Avery’s Holiday Art

Hello CTEBVI friends!

Merry Christmas! Over the last holiday, Thanksgiving, my mom put me in charge of decorating the table. This is a good chance to show off some of my artwork and have the rest of my family join in an art project as well.

Pictured: Dining table set for Thanksgiving dinner by Avery Crivello — Photo courtesy of Nora Crivello

Pictured: Dining table set for Thanksgiving dinner with art work drawn by Avery Crivello — Photo courtesy of Nora Crivello

I decided to put paper all over the table in long strips. This works as a tablecloth and also as a canvas. I put everyone’s name on where they were sitting using markers. After that I took all of the markers and did a drawing for each seat. At each sheet I wrote “what are you thankful for?”

Pictured: Avery Crivello seated at the dining table with butcher paper and various colors of markers to decorate for Thanksgiving dinner — Photo courtesy of Nora Crivello

Pictured: Avery Crivello seated at the dining table with butcher paper and various colors of markers to decorate for Thanksgiving dinner — Photo courtesy of Nora Crivello

During our meal, while everybody was eating, they grabbed markers and started drawing too. It was really fun to see what everybody was thankful for and what they were drawing. This was a really fun project to do with my family and we left the paper out for a couple more days and filled up the whole table canvas.

Pictured: Avery Crivello seated at the dining table with butcher paper and various colors of markers to decorate for Thanksgiving dinner — Photo courtesy of Nora Crivello

Pictured: Avery Crivello seated at the dining table with butcher paper and various colors of markers to decorate for Thanksgiving dinner — Photo courtesy of Nora Crivello

I drew a heart to represent my family. I also drew Batman for my dad, a heart for myself, an emoji for Grandpa Bob, and doodles for my brother. I also drew a banana for my Nana because I call her Nana banana.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and a merry Christmas!

Avery (Bravery) Crivello


Life Update

Pictured: (l-r) Taylor Cox, Katelyn Divis holding flowers after their piano recital -- Photo courtesy of Taylor Cox

Pictured: (l-r) Taylor Cox, Katelyn Divis holding flowers after their piano recital — Photo courtesy of Taylor Cox

Hi! It’s good to be writing again! So, this blog is called Life Update, so that’s what I’m planning on doing. On Sunday November 13, I had a World Championship jiu-jitsu tournament. I fought girls who weigh, like, twenty pounds heavier than me, but I’m used to it. Even so, I didn’t place and I was really disappointed. I know I surprised the girls I was fighting, but that wasn’t enough for me. 

With my music life, I have a lot going on. I’m going to try out for my future high school music program, APA (Academy of Performing Arts), in a few months. I am going to sing and play piano to “All I Ask” by Adele. I am super pumped about that, and I know I’m going to make it, I hope. I’ve also joined the worship team at church. That, too, is very exciting. I even learned a song the day before and it was pretty awesome. On top of that, I’m writing more music, but I’m kind of putting that on the backburner for now because I’m so focused on my tryouts. I did, however, write a song about leaving your legacy behind and it was a hit at my recital in June that I had. It’s called Legacy and is a good piece of me that I put onto paper, or, in my case, a file in an SD card.

Speaking of technology, I am learning google  drive right now. I’m so excited about that. I’m actually going to try to submit a proposal to speak in San Francisco at the CTEBVI conference again. I would love to talk to the Northern California crowd this year about the technology I use throughout my school day, including Google Drive.

I’ll keep writing sometime soon.  Signing off,

Happy Fall!

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his brother Max -- Photo Courtesy: Mario ChitwoodPictured: Mario Chitwood and his brother Max -- Photo Courtesy: Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his brother Max — Photo Courtesy: Mario Chitwood

Hello my blog followers,

I am so glad it’s the fall season. I love when it gets close to all my favorite Holidays. I am not sure what my plans are for Halloween yet but I do plan on dressing up. I am thinking of dressing up as an FBI agent. I like to go trick-or-treating with my family until it gets pretty late. My favorite candy to receive is snickers. I really like going to the house that have life-size scary characters and with spooky music or sound effects. I can’t wait until Halloween!

