Monday 29 December 2014 – goodbye to Marty (and some thoughts about accessibility)

Marty the SmartBrailler left us this morning, on his way to visit another family. We think he enjoyed coming on a Christmas tour to meet the extended Anderton/Moulds families – the cousins, uncles and aunts all got stuck in, and were fascinated to find out more about how Braille works.

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Having the Brailler has been very good for us. We tend to get stuck into certain habits with Lennie, and don’t always look to expand his horizons or help him to access the things other children of his age can do or enjoy. I think this has given us a bit of a push – realising that he will be starting school in September and will have to learn to read and write, so we need to get our heads round Braille and the kind of equipment which will best help him to keep up with his peers. We would like him to go to mainstream school – the same school as Zoe if possible – and they are really keen to have him. But we know that it’s a huge challenge for a teacher with 29 other children in the class to include Lennie in all of the activities, and we want to be able to support the school as much as we can. It’s great to know that technology like the SmartBrailler exists which could really help.

We have also branched out in other ways over this Christmas holiday – trying to involve Lennie a little bit more in family life and the kind of activities we would do as a matter of course with Zoe. We braved our first family cinema trip yesterday so that we could all watch Paddington together. Lennie was faintly amused by the audio description headphones for at least 35 seconds, then firmly said ‘No headphones’ and spent the rest of the film listening to the noises (he came away thinking Paddington was a train, we think), wriggling around and occasionally demanding to go the toilet. On reflection, that’s exactly what Zoe used to do when we took her to the cinema aged 3, so we were pretty pleased really – especially because the film was so brilliant. I listened briefly to the audio description as well. It was really good, and I think will help Lennie to get more out of TV and cinema in the future.

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We had some more family fun this afternoon as well – Lennie, Zoe and I made cookies together. I used to do quite a bit of baking with Zoe but the combination of work and looking after Lennie has left me with less time (or perhaps less energy) for such things. Zoe is fairly proficient so did most of the real work, but Lennie was able to join in as well, stirring the mixture, opening and closing lids, banging the empty cocoa tin on the kitchen floor (it made a nice noise), ‘sprinkling’ (hurling great handfuls of) icing sugar on the cookies, and of course licking the bowl.

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It was genuinely fun, as well as noisy and messy. Again, it made me think about how we can help Lennie to join in more in the kitchen – talking scales, braille recipe books, labelling store cupboard items… There’s a long way to go but we’ve taken some useful steps in the right direction over the last few weeks.

Happy New Year everyone – we wish you all the best for 2015.

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