NC ELSSP-VI Newsletter

May 2020

Each child will be honored, respected, and empowered to achieve success in school and life.

North Carolina Early Learning Sensory Support Program for Children with Visual Impairments

NC Department of Public Instruction

Exceptional Children Division


Amazing Kids - Staff

May Activity Calendar - Heather Lister

Resource: Perkins To Go Podcast - Pam Bye

LL Cool Tech Tool Tips - Lori Bartram, Lori Persinger

The Legacy - Becky Lowrey

Professional Development Opportunities - Lin Causey

Staff Birthdays for May

Photo/Video Credits

May Activity Calendar

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Resource: Perkins to go Podcast

I have enjoyed listening to the Perkins eLearning To Go podcast. I subscribed to it some time ago and have found all of the episodes informative and helpful. They cover a wide range of topics on visual impairment including CVI, social skills, self-help skills, concept development, teachable moments, and so much more. Below is a link to an article about the podcasts and how to join it. I hope you enjoy it!

LL Cool Tech Tool Tips

Check out this fun activity from APH - making braille cookies!
L.L Cool Tech Tools would like to hear from you! Please take a minute to fill out the following survey. We are looking for input from The Early Learning Sensory Support staff members that would like to learn more about specific types of technology. We all want our students to be engaged with technology to help them grow and learn to the best of their ability. We would love to highlight the latest and greatest products available to all of us in upcoming videos this year. Thank you for all of the feedback many of you have already provided for us. We really appreciate you!

The Legacy

By Becky Lowrey

I rolled into the yard, a combination of gravel, gulches, and mud. Several cracked but large plywood boards were laid close to the single-wide. I glanced around. No cars, but signs that one was here on a regular basis. I took advantage of the plywood and parked my car on top of a couple that appeared reliable. Three boards, stacked like stairs led up to the metal front door. Upon inspection, I decided to leave my assessment kit in the car, shouldered my “teacher” bag containing paperwork for this first meeting, and avoided the first stair with a sinister crack. I knocked. A wheezing voice came from inside. “Who is it?”

“Hello, I’m Becky Lowrey. I’m a vision teacher. I talked with Tracy about an appointment at 1:00 today to start with Hammerick?”

There was a pause, and I heard another wheezing reply, ”Oh, yes. She told me you’d be comin’. Jus’ come on in. The door’s unlocked.”

I entered a darkened room. Just next to the front door, a large figure sat in an old lazy-boy, with an oxygen tank next to the chair. “Well, come on in, honey. I’m Hammerick’s Mee-mee.”

“Hi. I’m Becky. Are Tracy and Hammerick here?”

“Lord, no! She and my son are always gallivanting around somewhere. They said they was a goin’ to the store but they’d be back hopefully by the time you got here. So as usual, they ain’t here. But you kin wait. Has a seat.”

I looked around for another chair and saw one kitchen chair with a booster seat attached to it pulled up to a dinette table, and a large sofa with an afghan thrown over the cushions. Since it looked a little more inviting in spite of what may have been a large wet spot underneath the afghan, I placed my bag up against the couch and perched on the edge.

The older woman smiled widely, took a wheezy breath and said, “Now what kind of nurse are you? Hamm has all sorts coming in and out of the house.”

I smiled back. “Nurse” or “therapist” was what I was sometimes called. “I’m not a nurse. I’m a special kind of teacher that helps children who have problems with their vision.”

“That’s right. Tracy said you was gonna help us with Hamm’s eyes. Maybe you can tell us why they moves around all the time.”

The edge of the sofa was definitely biting into my backside. “I hope I can help…”, I began as I scooted back a little onto the cushion. With memories of sailing backwards down a large playground slide, I suddenly found myself clinging with my knees and ankles, as the rest of me was literally swallowed by the sofa. A faint updraft of cool air was circulating through my shirt, while my right hand, which was searching for some sort of stability, only found a hole leading straight to the crawl space beneath the trailer.

“I done told them to fix that. I told ‘em that someone was gonna get seriously injured from sittin’ on that sofa. You’s O.K., honey?”

“I think…so…”I tried to grab the arm of the sofa with my left hand and use my elbow for leverage, but wasn’t making much progress.

“Yeah, my son’s supposed to take care of that weeks ago. I just want the copperheads to stop comin’ through into the house. They’re so bad this time of year.”

My brain choked on the word “copperhead”. The next moment, I found I was miraculously standing upright in front of the sofa.

“You sure are a quick one! You O.K., sweetie?,” Mee-mee looked genuinely concerned.

“I’m…” but my reply was cut short by the bang of a door as a stocky, red-faced young man in a sleeveless t-shirt barreled in.

“JEEE-SUS– YOU WAS JUST HERE ON FRIDAY...” His fists were balled, and he was inches from my face.

Mee-mee let out a sigh as if this was not an uncommon but nevertheless unfortunate occurrence. “And this here would be my son, Raymond, Hamm’s daddy.”

I stood my ground but quickly shoved out my hand, “It’s so good to meet you. I’m Becky, the vision teacher. I talked with Tracy earlier this week about coming to see Hamm and you all today to get his vision services started.”

Raymond’s face became a series of expressions going from disbelief to confusion to obvious relief.

