NC ELSSP-VI Newsletter

June 2018

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

Touching Lives Through ELSSP

The Early Learning Sensory Support Program for Children with Visual Impairments and Hearing Impairments is a division of the Office of Early Learning through the Department of Public Instruction. Our team is unique to The Department of Public Instruction because it includes over 70 staff members that provide direct instruction to children and families. We have licensed teachers of the visually impaired and hearing impaired/deaf, occupational therapists, interpreters and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists all with one goal; to make sure each child will be honored, respected, and empowered to achieve success in school and life.

The paths that we take to meet that goal may look very different for each life we touch. Sometimes it means that a teacher is asked to meet a family at the ophthalmologist or audiologist’s office, just in case they need a little support. A teacher adapts a book so a child can experience a story through touch. An ELSSP teacher supports a classroom teacher with specific adaptations for a student or give strategies to help their child with mealtimes, dressing, or a family outing. We provide a multitude of resources for parents and caregivers whether it’s articles and support groups about their child’s diagnosis, an online course to explore braille for the parent of a future braille reader, or being able to engage with other families in a beeping Easter egg hunt. Our teachers travel all over the state to wherever there are children with vision and hearing impairments. We visit with families in their homes. We serve the children in daycares, homes and preschool classrooms. We work closely with other professionals who also serve our students, this collaboration allows everyone to have a better understanding as to how children with sensory impairments learn. The North Carolina Early Learning Support Program provides support in so many ways, but there is always one common outcome… the impact lasts a lifetime.

If you would like more information about our program, please visit our website at


Amazing Kids Submitted by Staff Members

Teacher Toolbox Submitted by Hitty Chiott

Welcome New Staff

Graduates Submitted by Bethany Mayo

Good-bye Rhonda Submitted by Heather Lister

Way to go Paula & CVI Pinterest Page

New Lead Teacher in the East Submitted by Becky Lowrey

Professional Development Submitted by Lin Causey

Staff Birthdays for June

Photo/Video Credits

Teacher Toolbox

TapSpeak Sequence App

Sometimes, aren’t you just amazed at how often you can think, “I bet there’s an app for that,” and there is! With the internet at my fingertips, I went in search of an app that I would be able to use to create simple, interactive or switch accessible, and individualized stories. I found a couple of possibilities in the apps Pictello and TapSpeak Sequence. I could only choose one, as neither is free, so I ended up deciding to try the TapSpeak Sequence app after watching some demonstration videos on YouTube and seeing that the tap response is configurable to accommodate kids with varying motor skill levels. I found out that the software engineer, Ted Conley, who developed this app has a young son with cerebral palsy and cortical visual impairment and this fueled his desire to create kid-friendly augmentative and alternative communication products (AAC). In this article, I just want to share some ways I have enjoyed using this app with my students.

The app includes a variety of shapes which can be used as a simple way to turn an iPad into a voice output switch. The app itself can be used with an external switch connected to the iPad through Bluetooth switch interfaces, but what’s nice about the app is that you can record an unlimited number of phrases in sequence. The feature of this app that I really like is that you can upload any of your own photos (or even videos!) and then record a phrase to go with the picture. With one family, we collected pictures of the child’s favorite toys and people and alternated each photograph with the picture symbol for like and just created a story of things the child likes. This not only provides multiple opportunities to hear the label for the object in the picture, but it also associates a variety of things with the picture symbol and concept of what she likes. Another way we use the app is to provide a way for nonverbal or preverbal children to participate in reading a story with a repeating line of text. For example, when reading or singing The Five Little Ducks song with a high contrast book, my student can touch the screen showing a picture of the mother duck to read the line, “Mother Duck calls, quack, quack quack, quack!” each time that phrase is repeated in the book.

Another way to use the app, is to create simple sequence stories for routines of the day such as getting ready for bed and include pictures of routine objects like a toothbrush, hairbrush, washcloth, PJs, and favorite bedtime toy. Of course, this would be a great way to create an experience story featuring pictures from a favorite outing, and recordings of sounds from the experience, or sentences to describe the story. Children who are verbal could record their own phrases and hear themselves read the story. Isn’t your mind just racing with ideas? This is what I really love about the app: you can create tons of individualized sequences using recognizable, meaningful images and/or sounds, from a child’s life. To help you get started, the app includes a lovely sequence to illustrate the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star using high contrast illustrations, and any picture you upload can be set against a low complexity/high contrast background. The app is a little pricey at $29.99, but it can be shared on up to 6 family devices, and there are so many ways to use and customize it. It is flexible enough to grow with a child.

Welcome Vanessa Bishop!!!

Vanessa Bishop lives in Hampstead, NC, just a few miles from Topsail Island. She lives with her husband Jim and their two daughters. The family loves to spend time together at the beach, and does so often! After graduating from Kent State University she began her teaching career in the New Hanover County school system in 1997. She proudly served as a teacher of exceptional children for the New Hanover County Schools, specializing in teaching children diagnosed with multiple disabilities, including visual impairments. Vanessa recently obtained her Masters of Education degree in Early Childhood Education: Leadership, Policy, and Advocacy from UNCW. While enrolled in the graduate program, she worked as a graduate research assistant in UNCW’s Center for Assistive Technology and Research Lab where she had the opportunity to work with preservice teachers, professionals, families, and young children. Now that Vanessa has met the goal of obtaining her Masters of Education, she is excited to begin a new phase of her career as a teacher of children with visual impairments with ELSSP!

NCCU Graduates

Sending out a huge Congratulations to Annette Zaiontz, Lori Persinger, Lori Bartram, and Hitty Chiott. These ladies graduated last month from North Carolina Central University.

