University of Edinburgh

Newsletter 26 Autumn 2008



Here we are back at the beginning of another new session. We hope that this issue of the SSC Newsletter will give you some food for thought and new ideas. We really have been most fortunate this issue and have been inundated with contributions from a variety of sources. We are extremely grateful to everyone for their hard work in making these contributions. Keep it coming!

Many thanks to Sylvia Gordon (who should get a prize for the earliest submission) for updating us on the move of Earnock High School to Calderside Academy. Our new Honorary Professor Marc Marschark reports on his new project with Rebecca Bull in Aberdeen on Mathematics and Deaf Education. He was also indirectly responsible for a very interesting article from Emanuela Ughi, a Mathematics academic from Italy on the development of logic skills in deaf children. Patricia Wotherspoon at St Vincent's School for the Deaf was kind enough to review a new resource "On the Money" which she sees as having potential to be used in a range of ways within the curriculum.

Our resident experts Janis Sugden and Rachel O'Neill have travelled 'across the pond' this summer and both have reported back on conferences they attended in North America. While our colleagues in VI Scotland make a welcome return to our newsletter to update on the recent work they have been doing.

Feedback is provided by Eileen Burns and Janis Sugden on two SSC Courses they attended from last year and the full list for the coming year can be found on the inside back page as usual.

Monique's leaving
Monique's 'thank-you' bouquet

Changes have been taking place in the make up of the SSC Advisory Committee, the important group of people who keep us on track! This summer we said goodbye to Monique Feeley from the Glasgow Sensory Support Service. On our behalf Ken Corsar (Chair of the Committee) thanked Monique very warmly for her sound advice and support during her term of office. He also commended her for the fine legacy she would leave on her early retirement from the Glasgow Service, and he was sure she would be in demand as a future 'consultant'. In the new term we will be welcoming two new members, Marion Reid, Manager, Fife Sensory Support Service and Anne Ferguson, Manager, North Lanarkshire Sensory Support Service. We look forward to working with them.

We hope you enjoy this issue.
Sheila Mackenzie
SSC Newsletter Editor


Resource Library update

Out of many new additions to the SSC library, I'd like to draw your attention to a couple of recent purchases.

At last we have a copy of Louise Corfe's Teaching toolkit and resource pack: raising deaf children’s achievements in literacy. In February 2007 Louise, who was the former Depute Headteacher at the Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children in Camden, London, visited Edinburgh and ran a very interesting course on teaching English to deaf children in sign-bilingual schools (see the SSC website for some information from that day course):

The Toolkit, a developmental approach to teaching literacy, contains a CD-ROM of resources which can be reproduced easily and as necessary. The pack aims to support teachers to be confident and effective in their literacy teaching and to support children to be confident in their understanding and use of written English.

In the Visual Impairment Education section we have recently bought a couple of copies of Ruth Salisbury's Teaching pupils with visual impairment: a guide to making the school curriculum accessible. This is a practical guide to making learning accessible for primary and secondary school pupils with visual impairment. It includes subject-specific issues: Art, Design & Technology, Geography, History, ICT, Literacy, Mathematics, Languages, Music, PE, and Science. We are very pleased to note that Margaret Simpson of The Royal Blind School, Edinburgh wrote the section on Art in this book. As many of you will have noticed, Margaret will also be presenting another SSC Course on Art for Visually Impaired pupils in March 2009.

Suggestions for new resources are always welcome and we’d love to share what you think about any new resources. To borrow or comment please contact me:
Sheila Mackenzie
SSC Resource Library Manager

Telephone: 0131 651 6069




We are pleased to announce that Janis Sugden has been appointed as the new Co-ordinator of the Scottish Sensory Centre. Janis has been working with us since she joined the University in 2004 when she became a Teaching Fellow in Education Support (Visual Impairment) for the Diploma course within the Department of Educational Studies. During this time Janis also maintained a part-time post in Clackmannanshire as a chartered teacher of visually impaired children. As of 1st September, Janis will be working full-time in Edinburgh but now dividing her time between the SSC and Educational Studies. Over the next few months Janis will be getting out and about making herself known to you, if you don’t already know her. Please do feel free to get in touch to discuss opportunities and ideas.



