little girl and boy, both wearing sunglasses, playing with an iPad outside

By Emily Coleman

(Editorial Note: The Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) )) is specific to children with visual impairments and intended to teach the skills necessary to access the core academic curriculum and to live interdependently throughout life. In honor of the holiday season, we’re bringing back nine articles on ways to incorporate ECC skills into daily life, revised for the 2017-2018 holiday season.)

On the seventh day of holiday, the Expanded Core gave to me… technology, career education, recreation and leisure skills, independent living skills, compensatory or functional academic skills, social interaction skills, and orientation and mobility.

What Are Assistive Technology Skills?

Technology is the force that seems to take over during the holidays. We see constant advertisements for new phones, new TVs, new tablets, new computers, and everything on super sale on Black Friday. Many pieces of technology are accessible for children who are visually impaired, and they can learn quickly when given the chance. Assistive Technology, on the other hand, includes both “high tech” tools, such as computers and screen readers, and “low tech” tools, such as a book stand or reading guide that can greatly assist with overall independence.

Here are some ways to use technology during the holidays:

  • Give them the technology they’ve been wanting for a gift. Technology is typically a little bit cheaper this time of year.
  • Show them how to operate technology you already own. Whether it’s the TV, radio, or a home computer. Spend some time and show them how to use it by themselves. (Adapt with braille, stickers, etc. when needed).
  • If they want (and are old enough for) a phone, have them research which phones are accessible for people with visual impairments, and then they can add it to their wish list.
  • If your child uses switches, hook one up to Christmas lights, or even the tree, so he can turn the lights on and off himself.
  • If appropriate, give your child an email account for Christmas. Start teaching him how to communicate with family and friends. He can even exchange email addresses at holiday gatherings.
  • For those who are typing, they can practice keyboarding skills by making gift lists, shopping lists, or even writing “thank you” notes.
  • Look into “apps” on your own tablet or phone that may be useful for your child who is visually impaired. Spend those app store gift cards on growing your child’s technology skills or give him gift cards to spend on the same thing.
  • When holiday shopping, visit your local technology stores and show your child around. He might not even know how many phones, computers, and TVs are out there.
  • Enjoy Lego building, recipe reading, or puzzle making under the video magnifier often called a “CCTV.” Read FamilyConnect’s suggestions for keeping the dust off the video magnifier, making use of the ample free time the holidays offer.

Now that technology is a major part of most people’s lives, it has to be taught to children who are visually impaired. Without the ability to use a computer, access a tablet, or operate a phone, visually impaired children will not be able to keep up with their peers. The holidays often include giving and receiving the greatest new gadgets and then learning how to use them.

If you’re thinking about making a purchase, make sure it is accessible for your child. Do your online research, and ask somebody who would know. The American Foundation for the Blind is a great resource for technology questions related to vision loss. If you’re giving the gift of technology this year, what will you be giving?

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