Summer Care in Kansas City

As we hurtle through the spring semester, parents start planning their kids’ summer activities.  If you’re like us, you need full-day care so you and your partner can work; this limits the camp options in the Kansas City metro area.  If you have a child with disabilities, it can be even harder to find good places for your kids.

Peanut and Sprout spent last summer at a variety of day camps around town.  Here’s a round-up of our experiences with each:

Camp:  Alphapointe Adventure Camp

Cost:  $100, scholarships available. ($)

Web site:

Alphapointe Adventure Camp was tied for Peanut’s favorite summer adventure with Bear Camp.  It’s fun, affordable, and designed for children with visual impairments.  If you’re looking for an adventure for a B/VI child in the metro area, you can’t go wrong with Alphapointe.


Camp:  Cub Scout Bear Camp STEM Camp

Cost:  Varies.  Each Cub is required to have an adult camp with him/her ($$)

Web site:

I’m the den leader for Peanut’s Cub Scout Bear den, so I got to go with him to Bear Camp last year.  He loved it.

  • The paths in Cub World are generally wide and graveled, so they’re very easy to navigate.
  • There are some trails that you’ll need to take.  These are a bit more challenging, but Peanut did fine with his cane, a hiking pole, and adult (my) supervision.
  • Activities are largely hands-on, which is good for a tactilely-oriented kid.  Peanut got to throw stones at targets, shoot a BB gun, practice archery, climb through old ‘mines’ looking for gold, build a bird house, and explore the Pirate Ship water park.  You’ll be there with your kid, so you can adapt things as needed (I did a lot of aiming).  The water park is zero-entry and wide enough for wheelchair access.
  • Bring a wagon–you’ll be hiking a fair distance from your car to your camp site.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray are musts.
  • You get a good start on a LOT of Bear required adventures.
  • Dinner is a bit more challenging–Peanut had a hard time navigating on his own, and of course didn’t want to ask for or accept help.
  • There is coffee.  (I wondered.  Now you don’t have to.)


Camp:  Girl Scouts Day Camp

Cost:  Varies by Service Unit ($)

I’m also the co-leader for Sprout’s Girl Scout troop (yes, I scout a lot), so I also got to experience GSA Day Camp.  Our Service Unit went out to Camp Prairie Schooner for a week last summer; girls had to be at the drop-off point for busing by 7:45 a.m., so it worked well from a work standpoint.  Pick-up was a bit earlier, so some wiggling might be required for full-time employees.

I didn’t spend as much time at Camp Prairie Schooner as I did at Cub World, so I’m not able to say as much about its accessibility.  The main “drag” is graveled and wide enough for a vehicle, so definitely navigable.  They have a standard swimming pool; it did not appear to be zero-entry.  The older girls are the camp counselors for the younger girls, so might not be as prepared to handle a child with a disability as an older counselor might.  I think this is one that would be ok with a lot of parental involvement:  be involved with your service unit, help in the planning, and consider attending camp with your kid.  Volunteers are always welcome, and you can help meet your kiddo’s accessibility needs.


Camp:  Johnson County Parks & Recreation Summer Escapades

Cost:  Varies, depending on residency and how many kiddos you’re sending. ($)

Web site:

Peanut and Sprout’s longest camp experience last summer was with Johnson County Parks & Recreation’s Summer Escapades program.  This is an outdoor camp that has locations in several Johnson County parks; our kiddos hung out at Antioch.  The kids are separated by age group, and each camp group has its own picnic shelter as its home base.  Kona Ice comes to visit once a week (your kiddo will need money for this); they go swimming at least once a week; and each camp takes field trips.

We prepped Peanut to do well at Summer Escapades.  I called Parks and Rec before enrolling him to ask which of their camp options would be best (they have both indoor and outdoor camps); they suggested the outdoor camp for a child with his disability.  We made sure to attend his orientation session and let the counselors know that he was coming, answer their questions, and offer suggestions.  This year, I may go a step further and provide a deck of braille playing cards (they play a lot of board/card games at camp, and Peanut’s vision has declined).