School Merger

In January 2008 Calderside Academy opened its doors. The new school is the result of the merger of two schools, Blantyre High and Earnock High. As well as the staff and pupils of Earnock High, the Department of Deaf Education was also relocated to Calderside Academy.

The Department of Deaf Education was established in Earnock High in 1993. Deaf pupils were fully integrated into mainstream classes supported by Teachers of the Deaf, using either British Sign Language or spoken English. Deaf pupils who attended Earnock High received excellent results at Standard Grade. In fact several pupils stayed on to study at Higher and Advanced Higher levels. This excellence was recognised by an HMIE report in 2003. The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) also recognised the work of the department in 2006, by awarding us their bronze award as a "Centre of Excellence".


We are looking forward to life in Calderside Academy and to building on the success we have achieved in the past.

Sylvia Gordon
Department of Deaf Education, Calderside Academy, Calder Street, Blantyre G72 0AX
Telephone: 01698 717180
Fax: 01698 717181
Textphone: 01698 717195


Stop Press: VI Opportunity

The SSC organises CPD for teachers and other staff who work with visually impaired pupils across Scotland. Janis' successful appointment as the Co-ordinator of SSC means her role as seconded Teacher of VI within SSC has become vacant.

We seek an enthusiastic person with current experience in the field and excellent interpersonal skills to support the VI Education CPD programme. The post is available one day a week for approximately 15 months from January 2009; permission from the employing Local Authority will need to be sought. The successful candidate will play an active role in the team, managing the organisation of the VI CPD programme, organising events at various venues and actively participating in team meetings. Expertise in reading and writing Grade 2 Braille is essential. Excellent organisational skills will be invaluable in planning, arranging and evaluating conferences and training events. Also necessary is the confidence to work independently, possess good IT skills, sound knowledge of Microsoft Word and the ability to use email.

For further details and an informal chat please contact Janis Sugden

Telephone: 0131 651 6071


On the Money

on the money

On the Money is a set of four short stories supported by: teachers' notes; a DVD with a British Sign Language video of the four stories; and the website:

This resource has proven particularly useful in addressing many of the difficulties that deaf children have in accessing the Maths curriculum. These range from lack of incidental learning, English linguistic skills and reasoning skills.

The stories are provided in a variety of media - BSL, audio and visual so it provides an excellent way of presenting background information to deaf children. This is important because hearing loss can limit incidental learning which hearing children gain through listening to the world around them.

Watching the signed video followed by discussion gave the children confidence when it came to reading the stories in the book afterwards. Therefore the range of media helped develop their reading skills since they had background knowledge to draw upon.

Higher order critical thinking and problem solving skills were encouraged because the problems were real life based and time was given to discuss them. The children were able to see that different approaches can be used to solve the same problem.

It is likely that many teaching processes rely on algorithms because they are easy to teach, they limit linguistic difficulties and do not focus on when and how to apply the rules in context. This resource is a vessel for the children to discuss issues and situations which aids understanding of the concepts. The specifics of the lesson, which follows, can now be taught with a more rounded understanding of the subject matter. The interaction of the children with one another is an excellent learning tool.

The material is very versatile and although used successfully in Maths, it could prove worthwhile in other areas such as Personal and Social Education (PSE), Enterprise and Drama. Furthermore, it can be used as a simple storytelling exercise, to introduce social issues or to stimulate specific discussion on overspending, debt, budgeting or other financial areas.

This resource has helped to include social issues into my existing Maths curriculum following many of the ideals of Curriculum for Excellence. I would highly recommend On the Money for use with Deaf learners.

On the Money: Financial capability through stories. Published by Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2007. Free.

The four stories: Down the Pan by Theresa Breslin; Funny Money by Alison Prince; Charlie Fly and the Nice Dream by Nicola Morgan; No Change by Jonathan Meres.

Patricia Wotherspoon
Maths Teacher
St Vincent's School for the Deaf, Glasgow


Technology & Deaf Education

An International Symposium - Technology and Deaf Education, National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), New York (23-25 June, 2008)

I was at the conference to report on the BSL Glossary work we have been doing at the SSC. I had wanted to visit NTID since the mid 90s when I first heard about their notetaking access service, so at long last I got there. NTID has over 1,000 deaf and hard of hearing students a year on the same campus as RIT which has 16,000 students in all. So deaf students have had quite an impact on teaching and learning in the whole university. Some learn in NTID in deaf groups directly in American Sign Language (ASL), and most progress to RIT courses where they can use interpreters, notetakers or radio aids.