Annette Zaiontz and Lori Persinger graduated with their Masters Degree in Education with a Visual Impairment Focus and Lori Bartram and Hitty Chiott graduated the VI program with an add on Visual Impairment Licensure.

This is an incredible accomplishment and you should be very proud of yourselves. It is not easy to take master's level courses, do well in a demanding job, as well as take care of your own families.

Many of you are still working towards this goal and are at different stages of your studies. Let these ladies be an example that it can be done. I am so blessed to work with such an awesome team!

Goodbye Rhonda...

Rhonda Coley, TVI in the western region, is retiring effective September 1st. The ELSSP/VI team will be sad to lose Rhonda. She has touched the lives of numerous children and families, been an excellent teacher, friend and example to her co-workers.

Rhonda graduated from Appalachian State University in 1980 with a Cross Categorical Special Education degree (concentration in Severe and Profound). She began her teaching career at the Piedmont Regional Developmental Center. There, Rhonda served as a Special Education Teacher and then Program Director (for a total of 13 years). She taught one year in Lexington and then went to work for the CDSA. Rhonda served as a service coordinator as well as doing educational testing for the CDSA for about 11 years. In 2005, Kelly Davis hired Rhonda to work for the Governor Morehead Preschool (now ELSSP/VI). Rhonda has worked with ELSSP/VI ever since. Rhonda is happily married and has a total of 10 grandkids. She is excited about retiring (though she says it feels “surreal”). Rhonda plans to relax, spend time with her husband and grandkids and enjoy the ocean.

Way to go Paula!

Paula Roten was recently asked to serve as a mentor for Appalachin State University (ASU) student teacher candidates. ASU has 2,049 alumni who are National Board Certified Teachers and they want to utilize NBCT's to serve as mentors for preservice teachers. We are confident that Paula will be an excellent mentor to these future teachers.

Paula not only has her National Board Certification, she was also the first teacher in ELSSP/VI (and in NC) to complete the Perkins-Roman CVI Endorsement through the Perkins School for the Blind. That being said, Paula has a wonderful Pinterest page on CVI. Please check out the link to see her Pinterest page!

New Lead Teacher in the East

Heather is our new Lead Teacher for the eastern part of the state, and though most of us know Heather, I just want to express how excited we are about Heather and what a terrific addition she makes to our leadership team. Besides bringing 23 years of teaching experience in special education both as a teacher and an administrator, Heather also has a passion for our field and an incredible amount of energy. It’s hard not to smile, laugh, and be energized when you’re around Heather.

Heather has a Bachelors from Elizabeth City State in Special Education and Masters from ECU, with certifications in Pre-K and visual impairment. Heather started out as an EC teacher in Martin County, and then moved to Elizabeth City/Pasquotank County (ECPPS). She came to us for a little while when we were still the Governor Morehead Preschool, but after her daughter, Kennedy was born, she accepted a position as the Preschool Coordinator for ECPPS. She continued to get experience working with students with VI, as she was also the program specialist for low incident disabilities…(and headed the Autism Problem Solving Team, was a member of the Assistive Technology Team, and acted as an Educational Diagnostician…whew). Luckily for us, she completed her VI coursework, obtained her VI certification and came back to ELSSP/VI in 2015. Her need to juggle several balls has not left her, as I believe she is the official photographer for ELSSP, coordinates the VI newsletter, and assists with our new website. She has served on the state LICC, and last summer dove head first into the ECC. She and Sandy did a presentation this past fall about the ECC, but Heather wants to continue to help our TVIs to understand how the ECC begins with us.

Heather lives in Elizabeth City with her husband Osmond and three sons and a daughter: Eric (25), Cameron (23), Kylan (20), and Kennedy (14). She told me that her life outside of work involves lots of traveling to volleyball games for Kennedy. When she is not a volleyball mom, she enjoys hunting through thrift stores, going to the beach, and spending time with her family. On a note of irony, Heather stated that she knows sign language. While getting her undergrad degree, she took courses in sign language, and ended hanging with a group on campus made up of individuals who could sign, many of whom were deaf. The group had lots of social functions, but the only communication mode allowed was sign language. Heather being Heather, her need to express herself and to be part of the conversation was paramount. Thus, she learned to sign quickly. And when asked that question that we all cock up our eyebrows at when we tell someone we are a teacher of the Visually Impaired – “Oh – Do you know how to sign?”, Heather can actually say, “Yes, I do” and leave it at that.

For Heather, there doesn’t seem to be a project too big or complicated to take up. I am thankful for all she will bring to her new role and to me, her fellow-lead. Please help welcome our new lead teacher, Heather Lister!

Professional Development Opportunities

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Hope you have already checked out the 2018 Summer Institutes available to teachers and related services personnel seeking in-service training in the education of exceptional children.

Visit the web at for additional professional development opportunities and updates on space availability for these institutes.


WEBINAR SERIES, AUTISM SPECTRUM This webinar series will provide those who serve infants with, or at-risk for, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and their families the information they need to provide compassionate and effective support and intervention. The training will include detailed information about NAS and appropriate care of and intervention for the infant and family, including developmental and child health outcomes, screening, non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic treatment, evidence-based treatment for women with opioid addiction, and strategies for working with families challenged by addiction.


GoToWebinar Only



PART 1: Tuesday, May 22, 2018


12:00 pm-1:00pm


PART 2: Thursday, June 7, 2018


12:00 pm-1:00pm


Your local CDSA Provider Network is a great source for Infant Toddler Training Activities.

Check it out!


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Opening Convocation

August 14-15, 2018

Raleigh, NC

June Staff Birthdays

June 29th Maria Cobeo

Photo/Video Credits