy. We had wanted to take the boat past the Statue of Liberty and onto Ellis Island, but there was over an hour wait in the cold wind to get tickets. I knew my asthma could not stand that, and Brian said that it was even too cold for him who stays outside in tents 24/7. We took the pictures and headed back to the subway.
This was a weird sight on the way back. The city has overtaken some things.

There is this older, very small building right next to a skyscraper. It looks so out of place.

"This building just doesn't look like it belongs there.

We rode the subway north to Central Park and toured the Museum of Natural History during the very cold morning.

Natural History Museum

"Natural History Museum"

Afterwards, we ate at the City Grill, which was very good and reasonably priced. I had an Apple Walnut Grilled Chicken Salad similar, but much better than they serve at Applebee’s. My friend, Ruthann, would have loved it. I couldn’t help but to think of her as I savored its flavor. This break gave us all, including Joey, the energy we needed to walk through Central Park. I was really shocked at how beautiful it was, and it was very strange that it was in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities. There are several large reservoirs that they allow boating on. There are pathways galore all mingling around greenways for picnicking and play. There are huge rock outcroppings where children scrambled. It was absolutely gorgeous. We saw many places that we recognized from episodes of CSI: NY, including one that was in this week’s episode that I didn’t get to see until we got back that night and watched it streamed over the internet. The area was a couple of brick terraces overlooking the lake with the lower terrace having a huge fountain next to and overlooking the water.

Manhattan Cafe where we ate.

"Manhattan Cafe where we ate."

We exited the park onto 5th Avenue, which is lined with multimillion-dollar apartments along the Central Park border where rich financial executives and many celebrities live.

5th Ave apartments in Manhattan

"5th Ave apartments in Manhattan."

Strolling south of the park, you find the famous stores and their storefront windows filled with the most expensive and outlandish fashions that I have ever seen in my life. I assure you that I was not the least bit envious. I love my simple life and fashion. If no one else does, that is tough. I have better things to spend my money on like my children, husband, and beautiful students such as ShaynePatrick. They are what make life worth living. We ended the day after dark shooting videos of Times Square

and then walking down 34th Street to Macy’s. Brian grew up loving “The Miracle on 34th Street.” I think he found that some things are better just left for memories. After riding the LIRR back to Port Washington, we ate delicious NY pizza at a local pizzeria before taking the cab back to HKNC. We were all exhausted. Little Joe ate his supper and crashed on the bed with me beside him. I managed to give him a well-deserved massage before calling it a night.

I awoke early at 6:00 am to see Brian off to the airport. He had to be back at work at the wilderness rehab camp in Ga. by 5:00 pm that afternoon. I really loved the fact that he was willing to come up, and we had such a great time. I was reminded of those days after my divorce from his biological father when it was just the two of us. We were so close back then. I hope he felt some of that closeness this week. I know I did.

After he was gone, Joey and I curled up on the bed and slept until noon. I missed breakfast completely. Of course, I merely got up, took a shower, ate lunch, and came back to the room where I slept until dinner at 4:30 pm. I don’t remember ever sleeping that much. It was worth every minute of it, though.

I wasn’t able to make my usual calls to my mom, sister, and Aunt Pat. I really missed that. So, Mom, Traci, and Aunt Pat: I love you, and I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I also hope my in-laws, Marsha and Aubrey, had a nice Thanksgiving. I love you, guys, too. There was absolutely no cell phone signal the last few days here. We haven’t even had internet service the last couple of days. We have to wait until Technology staff comes back Monday to get it fixed, so this post will be late.

As you can see, there was a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. God is truly good to me. Some may say how can you say that when you are going deaf and blind, but I tell you that I see and hear God now more than I ever have before. Life is filled with heartache and disappointment, but with Jesus living through us, it is also filled with great joy and accomplishment. I love my Jesus with all my heart. I don’t ever want to live again without Him guiding me. He is the reason I bother to wake up every morning. He is the reason I am living. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So can you! Take care this week. I am working hard to come home by Christmas, so keep praying for me. I really need the strength. There is still a lot to learn and overcome.

God bless you,

Renée and Little Joe

P. S. That special person I told you about last week who needed to find their way back to Jesus. Well, they made it to a church this past Sunday. This person almost changed their mind, but prayer helped to get them there. Keep praying for this person. God really has a plan.