The four strands in the conference were access technology, using technology to support learning, assessing the impact of technology and online learning. See the papers and the resources available at:

Many of the ideas about training electronic notetakers came to the UK from NTID. They call them "captioners", and I was interested to see that they call summary notetaking "meaning to meaning" notes. Cindy Camp from NTID referred to interpreting models to show the processing which is going on when captioners summarise for deaf students. They may be providing a "meaning to meaning" service because there is an interpreter in the class already, or because the student is lipreading, or because the student wants notes that are easier and quicker to read than detailed notes. They pointed out that the best summarisers are often also trained as interpreters, and that it can take years to build up skills in summarising. Remote captioning was demonstrated at the conference. Using a fast speed connection, the speaker had a radio mic and the captioner was outside the lecture room. The notes came up on screen very accurately and quickly. Using a remote electronic notetaker could be worth exploring in Scottish schools and colleges to reduce travel time and expense.

Video relay interpreting services (VRS)
One of the surprising things for me was to realise how widespread remote interpreting services are in the States. Any Deaf person who has broadband can access these services for free, and they are also available in public service settings. Most impressive was the report from Texas School for the Deaf, which has a large S5/6 or further education department. The school is using relay interpreting to encourage deaf students to interact with a much wider range of people in the community to find information. The school has produced a simple guide for students with minimal language skills to learn how to use VRS, including how to interact on a videophone call, make small talk and wrap up a call. David Coco explained how the school uses VRS to teach ASL to isolated hearing families in Texas.

The school also has four classes set up for distance learning, a mobile cart for video conferencing and 120 videophones. Because their school has such a strong technology focus, the students are expert in video production and local hearing students come in to learn from them. The Year 12 Leaving DVD paid testimony to their students’ success as confident young deaf people:

Traffic light software for PowerPoint
A free piece of software (Pacer Spacer) which NTID has developed encourages the lecturer to pause to allow deaf students reading time. Pacer Spacer is based on a traffic lights system and would be a really useful deaf awareness tool in schools or colleges. You can download it here:

Rachel O'Neill
Scottish Sensory Centre


VI Scotland update

I first became aware of VI Scotland when I was working as an Orthoptist, testing eyes in the hospital and community. It was being asked to present on one of the Scottish Sensory Centre courses "The Role of the Orthoptist" that I first encountered John Ravenscroft and VI Scotland and the rest, as they say, is history.

I began working as part of the VI Scotland team a few years ago where my role involved making sure that the health related information being entered into the database was correct. I also designed questionnaires for service overviews and was in the privileged position to get to know some of the parents and children on our database by conducting some of the 'welcome calls' to share what our organisation is all about. Around this time I also completed my PhD, which was all about what visual illusions can tell us about visual processing mechanisms in the brain.

However, now that John is on the other side of the world - and the VI Scotland office is much quieter! - I have the task of working with the team on taking VI Scotland forward. I would like to tell you about some of the new developments and events that have taken place over recent months and some activities planned for the future.

Research Activities
We are pleased to see some more VI Scotland publications. You may already have seen that in the May 2008 issue of the British Journal of Visual Impairment we have a paper about the VI Scotland service: "A novel method of notification to profile childhood visual impairment in Scotland to meet the needs of children with visual impairment" by John Ravenscroft, Andrew Blaikie, Caroline Macewen, Anne O'Hare, Lyn Cresswell and Gordon N Dutton.

Dr David Feeney has also had a paper accepted for publication: "Sighted Renderings of a Non-Visual Aesthetics: Exploring the Interface between Drama and Disability Theory" which is being published in the Journal of Literary Disability Vol 2, No 2, 2008.

