We spent last week at VISIONS Center on Blindness (formerly Vacation Camp for the Blind) with Benjamin and had a great time all around. VCB is not too far away from us, but it is on a big piece of property in Rockland county and was a nice break from the city.
The week we were at VCB it was reserved for families with children with visual impairments up to 5 years old and children with multiple disabilities of any age. And while every kid is very different, it was really good for us to meet other parents who understand first hand what it’s like. Other weeks throughout the summer are set aside for older kids and adults, so Ben can look forward to visiting VCB for a long time.
Ben got to play all day, socialize with other kids and go in the pool while Amy and I went to workshops and parents groups (as well as a good amount of just plain relaxing). Each evening the center ran events and even had a couple of parties.
The counselors and the staff at VCB were amazing, wonderful people who could not do enough for the families staying there. You could tell how much they cared about being involved at VISIONS. It really made it special.
We are grateful for the friends we made at VCB and we can’t wait to meet up again. Special thanks to everyone at VISIONS for a great week and to everyone who helps support it, including our regional Lion Clubs.
And now for some cute photos…
Cabins at VCB
Ben hanging at the pool
Ben and counselor Steph
A book before lunch
Reading is fun
Ben in the pool
Going for a stroll at camp
Ben and his teacher Dawn
Otilia, Cameron, Al and Ethan
Ben and a bunny
At the petting zoo
Ben pets a goat
We are very fortunate that Ben is a very good sleeper. He is great about sleeping through the night and wakes at a decent hour. But Ben does not approach sleep gently. He attacks it like a kid at a playground. He thinks bedtime is for acrobatics and leaps across the crib. Here’s just an example of what he does every. night. (and also shows off his new hair cut) <video>
In other news, Ben has been doing well on the food side – not that it still isn’t a struggle to get more food in him than he throws up (a lovely image – I apologize) but he has been easier to feed in general. In fact, he’s now 24 pounds! I know it’s not much for a kid who’s more than 2 years old – but for us, it’s wonderful. In fact – it puts him at the 6th percentile for weight. That’s solidly on the chart.
Ben also had a great time with his best buds, Jack and Jerome, this Independence Day – splashing and laughing. They also took a trip to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum – which was a bit much for Ben, but we’ll be back.
One of the workshops that Joe and I attended at the Perkins Early Connections Conference involved the idea of concept building. Concept building is important for all children, but needs to be done more explicitly for those with visual impairments.
For example, a sighted child getting a cup of milk sees the parent go the refrigerator, get the milk, get a cup, pour the milk into the cup and bring the cup to them. They also see the cow-print or farm scene on the milk carton. On the other hand, Ben gets a cup of milk magically appear in front of him. We have to tell him where we keep the milk, how we pour it into the cup and where milk comes from. As we don’t have a cow in our apartment, we have to make do with apps such as Sound Touch that have realistic animal sounds (Sound Touch also has instruments, automobiles, and household objects) and plastic models of the cow. Anyone who has ever seen a cow knows that a plastic model, though visually like a cow, is a far cry from the actual animal.
So our first trip to a farm was exciting- seeing real animals! This is the first step for Ben to understand what they feel like, sound like, and smell like before understanding that sometimes, um, we eat them too. We are planning on visiting Queens Zoo and Queens Farm, NY Aquarium the Bronx Zoo as well this summer and fall, so hopefully we’ll have a lot of opportunities to have a variety of real world experiences.
It was also a lovely day to spend with Aunt Chrissie and Kaia, who were up from North Carolina, and see Gram and ACA! We all had a great time!
For the most part, when therapists and evaluators ask me what Ben’s receptive language is like, I have to shrug my shoulders. Though I’m pretty sure that he understands us, he doesn’t really follow directions. Repetitions of “Benjamin!” “Shake this toy” and “Where are your feet?” go unanswered for the most part, and it’s hard to say if that’s due to his inability to understand, or because he simply just isn’t into that.
But this Monday got a lot of excitement around these parts, because Benjamin, upon request, found his nose. Several times- so it wasn’t just a weird coincidence.
Strangely, as of today, said nose locale is less certain. We’ll have to practice some more.
Ben tries out his cane
Ben is just starting to walk but we wanted to introduce a cane to him right away. We don’t expect him to use it properly anytime soon – he doesn’t even have an O&M instructor yet – but we thought it was important to get him (and us) used to the idea of his cane as being a part of geting around. Right now he mostly thinks it’s fun to bang on the ground and chew on, but some day soon his cane will be his best friend. Learning to use a cane will be an important part of Ben being independent.
Benjamin’s cane is a free cane provided by the National Federation for the Blind. Special thanks to Barbara Pollard whose donation to the NFB provided the cane for Ben. You rock!
I’m sure we’ll be writing more about the cane as Ben gets better at getting around, and especially as he heads out into the wide world.
Also – you may notice the blog is changed a little bit. We gave it a new look and changed the title a little. It’s just “All About Benjamin” now – no more “baby.” Benjamin is growing up!
Happy Mother’s Day (a day late) to my beautiful wife and Ben’s mom!
Back in the baby in a box days
First time holding Benjamin
Ben celebrates Mother’s Day with his mom and grandmothers
Amy, Ben and I drove up to Boston this past weekend for the Early Connections conference at Perkins School for the Blind. The event is centered around educating parents of visually impaired children up to 7 years old. It was really wonderful to meet other parents who have similar stories and meet their kids. One of my favorite sessions was a panel of visually impaired and blind teenagers who were about to go to college talking about how their parents helped make them independent by treating them like any other kid – making them do chores, not coddling them, not having lowered expectations. Watch out Ben — looking forward to you doing the laundry!
They also had tables set up from different organizations and vendors showing off their accessible gear. During the conference Ben got to have fun while his folks were learning with a full scheduled day with the other kids.
Perkins was a beautiful campus and has amazing facilities. I wish we had something like it in New York City. But of course we were so busy we never even took a picture – so I have nothing to share today.
We also had a nice visit with our Boston friends. We will be back again, so maybe pictures next time!