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We are still looking back on my HKNC Training time.

Well, I know some of you are keeping up with my blog because I have gotten several e-mails checking on me, since I didn’t post last week. Well, I didn’t blog because I was in the hospital for a little while and then ordered to stay in bed for several days.

It was on Thursday afternoon when I returned to the residence hall for lunch. I looked on the way back to see if there were any smokers at the bench. That is very hard because I only see shadows with a little bit of color in the very center. Distance is not very far at about 20 feet on a good day with extreme blurriness. I did see one smoker on my way to the dog park as they call it here. I went “cross country” to take Joey to busy in the designated area. On the way back up to the residence hall door I looked, but I didn’t see any shadows that looked like possible people around the smokers’ bench. As I approached the door, I suddenly had a complete shut down. I couldn’t talk much less breathe. I turned around to see what might be causing it and finally saw a smoker about 5 feet from me. I saw a dark shape hanging out of where his face should be. I grabbed my inhaler as I went into the building. I couldn’t suck in the med. I managed to get my door open and pulled out my nebulizer, but I was struggling hard for air by this time and feeling a bit weak and lightheaded. I was afraid I was going to pass out. I went out in the hallway holding my nebulizer. I thought I would head down the hall to the nurse to get help, but I ran into the smoker right outside my door. He is totally blind and frequently gets disoriented since he refuses to use the mobility skills that he is being taught. He is a bit young and hardheaded like most kids his age. Anyway, I can’t even be around a smoker because of the smell off of their clothes, especially just after they have smoked. I turned around thinking to head into my room, but got scared as I almost fell. I went across the hallway to PATH which is where the mentally disabled deafblind live and work. They have to have staff with them one on one at all times. I knew there would be staff there. I couldn’t talk and most of the PATH staff is totally deaf anyway, so I signed nurse. Fortunately, that was easy enough, and they immediately ran past me to get the nurse. I went to my room to try again to get my nebulizer set up. I couldn’t see much of anything by this point. I kept trying to find the plug-in, but couldn’t. A few seconds later, the nurse arrived and took the nebulizer from me and got it set up and plugged in for me. I worked hard trying to get the med in my lungs.

After a while, I thought I was better. The nurse was going to help me over to the training building to sit with her for a while. We couldn’t leave yet because there were smokers in the front of the building, I sat in the lobby waiting. For whatever reason, I starting shutting down again. The nurse said she was going to get me to the hospital. She called my case manager to come take me there. I did another treatment, but it was not working. The staff made the decision to call an ambulance. I will shorten the story here, so I won’t bore you too much. I received a breathing treatment in the ambulance, five at the hospital, and two epi shots. Since I had had my normal breathing treatments before the attacks, I received a total of ten doses of meds. The ones at the hospital were more than my usual Xopenex, though. They had a steroid in them, as well. I was finally released late that night after a chest x-ray showed my lungs were clear. I was kept indoors all weekend long and missed classes Friday. Staff was told to take Joey out for me each time and my meals were brought to my room. They were instructed to check on me every hour 24/7. I got caught once trying to e-mail my staff to let them know that I was out of action for a few days. They “threatened” to tie me to the bed. OOPS!

I continued my breathing treatments every two hours around the clock until Sunday night. By Sunday night, I was feeling much better. Until the rain came in… About Ten o’clock p.m. My chest began to sting and then tighten up again. I felt bad all Monday, but I went to classes and did my best. I went to the nurse to nebulize every couple of hours or so. I got better as the front moved through. The rest of the week went fine health-wise until yesterday as another front moved in. I am nebulizing again every two hours, taking my Advair, etc. The chest hurts continually now as well as the sharp pain I get when breathing in. I wheeze when I exhale. I can’t hear it, but I can feel it. The nurse says I sound terrible. My face is pale, and I haven’t been able to put on enough makeup to cover the the black circles growing larger and deeper in color under my eyes. My doctor at home knows that I have been to the best Allergist and Pulmonologist in the state of Ga. They have told me that they have done everything that they can to help me. My primary doctor wants me to go to a Pulmonologist and and Endocrinologist (for my diabetes) here in New York to see if they know something my doctors at home don’t know. It is worth a shot. I sure don’t like living like this. Please pray for me. I don’t want to go home before my training is finished, even though going home sounds really good.