Completed Pilot Project
We have been revisiting a project looking at the prevalence of low visual aid use amongst children in Scotland. This has been a joint project with VI Scotland, Professor O'Hare and Dr Lyn Cresswell (who are two members of our dedicated VI Scotland steering group) and Bethany Bradshaw. Bethany, a medical student with an interest in visual impairment, has worked extremely hard under the supervision of Professor O'Hare, to analyse data extracted from the VI Scotland database in order to investigate factors influencing low visual aid use. The preliminary data, although of significant value in its current form, will hopefully become the basis of a larger scale project. We are currently waiting the outcome of a grant application to fund our project and we will keep you updated.

Launch of the new VI Scotland website
The new website is being redesigned and developed in order to add to the wealth of information for parents and children. We couldn't do this without Elizabeth Izatt's expertise. The medical documents continue to be updated and we receive regular emails from parents and professionals across the world providing us with feedback. The area we are keen to expand on is the 'practical hints and tips' section. So, if you have any suggestions or handy hints for making life at home and at school that little bit easier, please share your experiences and get in touch. We welcome any suggestions from children, parents and professionals.

We are also working on compiling a collection of experiences so that parents with children recently diagnosed with a visual impairment may be able to read and understand the experiences of parents in similar situations. By sharing their unique stories we hope that this will help others to understand/anticipate what lies ahead in the coming months and years following diagnosis and the types of strategies/services that really helped and made a difference.

Family Day at Strathpeffer (4th October 2008) After the success of the last family day held in association with Visibility in Glasgow we are pleased to announce a Family Fun Day to be held at Strathpeffer Community Centre in association with Highland Visual Impairment Services. A huge 'thank you' to Raymond Smart and the rest of John Gill's team in Highland for organising the event. We are looking forward to meeting many children and parents to enjoy a day of face painting, Indian head massage, bouncy castle - indoor, of course, - this is the Highlands after all - and many more activities including acoustic and art workshops. There are still some places available so contact the VI Scotland office or website for more details. The event is free to any family with a child with a visual impairment aged 13 or under. All family members are welcome especially brothers and sisters who would like to come along and join in the fun. The only thing you must do is register for a place, as numbers are limited.

We are also hoping to repeat the family fun day in more rural locations in Scotland over the next 18 months and have had initial discussions with interested parties including the RNIB Scotland on helping fund such activities.

See below for details of our fundraising bike ride from John O'Groats to Perth.

So, as you can tell, it's been a busy few months recently. Until next time ...
Best wishes,
Dr Jennifer Skillen
Manager of VI Scotland
Telephone: 0131 651 6078


Fundraising Activities for VISKIDS

cycling team
Nicola, David and Alex

Two intrepid cyclists set off from a very blustery John O'Groats on Saturday 19th July with a target of reaching Perth in 4 days max. Nicola Skillen (also my sister) and her colleague Alex Blues, who both work in rehab services (Nicola is a Physiotherapist and Alex a Paramedic), completed the trip with hours to spare. The full story can be found on our website and although we have not yet tallied the total amount raised, early indications suggest a sum of at least £250, generously donated by colleagues, friends and family.

Well done, guys!
Any funds raised will be put into VISKIDS for the direct benefit of children on the VI Scotland database.

Special thanks to Theresa Wymer for not only providing excellent B&B ("The Hawthorns" in Mey - just outside John O'Groats) in the remotest part of Scotland that I have ever visited, but also for her generous donation.

Jennifer - "It's a bit windy"


BSL Immersion Weekend course

The Scottish Sensory Centre's first BSL Immersion Weekend was held at Pollock Halls of Residence in Edinburgh from the 13th - 15th June, 2008. Seventeen participants eager to improve their BSL skills, descended on Pollock Halls on the Friday evening. They came from a variety of backgrounds: for example, social workers, teachers of deaf pupils, lecturers in further education colleges and staff from deaf organisations.

We started the proceedings with a lovely buffet dinner in the traditional setting of St Leonard's Hall, part of Pollock Halls. This was followed by an ice-breaking session delivered by Ronnie and Beth Harte, designed to get everyone's fingers loosened, and practise expressing themselves more in BSL and less in Sign Supported English (SSE). The wine at dinner, and the long day took its toll on many who then retired for the evening. However, a few diehards made it to the pub for a wee drink before bed.

