Future Reflections Fall 1991

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ILLINOIS PARENTS ORGANIZE

by Stephen O. Benson

Reprinted from the NFB of Illinois newsletter.

It has become commonplace for Americans to rely too heavily and too easily on superlatives to describe ordinary, or slightly more than ordinary, events, books, films, recordings, art, scenery, or people. It is, then, sometimes difficult to find words that aptly describe the exceptional. I find myself in this position as I begin to report the events of May 18, 1991. Those who were with me that day will, I think, have no difficulty at all believing that what we experienced together really did qualify as extraordinary.

The day dawned damp and cool, a dramatic contrast to what was to come. Federationists hosted a seminar for parents of blind children at Chicago's Essex Inn. Debbie Stein, Rita Szantay, and I designed a program whose contents included: survival skills for the `90s and beyond, independent travel, technology, low vision, socialization, day-care and pre-school placement, the individualized education plan (IEP), and the role and impact of the NFB. Parents of blind children made excellent presentations on expectations for their children, the role of the professional and unmet needs of these children.

Lunch was an all-too-short 75 minutes. Federationists mingled with parents to share information from a personal perspective and to answer a myriad of questions. Parents shared resource information as well as thoughts and feelings about their blind children. The atmosphere was positive and there prevailed a genuine warmth.

One of the most important things the Federation offers to parents of blind children is role models. On May 18, there were role models aplenty. Valerie Negri, state and national scholarship winner, officer of our student chapter, and biology major at St. Xavier College, delivered poignant remarks about survival skills and socialization. Allen Schaefer, a music teacher with outstanding credentials, talked about competing on terms of equality. Tony Burda, registered pharmacist and poison information specialist; Cathy Randall, alderman in the Jacksonville, Illinois, city council; Peter Grunwald, independent author of children's books; and Steve Hastalis, customer services representative and recording technician, all participated in the days events in a palpable and effective way.

Barbara Cheadle, who made keynote remarks and who participated vigorously throughout the day as National President of the NFB's division for Parents of Blind Children, and as the parent of a blind child, wrapped up the day's events by skillfully organizing the NFB of Illinois Parents of Blind Children.

At the day's end, Federationists, old and new, went away overwhelmed by the amount of information that had been exchanged, and buoyed up by the harmony that had been established. It was, truly, an extraordinary and very unusual day.

The officers elected by the NFBI Parents of Blind Children Chapter are: Suzanne Kuro, Hoff-man Estates, President; Dan Stefek, North Aurora, Vice President; Debbie Stein, Chicago, Secretary; and Amy Grau, Chicago, Board Member.

The next meeting of the NFBI Parents of Blind Children's Chapter will convene at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, September 21st, as part of the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, to be held at the Holiday Inn in Jacksonville, Illinois.

Parents, this organization is for you and your blind children. Come and participate in this dynamic, exciting new group and, at the same time, participate fully in the entire convention. Be a part of the most effective organization of the blind in the United States.

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