Thanks to a couple of very sweet and possibly, brave employees here, the smokers’ bench was moved away from the building and my pathway right after I was taken to the hospital. Val, my CLC teacher and good friend, and Mia, my case social worker who is fast becoming a friend by listening to me, went in to the head person demanding to know why I had to go to the hospital when the simple answer would have been to move the bench. I was told by someone else that Val was not nice or quiet about it. I appreciate it very much. It was nice to know that someone understood and cared. People just don’t seem to understand how serious asthma can be. It is very scary not to be able to breathe. Even today with all of our medicines, asthma kills many people every year. My case manager, Molly, and Vocational instructor, Elissa, stayed at the hospital with me. Molly rode with me and Little Joe in the ambulance and stayed until I was stable. Elissa came in and kept me company telling me all about her Jewish religion which totally fascinates me. Elissa is a practicing Jew. I admire her for keeping true to her beliefs when many Jews and Christians have made it just a part of their past or something they do on their Sabbaths. It hasn’t been easy for her either. Many people have treated her rather badly because of her faith. Anyway, I enjoyed her company.

Some of you may want to know where Joey was during this time. Joey stayed by my side the entire time. The EMT’s didn’t want to take him with us. They thought dogs weren’t allowed and tried to convince me that he would be scared by the sirens. Well, I know my rights. Southeastern Guide Dogs covered it well. Guide Dogs are allowed by law to ride in the ambulance with me and in the hospital. The hospital staff was fine with it and the dispatch assured the EMT’s that it was ok. Joey was perfect. He stayed right next to me with his head on my lap and let me scratch his ear. He didn’t move as the EMT had to get around him or when the siren blasted. In the hospital, he stayed near me except when they were working on me and then he watched intently from the side . When they were finished for a bit, he came back up to me so I could scratch his ear again. He is as much a therapy dog as he is a guide dog. The hospital staff from all over came down to see the wonderful dog in the ER. As usual, Joey was more popular than me.

Well, let me tell you about my training when I was in class. In mobility, I played around with a braille compass to help me find directions.

Braille Compass- directions are raised dots that the needle points to tell you where magnetic north is located.

"Braille Compass"

Natasha also showed me a tactual map used by the blind to navigate the NYC subway system.

NYC Subway System's braille Map

"NYC Subway System's braille Map"

Braille Subway Map with subway line symbols for stops

"Braille Subway Map with subway line symbols for stops"

Then I went around the building blindfolded without Joey just using my cane. There are sections of the training building that I haven’t been to yet, so that area was a bit confusing. I have an overview map of the building in my head that I use when I navigate the building. I can even figure out the general layout of certain parts I haven’t been to just by using the information that I do know about. I know that the training building is like a giant box with one main hallway that traverses the outside wall. One section of that hallway is where administrative offices are that I never go to. However, I can visualize its pathway by knowing that it connects with the other hallways on either side. There is also a section of the building that was added on to the corner of the backside of the building. I have been to that section on the downstairs part. Therefore, I know the basic outline of the section upstairs. I did pretty well navigating the building being blindfolded going slow enough to not hurt anyone if I ran into them. I can’t hear much regardless of wearing the hearing aids and FM. With residual vision, I can guess a lot of stuff. However, take that vision away and I might as well be totally deaf. Going slow keeps me from jamming a cane into someone’s leg or knocking them over. At one point, I became confused because of an alcove. I thought I knew which way to go, but I wasn’t confident enough to trust my information. I used my braille skills to read a few door plates and figured out that I had turned down Case Manager row which was exactly where I wanted to go. Case Manager Row is what I call the long hallway where all of the case manager’s offices are located. The first door I read didn’t make any sense to me. I was reading Debbie Hdj something or other. It didn’t make any sense to me, so I thought I wasn’t recognizing the braille. The next door said Pete somebody and I knew he was a case manager. Natasha clarified that I was reading the first name right, but she is an immigrant from another country, so her name didn’t have any vowels in it until after several consonants. I was reading it right just didn’t think so.

Natasha also showed me a different method than the one I know to go up and down steps. I wasn’t too confident with it, so I will explain it after we have practiced it again.