The next day participants chose two activities from the following:

Visit to the Museum of Childhood
Ronnie Harte led a very worthwhile session with the aim of improving BSL skills using childhood articles and games as the focus.

The Language of Shopping
Beth Harte organised a shopping trip around Edinburgh and was successful in improving BSL skills in this broad area.

Deaf Heritage Tour of Edinburgh
Participants benefited from a very enthusiastic John Hay who led a most interesting tour of Edinburgh taking in places of deaf historical interest. The lovely booklet John made to accompany the tour is now in the SSC Library.

Visit to Edinburgh Zoo
Participants improved their ability to describe animals and natural environments using BSL and also widened their vocabulary in this area. They were ably led by Brian McCann, Tracey Rew and Christine Glass.

night out

On Saturday night we ate out at a local restaurant where the use of BSL was encouraged by having a deaf tutor present at each table. The evening also gave us an ideal opportunity to celebrate with John Hay his fantastic achievement of being awarded an MBE for services to Higher Education and to Deaf People which had just been announced that morning.

john hay
John Hay MBE and students

The general feeling of those who took part was that the weekend was very worthwhile, value for money and good fun. Many felt that they would recommend the weekend to others or attend again themselves!

Eileen Burns
Teacher of Deaf Children
CPD Team, Scottish Sensory Centre
& Garvel Deaf Centre, Greenock


Linguistic Access for Deaf Pupils and Students

In the Autumn 2007 issue of this newsletter, we informed readers about an SSC scoping study, funded by the Scottish Government's Equality Unit and undertaken in collaboration with NDCS Scotland.

The aim was to take stock of current Scottish provision for deaf pupils and students in the school, FE and HE sectors, and to identify key issues.

The work was undertaken by Marian Grimes, with the help of staff from SSC and NDCS.
The report was completed earlier in the year, and is currently being prepared for online publication on the Scottish Government's website.

It will form part of the 'Roadmap' to linguistic access for deaf people of all ages, prepared by Lynn Hawcroft, who is working with the Equality Unit.


Down's Syndrome: Vision, Visual Problems and Visual Assessment

Dr Margaret Woodhouse is based in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences at Cardiff University. Maggie, as she likes to be called, and her team continue to work on their long term study of visual and cognitive development in infants and young children with Down's syndrome who are particularly at risk of eye defects.

On 15th May 2008, Maggie delivered a course at the Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) when she shared her expertise on some of the visual problems children with Down’s syndrome may experience.

Initially, Maggie concentrated on providing an overview of vision within Down's syndrome and she described her research work. In particular Maggie discussed refractive errors with the implications that these are likely to have on learning. She encouraged interaction from the course participants who were given practical activities to do while wearing simulation specs to represent long and short-sightedness.

There were 45 course participants from many disciplines including, teachers, healthcare professionals and rehabilitation workers. This added to the discussion as it was interesting to gain different perspectives on the importance of some aspects, for example, there was a lively discussion about some of the issues around spectacle wear and when it is appropriate for the children to wear them. Maggie was happy to answer questions from the group and to make suggestions regarding ill-fitting glasses - even about the effect long eyelashes can have on the correct positioning of spectacles.

cardiff tests
Cardiff tests

In the afternoon, Maggie considered some of the additional eye problems that are commonly found in children with Down's syndrome and more importantly, how to recognise these problems. Assessment of vision in children with Down's syndrome was explored; examples of suitable assessment tools were demonstrated. Maggie and her team are active in developing tests that allow accurate assessments to be carried out in people who are unable to read letter charts or to communicate readily.

Course participants found this course enhanced their knowledge and understanding of visual impairments generally, but especially regarding children with Down's syndrome. This new information will be used to develop their practice and give them a fresh perspective on how they identify problems while working with children with Down's syndrome.

Evaluations from the day included many references to Maggie's warm personality and excellent presenting skills: "Lively enjoyable presentation, which was clear and easy to follow."

We would like to thank Maggie again for delivering such a great course.
More information and course handouts from the day are available on the SSC website.


