Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Organizing Bench to Promote Independent Living Skills

Liam reading the name tags on the organization bench
My son Liam is 8 years old and just started third grade. He is deafblind and a braille reader. It is very important to me that I provide every opportunity for him to be as independent as possible and also provide an accessible environment for him at home. I think it is crucial for him to participate and help around the house along with his younger brother Finn (typical vision and hearing). Lifeskills, such as helping with laundry, emptying the dishwasher, taking out the garbage, etc., are valuable skills to be learned at home. With the school year starting (and now with Liam's little brother starting Kindergarten) I wanted to create a place in our home where the kids can organize their school things.
 

Setting up a Front Room Organizer

We made a front room organizer that sits near our front door. It includes a bench to sit down and put shoes on, bins for each of the kids below to store shoes and hooks for each of them to hang up coats and backpacks. Of course each compartment is labeled in print and braille both.
 
finished organization bench with hooks for coats, a hook for Liam's cane, and bins for shoes
 
name tags written in print and braille with wooden pegs
 
Liam also has a spot that is clearly labeled for his cane to hang.  
 
a hook for Liam's cane, labeled with print and braille text
 

Benefits of Having a Front Room Organizer

Organization is a key skill for a child who is blind to learn to find their things independently. Below are the benefits of having a front room organizer:
  • Supports independence of all children, especially children with vision impairments.   The kids will be able to put their backpacks, coats and shoes away when they get home.
  • Having their things put away in the correct spot makes it easy for them to find their things in the morning when it is time to leave for school.  Everything has its own spot.  

backpacks hanging on the hooks above the organization bench        Liam reading a name tag on the organization bench

  • The labels of the kids' names (both my boys and my boyfriend's daughter for when she is over) are clearly labeled in braille and print so they are accessible for everyone.  
 

Materials: 

  • Bench:  I found this bench at a garage sale
  • Shoe bins:  I found them at Target.  I purposely bought sturdy plastic ones, so they can be washed out and can become wet during the winter time without getting ruined.

Liam looking at the blue plastic shoe bins

  • Wooden backboard:  My boyfriend designed and created it for me with spare lumber we had and attached it to the back of the bench.  
  • Hooks for the backpacks and coats (I found mine at Menards)
  • Chalkboard labels:  I found mine online at amazon.com.  
  • Chalkboard pen:  Hobby Lobby
  • Big Braille: Wooden pieces from any hobby store attached with wood glue

wooden pegs are used to make braille name tags

Organizing bench collage

Comments

Plz Help an Overwhelmed new Mom

Posted by Allison H

I loved this post and got excited to do this in our house. I have a low vision toddler. Then I read the words "lumber," "built," "chalk board pens," "wood glue," and "Hobby Lobby," and I started to feel sick inside. I'm not a crafty DIY type mom. I'm more techy. I have no idea what to do with llumber, special craft pens, or anything like that. I've never been in a Hobby Lobby ever. I have a 20MO who only sorta sleeps, I'm pregnant with #2, and I work full-time. I don't know that I have any leftover energy to learn how to craft or build... no matter how much I might want to. Nor do I have lumber lying around my house. Please offer tips and hope for us overwhelmed moms with 0 DIY ability. How can we do cool braille/accessible things for our kids? Thx.

Simple adaptations

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Hi Allison,

Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are a WONDERFUL mother for your toddler with low vision!  Just the fact that you are taking the time to read this post and respond to it means that you are looking for ways to do all you can to help and support him.

The key point to this idea is to provide a structured way for your child to learn where to put his belongings and find them again.  You don't need to do something as elaborate as what is described in this post in order to help your child to learn basic organizational skills.  The specific recommendations for your child would depend on how much vision he has, but just buying a brightly colored plastic bin and putting it in your front hall or entry way as place to put his coat/boots, etc. will help him to begin to learn where to keep his things.  By looking for a bright yellow box, for example, he can begin to learn to take responsibility for locating his belongings and returning them to the same location.  This is a skill that should be taught to all children, but for children with visual impairments, developing organizational skills is essential, as it is more difficult to scan the environment to quickly locate items.

