NC ELSSP-VI Newsletter

November 2017

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

Office of Early Learning

November's Quote

The most treasured gifts are the wonderful moments we create with the people we love. They become priceless memories decorating our lives.



Professional Development Submitted by Lin Causey

Regional Meetings

7 Year Old Makes a Donation Submitted by Angel Wallace

Parent Play Group Submitted by Lori Persinger

Pumpkins & Prizes Submitted by Lori Persinger

Where Are They Now Submitted by Becky Lowrey

Welcome New Staff

Staff Birthdays for November

Photo/Video Credits

Professional Development Opportunities

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6th Annual NCIMHA Conference and Annual Meeting

PROMISES TO KEEP: Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health

Friday, November 3, 2017

Elliot University Center

1400 Spring Garden St.

UNC Greensboro

Greensboro, NC

NCIMHA 6th Annual Conference Brochure.pdf


Strategies to See: Teaching Students with Cortical Visual Impairments

Invision is excited to offer a 2-Day professional development opportunity for TVIs, COMS, OTs, PTs, SLPs, teachers, parents, and anyone that works with students with CVI. Diane Sheline, TVI, CVLT will present useful and practical information. Participants will receive a copy of her book, Strategy to See.

When: Friday, January 26, 2018 at 8:30 AM thru Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 4:30 PM

Where: Hyatt Place Southpoint/Durham 7840 NC Highway 751 Durham, NC 27713

Contact: Julie Bardin, Invision Services, Inc., 919-539-3869,


Announcing ZERO TO THREE’s next Virtual Event Series: Building Social-Emotional Skills! You’ll learn how to conduct effective screening and follow-up, work sensitively with families, and use positive strategies for building the social-emotional competence of young children. Visit the series webpage to learn more! We're proud to offer this series for free to ZERO TO THREE members. There will be a $30 per session fee for non-members.

Virtual Event Series: Building Social-Emotional Skills:

1. After the Screening: Conducting Effective Social-Emotional Assessment with SEAM Webinar

Date: Thursday, November 14, 2017

Time: 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST

Registration: TBD

2. Tackling Tough Social-Emotional Issues with At-Risk Families Webinar

January 2018 Date/Time: TBD

Registration: TBD

3. Supporting Social-Emotional Behavior in Children with Autism Webinar

February 2018 Date/Time: TBD

Registration: TBD

FYI (not an endorsement)- ZERO TO THREE’S membership is less than the cost of these four webinars. Plus, as a member you'll have immediate access to:

  • Unlimited free virtual events, brought to you by experts in the field, and a library of recorded events to access at your convenience
  • A subscription to the information-filled ZERO TO THREE Journal
  • And much more!

If you are interested in learning more about ZERO TO THREE’S membership, please click here: ZERO TO THREE’S membership.

Received from Krystal Davis

Public Health Consultant

Division of Public Health, Early Intervention Branch

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services


Save the Date

The NC Conference on Visual Impairment and Blindness is scheduled for

April 19 and 20, 2018 at the Sheraton Chapel Hill.

There will be 5 tracks: Pre-School, K-12, Vocational Rehabilitation, Orientation and Mobility

and Pre-Employment Transition Services.


67th Conference on Exceptional Children

The 67th Conference on Exceptional Children will be held November 15th-17th at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, NC. Registration is now open!

Monthly Webinars: Partnering with YOU through Visual Impairment information sharing

From the North Carolina Department of Publlc Instruction

Monthly Webinars 3:30-4:30 PM

November 2nd

Getting Ready for the December 1st Headcount

Webinar Registration Link

December 4th

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About APH Quota Funds

Webinar Registration Link

January 11th

Testing Accommodations for Students with Visual Impairment

Webinar Registration Link

February 15th

Secondary Transition for Students with Visual Impairment

Webinar Registration Link

April 12th

Practical Strategies for Preparing Students with VI for State Testing

Webinar Registration Link

May 3rd

Transitioning Students From One Level to the Next:

Preschool through High School

Webinar Registration Link

Regional Meetings

On Thursday September 28th, ELSSP/VI staff gathered together in their respective regions for their quarterly meetings. The staff in the West (WRITE) did some team building activities, learned new information on CVI (which included a book activity) and had a presentation on O & M. Staff in the Central area (SCAT) received training from Diane Brauner on using technology with young children with visual impairments. The training covered the accessibility features of the iPad, specific apps that are very helpful for children with visual impairments and how children are using Refreshable Braille Displays in the classroom. Last but not least, the staff in the East (Sweet TEA) focused on literacy. They discussed literacy assessments for both print and Braille. Each staff member introduced and demonstrated their favorite literacy apps as well as a favorite literacy activity. They also brought in their favorite book(s) that they use regularly with students.