Network 1000: Scotland Report

network 1000

Over the summer, the Network 1000: Scotland report was published. The report was extracted from data from the Network 1000 survey concentrating on responses from Scotland. It covers a variety of topics, including: social and economic status, reading and accessible information, health, employment, daily living, travel, ICT, education and leisure. To download a PDF version of the Scottish report:

Please note that the full Network 1000 Report which is the biggest ever survey of visually impaired people in the UK, is available from the library section of the Vision 2020 website. To download a PDF version of the full report:

The SSC Library has a copy of the report available for loan.


Mathematics for Deaf Children

Scotland/USA Project seeks to better understand and improve maths performance by deaf and hard of hearing children

Teachers and parents of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children are well aware that they often struggle in maths as well as in other subjects. According to a recent study in the US by the National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities, however, DHH children actually lag farther behind their hearing classmates in maths than they do in reading. Past studies have suggested that DHH students' difficulties in reading are related to language skills, instructional methods, and underlying cognitive strategies. Might similar issues be involved in their difficulties in mathematics? How much is maths performance affected by social-motivational factors or cognitive skills such as attention and memory versus basic numerical and computational skills?

A new international project conducted by Dr Rebecca Bull, School of Psychology at the University of Aberdeen and Dr Marc Marschark, Honorary Professor at the Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh is about to explore the underpinnings of mathematical performance by hearing and DHH students, aged 5-25 years. The four-year project, funded by a grant of more than £800,000 from the (US) National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, follows from recent findings concerning the development of mathematical abilities in hearing children and research and achievement data indicating that deaf students lag considerably behind hearing age-mates in mathematical proficiencies.

Of particular interest will be possible relations among language fluencies, social expectations and motivation, and specific cognitive factors known to be important to maths performance.

Dr Bull is leading the Scotland portion of the project, while Dr Marschark leads the US, both beginning with the new 2008-09 school year. School-age children and their parents will be recruited in both countries, while the US portion will include university-level students as well. Dr Bull noted that "These studies will provide the first look at how social-motivational, language, and cognitive abilities of deaf children influence their development of maths abilities. With this knowledge, we should be able to develop intervention in instructional strategies that take advantage of students’ strengths while accommodating their needs."

Dr Bull and Dr Marschark will be attending the BATOD meeting in October in order to talk to teachers about the project.

In the meantime, anyone interested can contact them at:

Rebecca Bull
University of Aberdeen
Marc Marschark, NTID, Rochester & University of Aberdeen & University of Edinburgh


Must Do Better!

National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) has launched a major campaign report on educational under achievement by deaf children, as part of the "Close the Gap" campaign (reported in last issue of the SSC Newsletter).

The Must do better! report is UK-wide and sets out the barriers holding deaf children back and recommendations for Government action. The report is principally aimed at Government, civil servants and media - the NDCS hope that the report will trigger debate and momentum towards addressing the fact "that deaf children are 42% less likely to get 5 GCSEs at grades A to C, and 300% more likely to leave primary school without a basic understanding of literacy".

The report can be viewed or downloaded from:


Evaluation of BSL Glossary of Science Signs

Following the launch of the BSL Glossary of Science Signs website in January 2008 at Moray House, Gary Quinn and Dr Audrey Cameron are now evaluating the site and would like to have views from teachers of deaf children, science teachers and deaf pupils.

If you have not received a copy of the questionnaire for teachers and would like to respond, please get in touch. If you have any deaf pupils aged between 11-16 who have used the BSL Glossary of Science Signs website, please contact Rachel O’Neill. The team will then make arrangements to visit the school to interview the pupils. We have information sheets for parents and will need permission from the parents/carers, headteacher and head of service before coming to interview pupils.

Please contact Rachel O'Neill

Telephone: 07961661788


International Conference on Low Vision: Vision 2008, Montreal, Canada

I attended the triennial International Society for Low-vision Research and Rehabilitation (ISLRR) conference in Montreal in July. It is recognised as the premier world conference on Visual Impairment fostering international collaboration of knowledge regarding low vision. Montreal is a city that has a warm and welcoming ambience, however, there was little opportunity to see any of it as the five-day programme was very full, educational, and eventful.

The opening ceremony, a very visual demonstration by trapeze artists suspended on lengths of silk with a fluid background of technical wizardly, was excellent, however, I found it a strange choice considering the high proportion of visually impaired people in the audience.

