Thursday, July 20, 2006

Teaching all about life to the visually impaired

A summer camp at the University of Evansville is helping high school students with visual impairments and other disabilities adjust from life at home to life on campus.

Tuesday's lesson: How to make an omelet without mom's help.

Laughs bounced off the walls of Hale Hall's kitchen as students chopped up onions, squashed sausage and whipped eggs. They prepared their own full-scale breakfast with a smidgen of help from Krysti Hughes, orientation mobility director for the Evansville Association for the Blind.

"We're getting our hands dirty - literally," Hughes said.

Fourteen students are in town for this year's six-week camp. It's been larger in other years, but 14 is an ideal number because of the individual instruction time it allows, said Diane Hagler, vocational specialist.

It's a camp that doesn't limit itself to incoming UE students, nor to students from the Evansville region.

Michael Lacoursiere of New Albany, Ind., will be a high school senior this fall and is interested in attending Purdue University. He said he's enjoying the "freedom from my family" that the camp offers. "I can do anything, man," he said. "It's awesome."

The students take two freshman-level courses during their six-week stay, which can apply at UE or be transferred to other institutions.

That's only part of the experience, though. Outside of their classes, the students work with Hughes
on how to get around safely on a college campus.

They also learn about study habits and time management, the sorts of things all college students must know - disabled or not. Those are lessons that got the attention of Justin Hodge, who lives near Kokomo, Ind., and will be attending UE in the fall.

"I've learned how college is different from high school, effective ways to study and how to interact with professors," Hodge said.

Students who come to UE for the camp come from varying backgrounds, with varied experience at dealing with their disabilities.

"Some of them have a pretty good idea of how to live; others, we start from the drawing board," Hagler said.

Instructors work with them all, and they try to help students decide if a four-year college or some other alternative is best for them.

Henderson County (Ky.) High School graduate Sam Moore, who was his class valedictorian and is bound for Western Kentucky University, is taking psychology and environmental science this summer and said the camp has been a preview of what college life will be like.

"We're learning study habits, and what we have to do to do well (in college)," Moore said.


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