Western Region (WRITE)

Eastern Region (Sweet TEA)

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7-Year-Old Donates Birthday Gifts to the Visually Impaired

Brenlee T., 7, of Currie sits with brother Bryce amid gifts donated for visually impaired children. Brenlee a Harrells Christian Academy student, whose family has connections to the Wallace area, asked to have her seventh birthday party be used as a toy drive for children with visual impairments. She was partly inspired by her baby brother, who has colobomas in his eyes. A “coloboma” is a defect in which holes form in the inside of the eye. According to Angel Wallace, a teacher for the visually impaired with DPI’s Early Learning Sensory Support Program for Visual Impairments, Brenlee is just “a typical girl, who wanted to help other children.” The educational toys will be given to families and donated to classrooms. Friends and family who attended the birthday party Sept. 23rd brought the gifts to be donated. The Early Learning Sensory Support Program’s mission is to serve children with visual impairments (birth to 5 years old) and to educate parents. Brenlee’s parents say the seven-year olds hobbies include singing, dancing and playing outside.

*Adapted from Duplin Times October 2, 2017

The pictures at the beginning of the newsletter are pictures of some of the students with the toys they received from Brenlee.

ELSSP/VI Staff with donated Gifts

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Parent Play Group

On October 25th the Parent Play Group in Johnston County visited Lazy-O Farm. The purpose of the field trip was to provide an unfamiliar environment that was also a fun family outing for local families. It allowed the families to meet each other while spending a couple hours at the pumpkin patch. The children spent time petting farm animals, pulling up a bucket from the well, touching bones in the barn, going on a hayride, and playing on the playground with TVI's Lori Persinger and Malikata Blakey, OT - Sue Caruso, and O&M- Nancy Kirby.

NC-APVI's 9th Annual Pumpkins & Prizes

NC-APVI's 9th Annual Pumpkins & Prizes Party was held on October 28th at Governor Morehead School. This was a great event for families of children with visual impairments and for professionals serving these children. Attendees were able to learn about community groups that provide services and resources for children with visual impairments while having fun decorating pumpkins, socializing, and eating pizza and treats. ELSSP-VI Raleigh Site Teachers Sandy Bryant, Maryam Griffin, Malikata Blakey, and Lori Persinger provided a "light box" room of activities. Former teachers William Tubilleja, Dee Martin, and Jane Barabash also volunteered. Beth Shaw and Hitty Chiott came from Winston Salem to join in on the fun as well.

Where Are They Now???

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Mackenzie: Where is She Now?

She’s Groovin’ with her eSight!

At the very end of September 2009, I met a tiny baby girl named Mackenzie and her parents, Tabatha and Cody. Mackenzie had not been home from the hospital very long, after being born at 24 weeks and spending the first several weeks of her young life in the NICU. She was still hooked up to monitors, but was kicking her legs and waving her arms and looked at me very intently, as if to say, “Well, Lady – What you got for me?” And that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship with Mackenzie and her parents. Mackenzie developed Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), Stage 4A after birth, as well as a cataract in her right eye. Though laser surgery would help, her right eye would never develop a great deal of vision. While Mackenzie’s left eye would help her to navigate her world and allow her to see well enough to read print, she would eventually need low vision aids, such as a CCTV. However, from the very beginning, the small baby waving her arms at me and later reaching for toys on a light box, would never let anything slow her down. When she got just a little bit older (but not much), she met Shonda Page, OTR from ELSSP/VI, who helped Mackenzie with textures and fine motor. When she began to cruise and explore, Nancy Kirby-Sauls, COMS, became her friend, too. Needless to say, ELSSP/VI (then Governor Morehead Preschool) spent a lot of time with Mackenzie and her parents.

As Mackenzie got older, it was obvious that she was a sponge for knowledge. Like many children with visual impairment, Mackenzie needed hands on experiences to help her understand some things she just couldn’t quite figure out, including the category of animals. We began with farm animals, their names, shapes, salient features, textures, etc. Mackenzie’s parents also concentrated on animals, read animal books and tried to give her hands-on experiences with animals. I used small plastic farm animals for color primarily, paired with textures and sounds, and Mackenzie was making enough headway, that I felt a short assessment was in order. It went something like this:

Handing Mackenzie a cow and playing the sound: Tell me what this is, Mackenzie?

Mackenze: Cow!

Me: Yes! It’s a cow! What’s this?

Mackenzie: Horse!

Me: Right again! It’s a horse! What’s this? (Handing her a pig)

Mckenzie: It’s an armadillo!

Me: ?????

