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Reaching Out Newsletter #80
September 2014

What’s New at NDVS/SB

There is so much good news to share, but I am one who does appreciate brevity when others report what is going on in their schools and agencies. That is a lesson I am learning as I read highlights from other schools and agencies serving people with visual impairment. It is valuable to hold out the major accomplishments for others to see, but I think what I like the most are the personal stories of success. Those stories are what motivate us, create enthusiasm and encourages others. I hope that our newsletter, Reaching Out, does a little of both. I hope that readers will want to know more and reach out to us.

Paul H. Olson—Superintendent
polson@nd.gov

Highlights

There are numerous staff changes going into the 2014/2015 school year. Welcome Emily Stenberg our new librarian, Margo Lentz-Berg our new mobility specialist and Lisa Long, our new coordinator/teacher in Region One & Two out of Minot. There are a number of other staff changes as well which proves the axiom “the only thing that stays the same is change.” We will miss staff who have moved on, but wish them well in their new adventures.

Construction in the west wing (Community High School) and the elevator in the south wing (NDVS/SB) has gone very well. There was a very tight schedule to complete before the beginning of the school year. Hats off to our maintenance department, the contractors and Foss Architects. This was a huge endeavor which required a great deal of coordination. We are very excited to continue updating and making our school a state-of-the-art facility going into the future.

We have entered an agreement to provide space to a small Early Head Start Program on the 2nd floor of our south wing. Our mission continues to be solidly grounded in provision of education to children and adults who are visually impaired. Nevertheless, this partnership with Mayville State University is a very nice fit and helps fill an important need in the community. Education should not be a competitive. We are all in the business of helping people of all ages succeed.

How Do We Measure Up?

We are excited to report that we are taking a major step forward in our capability of measuring learning outcomes for our students who are participating in short-term programming. Dr. Tessa McCarthy has begun working with the NDVS/SB Visions Team to refine the tools we are using to track growth in several important areas of instruction called the Expanded Core Curriculum. Dr. McCarthy who is a faculty member at North Carolina Central University has an impressive background in education of students with visual impairment, assessment and research. Our goal is to streamline our process for measuring outcomes, focus our instruction for students and provide even better information to parents and local schools to enhance the student’s overall education. Dr. McCarthy visited NDVS/SB in August and plans to consult with our team throughout the upcoming school year. She will be working very closely with our STP Coordinator Deb Johnsen.

Staff Feature

We would all like to welcome our new librarian Emily Stenberg who started at NDVS/SB on August 1st. She is very excited to start some rearranging to better find resources needed and to create an area where students can have fun while learning. She previously worked in Little Falls, MN as a media specialist for 5 years. Growing up in Greenbush, MN, Emily got to experience having 5 older brothers and sisters. In her spare time, she of course enjoys reading, baking, spending time with family and friends, and being outdoors.

NDVS/SB Student Transitions to Lake Region State College

A student who has been served by NDVS/SB since infancy through our outreach services and short-term programming transitioned to Lake Region State College in Devils Lake this fall.

Brandon Kartes graduated from Edinburg High School in 2014. During his last year of high school Brandon participated in the extended school year program and took a variety of classes including on-line courses through LRSC. The on-line courses provided him with the opportunity to obtain college course work experience and credit.

To be successful in furthering his academic career, Brandon uses a variety of technology. Collaboration between LRSC’s Disability Services Coordinator, Amanda Kuhn, Vocational Rehabilitation and NDVS/SB’s technology department has made the transition smooth through sharing knowledge of necessary equipment and getting everything set up. Some of the technology Brandon is using during his college career include a laptop; the Focus 40 Blue, a Bluetooth braille display; JAWS, a screen reader; OpenBook a scanning program; and other assorted technology equipment.

NDVS/SB provided O & M services to acclimate Brandon to the LRSC campus. After attending college for about a week and a half, Brandon commented that he is getting around the campus really well. Brandon has a full schedule taking five classes. He commented the teachers have been flexible and there have been some issues with having all his books accessible but that is being worked through. Disability Services Coordinator, Amanda Kuhn reports, “There are still a few little bumps in the road that we are working out, but nothing too major. He seems to be ready to tackle the work and be a successful college student.”

Brandon reported he enjoys having a roommate and states, “I’ve been hanging out in the Den quite a bit.” The Den is a social gathering place with games, pool tables, and other leisure activities for the students to enjoy. Many students have quickly become friends with Brandon.

If all goes as planned, Brandon will graduate in May 2016 with an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Administrative Assistant and Office Management with Medical Option. When asked what his career goal is, Brandon stated, “I want to be in a hospital setting working as a medical coder.” All of us at NDVS/SB wish Brandon the best as he pursues his college academic career.

Focus on Vision

Many of the children and adults that are served by NDVS/SB have a condition called NYSTAGMUS. Nystagmus is characterized by an involuntary movement of the eyes, which may reduce vision or be associated with other, more serious, conditions that limit vision. Nystagmus may be one of several infantile types or may be acquired later in life. People can function more effectively with nystagmus with the appropriate support. Below are a few considerations that may be beneficial.

  • Glasses or contact lenses do not correct nystagmus although they may damp (reduce) CN; they should be worn to correct other vision problems. Vision may vary during the day and is likely to be affected by emotional and physical factors such as stress, tiredness, nervousness or unfamiliar surroundings. Most people with CN and no other visual problems can see well enough to drive a car.
  • The angle of vision is important. Most individuals with CN have a null point (a gaze angle where the CN damps); this point can be found and used by looking to one side or the other, where the eye movement is reduced and vision improved. Those with a null point will often adopt a head posture to make best use of their vision. Sitting to one side of a screen, blackboard, etc. does not help because it reduces the angle at which the screen is viewed, causing 'crowding'. A better solution is to sit directly in front and adopt the preferred head turn or have corrective surgery (or use prisms) to eliminate the head turn.
  • Small print. Many can read very small print if it is close enough or with use of a visual aid. However, the option of large print material should be available and all written matter should be clear. It is very hard to share a book with someone because it will probably be too far away or at the wrong angle.
  • Good lighting is important. If in doubt get the advice of a specialist, particularly as some people are also light sensitive. Computers are used by many people with nystagmus, who benefit from them as they can position screens to suit their own needs and adjust brightness, character size etc. However some find it difficult to read computer screens. Reading speed is not usually reduced by nystagmus itself, but by other associated visual deficits. CN should not be taken as a predictor of poor reading.
  • Balance can be a problem in acquired nystagmus, which can make it difficult to go up and down stairs. Finally, a widespread lack of understanding of the various types of nystagmus is often as much a source of difficulty as nystagmus itself. We are doing our best to overcome this problem and would be glad if you could help in this aim.

This information is from the American Nystagmus Network (www.nystagmus.org)

Reaching Out is published by the ND Vision Services/School for the Blind, an agency funded by the state of North Dakota for the benefit of people with visual impairments. ND Vision Services/School for the Blind is a division of the ND Department of Public Instruction. NDVS/SB does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in employment or provision of services. Reaching Out is available in alternative formats upon request. Please send comments to:

REACHING OUT ND Vision Services/
School for the Blind
500 Stanford Road
Grand Forks, ND 58203-2799

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Kirsten Baesler

Superintendent, ND Vision Services/School for the Blind: Paul Olson - polson@nd.gov

Reaching Out Editors: Nicole Evenson (niceven@nd.gov) and Leslie Pedersen (lespeder@nd.gov)

 
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