Good luck!

Thx

Posted by Allison H

Thanks. It seems like several of the posts on here require craft/building skills though. I'm thinking of a felt braille letter board from a couple of weeks ago. Not sure how to make that either. It's overwhelming for us less creative types.

I can try a bench with bins though. Most concerned about her cane. I think we've lost 2 white canes in the past 3 months. Yikes! We have a spot for her cane but it never ends up there for long cuz she keeps moving it to play with it So now we have no cane which isn't great. I can't figure out how to balance letting her play with her cane and also having it somewhere so we can get it when we go out. Like if I tell her not to play with it, will she then not want to use it ever? I don't know how much sight she has cuz she's only 20MO and the drs and TVIs all seem perplexed by her eyes and give me different answers. <shrug>. She sees a bit though. I plan to have her learn print and braille cuz that seems wise to me.

Caring for a cane

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Hi Allison,

You're right that some of the posts on here including crafting suggestions, but we try to have a range of ideas for people who want something basic and for others who may want to try creating something from scratch.

In terms of your daughter and her cane, it's good to expose her to using it and allow her to explore with it, but it's also important for her to learn to take care of it and keep it in a predicatable location.  At 20 months she may be a bit young still to learn to take responsibility for it, so you may want to use it during times when you or another adult are there to help her to keep track of it.  If you want it to be a completely independent activity, you may wish to try other ideas, such as a toy shopping cart or push toy, which can be used for the same type of activity with toddlers.  Those can help her to locate things (like stairs or walls or furniture) before bumping into them and are often helpful early mobilty aids.

Does she have an Orientation and Mobility instructor yet?  If so, that person may be able to give you some ideas that would be helpful for her specific situation.  As you may know, one of the things the vision teacher will do is a Functional Vision Assessment and a Learning Media Assessment, and those should be helpful as your daughter gets older.

Yepp

Posted by Allison H

Thanks. She has a couple push toys, including a cart, but she is easily bored by them. She's typically-developing so they don't hold her interest for long. She likes her cane better. I supervise her when I can, but she's a toddler. If we put it in the designated place, by the door, she will still find it. It's a good problem to have, but still a problem.

Yes, she has an OM instructor whom she sees once a month. If the OM had given any suggestions about storing her cane, I wouldn't be asking here. I don't think the OM has much experience with typically-developing kiddos. I think she is used to non-mobile or older students. Those are most of the kids we see when we go to group activities at little's school.

Yes she has an FVA scheduled sometime in the next 2 months. The teachers and doctors all tell us different things though about her sight. She had another FVA last year, but a lot has changed.

Do you have suggestions for a braille learning toy that is not as crafty to make as that felt board? Her teacher made her magnets on a cookie sheet, but little isn't interested. We put braille labels on her toys, but they all fall off. She is recognizing some big print letters, but I worry about that option long-term cuz she already has to hold close and i worry about her neck and back. So that's why I'm thinking braille would be helpful, but how to introduce in a fun toddler way? We have plenty of books and she does like.

Sorry if I'm not too positive here. I just really care about my daughter and want her to be successful and happy. She's bright and motivated, and as a result I feel like no one knows what to do with her. I would make her things myself to engage her, but as I've said, DIY type crafts baffle me.

Thx for listening

Braille toys

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Do you have access to free braille books?  There are a number of different sources for these and it's really important to have some around for her to have that exposure in these early years.  You can get some more information about them here.

As for toys, she might enjoy braille blocks https://unclegoose.com/product/braille-blocks/

Yep

Posted by Allison H

Yes, as I mentioned in my prev message, we have many braille picture books and she loves them.

We also have braill blocks, but she is less impressed cuz they're kinda dull-looking and the braille is difficult to orient/locate while playing. We also have alphabet braille magnets that she likes.

Any other ideas?

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