Recently my homeroom class held elections for class representative. I wasn’t going to try out but then I changed my mind at the last second. The next day after all the votes were counted, I was told that I had won. That means that for an entire trimester I will be the 7th grade class rep. I will be going to meetings once a week to discuss school events, school spirit and a lot of other topics. I signed up for the service committee I will be promoting fund raisers and other things like that.

My mom will be traveling out of the country in a few weeks and I’m sad about her leaving. She will only be gone for a week or two but I will miss her. As you can tell I am not looking forward to her leaving. When she gets back I will help her plan my baby brother’s 2nd birthday party that will be on November 20th. I think his birthday theme is going to be all about Elmo so I will help my mom make some decorations. A few days ago I made a triple chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and it was extremely delicious. I think I will ask my mom if I can make this for Max’s birthday. It will be my birthday gift to him.

With Thanksgiving coming up I will also be busy helping my mom out by choosing the menu and helping her out in the kitchen. I usually am in charge of being the taste tester but this year I want to help make a dish. I think a dessert will be fun to make. I take pride in my baking.

Also this Friday my school will be hosting a Fall Festival. My mom and I will be in charge of running the cake walk booth. There will also be a silent auction, lots of inflatable activities like bungee basketball, splash seat, and zorb balls. I want to play the game splash seat where we will have a chance to dunk one of our teachers if we hit a target. I also will be buying cotton candy and popcorn to snack on. It should be a really fun night. I can’t wait!

Another thing I did these past few days was that I made a video for a HIMS contest. The video was about my Braille Sense and how I use it. It took almost a full one hour to make a two minute video. Some of my mistakes were hilarious. I hope I can have more news in the upcoming months but for now my life is pretty calm. Peace! out!

CTEBVI Conference


Pictured: (l-r) Bob Sweetman, Taylor Cox, Jamie Murdy at 2016 CTEBVI Conference

Pictured: (l-r) Bob Sweetman, Taylor Cox, Jamie Murdy at 2016 CTEBVI Conference


Hi! My CTEBVI presentation went good. Now I’ll explain it in detail, along with the other parts of the conference.


First, I got to L.A. I met with my teacher, Mrs. Jamie. I ate a lot of candy before my presentation because I was really nervous. We had about twenty minutes with the other presenter, Bob Sweetman, and we were ready.

I was so excited. I presented on the technology I use in my schoolday. I talked about the Computer with JAWS, my Open Book software and the Pearl Camera, which is basically an app on my computer and a camera that connects with a USB port and scans a print paper. I also talked about my BrailleNote,my iPad, and my phone. Sometimes my teacher chimed in, but it was mostly me. I was so happy and calm during the presentation and it felt so good doing it. I loved every second of it. At the end of the presentation, I got a lot of “good jobs” and “you did amazing.” I loved every single part of it. My teacher actually counted fifty people in the conference room!

After the hard part was done, I got to relax. I got to go to the guide dog booth and try a Juno lesson. That basically means that a guy was holding the other part of the harness while I held the handle. It was cool because I felt like I could walk without a cane like sighted people do. It made me feel more independent also because of the fact that I walked faster. Finally, it made me want a dog more. I also got to see the new BrailleNote Touch. It is a model of a tablet, but it has a cool keyboard built in to the case. But when you flip up the case,the keyboard is gone. THERE IS JUST A TOUCH SCREEN. I GOT TO TALK TO THE MAN WHO CREATED THE BrailleNote, Greg Stilton. He’s a genius! After that I went to another conference, then my mom and I left the scene of our crime.

This experience was amazing. I think, though, if more kids could present, it would be awesome. It would not only build their confidence, even if it is nervewracking. Just prepare, and you’ll be fine. This was a great experience, again, and more people should do it.

I hope I’ll get the chance to write again. Most likely, you’ll hear from me soon.

