E.H. Gentry also offers various classes which teach skills to students with specific academics or independent living goals. American Sign Language, Driver’s Education, Braille, Orientation and Mobility instruction are taught to students who may need a refresher or for those who have little or no experience in these areas.
ASL/American Sign Language – Some deaf and hard of hearing individuals arrive at Gentry with no experience in sign language, have a desire to learn ASL, or need to improve their manual communication skills. New students are introduced to differences between ASL and English, such as syntax, semantics, word order, plus the use of body language, facial expressions, spacial referencing, negation, and indexing. After acquiring a sufficient number of basic signs/glosses, students will be able to make introductions and share personal information about self, family, basic desires and interests.
Students will be able to make introductions and share personal information about self, family, basic desires and interests. ASL students interact with deaf students in order to practice sharing information about themselves, their family, their surroundings, and by giving and receiving directions. Receptive comprehension skills are developed simultaneously as they develop their expressive signing skills. Students will be exposed to various aspects of Deaf Culture and “Signing Do’s and Don’ts”. Interaction with deaf students and staff members allow ASL students to practice their new skills within various setting including the classroom and extended day program. In addition, specialized ASL instruction is provided for students who are DeafBlind and need to develop an alternative manual communication system and are often assessed and encouraged to learn one or more alternative modes of communication such as ASL, tactile sign language, Pro-tactile, Haptics, Braille, raised alphabet cards, print-on-palm, and Braille-to-print devices.
Driver’s Education – Gentry provides instruction which prepares students to obtain their Alabama Driver’s License. Classroom instruction includes driver’s education topics, such as Driver’s license requirements, facts about young drivers, the basic responsibilities of a driver, rules governing the basic operation of a vehicle, traffic laws and signs, and how to react to different driving conditions. After completing the classroom portion of the Driver’s Ed course, students take the Alabama Learner’s License Test and can begin the Road Skills Training. Students are scheduled to drive in various environments in different conditions under the close supervision of the instructor. Gentry’s Driver’s Ed and Adult Ed instructors have also worked in conjunction to prepare students for the Alabama Commercial Driver’s Permit while Gentry’s College Prep and Dual Enrollment program facilitates further training at Central Alabama Community College.
Braille - Technological advances have enhanced the use of braille, making devices smaller and more portable and braille displays more efficient. While technology is rapidly changing, it will never replace the need for blind individuals to learn braille. Many students served within the public school mainstreamed environment are not exposed to use of braille while in the K-12 setting; however, if students cannot comfortably read eighteen-point font within a normal distance via a computer monitor then the use of braille is indicated.
During their evaluation, students are given a reading media assessment which will determine if reading print versus braille is recommended. Gentry students progress through the following sequence to learn and develop their skills in braille:
- Pre-braille - Instructors will assess a student’s sensitivity in their fingertips which may be affected by medical issues. The use of a brailler, how to load paper into the brailling machine, the composition of the braille cells including two columns/three rows, and the basics of tracking are introduced. Letters of the alphabet, numbers one through zero, capitalization, and punctuation
- Uncontracted braille - Students are sequentially introduced to the first five letters of the alphabet and how to type and emboss using a brailler. Some students may be referred for functional braille which includes the use of uncontracted braille for the home and environment such as label and signs to help in navigating public spaces. Instructors expose students to various types of braillers such as manual and electric, and even one-handed models. Letters of the alphabet, numbers one through zero, capitalization, and punctuation are covered. Student progress through a sequence which builds skills such as recognizing letters and cells, practicing decoding, and synthesizing words to facilitate overall reading comprehension.
- Contracted braille - Students may continue building their proficiency in braille by mastering shorthand or contractions in which one or multi-cells represent portions of a word or entire words. Reading speed and accuracy in typing, decoding, and embossing is practiced and assessed with various tests including the MBSI, Minnesota Braille Skills Inventory.
- UEB – Unified English Braille - Advanced students will be exposed to this new form of braille by allowing braillists to incorporate bold, italics, underlining, and manipulate underlining and spacing which allows them to mimic print.
Orientation and Mobility - Gentry offers orientation and mobility instruction for students who are blind or low vision seeking to develop knowledge and skills needed to navigate safely and efficiently in various indoor and outdoor environments. Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) provide hands-on individualized instruction designed to build skills needed for independent travel. Gentry’s COMS will perform a functional assessment during the initial evaluation. If O&M instruction is determined as a need, an individualized program is developed and followed. Most often, instruction begins by learning how to move safely and efficiently around the Gentry campus. Students learn the layout of the campus and how to independently navigate between classrooms, the Gentry Café and Cafeteria, Wooten Cottage, and the Adult Residence Hall.
Listed below are some of the skills taught by Gentry’s COMS:
- Orientation is an individual’s ability to know where they are within a space.
- Mobility is the ability to get from an individual’s present location to a desired destination safely, efficiently, and as independently as possible.
- Problem solving skills require students to gather various forms of information which assist in resolving issues encountered in travel situations.
- Students learn how to use Sighted Guide techniques and develop other pre-cane skills.
- Basic cane techniques are skills needed when using the mobility cane to move about in various environments.
- Students also develop their awareness of spatial and environmental concepts.
- Instructors introduce mental mapping which allows students to take an abstract image and use it in a concrete manner for efficient travel through space.
- Students develop their sensory efficiency or the ability to use senses including residual vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste to gather useful information about their surroundings.
- Distance awareness is the ability to determine an essential awareness of events beyond the student’s immediate personal space.
The above skills are taught in variety of locations including:
- On campus travel begins by teaching the layout and location of buildings and classrooms, sidewalk travel, and introduction to compass directions.
- Residential travel transitions a student to the residential area within a local community. Skills taught include knowledge of parallel and perpendicular traffic patterns, numbering systems, side walk travel skills, obstacle detection and resolution, and directional corners.
- Students are exposed to business travel which involves learning how to navigate downtown areas including maneuvering through parking lots, crossing streets of multiple lanes, as well as, crossing at traffic controlled signals and uncontrolled intersections.
- More advanced instruction may include how to utilize various forms of public transportation including the use of buses, Uber, Lyft, and paratransit services.
- Students participate in a course which teaches how to create and execute a personal safety plan that helps them decide on how they would personally respond to abnormal situations in various environments. Simple breakaway techniques are taught which allow the student to free themselves when being forcefully retrained by another individual.
- Gentry students may also participate in transdisciplinary trips designed to incorporate skills from various disciplines including Orientation and Mobility, Vision Rehab Therapy, braille, and money management to travel in unfamiliar settings. Special field trips or excursions to malls, restaurants, and movie theatres allow students to practice their newly acquired skills in realistic environments under the limited supervision of the Gentry staff.
- Students learn how to access and use standalone Global Positioning Systems, as well as apps available for smart phones.