On Wednesday the 31st, we had a haunted house put on by staff and students. I don’t really celebrate Halloween, but I did go through it. This one was different. It was designed to be tactual for the deafblind students. They used silly string to help students feel the “cobwebs”, supposed food was all gooey and sticky. They used a cauliflower head to represent brains, modified olives to represent eyes, etc. They had balloons everywhere so the students would feel things as they walked through and lots of bubble machines to enhance the cold, moist feeling. Each student had a guide to help them through and interpreted everything to them in whatever mode they needed such as voice over into a FM system, tactual sign, braille communicator, etc. The entire script spoken by the tour guides (spooky sisters of the house) was signed and written in braille to be read. The name of the fictitious family was the Braillers after the name of the typewriter used to type braille. Several members of the supposed family were deafblind and had a curse put on them which had given them creepy special powers that they used to get revenge on others.

You get the picture. I know many of you do not believe in celebrating Halloween, but I wanted you to see how the staff brought the holiday to the deafblind. They worked hard on making this a fun event for all the students regardless of their disability. There aren’t many in the real world who would go to that much trouble. It was fun.

In Technology, I am beginning to focus more and more on the braille display as Bill taught me how to use the internet and a program called NexTalk that will allow me to use the TTY for phone calls. Telephone use is one of my biggest hurdles with the school. As many of you know, I do not do well at all. My staff are picking up a lot of my phone calls for me and will continue to do so, but there are times when I will need to use something. We are just going to have to keep working on that area.

I am learning my sign language in CLC. We practiced hand shapes and continued tactual practice. All of my communication is now in tactual sign language. My headaches are beginning to disappear as I get better at understanding. That is a very good thing. I would love to stop using my migraine medicine. In time, I hope I can. Migraines are not something that I am prone to have. My doctors say they come simply from trying too hard to see and hear.

Val took me to a grocery store here, too. We practiced using communication cards and the screen braille communicator to purchase what I need. I found that I need a couple of more communication cards in my book to cover some common questions. The SBC is going to work really well, especially as I get faster with my braille reading. Donna works with me to help me learn my sign vocabulary. Here is a pic of her in the classroom:

Donna, again, but she really did teach me an awful lot.

"Donna, again, but she really did teach me an awful lot."

I have a few more pics for you, too. My staff wanted to see pics of Ginger, my Vocational Evaluator.

 Joey loves Ginger. He tries to help her, too. He always wants to walk where he is between the two of us. Ginger has Multiple Sclerosis. She doesn’t let it stop her though. She whizzes around that building way too fast for anyone to keep up with.

Ginger and Joey

"Ginger and Joey"

It was a bit sad this week, too. My friend, Jane from S.C. went home for the weekend. She had asked me to pray for her because she was afraid if she went home that her family who has refused to support her stay at Helen Keller and wanted her home that they wouldn’t let her return. Well, that is exactly what happened. We do not know if she will ever return. I do know that she desperately wanted to get more training, so please pray that God will open the hearts and minds of her family.

Shelby and I saying goodbye.

"Shelby and I saying goodbye."

Also, my friend, Shelby from Atlanta, went home yesterday. She wanted to stay as well, but Ga’s Vocational Rehab didn’t want to continue paying for training. Shelby is 27 years old and almost totally deaf and blind. She is intelligent, but was poorly educated. She is quite capable of learning, but needs to catch up. The state didn’t want to pay anymore right now. Shelby had been here since May.

Joey waiting for me to leave a class.

"Joey waiting for me to leave a class."

This is Joey waiting on me to get ready to go to another class. Isn’t he cute?

Well, I have just about covered things for now. Keep praying for us. We are still praying for you, as well. I have a meeting with everyone on my team and Scott, my husband, by phone on the 16th. Hopefully, I will be able to let you know when I will be coming home and a report of my progress. Until later, keep praying

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I have often been asked for products that teach the concepts of fractions besides the old and possibly tired fraction pie resource. TOS Crew has reviewed a few good and different ones in that you can check out in the Blog Cruise archives. Recently, though, a couple of fun game products were sent to us to review that I think are quite unique. If your student really doesn’t feel motivated to learn fractions, the one I was sent is definitely worth a try. Fractazmic is a fun game that teaches fractions and numbers and measurement. And did I mention that it is a game! What better way to learn!

