CVI Conference

By Kerry Michael – Administrative Assistant


On May 5th over 40 vision professionals participated in the annual Claire Loder McGough Conference despite a torrential downpour. This years topic was “Vision and the Brain: What Neuroscans can tell us about CVI.”

Participants came from all corners of Maryland to hear Dr. Corinna Bauer from Harvard Medical School and the Schepens Eye Research Institute. Dr. Bauer spoke about her work on the use of multimodal neuroimaging techniques to understand how the visual dysfunctions observed in cortical/cerebral visual impairment (CVI) relate to changes in brain structure and function. Even I (someone with a Literature degree) found her talk both engaging and enlightening, so I’m sure are esteemed professionals got much more from the presentation.

After a delicious lunch with lots of guacamole participants met in breakout groups to discuss specific practices for helping students on the ground and strengthened their connections with colleagues.

Another important part of the day was the awarding of the Claire Loder McGough Professional Achievement Award. This year it went to MSB’s very own Principal, Dr. Josh Irzyk for his technological contributions to the field, and luckily his mom was there to see him accept his award! (Keep an eye out for a later post with details about Dr. Irzyk’s award and accomplishments).

Braille It On – Bring your skills to the MD Braille Challenge

The Maryland Regional Braille Challenge is an annual event usually held at the end of January or the beginning of February at Maryland School for the Blind and this year we had a student place 1st at the national competition!

Challenge participants pose for a group photo

What is the Braille Challenge you ask?  To start, it’s a program of the Braille Institute. Check out their description – “The Braille Challenge® is an academic competition unlike any other. This two-stage contest is designed to motivate blind students to emphasize their study of braille, while rewarding their success with fun-filled, but challenging, local and national events. Any visually impaired student who reads braille is eligible to participate in the preliminary Challenge contest events, which were held from January through the end of March throughout the U.S. and Canada. Contests are proctored by volunteer teachers for visually impaired students and scored locally according to our national guidelines by volunteer transcribers. Each contestant receives a brailled certificate of appreciation and general feedback on their performance, which will be sent to families and educators in May.”

At the Maryland Braille Challenge parents attend workshops that can range in a variety of topics while students are testing. The 2018 Braille Challenge will focus on workshops for family members regarding the integration of Braille to complete daily living skills. After the challenge students participate in a variety of fun activities which in the past have included face painting, making Braille jewelry, and interacting with a professional balloon artist. There is also an opportunity to meet with vendors, the MSB Bee, and take advantage of a braille book exchange. Each student who participated in the 2017 Challenge received prizes and a medal that had the words “Maryland Braille Challenge” in Braille.

The 2017 Maryland Regional Braille Challenge also started a new program for those students who are just learning Braille and are elementary aged. It’s a non-competitive program for students to practice their Braille skills by participating in a variety of fun activities. This program will return for 2018.

Come be a part of the Braille Challenge community! It’s an exciting day of networking, hard work and fun! We hope to see you at the 2018 Maryland Regional Braille Challenge. Please contact Jackie Otwell with any questions you may have.


To learn more about the Braille Challenge check out the link:

Participants talk with Tim: MSB’s adaptive gym teacher.

Superintendent Rob Hair presents prizes and medals.

NEW Summer Course for middle and high school aged kids.

Does your child love ANIMALS? How about ROBOTS? What about the ENVIRONMENT? If any of these are true, or even if not, consider The Maryland School for the Blind Outreach Services’ First LEGO League Summer Course.

Ignite interest in robotics, STEM, and our relationship with animals! Watch the thrill of learning through hands-on discovery! See your child develop their teamwork and problem solving skills and learn to think creatively!



First LEGO League immerses kids in real-world science and technology challenges. Teams of kids are challenged to design their own solution to current scientific problems, and then build LEGO robots that perform autonomous “missions.” In the process, they develop valuable life skills and discover exciting career possibilities in science and technology. They even discover that they, too, can make positive contributions to society.

This summer program will provide step-by-step introduction to LEGO robotics; all skill levels are welcomed and NEEDED, technical or non-technical! There will also be trips to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in D.C. and the NASA Goddard Center. 