Camp:  Kansas State School for the Blind’s K-S.E.E. Program

Cost:  Depends on whether you’re in-state or out-of-state and the support given by your school district ($$$)

Web site:

Technically, this is an extended school year program, not a summer camp.  I know some parents are wary to try it, however, so I wanted to cover it here.  Put simply, if you have the option to send your kiddo to the K-S.E.E. Program, DO IT.

Peanut has attended the K-S.E.E. Program annually since kindergarten, and each year has been a positive experience.  He’s gotten three weeks to spend with other B/VI kids in an environment designed for B/VI children.  He’s gotten to do all sorts of activities, from riding bikes and catching fish to visiting local attractions like the Mahaffie Stagecoach and the Kansas City Zoo.  He’s worked on expanded core curriculum skills, particularly self-care and cooking, and practiced his braille.  Even though it’s school, KSSB makes it FUN, and Peanut loves it.


Camp:  YMCA Summer Day Camp

Cost:  $175/week/child ($$$)

Web site:

As much as we love YMCA Challenger, we hated YMCA’s Summer Day Camp.  Peanut and Sprout only attended for a week (thank God), and we were not impressed.  This was by far the most expensive of the camps we sent the kids to, and it absolutely had the most problems.

The site Peanut and Sprout went to is not open this year; this may be because of a number of problems they experienced at the camp last year (we stayed on the mailing list, so we got weekly updates of the misadventures occurring at that location).  I think part of the issues we personally had were because of the counselors’ youth and inexperience with children with disabilities:  Peanut’s an independent kid, and they weren’t prepared to allow that independence.  He reacted badly to being given too much assistance.

The Y did have the most impressive field trips of the camps our kids attended–the week they were at the Y, for example, our kids went to CoCo Key Water Resort.  Even so, Efrit and I would go out of our way to keep our kids from attending YMCA Summer Day Camp this year.

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Yes, sweetie, you may touch your elf

We have a standing rule at Casa de Phouka:  Peanut may touch his Scout Elf once a day.  We’ve lifted him up to feel the elves when they made a hanging carousel out of his and his sister’s underpants and our ceiling fan; we’ve helped him find them when they were hiding in a  Lego elf house on the dining room table.  It is absolutely, 100% ok for your B/VI child to touch his or her elf–Santa, in fact, expects it.

I had plans to modify my son’s Elf on the Shelf book when I found this letter from Santa posted at

I encourage you to follow the link, check it out, and maybe print a copy for your own kiddo’s book.  If you have multiple Scout Elves like we do, maybe make an elf cane, too, to help your B/VI kiddo tell which is which (Girl elves have lipstick and little silver earrings.  The hairstyles on boy and girl elves are slightly different.  I’m not convinced Peanut could tell them apart without Spot’s cane.  Yes, he named his elf Spot.).  I’ve posted instructions on how I made ours here:  Holiday Craft: Elf cane.

If you want your B/VI kiddo to be able to find his or her elf on his/her own, a fellow parent on Facebook suggested using a beeping key finder:   the beeping portion stays with the elf, and the kiddo gets the toggle that sets off the beeper.  (Peanut generally uses his sister as his elf-finder, which works just as well for our household.)

Happy elfing and Merry Christmas everyone!




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Holiday Craft: Elf cane

An elf-sized long white cane lays on a white blanket.This year, we’re giving Elf on the Shelf our first try. After the kids were looking for invisible elves last year, we decided to make them visible using post-holiday sales (seriously–they’re half price if you can wait until 12/26, but shop early because they move fast.). I told Peanut that Santa understands that he doesn’t see very well, and it was ok for him to touch his elf. In fact, his elf was also VI! Peanut was, of course, terribly excited.

Almost a year has come and gone, and it’s time for me to make O&M devices on a small scale. Since Peanut uses a long white cane, that’s what I picked for his elf, rather than a guide polar bear or reindeer. It turns out this is a shockingly easy craft choice.

What you need:

  • A lollipop stick. These come in packages of about 100, or you can be creative with Halloween leftovers.=
  • A red ball-end push pin.
  • A small (1″ or so) piece of black yarn or string.
  • Black electrical tape.
  • Red electrical tape, duct tape, or a red marker (I used tape).

