by Debra Lemoine
From the Editor: We reprint the following story of hope and investment in our next generation of blind children. This article is taken from the January 28, 2010, issue of the Baton Rouge Advocate. The story is a fine reminder of what common sense in parenting can yield for blind children. It is also a commentary on the value of our Parent Leadership Program, one of the membership-cultivation programs that our Department of Affiliate Action and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children jointly sponsor. Here it is:
When Brock Kaiser of Walker, Louisiana, was born, his family feared the worst. “We noticed he couldn’t focus on anything,” said Joan Brock, his grandmother. ”It hits you like a ton of bricks--your whole family.”
Brock Kaiser, now twenty-one months old, was diagnosed with septo-optic dysplasia, a condition where his optic nerve did not develop fully and caused blindness. The condition also has other issues, such as a hormonal deficiency, so Brock Kaiser takes daily growth hormone injections. But overall Brock Kaiser has a mild form of the condition, which can improve slightly as children get older, his mother Erin Kaiser said. Brock Kaiser can see images close up but is considered legally blind. His sight is not expected to improve much beyond that, she said.
Despite her son’s blindness Erin Kaiser, twenty-three, holds high expectations for his life. When Erin Kaiser began working full-time as an administrative assistant after graduating from Southeastern Louisiana University in May, Brock Kaiser was enrolled in a regular daycare for sighted children. “He keeps up,” she said. “He’s right where he needs to be.” At twenty-one months Brock Kaiser is a happy baby who toddles around the room. When he picks up his white cane, which his mother says is a sign of independence for blind people, he bangs it on the ground and says “tap, tap.”
At the suggestion of one of her son’s therapists, Erin Kaiser went to the state conference for the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, where she learned that her son can live a full, independent life. When she was there, she decided to get involved and has since attended the group’s national convention. “I learned that, if you hold high expectations, they’re going to be fine,” Erin Kaiser said. “They’re going to learn differently than sighted people, but they will learn.”
But that full life does not come without its obstacles. People who are blind have a 90 percent illiteracy rate and a 70 percent unemployment rate, she said. “I know the literacy rate,” Erin Kaiser said. “Brock is not going to be one of those who don’t know how to read.” Erin Kaiser taught herself Braille, so she can teach her son to “read the bumps.” She has baby books with the Braille bumps to get her son familiar with the system.She also mentors other mothers of blind children over the Internet. Erin Kaiser was recently selected as a parent leader for the National Federation of the Blind and will go to Washington, D.C., next week to attend workshops and lobby on behalf of people who are blind. For example, one issue she and Brock Kaiser will address is seeking legislation to require hybrid vehicles to make more engine noise, because blind people use the noise of car engines to determine when it is safe to cross the street, she said.