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Braille baking: Teachers win award, kids learn to live

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 7, 2007
— Ask the kids in the Daily Living Skills class at the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped about baking, and you’ll hear funny stories.

Like the time Lee Wilson measured salt instead of sugar into his muffin mix.


“The saltiest muffins you could ever have,” the 18-year-old recalled.


Lee had not yet learned Braille, so he couldn’t read the labels.


Or the time someone picked up a bottle of syrup instead of liquid soap to do the dishes.


Or when Dave Howard, 19, put an oven mitt only on one hand but grasped the pan with both.


“I’m, like, ‘This kind of hurts,’” Dave recalled calmly as fellow students guffawed at the memory.


“But he learned a lesson, I think,” said teacher Peggy Trainor.


Trainor and occupational therapist Kate Mennenga teach the class, and they recently received an award from the Home Baking Association for their study unit, “Muffins in Motion.”


The award included a $1,000 prize and a free trip to the trade association’s convention in Fort Myers, Fla.


“Muffins in Motion” was one of many units in the class, which teaches students how to live their lives without the benefit of much—if any—sight.


“This class is a good idea in general for visually impaired people,” Wilson said.


And it teaches practical things they normally wouldn’t learn in regular public schools, several students added.


“You kind of start to see a whole new world,” said Danny Groll, 19.


Making muffins for these kids includes recipes in Braille, or in large print for those who have some sight. It also includes Braille markers on ingredients containers and more modern adaptive technologies such as computers with “screen readers,” which will “read” text out loud.


A blind person can’t just decide to make muffins and then muddle through, Wilson said.


“You’ve got to have a procedure, so it comes out right, because you can’t see what you’re doing,” he said.


Students also shopped for their ingredients, and they packaged and labeled their successful muffins.


They delivered the muffins to two shelters for the homeless, House of Mercy in Janesville and Sparrow’s Nest in Beloit.


Trainor said one goal of the exercise was to give back.


“Our kids don’t always get out in the community,” she said.


The kids are happy their teachers got a trip to Florida, but Joe Schuenemann, 19, couldn’t resist one joke at the teachers’ expense:


“I wish they would’ve taken us all with them.”



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