Construction is easy. Make a loop with your yarn and secure it to one end of the stick with black tape. Color the end of the stick with black marker if you want it to look like a full wrap. About midway down your cane, add a band of red tape. Slide the pin in the end opposite your handle. Viola! Long white cane, elf sized.

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ETS Research Study

Are you 18+, visually impaired, and need to take the GRE?  Read on:

From the mailbag:

Educational Testing Service (ETS) is seeking blind and low vision adults 18 years or older who are currently in their senior year of undergraduate school and plan to attend graduate school or who have obtained a college degree and are actively pursuing graduate school to participate in a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) usability study. The study will examine the accessibility and usability of the GRE exam for screen reader users and screen magnification users. This research study will help ETS improve the accuracy and fairness of assessments for students with visual disabilities. This is an evaluation of the methods (formats) of testing, not of the participant’s ability. Participants who are blind should have at least a working familiarity with JAWS 18 and be Braille readers. Those participants who are low vision should have at least a working familiarity with ZoomText. Participants should have plans to take the GRE within the next 12 months.   The study will take place over two days. On the first day participants will take a complete GRE testing session, estimated to take 3 hours and 45 minutes plus time and a half if requested by the participant. During their testing session participants will be asked to provide feedback on any usability and accessibility issues they encounter. There will also be a break from testing for a lunch break. On the second day of the study, participants will take part in a focus group discussion related to their experience taking the GRE. As a thank you, participants will each be paid $1000 for their participation. Travel, lodging, and meals will be covered by ETS.   This study has been approved by the ETS ethics board. Individuals who meet the inclusion criteria and are interested in participating in the study should contact Carlos Cavalie at

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BELL Comes to Kansas!

I am BEYOND EXCITED to share that the NFB’s BELL Program is finally coming to Kansas this year!  I’ve pasted the email I received regarding the program below.


The National Federation of the Blind of Kansas is excited to support the 2017 Kansas BELL Academy. This summer program for blind and visually impaired children is designed to bring a focus to the important special skill sets they will need throughout life. Please follow these links and forward this email to anyone you think might be interested.

Here is a link to the BELL general information website:

Here is a link to the application form:

Here is a link to our Kansas BELL FAQ page:

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Urban Air

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Location:  14401 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park, KS 66223

Cost:  Pricey.  The amount you pay relates to the options you choose.  In my instance, I had a 5-yo, 8-yo, and an adult; I paid for two hours bounce time for the three of us, and two hours access to the indoor playground for the kids.  This cost $55.  No, really.  $55.

Web Site:

After watching Lex Gillette go to Sky Zone (you can see the video on YouTube here: and getting a gift certificate to Urban Air, I figured Peanut could probably handle a trampoline park and decided to give it a try.  So, last month, over Spring Break, I packed Peanut and Sprout in the car and drove across town to Urban Air.

There are two main parts to Urban Air:  an indoor playground and an indoor trampoline park.  The playground is like a four-story tall McDonald’s play structure.  It has slides, a ball pit, air guns, giant blocks, and soft toys.  The trampoline park includes two “bowl” systems with multiple trampolines attached together and trampolines on the walls, a warrior course (this costs extra–we skipped it), two dodge ball courts with trampolines (we skipped these too), two long trampoline runs for gymnasts, and a set of trampolines by an air bag you can flip or jump into.

I bought a pass for myself to jump because I honestly thought Peanut would need a sighted guide to navigate the park.  I was wrong:  he took off at light speed in the big bowl and was just fine.  The trampolines are black and the pads between them are bright orange, so they’re high-contrast enough to work with his low vision.  My sighted five-year-old was much more trepidatious.  Peanut had some issues with being able to see smaller children, but as long as I acted as a spotter he was fine on his own.

Both kids adored the indoor playground–there was lots of tactile stuff to play with, tons of places to climb, and I wasn’t particularly interested in climbing with them, so they largely got to go on their own.  There’s a wall around the playground so kids can’t wander off, but the space between the structure and the back walls is plain concrete.  It was hard for me to keep track of the two kids by myself (I imagine that’s true regardless of how well your kids see), and climbing up in the structure to help wasn’t the most comfortable for my adult-sized frame.

Both of my kids had a great time and would love to go back; I was less impressed and am not likely to take them.  It was a lot of money for a relatively short play time, and I think we could get more bang for our buck elsewhere.

