19 Apr East Texas Lighthouse, Area Schools Partner for Easter Egg Hunt for Visually Impaired Children
The hunt for Easter eggs is a time-honored tradition, as children carry their Easter baskets and display immense joy and satisfaction with that first found egg, then moving on to the next hidden egg.
But for hundreds of children with visual impairment, egg hunts have seemed a little far-fetched.
However, thanks to the partnerships of East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, Northeast Texas Public Health and Region 7 Education Service Center, a special Easter egg hunt was hosted Friday at First Baptist Church in Whitehouse to include children with visual impairment, including the use of ‘beeper eggs.
According to Lannette Burlingame, special education specialist with Region 7, the event lets the children participate without feeling like they’re at a disadvantage.
“This enables them to interact with other children like them,” Burlingame said.
Nestled in the grass behind the Baptist church awaits a faint beeping sound of the beeper eggs to aid children with the more challenging visual impairments participate.
The egg emits a loud, clear constant beeping sound for children to locate the egg by listening, rather than searching by sight.
Before searching for the eggs, the students were treated to a show-and-tell by Kerry the Critter Guy from Texas Exotic Animals.
He introduced them to a hedgehog, lizard, tortoise, bunny, boa constrictor and… a baby kangaroo!
After he gave some education about each of the animals, Kerry went around to each student, giving them the opportunity to gently pet them.
“Being able to touch the animals, feel the different types of skin helps the kids develop the concept of animals,” Burlingame said. “And who wouldn’t want to pet a baby kangaroo?”
Region 7 partners with communities of East Texas to offer ECC (Expanded Core Curriculum) events to students with visual impairments in the region, servicing children from birth all the way up to 21-22 years of age.
“We try and do these events every month, as a way for the kids to connect with others like them and to support them in their development,” Burlingame said.
Designed to provide a variety of rich experiences to students with visual impairments, the program allows them to receive direct instruction in the nine areas of the ECC.
“A lot of the developments that humans go through, to learn to be independent, we learn through watching or viewing,” Burlingame said. “But when you have a child who is visually impaired, they miss a lot of opportunities to understand these concepts.”
The nine areas of the ECC are: compensatory or functional academic skills (such as communication modes), orientation and mobility, social interaction skills, independent living skills, recreation and leisure skills, career education, technology, sensory efficiency skills, and self-determination).
With these events, students not only get the opportunity to learn throughout the school year, but they also get to visit with their peers. All at no cost.
“It’s like a family reunion… they get to have that connection with other kiddos like themselves and they get to have fun and know they’re not alone,” Burlingame said.
Such activities can include a trip to a planetarium, which is largely visual but with a little modification, it can be inclusive to the students who are visually impaired by making it into an auditory experience.
“We find a way to adapt and have fun,” Burlingame said.
According to the CDC, nearly 3 percent of children younger than 18 years are blind or visually impaired, defined as having trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses.
“Out of the 101 school districts in our region, there are a little over 500 students with vision impairment,” she said. “Vision impairment is the least common disability. But that’s why we’re here.”
For an adaptation for the annual Easter egg hunt, they used traditional beeping Easter eggs which are large plastic eggs with a battery-operated electronic circuit and beeper inside, easily controlled by a simple on/off switch.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see all the kids come together to not only learn about these concepts together but interact with each other,” Burlingame said. “It’s so beautiful.”
Tyler Morning Telegraph
April 1, 2023