Last month, I went back to school… well for an afternoon at least!
Over the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to one of my local primary schools, Chepping View Primary Academy in High Wycombe – where my wife works – to talk about living with a sensory impairment.
My visits have helped the children to understand more about the work Sense does, and the people it supports. As a result, the school council decided to run ‘Sense cinema day’ just before Christmas, raising more than £800 for the charity.
Each year, I speak to the Year 2 children about braille, certain technology that I use, and then I brave their questions!
The afternoon got off to an interesting start when one of the children asked me if I knew Louis Braille personally. They’d been learning about the inventor of braille the week before. I explained that, although I might seem very old to them, I didn’t know Mr Braille, who died in 1852!
The part of the lesson where they ask me questions is always my favourite section. You can never predict how a six year old’s mind will work, and consequently the questions always keep me on my toes, and I have to say, they aren’t always easy to answer!
Some of the questions this year included: How do you know when its bed time? How do you know when it’s time to wake up, and how do you know where Mrs Morris puts things in the house?
Although these questions didn’t come up this year, in the past, we’ve covered such topics as getting dressed and clothes identification, making food, and crossing roads which gave me a chance to explain to them why, when the green man comes out at crossings, it also beeps.
I explained to the students how I read Braille. Although they knew about braille on paper, I was able to show them how I read braille, on a refreshable braille display connected via Bluetooth to my iPhone. They found this fascinating and we had some fun with them writing messages to me on my phone which I could read back to them via braille.
Then it was story time… I read them a few pages of The Tiger Who Came to Tea via my e-reader software and braille display, which seemed to go down pretty well. We were able to project the illustrations on to the white board as I read, which added to the experience.
Following the story, we discussed other technology I use in my daily life. I demonstrated Siri (the voice assistant on Apple products, which lets you carry out tasks using your voice). The nice thing was that many of the children already knew about it.
The biggest hit of the day though seemed to be my long cane. They wanted to see how I moved around using my cane, so a space had to be cleared in the classroom for me to walk about in!
It’s always a great experience going in and meeting the children, they always seem so genuinely interested and will ask whatever questions come to mind, with none of the inhibitions some adults seem to have.