Exciting News to Share!

“If you don’t ask, you will never know”

This is my life motto. I have been given so many amazing opportunities in my life because I have dared to ask the questions that others would not. Although, this is not necessarily an instance of asking a question, but more of following my dreams and passions and pursuing continuing education that is going to put me where I need to advance and pursue my career goals!

I just received notification that I have been accepted into the Low Vision Graduate Certificate program for occupational therapists through Western Michigan University!!! I am so excited for the opportunity to continue my education in the field of occupational therapy and low vision. I will be starting classes in February. Although it is one more thing to take on, I am so passionate and excited it might not even feel like work, wait a minute… am I really saying that! Either way, I can’t wait to start this new journey.

In order to make this dream come true, I am requesting assistance through my GoFundMe campaign to help cover the cost of tuition, books, and travel expenses as the graduate certificate program does not qualify for federal student aid. Please follow the link to check out my GoFundMe campaign and consider donating! I greatly appreciate any donation, small or large. 

In other news, we just returned from a wonderful trip to San Fransisco where I got to share my story with the Guide Dogs for the Blind community down there at their annual Holiday Luncheon. I spoke to an audience of about 530 people. It was a great event and I feel honored to be chosen to speak. I had several people come up to me and congratulate me and say that it was the best luncheon they have attended in the past 30 years because of my speech. That makes me feel good! Guide Dogs for the Blind has released the video that accompanied my speech! It was such a fun experience working with Todd from Jump Cutters Video and they did a phenomenal job editing and putting the video together. I am proud to get to share it with all of my friends, family, and blog readers! Enjoy! Please click here to watch the video. 

 

 

New Low Vision Tool

New Low Vision Tool!

I am so excited to share that I will be receiving a new low vision tool! I will be getting a pair of telescope mounted spectacles. This is a 6x telescope mounted on a pair of glasses. This allows me to have a hands free way of using a monocular to increase my distance viewing! The company who makes these is Ocutech Inc. I am excited to have these for both work and use in the community. It will make me more efficient for doing observations in a variety of school environments. It will make me faster at my job. These will also be helpful in the community for reading signs, walk signals,  and for concerts and reading menus.

ves_sport_sil

Once neat fact about these telescope mounted spectacles is that individuals with low vision in Oregon can be licensed to drive if they meet specific requirements using these devices. They must go through specific training and take a special test to prove competency.

I am not intending to use these glasses for driving, just for general distance viewing.

As an occupational therapist with a strong interest in low vision rehabilitation, if I work as a low vision OT, part of my job would be to train clients in efficient use of these glasses in preparation for driver training.

A basic training protocol to teach in preparation for driver training would consist of task analysis and grading, such as:

  • Demonstrate basic understanding of the bioptic function
  • Demonstrate the ability to spot through the bioptic by aligning the bioptic with the target and spotting through it.
  • Demonstrate the ability to return gaze from the bioptic to carrier lens in a smooth and efficient fashion.
  • Demonstrate good horizontal and vertical scanning technique.
  • Spot and identify the characteristics of stationary targets of varying size and
  • distance from a stationary position
  • Spot, identify, and track moving targets of varying size and distance from a stationary position.
  • Spot and identify stationary targets of varying size and distance while moving.
  • Spot and track moving targets of varying size and distance while moving as a passenger in a car, bus, or other vehicle.

The important thing is that you start with easier to harder tasks, such as start with user stationary, target stationary; user stationary, target moving; user moving as passenger, then driver; target stationary; and user moving as passenger, then driver; target moving.

I am so fascinated by low vision OT and hope to be able to practice in this setting one day!

Here is a link to the website for Ocutech Inc if you want to learn more about their various products. https://www.ocutech.com

Nevada Day Classic!

I had a wonderful weekend in Reno, NV this past weekend. I was asked by Guide Dog’s for the Blind’s Reno and Carson City puppy raising clubs to speak at their annual fundraiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind at the Nevada Day Classic 8k run and 2k walk/run. The event took place on Saturday and I spoke at the packet pick up on Friday evening. They did a wonderful job putting on this event and I loved getting to share my story as a guide dog user.

I was so proud of myself for accepting the offer to speak and getting on a plane, flying to Nevada all by myself where I didn’t even know anyone. I had a wonderful family host me for the weekend and play tour guide. I was so impressed with Nabisco and his ability to navigate the busy airports and he did a fantastic job on his first flight! He slept the whole time, even when it got bumpy. He is the best guide dog ever!

Nabisco and I participated in the 2k walk and we finished in about 27 minutes!! He was so good and we had so much fun. We even made it into the local Carson City paper!

I had a wonderful weekend in Reno, NV from October 28-30. I was asked by Guide Dog’s for the Blind’s Reno and Carson City puppy raising clubs to speak at their annual fundraiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind at the Nevada Day Classic 8k run and 2k walk/run. The event took place on Saturday and I spoke at the packet pick up on Friday evening. They did a wonderful job putting on this event and I loved getting to share my story as a guide dog user with the puppy raising and Reno/Carson City communities.

