Future Reflections Winter/Spring 1990, Vol. 9 No. 1

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Written by Doris M. Willoughby and Sharon L M. Duffy
Published by the
National Federation of the Blind, 1989

--Reviewed by Lorraine Rovig, Librarian

[PICTURE] Doris Willoughby
[PICTURE] Sharon Duffy

There are two ways to get into a swimming pool. You can wade in slow and easy, or you can hold your nose and jump right in. With little fanfare, and a refreshing lack of the usual pompous professional jargon, Doris Willoughby and Sharon Duffy, co-authors of A HANDBOOK FOR RESOURCE AND ITINERANT TEACHERS OF THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED have "jumped right into" the enterprise of laying out a practical, usable guide for the teacher, student, librarian, researcher, or parent involved in the education of blind or visually impaired children.

Both authors have many years of experience and complementary backgrounds for the task of compiling the largest, most practical handbook yet written on the subject. Doris M. Willoughby taught for eleven years in a regular second grade in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before becoming certified to teach blind and visually impaired children. She then taught in this specialized field for three years as a resource room teacher, followed by fourteen years as an itinerant teacher, a profession in which she continues.

Sharon L. M. Duffy has been blind all her life. Having attended both a school for the blind and a public school, she brings the blind person's point of view to her professional qualifications. Mrs. Duffy has taught Braille and cane travel for many years, as well as other independent living skills, in Iowa, Idaho, Chicago, and now, New Mexico.

Mrs. Duffy has helped blind children and adults learn how to cope with every type of travel problem--from getting around "the back 40" cornfield to riding the downtown subway. Her clear directions on successful methods of teaching cane travel to children from preschool age on up are accompanied by black and white photographs, a sequential list of skills, an intriguing list of things nol to do, and many, many suggestions for providing variety while building-in success in a series of travel lessons.

The Handbook devotes 45 pages to teaching Braille. These pages are a must-read for teachers and parents. Willoughby and Duffy are outspokenly pro-Braille throughout the text.

All the topics one would expect in a book with this title are covered. There are chapters or subsections on: "Working in Partnership with Parents," methods for success in mathematics, reading, physical education, shop courses (coauthored by John Cheadle, an innovative rehabilitation shop teacher), "Testing and Evaluation," "Fitting in Socially," science courses, geography, use of computers, handwriting, art, music, use of low vision aids, "Home Economics and Daily Living Skills," dealing with multiple handicaps, Public Law 94-142, use of sleep shades, understanding medical assessments, and so forth.

There are also the unexpected chapters. There is a chapter of advice for the new teacher on building rapport with other school staff who work with "your" student; techniques for teaching typing; tips on organizing one's professional paperwork; and, in an appendix, a playlet to enhance the understanding of sighted classmates.

Each topic is written about in a straightforward, narrative style divided by headings, sub-headings, and lists. The reader can quickly zero in on needed data. Willoughby and Duffy offer anecdotes, both positive and negative, that should save every reader from at least one mistake. Their clear directions and repertoire of ideas for each of the subjects covered will be of help even to the experienced teacher.

Few resource room or itinerant teachers have much experience teaching the Nemeth Code, the Braille code for mathematics and science. One lengthy appendix offers an "Easy Guide to the Nemeth Code." Another appendix, "The Paper Compatible Abacus," is a complete instructional guide to a simplified method of using the abacus. These appendices should be equally valuable as texts in a teacher training program and as reference resources for busy teachers in the field.

Two sections of the Handbook are specifically for the itinerant or resource room teacher who is blind or visually impaired. These chapters are not only a compendium of workable ideas for the intended audience, but would be useful reading for blind students considering a professional career in any field.

One more thing must be said. Handbook is exemplary for its positive approach. The authors are pointed in their comments on educational approaches which build in defeatism. They are equally forceful in presenting techniques, tasks, and attitudes that will assist visually handicapped children toward equality in the classroom and as adults.

I recommend the purchase of Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students to every teacher, administrator, or parent who is concerned with providing an equal educational opportunity to blind and visually impaired children.

Publisher: National Federation of the Blind (NFB), 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Softcover: $20.00 from NFB includes shipping. (Checks, money orders, purchase orders from agencies, no C.O.D.) Phone:(301)659-9314.

Note: Lorraine Rovig, the author of this review, was the Librarian for a Learning Materials Center for Blind and Visually Impaired Students for ten years.

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