The basics of the game are to create a hand and have the most hands before any player runs out of cards. A hand is created by adding together the fraction cards of the same suit to equal one. There are three suits in three different colors. The sixteenths suit is red, the twelfths suit is blue, and the tenths suit is green. Within a suit, the cards show fractions that can be added together. When you have cards that total together to equal 1 in that suit, you have a hand. For example, in the twelfths suit or blue cards, you might have ¼ and 1/3 and 5/12. Those fractions when changed to equivalent fractions with the same denominator can be added to equal 1 such as 3/12 plus 4/12 plus 5/12 equals 12/12 or 1. Using graphical depictions on the colorful cards, the student can quickly make the mental calculations required while learning and reinforcing the concepts of equivalent fractions and adding of fractions. Each suit uses a different application for representation of the fraction amount such as eggs in a cartoon for the twelfths suit, water in a water bottle for the tenths suit, and a close up view of a ruler for the sixteenths suit thus teaching the concepts of numbers, fractions, and measurement. To aid even further the quick mental calculation, the ruler graphic used in the sixteenths suit also depicted cute little brown ants and green grasshoppers to visually and quickly see one sixteenth unit and 4 sixteenths units. This visually helps the student to remember that 1 grasshopper is 2/8 or 4/16 allowing for quick denominator change and adding along with the addition of the number of ants to better see and calculate the ones. This is an excellent use of visuals for mental calculation and concept reinforcement.

Along with the colorful concept depictions, the game play is simple and fast moving to motivate and encourage even the most reluctant of math learners. The play really does make it fun while teaching the complex concepts and the “why it works” behind the math.

Many special needs populations should benefit from the colorful representations of the fractions in comparison of equivalency especially learning disabled students. I will give suggestions for modifying the cards or adding to the cards that can work, especially if you wish to include your special needs students in play with your other students. These are merely suggestions. You may feel that they are more complex or work intensive than the benefit brings. You can decide that for yourself. If you have students who really need more tactile and kinesthetic representations, start with tutor-aided demonstration games where the student has a tutor to help him manipulate real objects of an egg carton with wooden or plastic eggs, a liter water bottle with the same graduated increments (if the student needs more than just counting the line markings to visually see the amount, use a clear water bottle and pre-measured colored plastic page strips that can be slipped inside the bottle to represent water to the desired level), and an oversized ruler or card-drawn ruler (if needed or to add more textured manipulation for the student who needs multisensory input to attach meaning to objects and words, and allow for the same visual effect for quick mental calculation, use appropriately sized models of an ant and a grasshopper). For blind and DeafBlind students, I would use the real objects first to help the student grasp the representation of the fraction and addition of fractions. The cards are easily brailled with the fractions each card represents and the word name or fraction name with the word suit to distinguish suit differences. After the student fully grasps the object representations, tactile markings can be placed on the cards to remind the student of the components for calculation. Or the cards can be brailled with the additional cell for the suit fraction such as the ¼ card of the twelfths suit can be brailled with “3 eggs” or the 3/12 fraction cells. Thus, the card would have the ¼ braille cells (with or without the number braille sign), the word twelfths or the number 12 and ths cells for 12ths representing the suit, and the braille cells for 3/12 or “3 eggs to cover all of the needed information to play the game successfully depending on the memory aids needed for the student. It must be noted that tactile markings and braille cells will make it necessary to be gentler when shuffling and during game play. Tactile markings may have to be reapplied occasionally, too. Again, these modifications are just ways to try to make the cards more useful to more student populations.

Fractazmic can be found at http://www.fractazmic.com for just $6.95. The website also describes other ways to play and listings of other great card games to learn other math concepts.


To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.


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When I was active in Boy Scouting, we had a saying we went by when planning activities for our young men that went activities should be fun, but fun with a purpose. The latest product review kept reminding me of that little mantra. I was sent Tri-cross from Games for Competitors which is actually a USA company based out of my home state not far from where I live. In fact, as I read the developers history on their web site, it became obvious that my husband and I may very well know them from days gone by, since our favorite hang-out as older teens and young adults was the very same Sword of the Phoenix game store they had been a part of in Atlanta, Ga. Ah, the memories played. I knew these were like-minded people. Games are a very important part of our home culture. My husband and I have been avid game players most of our lives and have played almost everything out there at least once. We didn’t stay long as children on the usual children’s games of simple play. We quickly graduated to what was called book shelf games. The games came in cases that were more suited to sitting on a book shelf like a book. The games were always very involved and needed lots of imagination from active minds and challenged those minds.