Final thoughts:

  • The Indoor Playground is for ages 8 and under.  Most of the smaller children (think babies and toddlers) were gathered here, so there’s a huge range in ability level of the kids playing in the structure.  This can make things difficult:  big kids aren’t always good at playing with and around little kids.
  • The facility is not remotely accessible.  If you need a wheelchair, gait trainer, or other assistive device, Urban Air is not for you.  You need to be able to put your equipment aside to really play with their equipment.
  • No shoes are allowed in the facility; I’m guessing they would also frown on braces.  They only allow “approved” socks; I’m not sure how closely that is patrolled, however.
  • You’ll need to sign a computerized release form before you enter the park–it’s to the right of the entry area, across from the sales counter.  It basically says trampolines are inherently dangerous and you’re not going to sue if you or your kiddo gets hurt.
  • I learned that trampolines are . . . interesting . . .  for mothers.  Things are not as well attached post-children as they were pre-children–you may wet yourself on the trampoline.  (No, I didn’t.  Yes, the sensation was odd and it was a definite possibility.  Yes, I know women who have.)  If your kiddo has issues with continence, a trampoline park may not be the best idea.
  • Both Lex and Peanut had fun, so this is a workable place if your only issue is vision.  If you have other mobility issues, however, I would suggest skipping Urban Air.


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Get a Summer Job at the Colorado Center for the Blind!

From the mailbag:

Every summer at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, blind youth learn and grow in confidence that they can live the lives they want.  You can be a part of this summer – a summer neither your students nor you will ever forget!

The Colorado Center for the Blind is now accepting applications from positive blind role models to be residential counselors and class room instructors in our 2017 summer programs.  We offer 3 programs: Summer for Success College Prep Program, Earn and Learn High School Program and the Initiation to Independence Middle School Program (three weeks only).   Staff must be available May 30 through August 11.

Applicants must have excellent oral and written communication skills, be competent in the alternative skills of blindness, be well rounded, flexible, and willing to lead by example.  Successful candidates will be excited to work with blind students ages 11 to 20, and willing to show leadership in our Challenge recreation activities.  Staff and students will go rock climbing, hiking, canoeing, white water rafting, attend martial arts classes and much more.  In addition, all staff and students will attend the national convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando July 10 to 15!

To learn more, watch our summer program video:

To apply, please submit a letter of interest indicating whether you would like to teach Braille, Tech, Home Management or Cane Travel; how your skills and interests would be an asset to our summer programs; and how working in our summer program fits (or doesn’t fit) into your long-term goals.  Send your letter of interest to Martin Becerra at  You can also call Martin at 303-778-1130, x 223 for more information.

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Blind Inc Buddy Program 2017

From the mailbag:

Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc.

Buddy Program 2017:

Come to gain blindness skills, and leave with lifelong friends!

Apply today to the 2017 Buddy Program, a summer program for all blind/low vision students ages 9-13!

When: June 10, 2017-July 1,  2017!

Where: BLIND, Inc.; 100 East 22nd St. Minneapolis Minnesota, 55404.

Application deadline: April 15, 2017.

What: “Buddies” will gain important blindness skills along with the empowering attitudes about blindness and exposure to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) while exploring and experiencing the wonderful Twin Cities.

Program: Buddies will stay in the beautiful BLIND Inc. mansion, which once belonged to the Pillsbury family. They will learn Braille reading and writing, cane travel, adaptive technology, independent living skills, and much more! Buddies will also have the ability to craft new friendships with  their blind/low vision peers that will last a lifetime! Buddies will have an educational and recreational experience with program counselors, most of whom are blind college students. Buddies will learn to prepare meals under  the supervision of the instructors.  Buddies will also learn how to travel effectively using the award-winning Minneapolis public transit system! These skills will be beneficial for a lifetime!

Other Activities: Buddies will also participate in other activities around the Twin Cities. Activities may include: visiting the Mall of America, going to a water park, a petting zoo, paddle boating, indoor rock climbing, and many other fun activities! Buddies utilize the skills they are taught in the program while participating in these fun activities.