Until next time,


JOURNAL – Taking Steps to Become Aaron

We know most of you read the CTEBVI Journal when it is published quarterly, but for those of you who might have missed it, please take a look at the back issues for some great content!  Did you know we now have a contributing O&M Specialist who has 24 years of experience as part of our organization?  

This blog post highlights one of our newest CTEBVI Specialists, Ralph Cioffi, who is an Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Specialist.  In every journal, Ralph writes articles focusing on O&M that are both motivating and inspiring.  Here is his article for the journal which he has asked to share with all of you on our blog!



Taking Steps to Become Aaron
by: Ralph Cioffi

My early years in this profession allowed me to imagine an array of ideal features that an O&M student might present upon first meeting with me. This ‘ideal student’ fantasy was formulated while pursuing my credentials. In it each one of my students became well-adjusted to age appropriate endeavors in a very short time. And each one would become curious about the personal challenges that cane-travel experiences had to offer under my instruction. At that time, I didn’t think this was too much to ask for. But, it was. The reality is that I would often find myself working, with resilient intent for years with each O&M student all the while encouraging them to reach for the potential I knew was within them. Sometimes it was realized and sometimes not. All I can tell you is that it required a lot of time. Time well spent encouraging, eliciting and supporting the emotional qualities that allowed students to act upon their perceived personal challenges. I knew that facilitating the emergence of a young person’s internal power would allow many of my students to move beyond their self-defined boundaries. Yet, it was always their choice!The following story is an example of how the quality of my intervention facilitated one of my student’s embrace of the power of his own self-reliance. He eventually went on to become a very well adjusted, independent person who had no need for further O&M instruction.


Taking Steps to Become Aaron

Aaron was as an 8th grader exhibiting a level of physical and emotional development that was significantly less than age-appropriate. He displayed a severe level of low vision, which seemed to be accompanied by a dependence upon everyone else in his world, but himself, for all the things that mattered to him. During my introductory meeting with this teenage student, he flatly stated to me that he had no use for mobility lessons! You can imagine how that struck me. He went on to tell me that he hated to walk! Actually, the muscle tone in his legs could attest to that. In fact, the muscle tone, in every part of his body, appeared to be extremely low. Over the next few weeks I did notice that his legs, in particular bothered him after short bouts of purposeful walking during our mobility lessons. It became obvious that minimal physical effort on his part, both at home and at school was the norm for him. After about a month of training with me he pointedly let me know that just about everything he needed to do for himself was “done” by someone else. And he concluded by telling me that he was okay except when he was with me!

This information led me to begin observations of his performance during other school-based activities. I came away with the realization that Aaron was not able to be fully present in the demanding world of his school environment. He seemed distracted during most of his academic and mobility instruction time. On an academic level he appeared to be in a state of frazzled confusion. All of his teachers were busy trying  to “catch him up.” Most school personnel apparently bought into the ‘poor, pitiful me’ persona that he frequently exhibited. People did their best to make work assignments easier for Aaron. The resulting accommodations only seemed to prolong the loss of this teenager’s positive sense of self. On an O&M training level, he usually appeared uneasy. Attention to his personal skill level seemed to be sabotaged by feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, suppressed anger, and self-pity. On a very basic mobility training level, he had yet to find a dignified, self-composure.

Regardless, Aaron became one of my success stories over the three years that I worked with him. After getting to know how he functioned within every realm of his academic experiences, I realized that I was faced with a student who was typically intelligent yet had been adversely affected by some of the most significant people in his life. His home life did not appear to know how to support the development of his inexperienced skill level. And once in school, personnel found it difficult to hold back their protective emotional responses to him. This was clearly getting in the way of any higher expectations of the development of his self-help skill-base. The time and effort it took to get Aaron to complete classroom assignments became burdensome. It became obvious that many academic assignments were completed, but by his classroom assistants. They too, had a schedule to keep.