Tri-cross fits that bill easily, but also in a way that will entice even younger players in the family as it helps to teach them fair game play, social skills, and important game skills like strategy. The game is a cross between checkers, chess, and even Stratego in its varying game versions. As a certified teacher and curriculum developer, the game jumped out at me with its usefulness in any educational setting as well as home setting to further reinforce skills. A few of the skills besides social skills that can be taught with this game are logical thinking, cause and effect, predicting, outcome interpreting, abstract thinking, memory, and visualization (I will add that this can even help the blind visualize in various ways, too.) Despite my love of games, I am not very good with strategy due to learning disabilities that I have. I avoid games like chess and only play checkers with non-challenging players to avoid frustration. Tri-cross, though, didn’t intimidate me. I actually won the first game against my husband who loves and excels at chess. No, he didn’t let me win. He would forget while planning his strategies about the additional rules that certain pieces couldn’t jump certain other pieces. I seemed to be good at remembering that (even though I can’t remember any of the moves for chess pieces) and would catch him. That made me a fan of Tri-cross right away, of course. My husband loved the game, too, because it gave him new ways to think about game play. There are five ways you can play this game which will keep the fun going and be helpful in teaching skills, too. You can play the game with pieces face-up, so that you always see where the pieces that can jump other pieces are and develop strategy skills, or you can play the game with all the pieces face down until opponents meet in a possible jump situation. Players then turn the pieces over to see if a jump can be made. After play, the pieces are then turned back over. You would then do well to try and improve your memory skills to know where those pieces are and move them in useful ways. Other versions add excitement and challenge to the game to keep Tri-cross exciting for years to come.

Tri-cross is very durable and well-made in any of the formats from eco-friendly travel game to the more decorative wooden table-top format. This is extremely pleasing to our family as we have seen the American game industry drop its standards for game quality over the last few decades. One would be proud to own any of the formats and be assured that it will last to pass down over the years.

Of course, my readers know that I have other needs that make gaming more difficult now than when I was younger. Being totally deaf and blind, I can’t play games the way I used to play. Of course, you can’t stop an avid game player from seeking and playing however possible. Tri-cross, I am glad to say, was easy to make accessible to me. I would imagine that certain formats would be easier to make tactile, but I was able to make the two formats I was given tactile for my needs without any real difficulty. I received the travel version and the boxed, hard tag board game format. The wooden table-top would probably be the easiest to work with, but certainly not necessary. I made clear, adhesive braille labels for the game pieces and the board itself. I brailled the dots (I didn’t bother with the number sign, since there is no need for letters in the game. The Tri-cross piece can be labeled with a “T” cell which isn’t used for numbers in braille or left plain because the six intersecting lines are quite tactilely distinct from the other pieces. I can remember the dots are for numbers and save space) for the numbers of each piece and for placement of beginning pieces for one of the game play versions off to the side of the starting positions. The grid of the board which is designed like a large, thick cross or plus sign might seem a difficulty, but I placed thin, low-profile textured markers used by the blind and DeafBlind on each of the squares used for game play. I used a different texture marker for the center’s Tri-cross square which is the objective for one of the winning options. This way I knew exactly when I had my piece moved appropriately into each square, but the marker didn’t affect the movement of pieces on the board at all. I can’t say from pictures if the wooden version provides a tactile grid or not, but that would make it much more accessible if it did. Regardless, the game formats are very durable and easy to make accessible which is a big plus for me and my readers which is why this review will be found on both my homeschool/educational blog and my DeafBlind Hope blog.

Find out more about this game at http://www.gamesforcompetitiors.com. Though challenging, don’t let that scare you off. The developers provide great game instructions and play tips in print and on a CD that is provided with each game format. The prices start at $19.99 for the eco-friendly travel version and range upwards to $35.95 for the wooden table-top format which are a really good prices for this well-made game. If you want a game that is fun, but fun with a purpose, Tri-cross is for you.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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