Wondering if the armadillo answer had come from a book at home, I checked with Mackenzie’s mother, Tabatha. And…she had no idea where the answer “armadillo” came from, and we still do not know to this day.

Now, let’s fast forward to the day of this interview. Mackenzie is 8 years old, and as she reminded me, “I’m almost 9!”. She is homeschooled by her parents and is active in a local homeschool program. She loves to dance, and has been taking art lessons. Her favorite school activity is science experiments, and as her mother stated, Mackenzie is still very much a hands-on learner. Mackenzie has always needed sunglasses and has had either transition lenses or prescription sunglasses since she was very little. However, being outside, swimming with her tinted goggles, and going on adventures are also some of her favorite activities. Just recently, Mackenzie obtained an incredible device, that allows her to see detail as she never has before.

The device is called eSight and fits over the front of Mackenzie’s face. She has a separate pair of prescription glasses made for the eSight, which can fit directly into the headset. A hand controller hooked to the headset allows Mackenzie to zoom in or out, adjust for blurriness, add or take away color and switch contrast, just to name a few things. The controller also has an SD card and allows Mackenzie to take pictures of things that move, so she can look at it through the headset and identify what she saw. She and her mother also showed me how the controller can be hooked to an HDMI cable to allow Mackenzie to view a movie through the headset. Plus, the headset is synced with Tabatha’s phone, which shows what Mackenzie is seeing. If there are issues, her parents can help Mackenzie clear them up. Her mother stated that similar to a young child with their first pair of glasses, Mackenzie is having to work up to full time wear, which will also allow her to read and write with the eSight, as it does everything that her CCTV will do. However, the headset is a little heavy, and Mackenzie is having to get used to that. As she builds up head and neck control, she will be able to control the eSight better allowing the images she views will be much more stable. The only thing not advised to do with the eSight is to walk while wearing it, as depth perception problems can increase. A fantastic story they told me was about being at Lake James one evening when the sky was very clear and the moon was out. Tabatha asked Mackenzie to look at the moon with her eSight, even though Mackenzie said she could see the moon. However, without the eSight, Mackenzie only saw a glowing nondescript shape. With the eSight, she saw, for the first time, that the moon was a crescent shape. Upon seeing the crescent moon for the first time, her mother said that Mackenzie started to dance around! Mackenzie shared that she can see the craters on the moon, as well. In fact, the eSight took Mackenzie’s visual acuity from 20/200 to 20/40. Amazing!

eSight is through a company out of Canada, so if you have not heard of it, this is probably why. However, they have staff in each state in the U.S. who can talk with families and set up appointments to check out the eSight. Tabatha shared that the eSight is expensive: $10,180.00 for Mackenzie’s. However, because Mackenzie’s family had several friends, family, and members of their community donate money for the eSight, they only had to do one fundraiser – with Krispy Kreme. Included in the price of the eSight, the company pairs an “ambassador” with each eSight user to help them for the life of the person using the eSight. Tabatha stated that a three-year warranty also comes with the eSight, and the company will repair/replace a damaged device no matter what has happened to it. If you want to find out more about the eSight go to

I enjoyed my visit with Mackenzie and her mom and dad that afternoon. I am so happy for Mackenzie and her family. Just like Pete the Cat, one of Mackenzie’s favorite books to read with me, she will be rockin’ and groovin’ with her eSight on many new adventures to come.

Welcome Mehitabal Chiott!!!

Mehitabal (Hitty for short) lives in Pfafftown, NC with her husband, Darren and their three children: Zoey (26) Olivia (17), and Aidan (15). They moved from Vermont 13 years ago and believe that the beauty of NC is right up there with the Green Mountain State. As a family, they enjoy truly simple things in life like playing games, enjoying their adorable dogs and cat, and getting outside. Hitty and her husband both sing with the Winston-Salem Symphony Chorale. She graduated from the American University in Washington, D.C. with a B.A. in Anthropology and earned her teaching certification in Elementary Education through Salem College in December 2011. In 2015, she began working as an Itinerant Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments in grades K-12 with the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School System. Hitty is now completing the Visual Impairment Training Program at North Carolina Central University. In addition, she taught 3rd grade and worked as a Primary Reading Teacher for 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades. Hitty also worked as an EC Assistant with students with visual impairments (which is when she discovered her passion for helping all students learn strategies to understand their world and participate in it fully). Working with children and helping them grow and explore gives Hitty great joy, and presents her with daily opportunities to learn and grow as well. Hitty says, “I am so happy and honored to be a part of the Early Learning Sensory Support Team!” Welcome Hitty!

November Staff Birthdays

November 1st Maureen Walsh

November 26th Karen Huffman

November 27th Carrie Ledford

Photo/Video Credits