Aaron was an interesting study in a sustained acquisition of helplessness. How this happened is not as important to talk about right now, as is what he did to challenge himself, as a mobility student, and begin to change his self-image. What I know is that mobility lessons helped him to redefine his view of himself. I made sure his community-based O&M lessons challenged his physical skill level in a way that spoke to his emotional makeup. One unexpected outcome was that mobility lessons created an opportunity for him to voice how he felt about himself. He seemed to welcome the opportunity to talk about how he truly felt about himself. So did I! Most of his conversation was about how he was feeling at the moment. It made me feel like he’d never had the opportunity to be so candid about himself. While I suspect this happened mostly because we were working within the setting of the larger world, I also know that he was beginning to trust me more and more. I had placed him in a situation where he had no choice but to interact with all of the activity that the larger community had to offer and I was his anchor. I believe it allowed him to view himself in relation to the skills needed to be present in this situation. He often could not help voicing his reactions. And, I was there to respond to them in a level manner. It created a series of defining moments for him.

As a result of these community-based experiences, Aaron went on to better self-evaluate the skills that he had, which led to his realization of the ones that needed further development. Could I have asked for a more perfect student? While he continued to self-evaluate, I continued to listen and observe well. It allowed me to develop more O&M curriculum, specific to his emerging skill level. And as I objectively evaluated his expanding levels of self-confidence and self-image, he seemed to accept my input with thoughtful contemplation.

I’d like to give an example of an incident that, while small, was a catalyst for this student’s self-focus, the kind  that really impacted his personal introspection. As I mentioned, once in high school, Aaron and I plodded through many different kinds of mobility experiences both on and off campus. We worked our way up to crossing simple traffic light intersections within the local community. Of course the experiences became progressively more challenging as his level of self-confidence increased.

A pivotal point in the training process approached. Aaron was about to cross an intersection without any verbal support from me. He was, essentially well equipped, confident, and about to use his newly acquired skills for his first truly independent street crossing in a light business area. He did everything that he needed to do to determine the appropriate and accurate time to step into the street. As he did this, a car ran the red light and unexpectedly whizzed by him at an accelerated speed. Startled, he quickly jumped back onto the sidewalk scared, trembling, and swearing that he knew he shouldn’t ever have even thought about trying this! He let me know that he felt that he had almost been “killed by that car!” and went on to state that he was “never going to cross a street, ever again, by myself!!!!!!!”

At this point, all I could do was assure Aaron that what happened was not his fault, that he had accurately timed his street crossing and that the car had illegally run through the red light. When he calmed down, all he could say was that he wanted to go back to school. What else could I say but, “Okay, let’s go.”

Damage control was in order here. Big time! And damage control is what made all the difference for the future of his mobility lessons! The ensuing weeks were spent in discussion about how this incident affected him, and how he was going to handle his feelings surrounding it.

My suggestion was that we continue mobility lessons but, instead of being out on the sidewalks, we would spend our time exploring the inside of different department stores and supermarkets. He agreed to the plan. It allowed him to feel safe, keep his anxiety at manageable levels, and at the same time feel like he was learning something that would be to his advantage.

A major focus of all future discussion was getting him emotionally prepared to get back outside and onto the sidewalks. My primary message was to let him know that I would not force him into any kind of sidewalk travel experience until he stated that he was ready to do so. He needed to let me know when he might be ready to do that.A major focus of all future discussion was getting him emotionally prepared to get back outside and onto the sidewalks. My primary message was to let him know that I would not force him into any kind of sidewalk travel experience until he stated that he was ready to do so. He needed to let me know when he might be ready to do that.

Over the following weeks, I engaged him in discussion about the consequences of deciding not to become an independent traveler. Another focus in follow-up conversations with him, was to mention that I thought it would be very important for him to go back to “the scene of the crime” to face his fears. True to his teenage years, he told me I’d have a long wait for that! Regardless, I continued to suggest that it would be good for him to prove to himself that he could do the street crossing safely. I also let him know that I thought it would allow him to move beyond the fear that stopped him from becoming a proficient traveler. And that I’d really like to see him do that before I became a  very old man!