First LEGO League’s positive impact on participants is gratifying and well documented. Over 87% of participants are more interested in doing well in school, and 88% have more interest in attending college.

This year’s theme is “Animal Allies” where participants will identify a problem when people and animals interact, design a solution that makes the interaction better for animals, people, or both, and share your problem and solution with others, all for ANIMAL ALLIEISM! Participants will learn to think of people and animals as allies in the quest to make life better for everyone. Sometimes people help animals and sometimes animals help people. The Project mission this season is to make our interactions with animals better – hopefully better for all of us.

Animal Allies will introduce opportunities to participate in First LEGO League throughout the following school year and participants will get a LEGO souvenir to take home with them.

The Maryland School for the Blind is the first blind school to compete in First LEGO League and is working in partnership with LEGO to create a program using the tactile nature of LEGOs to aid visually impaired youth.

Fill out your REGISTRATION FORM now and send it to

For more information please view the following videos, check out the FLL Website, or reach out to us at 410-444-5000 ext: 1249.

NEW Summer Course for Elementary Aged Kids

Swing like a monkey, fly like a bat, or hop like a frog into the FIRST LEGO League Jr. CREATURE CRAZE season. Whether in zoos, on the farm, or in your own back yard, we all encounter animals in our lives.  In the 2016-2017 CREATURE CRAZE Challenge, over 40,000 children will dive into the wonders of the animal kingdom.  What will you learn about our furry, feathered, and finned friends?


This summer the Maryland School for the Blind Outreach Services Department is introducing First LEGO League Junior, a robotics program designed to help elementary aged students discover the excitement of STEM and teamwork while inspiring them through a brand they know and love – LEGO!

This year’s theme is “Creature Craze” where children will learn about Maryland School for the Blind’s mascot, the bee; including its habitat and role in the world. This will include a trip to a beekeeper and a sampling of tasty bee snacks.

This course will tap into your child’s creativity and provide an introduction to programming including moving motors and simple machines! Students will also create a poster and presentation showing what they learned, that parents are invited to view on July 7th.

Creature Craze will introduce opportunities to participate in First LEGO League Jr. throughout the following school year and participants will get a LEGO souvenir to take home with them.

The Maryland School for the Blind is the first blind school to compete in First LEGO League and is working in partnership with LEGO to create a program using the tactile nature of LEGOs to aid visually impaired youth.

Fill out your REGISTRATION FORM now and send it to

For more information please view the following video, check out the FLL Jr. Website, or reach out to us at 410-444-5000 ext: 1249.

Team “Savage Bees” Completes the 2016 Savage Race


Thanks to The Maryland School for the Blind Adaptive Physical Education Instructor Matt Mescall for facilitating student participation in the Savage Race. 2016 marks the second consecutive year student athletes from The Maryland School for the Blind have taken on this challenge under Matt’s leadership. The video above is from this year’s event.  Below is Matt’s recap of the grueling and exciting day:

“On May 7, 2016 a group of blind athletes from The Maryland School for the Blind traveled to Kennedyville, Maryland to take on something that most people try to avoid: mud!  And lots of it!  The group from The Maryland School for the Blind adopted the team name “Savage Bees” and  attempted to take on a 6.5 mile obstacle mud run, an event  hosted by Savage Race.  Savage Race is one of the most intense mud races found among events of its kind.  As if the course’s 6.5 miles of wooded slopes, streams, and mud, mud, and more mud is not intimidating enough, there are 25 obstacles to challenge participants every step of the way.  And instead of the ordinary steeplechase obstacles, competitors are faced with extraordinary challenges such as jumping into a pool with 60,000 pounds of ice, leaping from a height of fifteen feet into a muddy pool, scaling walls 10 feet in height, monkey-swinging across a thirty-five foot expanse of monkey bars suspended ten feet above water, and commando crawling through, you guessed it, mud spread beneath a fifty foot stretch of barbed wire. Nine student athletes and five coaches formed the contingent of participants from The Maryland School for the Blind.  The determined group set a personal goal to overcome whatever the course threw at them.  The Savage Race challenges the most hardened and physically-conditioned athletes, and the students from The Maryland School for the Blind rose to meet this standard in spite of blindness and visual impairment.  Their ability and spirit had a big impact not only on each other as a team, but on other participants as well. Other racers stopped to encourage them, show their respect towards them,  and thank them for  their inspiring effort and for being part of the racing community. The story of these student athletes went viral across social media with many people commenting on their success:

  • “We saw these guys on the 8ft wall. It was amazing to see them accomplish it. I was so proud of them. It gave me chills. Great job!!”
  • “One of my favorite groups to photograph today. What an inspiration for others that think they can’t.”
  • “Absolutely inspiring. I had the honor of running by your group for a bit and watch you fearlessly jump off the platform into the water. So much  more brave than I could ever be. You are true savages. #respect”
  • “Literally saw one of these guys listen to a description of an obstacle, reach out and run their hands over part of the obstacle, then say, “I got  this!”

These student athletes show us all that we can do anything we set our minds to.  We will all have various obstacles to overcome throughout the course of our lives and the students prove that by surrounding yourself with a strong team who can support you physically, mentally, and emotionally, those obstacles can be overcome — even if you get a little dirty in the process. By overcoming those obstacles, not only do you make yourself stronger, but also the people around you. At The Maryland School for the Blind, these things happen every day with our students and staff. Whether they are students at our school, or participants in our Outreach Program – together we are capable of amazing things.  Please join me in congratulating  these 9 athletes in their amazing accomplishment. After all, the Savage Race is more than just a race – “It’s about setting personal goals and smashing them. It’s about pushing your limits to defeat the world’s best obstacles. It’s about teamwork and friendship. It’s about the amazing people you will meet on the course. It’s about the mud, the fire, and the Facebook pics. It’s about creating the memory of a lifetime ( ).”

A Day’s Worth of Technology Tips

Concepts such as GoTalk NOW, Tiggly, ALT tag, and tactile overlay took center stage at last week’s Practical Technology Tips for Visually Impaired Learners Conference held at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, MD. A result of a partnership between The Maryland School for the Blind and the Maryland State Steering Committee for Programs of the Visually Impaired, the conference saw Teachers of the Visually Impaired attend from eight Maryland counties and the District of Columbia as well as Overbrook School for the Blind and The Maryland School for the Blind. Parents, the Division of Rehabilitation Services, Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, and Allied Instructional Services were also represented among the attendees.

Conference participants chose to attend one of two concurrent sessions: Dr. Joshua Irzyk, Statewide Low Incidence Specialist, presented “What Do I Do with This Thing: Skills for Computer and Tablet Access.” Karin Nord and Kelly Jarrett, Assistive Technology Specialists at The Maryland School for the Blind, presented “Meaningful Moments and Manipulatives on the iPad for Learners with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities.”

Attendees detailed the range of new skills and techniques they learned during the event: accessibility check, optimizing presentation slide titles, ALT tag, and strategies for note taking represent a few of the examples cited. They also voiced appreciation for the opportunity to make a sample tactile overlay for the iPad as well as iPad support stands.

As part of planning for additional events, those in attendance were asked to provide examples of concepts they would like to see addressed in a future conference. One of the most popular topics noted was technology applications for math instruction.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for this technology conference. The Maryland School for the Blind and the Maryland State Steering Committee for Programs of the Visually Impaired also thank the Claire Loder McGough Memorial Fund for sponsoring this event.

Did you attend this conference? Feel free to drop us a note with additional feedback or suggestions!

Welcome to our Blog Site!

The Maryland School for the Blind Outreach Services aims to achieve four goals through our social media presence: (1) disseminate information related to the education of blind and visually impaired children (2) promote awareness of our trainings, conferences, and student programs (3) exchange ideas with parents of blind and visually impaired children as well as professionals within the blindness and low vision field and (4) serve as a portal for access to The Maryland School for the Blind’s main website.

Our blog postings will be organized into categories that follow the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC): Assistive Technology, Career Education, Compensatory Skills, Independent Living Skills, Orientation and Mobility, Recreation and Leisure, Self-Determination, Sensory Efficiency, and Social Interaction Skills.

Thank you for visiting!