He took my hand gingerly and then more firmly, as a smile spread across his face. “I thought you was my parole officer, come to check up on me again. Tracy, look who’s here. It’s that teacher you said we had to hurry up for.” He turned back to me. “I guess that’s your car out there.”

I suddenly realized that the state car had been the trigger for this father’s unique entrance and introduction.

“Yes. I’m sorry if it caused you alarm. I work for an agency with the state, and we’re lucky to be able to drive state cars, as we travel a good bit.”

“All behind us,” he laughed and at that moment I saw a very young woman, carrying grocery bags and a small boy, coming up the rickety steps. I slid around the father to help with the load.

“You must be Tracy and Hammerick. Can I help carry something?” The mother nodded and said, “Hamm, go to the nice lady.” Hamm did not reach for me at first. I stepped just to the right of his mother, and he smiled and reached out into the air. I made a mental note to add this to his functional vision assessment.

“Careful of his back and head,” his mother said wearily. I placed my left arm around him for extra support. I remembered reading about the spina bifida.

“Hi.” Hamm said with the same wide smile as his mee-mee. His eyes wandered without purpose.

“You can just set him in those pillows.” Tracy called from the kitchen. I placed Hamm in a grouping of pillows designed to help him stay upright. I made another mental note to bring the family the extra Boppy sitting in my office. I remembered the tactile book I had in my bag and placed it on Hamm’s lap. He picked it up, flipped the pages and giggled when his fingers found a texture on a page. Another mental note.

Tracy turned to look at us. “He loves books. Ms. Heather, from the CDSA? She brought us a couple. She said you might have more?”

“Oh, yes! I have books you all can borrow. I’m so glad you’re reading to him.”

Tracy gave me a shy smile. “I like to read. Always have. Ray…” she motioned to the dad who was now outside smoking, “He’s not so keen on it. But he don’t stop me from reading to Hamm.”

I smiled back at the mother, who came into the den, wiping her hands. Dad was still outside. A muffled snore came from Mee-mee in her chair. “Let’s just sign some paperwork today. I know you all are tired.” I said reaching for my bag. “We’ll schedule another visit next week for me to start everything. And – Hamm is enjoying that book so much, why don’t you all keep it until I can bring some more out.”

Hamm kept the book for four years, after which he went on to kindergarten. At our last session, his mother pulled it out and asked if I wanted it back. It was dog eared, with some torn pages that had been taped back together. The binding was loose. Though many books for Hamm had rotated in and out of the little home, this one stayed. I told her no, they should keep it and use it with Hamm’s younger brother. She shook her head and handed it to me. “I talked with Hamm.” She looked at Hamm who was sitting between us. “Didn’t we, Hamm.”

He smiled, “Yup! You take it. It’s OK.”

His mother continued. “We want you to give it to another child, Ms. Becky. Another child who will love it as much as Hamm. That book has a lot of love in it. We just want to pass it back for you to pass it on.”

Six years later I would receive a call that Hamm had passed away from a virulent strain of viral pneumonia. At the receiving, his mother asked about Hamm’s book. Had it brought love to other children? I assured her that it had and that it would continue to do so in Hamm’s memory. The book has been rebound with Duck Tape. Textures have been re-glued. Pages have been re-taped, and new braille has replaced the old that eventually found its way into the book for Hamm. But Hamm’s name, in large dark marker, scrawled across the inside of the front cover, remains untouched. And when my students ask me about the large black letters at the front of the book, I tell them about Hamm. He was a boy who loved books and who wanted other children to love books. I have long stopped referring to the book by its original title. For me, it will always be Hamm’s Book. It is Hamm’s Legacy.

Professional Development Opportunities

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Virtual Opportunities for Professional Development

May 5, 2020: : Early Intervention and Feeding: When to Seek a Specialist PART 2 Webinar [] FREE/Certificate provided

If you missed Part 1 click here:Early Intervention and Feeding: When to Seek a Specialist PART I Webinar [] FREE

May 5, 2020: Infant/Toddler Series-Children's Environmental Health Webinar [], FREE

May 5, 2020: ,Promoting Healing and Resilience with Staff and Families Webinar [] FREE/Certificate provided

Ongoing: Foundational Strategies for Coaching Families Webinar [], FREE/Certificate provided

Ongoing: The Brain Architects Podcast: COVID-19 Special Edition: A Different World Podcast with Guide [], FREE

Ongoing: Technology Use in Early Childhood Special Education: Teaching The Swipe Generation Webinar [], FREE/Certificate provided

Informational resources:

April Edition of Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ECAC) Online (see email below)- ECAC helps parents navigate the special education system, know their rights, and use their voice. They provide information, support, training and resources to assist families caring for children with special needs from birth to age 26. April’s issue focuses on family issues related to COVID-19. To receive their e-communications, please call (800) 962-6817 or complete the registration online at [] This is a good resource for staff and families.

Coping with COVID-19 as a Family Series VLOG [] the Maryland SEFEL Pyramid Model Team- Vlog entries often combine embedded video (or a video link) with supporting text, images, and other metadata. It is designed to share experiences, thoughts, and ideas with an audience. It is a form of communication which is used to engage an audience in a personal fashion.


Sue Caruso - May 9

Annette Zaiontz - May 26

Photo/Video Credits