The keynote address presented by Mike May was fascinating. Some of you may have read Crashing through: a true story of risk, adventure, and the man who dared to see, by Robert Kurson, which will also be made into a film. Mike May was the subject of this book/film and he gave his perspective on the integration of Low Vision and the role of adaptive technology and sports in developing 'quality of life' based on his own personal circumstances. For more information about Mike, see his company's website:

It was difficult to decide which seminars and workshops to attend as there were 125 scheduled sessions. The main theme of the conference was 'Research and Rehabilitation Partnerships' and the subjects were quite diverse ranging from 'Driving with low vision' to 'The use of an 'at home' eccentric viewing training programme'.

One session I enjoyed was on Cortical Visual impairment delivered by Christine Roman-Lantzy and Alan Lantzy. They discussed the research methods and subjects they had worked with to produce the book Cortical Visual impairment: an Approach to Assessment and Intervention. (American Foundation for the Blind, 2007 - available to borrow from the SSC library.) As always the sessions presented by Lea Hyvärinen were excellent, in particular, the discussion of a girl with 'normal vision' who had a visual processing disorder.

I was able to speak to professionals from different disciplines; some from not too far away: Anne Sinclair, an ophthalmologist from Fife and Barbara Ryan from Cardiff, both involved in a project Low Vision: The Essential Guide for Ophthalmologists; a whole team from the RNIB including Clair Cairns, one of the authors of Network 1000: Scotland, a report on the opinions and circumstances of blind and partially sighted people in Scotland (see above); and colleagues from the other side of the world: Natalia Dobson, an orthoptist from Australia, who presented a workshop on Low Vision Aids and Carolyn Palmer, also from Australia, discussed the impact on social cognition of albinism.

Another keynote speech by Dr Roberta Bondar, gave me much to think about. She was the first Canadian woman to travel in space and she spoke about the effects of gravity on vision. I felt quite queasy while watching some of her video excerpts. On a more serious note this talk did make me think about spatial and body awareness and its effect on our use of vision.

I was struck at this conference by how developing countries have made so much progress since the last conference in 2005, but the conference has also made me appreciate the services and networking opportunities that we already have here in Scotland.

Interviews, speeches and features from the conference were recorded by Insight Radio and can be downloaded at:

The 10th conference will be held in 2011 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Janis Sugden
Scottish Sensory Centre


SSC Course 2: Electronic Notetaking

ENT course
Jenny with this year's students

In April 2008, the Electronic Notetaking (ENT) course was successfully approved by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) for an SQA Customised Award. Well done to Jenny Webster and the team for developing the course to such a high standard. We extend a warm welcome to experienced ENT tutor Ailsa Laidler, who recently joined the course team, and will be tutoring on the course this year.

September 2008 sees a new cohort of students undertaking the course and we wish them well in the studies ahead of them. The students will learn to provide an electronic summary of the spoken word in a variety of situations for deaf and disabled people. This gives these people equal access to information, which is crucial under the Disability Discrimination Act. Electronic notetakers are trained to take notes for clients in a range of ways, from a basic summary for clients’ later reference to live reporting of both formal and incidental information which allows clients to participate fully alongside their peers. Electronic notetakers work in further and higher education as well as in the wider community at meetings, conferences, appointments, and interviews.

The course also covers professionalism, IT skills, deaf and disability awareness, health and safety, ENT conventions, spelling and grammar, language modification, and ethics. Students will spend the next few months building on their skills with the preparation of a portfolio. If anyone is interested in finding out more about this career and the course, please contact us.

Electronic notetakers are an important resource for people with communication difficulties. In our next issue we hope to report on the use of electronic notetakers in secondary schools.


Logic for Deaf Students

First of all let me introduce myself: I am a passionate geometry researcher with long years of teaching experience at the University of Perugia. I have strayed somewhat into the field of mathematical education of deaf children with this article but I do really hope that it offers some new ideas for further studies.

In children, the capability of facing contradictory situations and learning to handle with similar difficult concepts is typically developed in small steps with growing age and is a topic of continuous studies in specific research environments of pedagogy.

An example will show that, in children who can hear and see, the ability of "resolving a contradiction" is developed at a very early age: consider a mother playing with her child, hiding behind a curtain and saying: "mum is gone, mum has disappeared ..."