About three months later while on a mobility lesson in one of the local department stores he said to me, “Mr. Ralph, you know how you’ve been wanting me to go back to that intersection?” I responded with, “Yes I do! But, remember, not until YOU are ready. You need to do it for yourself, not for me.” With a combination of both meekness and strength he responded with, “Well, I’m ready to go back there!” I knew Aaron couldn’t see the expression on my face, but he could hear how impressed I was with him in the quality of my voice. Once again, there was nothing to say but, “Okay, let’s go.” And just so you know, many situations that had been intimidating to Aaron previous to this experience began to change quickly for him.


Once again, I’m looking forward to sharing more insight and information, in my future articles, into the various methods of instruction I was able to provide my BVI students and how it affected their support systems (parents, school professionals, paraprofessionals and others). If you wish to share your experiences or have questions you wish to ask me, let’s continue the conversation by commenting on the CTEBVI blog at: https://ctebvidcysblog.wordpress.com/category/journal/om/

Social Media 101 for CTEBVI


Pictured:  Screenshot of CTEBVI's  Twitter page.

Pictured: Screenshot of CTEBVI’s Twitter page.

This article by Lisa Okikawa, appears in the Summer 2015 issue of the CTEBVI Journal.  Become a member of CTEBVI for immediate access to more articles like this and others related to the BVI field.  For archived journals, visit: www.ctebvi.org.  

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog, vlog…what does it all mean? In the last two years, CTEBVI has jumped onto the social media train that has been barreling down the information superhighway. Though the mere idea of social media can cause newbies or current-non users to shudder in fear, it really is user-friendly for all. Social media isn’t just something that the “young kids” are doing; nearly every major company has social media departments now to handle social media outreach. This article will help break down what social media is for you in a new series of painless articles.

Social media is defined by Wikipedia as: “…computer-mediated tools that allow people to create, share or exchange information, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks. ” With so many people glued to their smartphones and tablets these days, what makes social media so great, is that it’s an instant connection to the people and organizations that mean the most to you! Say you are sitting in your local coffeeshop and hear something about a new store or restaurant that piques your interest and you want to learn more…now! (i.,e., What does that new restaurant down the street that just opened serve?) What do most people do? They Google (or do an internet search) for it. The results will come up with a billion pages of information, but most importantly the top three or four links will likely include links to a website, Facebook and Twitter. These links are important because it allows seekers to know that:
A.) what they are seeking is legitimate proven by an official website which will share information about the person, place or thing.
B.) they have some kind of a following of people who want updates about this person/organization (Facebook)
C.) people are not only aware of this person/organization, but they are talking about it (Twitter).

CTEBVI wants to remain current and reach as many people as possible about our organization so we set up accounts to connect with those interested parties. I know there are more social media options out there than any of us can keep track of. In subsequent journals, we will focus on the in’s-and-out’s of each social media site. The following list includes our sites and the basics like how you can find them, how to connect with them and what you’ll find when you go there:

Website: http://www.ctebvi.org
A website is a collection of pages that includes information, images, videos about a particular topic that are accessed via the internet. CTEBVI’s website includes information about our organization, membership, our annual conference, scholarships, our blog, back-issues of the journal and more. Check it out!

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CTEBVI
One of the major social network sites that we post news or CTEBVI updates related to the blindness community to reach as many people as we have Facebook followers. If you are a Facebook user, locate our page by typing “CTEBVI” into the search box or click on the above link and click on the thumbs up icon to “like” us. When you do this, you will begin to receive any updates we post in your feed (your feed is a listing of the updates or photos posted by your friends or any pages you “liked”). We are proud of our organization and encourage users to comment, like or share our posts with your network of Facebook friends.

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CTEBVI
Twitter is another of the major social networking sites. The act of posting a message is called a “tweet” and these concise messages inform our followers about our organization or stories that relate to the blindness community. So what are the major differences between Twitter and Facebook in a nutshell, you ask? Essentially they both have the potential to share similar kinds of information, but think of Twitter as sharing immediate, breaking-news while Facebook is more of a read-it-when-you-want-it/ information on demand site.