As a visually impaired person, going on a trip like this would have normally been very nerve wracking for me. At one point, navigating the airport and a brand new environment would have been worrisome and I would have been very anxious. But I have grown and learned so much over the years and traveling with Nabisco has decreased this stress by so much! With the use of Nabisco and an airport escort decreased the stress of navigating the airport and putting myself out there and challenging myself and by putting myself in new experiences has helped me to be more comfortable in new situations.

It is through these experiences that I gain even more confidence to do it again.

Guide Dogs Radio Interview


I was asked to conduct an interview for the local Portland radio program, Metroscope, to share about Guide Dogs for the Blind and promote the upcoming Oregon Fall Luncheon on November 4th at Rhe Nines Hotel in Portland! I really enjoyed being in the studio a d recording this segment. 

You can listen to a podcast of the interview by following this link. http://www.metroscopepdx.com/

For those of you in the Portland area it will be airing again this Sunday, October 23rd on Various Entercom Radio stations including 99.5 The Wolf at 10pm! Check it out! 

GoFundMe!

I have taken the leap and I applied for the Graduate Certicare Program in Low Vision Rehabilitation for Occupational Therapists at Western Michigan University!! I am so excited to embark on this new career specialty! Unfortunately, the program does not qualify for Federal financial aid. Please consider donating to my GoFubdMe Campaign by following the link below. Also, learn more about what I will be doing as a low vision OT! 

https://www.gofundme.com/kmslowvisioned?ssid=779074093&pos=1

Incredible Opportunities!

gdblogo_stacked

I am so excited to announce that I have some amazing opportunities coming up in the next few months! Guide Dogs for the Blind has given me the opportunity to share my story and support GDB at two of their upcoming fundraising events. I will be the keynote speaker at the Annual Portland Fall Luncheon at the Nines Hotel on November 4th and the Holiday Luncheon in San Francisco on December 1st at the St. Francis Hotel!

In addition to getting to speak, they are also creating a video documentary/fundraising video of me and Nabisco, showcasing our life together. I cannot wait to see how it turns out! The filming was so much fun!

I am so grateful for all that Guide Dogs for the Blind has done for me and I am so happy to share my story to help raise funds for this amazing organization.

You can check out more information about the events at GDB’s fundraising page: http://www.guidedogs.com/events/

I am also excited to use this opportunity to share and promote occupational therapy. Even if it is only a short sentence about what OT is, it will be a way to tell the general public about what OT is. It will be a great!

VoiceOver

As part of my services from Washington State Services for the Blind, I am receiving training on the use of VoiceOver. VoiceOver is Apple’s screen reading technology for both iphone/ipad and mac computers. It allow blind/visually impaired users to access the phone, iPad, and computer through auditory means instead of visually. I have dabbled in its use on my phone and figured out the basics, but receiving official training in it’s use is really helpful to learn shortcuts and details. On Friday I received training in the use of VoiceOver on my phone. In just 2 hours, I learned all the finger gestures that are used to navigate the phone just as a sighted user would. VoiceOver reads everything on the screen. It is like learning a new language or way of using the phone. I decided to challenge myself and today, I turned off the screen (you can turn it black, but VoiceOver still works) and used my phone by VoiceOver only. I was surprised at how easy it was for me. I have ran into a few things i’m not sure how to do and “cheated” a little and used my vision to help me out, but for the most part, I am pleasantly surprised at how well I have done.

Using VoiceOver has helped me to be less fatigued than just accessing my phone visually. I really think this is a tool that I am going to use more often, especially when I have it synced to my bluetooth earpiece! It is easier for me to use it with the black screen compared to with the screen on as I do not try to use my vision. I have to rely on the VoiceOver.

I need to keep practicing so that I become proficient and I feel that it is better to use VoiceOver than not. This is really important to remember when working as an OT and working with clients on learning new technology. It may be frustrating at first, but with practice it will become easier and it is important to push clients to practice.

Tomorrow, I start learning how to use VoiceOver to access my mac laptop. This will be completely new learning for me, but I heard it is similar to the iPad so hopefully I pick it up easy.

I am excited to learn these skills!

You Never Know Until You Ask

I read an article yesterday about a blind engineer who works for Apple. She was born prematurely and has been blind since birth due to her prematurity (my guess is that she has ROP). In the article she stated, “You aren’t going to know unless you try. You aren’t going to know unless you talk to them … so go.” This resonated with me as it remind me a lot of myself. There have been so many times in my life where I have reached out to others to investigate something I wanted to do, not knowing the answer. Whether this was completing my OT fieldwork at Minnesota Children’s Hospital where I spent many months in the NICU, working as Dr. Temple Grandin’s teaching assistant for the school year, or being accepted for Guide Dog training. You don’t know until you ask and you will never know if you don’t ask. The most they can say is no, but at least you took the leap and found out.