The child receives - through two different senses, hearing and sight - two contradictory pieces of information, that automatically leads to the logical question: Is mum here or not? I don’t see her but I hear her voice. I can't see her but her voice is near and says that she is not here. So what's the truth? The child is naturally forced to find a solution to this contradiction: sensing (hearing) that the voice comes from behind the curtain, he/she moves it and explores behind it. To solve his trouble, the child applies the simple following logical statement: If I see my mum, then she is here; if I don't see her, then she is not here.

These baffling experiences are bound to play a fundamental role in the early development of logic tools in a child, but how to propose similar experiences to a deaf child? It is easy to find examples of a contradiction between what is seen and what is heard, or of how something looks and how loud the noises from it are perceived. But how do you offer such learning experiences to a child using only sight? The first step is to elaborate a game, in which the child cannot believe to his/her eyes, ie in which the contradiction is within the visual experience!

A possible solution is given by "magic": it is typical in the wizarding world, that you sense contradictions in what you see. Of course, there is no need of high-level magic: any amateur magician would be able to puzzle a small child with almost no effort.

We would like to suggest that a collaboration project involving a professional magician and teachers/parents could easily be sufficient to plan and finalize some simple tricks, select them according to the children's age and transmit the feeling of contradiction to deaf children.

We would like to underline that deaf children are limited to use their other senses and the most straightforward choice is vision. They must see a contradiction, be puzzled by it, forced by their natural curiosity to solve the contradiction and finally, perhaps seeing the trick again and again, discover the solution independently.

To conclude, we would like to stress that offering contradicting experiences in the limited context of eyesight could play a fundamental role in the education of deaf children and offer them the opportunity of developing logic tools.

Emanuela Ughi
Dipartimento di Matematica e Informatica, Perugia

We would love to know what you think of this idea. Perhaps you have tried similar strategies already? We could discuss all the issues raised on our DeafEd WebBoard or you can contact us as usual by email, telephone (voice & text), fax or post.

Telephone: 0131 651 6069
Textphone: 0131 651 6067
Fax: 0131 651 650


Developmental Journal for Babies & Children with Visual Impairment

The Developmental Journal is part of the DfES Early Support Initiative in England. The document is intended for use by parents and families, in partnership with teachers of the visually impaired and other professionals who are involved with the children. The Journal is primarily intended for visually impaired children from birth until three years of age, however, it can also be used for children who are developing more slowly or who may have additional motor, sensory or learning difficulties.

The Scottish Government provided the SSC with funding to buy copies of the Journal for use in Scotland. However the authors of this document have stipulated that a minimum training requirement is necessary before copies can be distributed to individuals.

In December 2007, two of the Journal's authors, Dr Alison Salt and Dr Naomi Dale presented a one-day course at the SSC where all course participants received a copy of the Journal. They also met with the SSC Visual Impairment Early Years Focus Group to discuss how the information could be more widely circulated. Focus group member, Lorna Hall, was selected to receive advanced training in the use of the Journal.

Alison, Lorna and Naomi

In July 2008, Lorna visited Great Ormond Street Hospital at the Institute of Child Health at University College London. She was extremely fortunate to work with Alison, Naomi and Jacquie Osborne, three of the Journal's Development Team. Lorna was trained with four other trainees on the background, philosophy and practical use of the Journal. As well as gaining knowledge and theory, Lorna was able to relate this to practice as she had the opportunity to observe two clinic sessions in the Developmental Vision Clinic at Great Ormond Street.

The small group of five trainees presented many networking opportunities, and during less formal activities, they had the chance to discuss details regarding the practical implications of using the journal with the team and with each other to give them an in-depth understanding of the document and its use.

Continuing Professional Development and Training Opportunities
Lorna is a very experienced teacher of the visually impaired, who worked mainly with pre-school visually impaired children before retiring. She has found the whole experience interesting and inspiring and is now ready to deliver training for us here in Scotland. The team in London have also supplied Lorna with a pack of training materials. She is now able to provide training in your local area in the use of the journal. Course participants will each receive a copy of the Journal.

Enquiries regarding dates and cost should be made to the Scottish Sensory Centre.