Blog: https://ctebvidcysblog.wordpress.com
A blog is an interactive website consisting of articles (or posts) written by a person or organization about a particular topic. Blogs are typically informal and encourage it’s readers to comment their thoughts or opinions at the bottom of each entry. Our blog features posts most frequently by our current Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship recipient, but also includes information related to parents, educators, transcribers, students and Unified English Braille (UEB).

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/ctebvi
YouTube is a video-sharing website. Users can record and share original videos of various content topics including information-based tutorials, original music sharing, vlogs (video blog), webseries (the equivalent of a television series that is streamed or distributed on this website). CTEBVI uploads vlogs to YouTube that appears on our Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship recipient’s blog.

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/CTEBVI
Instagram is a social media photo and video sharing site. Users can take photos or 15-second-videos that they can share with people who follow their accounts. CTEBVI typically shares photos or video associated with conference or the blog postings from our Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship recipient.

Now that you know what you’re dealing with, the concepts are hopefully a little less daunting. This article is meant to be an overview of the social media sites that are used by CTEBVI. Subsequent journal articles will go more in-depth with each of the social media sites so you can learn how to join, what the lingo means for each site and how to optimize using the site for you.

Camp Bloomfield: Day Four


Pictured: Taylor and Hanna's

Pictured: Taylor and Hanna’s “Soul Sister” Award from Camp Bloomfield

The fourth day of camp was awesome. It was a little different than usual. Breakfast was the same as always. Then, we got to pick our own activity to do. All but one of us went horseback riding. I got to ride another horse named Socks. I thought the ride was fun as usual, but this time the saddle was different. There was a little handle to hold on to called the horn. The other saddle didn’t have it. Then, after riding for a little bit, we worked on a lunch cheer. Finally, we had to change clothes because there was a surprise where we got to get wet. I just wore my bathing suit under my clothes. Then, we took a camp picture and the surprise came. The captain of the fire department came. There were two trucks. We got to feel the equipment and feel inside the trucks. Then we got sprayed by the fire hoses. It reminded me of our church camp that we do every summer. It was really fun.

After the fire truck came, we had our second activity. We had a rerun on the rock wall and the high ropes course. I climbed the rock wall in about two minutes. The high ropes course was my favorite, though. I did it twice. My favorite part of it was holding on to the cables and walking across the rope. Finally, after we finished the rock wall, we went to our cabin to get ready for the awards dinner. As girls, of course, we wore dresses because they wanted semi fancy clothes. As we were getting ready, some of us wore perfume, so a yellow jacket flew into the cabin. It was terrifying! Then, we headed out for dinner.

After dinner, our counselors and activity leads presented the awards. I got an award on the rock wall. The activity lead Rolie, told me that when I was going down the rock wall, I hopped like a frog. So naturally my award was called the “Frog on the Wall” award. Then finally our counselors presented our awards. Mine and Hanna’s went together. Ours was called the Soul Sisters Award. I was really excited that ours went together. We went back to our cabin and then went to the dance. It was fun. We danced to “I’m All About that Base” and “When I met you in the summer.” I mostly hung out with my friend Mina and my other friend Brennen. I even danced with him. After the dance we started packing up for tomorrow. Hanna helped me a lot. Man, she was helpful. Finally, we settled down and went to sleep.

The next day, we woke up, realizing that we only had one last morning together. We finished packing and got ready. Then, we met up by the dining area and did our lunch cheers. We forgot ours, though. It was pretty funny. Then after breakfast, we played for a little bit with a ball. Finally, even though it took her forever, my mom took me and my soul sister, Hanna, home.

There are a lot of people I would like to thank. First, I would love to thank Junior Blind of America for putting this amazing event on. Next, I would like to thank my braille teacher, Jamie Murdy, for recommending us to come. The third thank you I would like to say is to my parents for saying yes. Also, I would love to thank my counselors, Sunflower, Nolla, and Mango. Last but not least, I would love to thank my friend Hanna. She was amazing and helped me a lot this week. A big part of my week I spent with her. Like our counselors said, we are soul sisters. I’ll be writing soon about my recording equipment adventures.

Thank you,