Cost: The Buddy Program costs $900.  Contact Michell Gip, Youth Services Coordinator, at 612-872-0100, Ext. 231, or for more information or an application.  We accept payment plans, and some funding may be available for those in need.  Contact us for more details!

Apply today to ensure your space in the 2017 Buddy Program!

Information about our summer programs can also be found at

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#HowEyeSeeIt #Howoffensivecanyouget?

Wow. Every time I think I’ve seen the depths of misguided ableism, I’m amazed by a new low.  This latest one–#HowEyeSeeIt–really?  Seriously???  You have to be effing kidding me.  You think that blundering around for a minute with a blindfold on is like the reality my son and other B/VI people live every day?  Are you effing serious???  Blind people ARE NOT INCOMPETENT.  Blind people are CAPABLE.  Blind people are able to do just about anything you can do sighted WHILE BLIND.  For effs sake, my son flew a flipping AIRPLANE last weekend, and he’s SEVEN.  Lack of eyesight certainly isn’t holding him back.  Why on earth would you have a campaign to end blindness that fundamentally insults those who are blind and visually impaired, not to mention their friends and loved ones?

Before I lose all ability to form rational thought and descend into a frenzy of rage, I’m going to sign off and hand it over to the NFB–wise words from a wise organization follow below.

From the mailbag:

Dear Fellow Federationists,


This past weekend an organization released a social media campaign with the hashtag HowEyeSeeIt. The people using this hashtag are making videos of themselves attempting to do everyday tasks under blindfold with the misguided view that this experience will help them know what it is like to be blind. The motivation for the campaign is to raise funds to eliminate blindness. We in the National Federation of the Blind know that blindness doesn’t hold us back. We also know that living with blindness requires learning the techniques blind people use to do everyday tasks without vision. We are not opposed to medical research, but the way to generate interest in medical research is not by further spreading the fear of blindness and strengthening misconceptions about the lived experience of blind people.


The current videos being circulated with the #HowEyeSeeIt campaign are perpetuating the idea that blindness is something to be feared and that blind people adhere to low expectations. Some of the tasks people are encouraged to do in this campaign are having a friend give them an unidentified amount of cash and then, under blindfold, attempting to pay for a meal with this money. Another particularly outrageous example is people are asked to attempt to take care of their child for one minute while blindfolded. At a time when we have launched new efforts for blind parents who have their children taken away because of misconceptions about blindness, this is dangerous and offensive. These examples and the dozens of others used in the campaign rely on the notion that vision is a requirement for success, but we know the truth—blindness does not define us or our future.


We’ve published a blog, “Challenging the Fear of Blindness,” that I encourage you to share. See below for some related critical actions.


Critical Actions This Week:

Challenging the Fear of Blindness – #HowEyeSeeIt: It is critical that we now join together to combat this harmful campaign. I urge all Federation leaders to lead by example and to encourage the members of the Federation in your state to join with me in changing the perception that blindness is something to be feared and something that significantly limits our lives. Now is the time to turn our fear into power and that power into action. We have the opportunity to demonstrate how we live the lives we want as blind people in a commanding way. All you have to do is:

  1. Make a video of yourself accomplishing an everyday task as a blind person. For example, show how you dance, sing, exercise, care for your children, go to school or work, play sports, manage your finances, travel, participate in social events, enjoy your hobbies—in short, take a video of yourself living the life you want.
  2. At the end of your video, say that you’re a proud member of the National Federation of the Blind, and tag three friends or family members to keep the trend going. You can also urge your audience to make a donation to the NFB.
  3. Upload your video to social media using the hashtag #HowEyeSeeIt. Make sure to link to our website,, and tag the NFB in your Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram post. If the people you mentioned in your video are on social media, be sure to tag them, too.
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Time to Sign Up for Trolley Run!!

One of Peanut’s favorite events of the year is rapidly approaching–CCVI’s Trolley Run!  Where else can you run (or walk–we walk!) an easy, flat-to-downhill course; support a FANTASTIC cause; and even have the chance to win a BRAND NEW CAR all at the same time??!? (Seriously–everyone who signs up for Trolley Run is entered for a chance to win a GMC or Buick SUV!)

We hope you’ll join us for this year’s Trolley Run on Sunday, April 24th.  You can find out more information and register at

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