You can check out the article here: http://mashable.com/2016/07/10/apple-innovation-blind-engineer/#W7PbKGCXEOqq

The article inspired me to think about where I am at with my occupational therapy career. Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects of my school OT job that I like, but there are aspects that are challenging and are not ideal for me. I have been thinking about where I want to go with my career. I have so many interests in the field – NICU, animal-assisted therapy, low vision, pediatrics, guide dogs…

I have recently started to explore a specialty in low vision rehabilitation, but it is requiring me to put myself out there and ask a lot of questions. In order to be successful in this practice area, I would need to get my Certified Low Vision Therqpist (CLVT) certification and find a job in the area. Not easy tasks to accomplish, but I know I can do it if I just put the time in and ask the right questions and make the right connections. There are also a few Graduate Certificate programs for occupational therapists to specialize in Low Vision Rehabilitation. I may explore those as well. I am starting out by doing a continuing education course through AOTA. It is providing me with really good knowledge! Low Vision Rehabilitation is such a small subset of the field and there are not many jobs that specialize in low vision rehab.

Who knows where this OT career journey will take me. All I know is that I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I feel like working in low vision rehabilitation is an area of high interest and would allow me to share my own personal experiences as an individual with a visual impairment.

On an unrelated topic, I was book shopping this weekend at Powell’s Books in Portland, and I found myself getting really frustrated. Usually I read through the use of audio books, but the specific series I was interested in reading was not available through my BARD NLS account. I was reading the book jackets and the first few pages and the print is so small!!! I got exhausted just from reading the book jackets! There is no way I can read standard print anymore! Sometimes, it is nice to just sit down with a real book and flip pages though. The large print selection of books seems to be getting smaller and smaller. I resorted to downloading the book on my iPad so that I can change the font size. I haven’t gotten too far into it, but it seems to be ok. Maybe this is just the new way of reading.

I guess that is all for now. I hope that I can start writing a bit more as I enjoy this blog and sharing my experiences as an OT and an individual with a visual impairment.

White Cane vs Guide Dog

So I realize that it has been quite a while since I have written a post. Life has gotten away from me, I suppose.

The other day I took my old yellow lab, Minnie, on a short walk around the block. That is about all she can tolerate these days, she is slowing down so much. Because she walks much slower than Nabisco, I had chosen to leave Nabisco home and go out with my white cane. This was the first time I had used my cane since getting Nabisco almost 6 months ago (has it been that long already??). WOW! What a difference he has made in my mobility. With my white cane, I was forced to walk slower, with my cane getting stuck in every small crack in the sidewalk. It was much more frustrating. When I walk with Nabisco, we fly! We can go so much faster and it is truly a much more relaxing way of going. I am so happy to have Nabisco and he has made such an amazing difference in my life.

IMG_7048

One thing I never considered when switching from my cane to a guide dog was the impact it would have on my relationship with my husband. Although it has not been significant, there has been a small change that we both have noticed. Prior to getting Nabisco, I used to hold my husband’s hand whenever we went out, now with Nabisco since he walks so fast and my focus is on him, I am not able to hold his hand as easily. This may seem inconsequential and seem like a good thing as I am not as dependent on my husband, but it has taken away one avenue of physical closeness that we shared together.

Our solution: we will work to incorporate time when we are able to go places or go for walks without Nabisco so I can hold his hand and my attention doesn’t have to be split.

Practice What I Preach

Recently I have been reflecting back on my own use of assistive devices. As an occupational therapist, we are often recommending assistive technology or adaptations and modifications. The trick is getting our clients to use them. I have a whole host of devices for low vision that I am spotty at using. I know I need to use them and they would help me a lot (decrease fatigue), but sometimes I just don’t. The trick is getting me to use them. I am not much different than any of the students I work with.

I think one of the main reasons why I choose to take off my glasses and look close to the paper or computer screen (my MO) instead of getting out a magnifier, is that I have not been properly trained to be proficient and efficient in the use of my adaptive devices. This is ESSENTIAL when teaching clients the use of adaptive devices. You can’t just hand them the technology (low or high tech) and expect it to work for them, as it was done for me. It is very important that the individual has buy in and that they are trained so that they feel comfortable and confident in using the device and it feels easier to use the device than not.

With my work, traveling to and from 7 different schools on the bus, I am not able to carry around a device for every little thing.  I need to simplify. Instead of carrying magnifiers, my CCTV, monoculars, and my iPad; I have simplified it to one monocular, a magnifier app on my iPhone, my work iPad and laptop.

I need to dedicate time to practicing and becoming proficient at the use of my tools. This is hard to do when I am barely keeping up as it is and to take the extra time to go slow and learn these tools. It would have been much easier if I was taught these skills at a young age or even better when I was given these tools only a few years back.

I need to keep this all in mind as I work with my OT students and as I work harder to learn to use my tools more efficiently. I need to be patient with myself.