Valentine’s Day is upon us, and you’re likely planning for your child’s classroom card exchange. Famous for its paper hearts, glitter, and lace, it’s a common time for crafting in the preschool and elementary school world. As parents, some of us love it, and some of us hate it. And then a few of us fall into the gray space between the two extremes. I love designing, creating, and laboring over a project, but I don’t do it often because a bigger part of my personality hates the mess involved (#neatfreak). But that’s just for me. Since I wear my mom hat most of the time, I do force myself to let the crafting and the messes happen more often than I would naturally care to because my teacher-brain knows the value there is in allowing my kids to make a mess, experiment with different materials and media, develop their fine motor skills and experience the satisfaction of putting the finishing touches on a special creation of their very own.
Bring on the Mess! …and Assistive Technology?
Want another awesome reason to unclench and craft with your kiddo this Valentine’s Day? You can use this as a fun opportunity to sneak in some assistive technology exposure and practice! As you probably know, repetition and practice in a variety of experiences are crucial for your child or student who is blind or has low vision, and even more so for our kiddos with multiple disabilities. Although craft messes and assistive technology may not be a friendly pair in our minds at first, including our children who are blind or low vision this holiday tradition is a perfect practice opportunity and well worth the effort!
Assistive Technology (What Is It?)
Assistive technology is any item or device that enables your child who is blind or low vision to be included and participate in a given activity. While my mind usually goes to electronics or high-tech gadgets when I hear the term “technology,” in reality, there are many low-tech members of the assistive technology family. Both high-tech devices and low-tech items have their uses and benefits to offer your child or student’s Valentine’s crafting project.
Low-Tech Assistive Technology for Crafting
- Reading Stand – Your child or student can clip their paper or cards to a reading stand for a more comfortable writing angle and help stabilize their work-in-progress. They can also clip Valentine cards they receive from family and friends to the reading stand while they read their special notes. This may be particularly helpful for kiddos with multiple disabilities and can be used for homework and leisure reading/writing. (https://www.aph.org/product/readwrite-stand/)
- Large-Print or Braille Labels and Stickers – Your kiddo can quickly and easily add bold print and braille words, as well as decorate their cards with raised smiley faces. (https://www.aph.org/product/feel-n-peel-stickers-assorted-stickers-kit-over-2300-stickers/) This is a good option for children with multiple disabilities who may find manipulating a pen or slate and stylist too challenging, or for younger kiddos who have not learned to write just yet.
- Adaptive or Tactile Paper – Great for adding different textures and interest to your child’s craft project, these full sheets of textured paper are easily added to crafts with their sticker-back and can be cut into whatever shape your kiddo fancies! (https://www.aph.org/product/textured-paper-collection/)
High-Tech Assistive Technology for Crafting
- Electronic Notetakers/Braillewriters – These devices have a multitude of uses in school and life. To practice braille literacy during a craft project, your child or student can use their device to create a list of classmate names. He can then practice accessing, reading, and editing the list as they refer to it when making a collection of cards to bring to class on Valentine’s Day. (https://www.aph.org/product/chameleon-20/)
- Switch-Activated Materials – Your student with multiple disabilities can practice their established communication methods with switch-activated materials to disclose their material choices for their craft projects. To help determine the best switch-activated communication systems for your kiddo, you can connect with your child’s Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI). (https://www.aph.org/product/select-switch/)
- Portable Magnifiers – These devices have many practical uses and are great to practice during Valentine’s craft time. Your child can hold items underneath the camera to have a magnified view of their writing, drawing, cutting, gluing, or whatever part of the activity they want to see more clearly! (https://www.aph.org/product/jupiter-portable-magnifier/)
As you can see, many tools that can help your child or student who is blind or low vision participate in the tradition of Valentine’s Day card exchange. You may want to chat with your student’s TVI for additional tips and resources.
Whether crafty projects are your cup of tea or not, take a deep breath, switch into fun-messy mode, and pull out all the stickers, glue, and pom-poms. Join your kiddo in crafting this Valentine’s Day (or any time during the year) and sneak in some assistive technology skills practice while you’re at it!