The Only Integrated Preschool in NYC for Children with Vision Impairment
Lighthouse’s International President and CEO Tara A. Cortes, RN, Phd. IBM VP of Corporate Citizenship and President of the IBM Foundation Stan Litow conducted a tour of the Center’s new IBM Young Explorers. They saw how 4 and 5 year old children who are visually impaired are learning computers side by side with those who are sighted. The School is the only integrated Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program in the greater New York metropolitan area for children with vision loss.
Equipped with the latest educational software for preschoolers, the 6 Young Explorers playstations (which were donated by IBM’s KidSmart Early Learning Program at the beginning of the fall semester) have features that make them accessible to children with impaired vision—and fun for all Accessible software enables teachers to increase the point size of text, change the color scheme to enhance contrast and magnify pictures on the screen to adjust to a student’s visual needs. In addition, the child-size mouse lights up, and teachers can adapt letters on the keyboard for students who are learning Braille. Computer technology adds another dimension to the already multi-media Lighthouse curriculum, which promotes learning through visual, tactile, audio and other sensory methods.
“Young Explorers help foster early literacy, math, science and socialization skills, reinforcing our teacher lesson plans for children between 3 and 5 years old,” says Greg Santamoor, Principal of the Lighthouse Child Development Center. “It’s wonderful to see a student who is sighted alongside a classmate with vision loss in the Young Explorers seat specially designed for two. They learn from—and assist—each other. All of these elements enrich the educational experience and help prepare our students to move on to Kindergarten or specialized programs. We are grateful to IBM for generously donating Young Explorers to our preschool.” The brightly colored computer playstations, designed by IBM and the Little Tykes toy company, draw children in, help them focus and motivate them to learn at a critical stage in their development.
“My students rush into the classroom each day eagerly asking when they can use the computer. They love using the Young Explorer—and it’s a valuable interactive teaching and evaluation tool for me,” says Regina D’Ambrosio, Early Childhood Teacher. “The printer attachment is particularly helpful if a student has difficulty seeing the monitor. I can print out an image and add texture to the hard copy, providing tactile information that extends the two-dimensional learning experience into a three-dimensional one.”
Integrating accessible technology into the classroom extends Lighthouse International’s early child development resources and services to the youngest members of our community. “Through the KidSmart program, IBM has donated more than 40,000 KidSmart learning centers around the world and millions of children have used them,” said Stanley Litow, VP of Corporate Citizenship and President of the IBM International Foundation. “Bank Street College conducted an evaluation of the program and found outstanding results. It’s important to make this kind of technology accessible to every child in today’s digital world.”
According to Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum who toured the Child Development Center with Mr. Litow, “Kids face a lot of challenges in the classroom, and getting them excited about learning is half the battle. New classroom tools not only help teachers better meet the needs of their students and breakdown barriers for children, but they make learning fun. We should continue to integrate accessible technology into the classroom and promote this kind of collaborative and imaginative thinking that will make for a better future for all our children.”
Lighthouse International’s Child Development Center serves children from birth to age 5 through an Early Intervention Program, which helps infants born with impaired vision reach important developmental milestones; and the integrated preschool, a unique setting designed to meet the individual educational needs of children with and without vision loss.
Founded in 1905, Lighthouse International is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to preserving vision and to providing critically needed healthcare services to help people of all ages overcome the challenges of vision loss. Through services, education, research and advocacy, the Lighthouse enables people with low vision and blindness to enjoy safe, independent and productive lives. For more information about vision loss, its causes and what you can do about it, contact Lighthouse International at 1-800-829-0500 or visit www.lighthouse.org. #