Future Reflections Summer 1992, Vol. 11 No. 3
THE BUDDY SYSTEM PROGRAM: PATHWAY TO INDEPENDENCE
by Pamela Dubel
Reprinted from the Fall, 1991, issue of Wings, the Buddy System Newsletter, Louisiana.
[PICTURE] Pam Dubel is an excellent model for the Buddy System students. Among her academic honors is the National Federation of the Blind $20000 Distinguished Scholar Award, which she recieved at the 1991 NFB Convention
Growing up as a blind child, I attended a variety of summer programs designed to teach the alternative techniques of blindness such as Braille and cane travel. Although the programs were well intended, they seldom succeeded in providing quality training. They were missing the key element! That is, they lacked competent blind adult role models. Without them, I did not develop the confidence in my ability to perform these skills or in myself as a blind person.
Fortunately, times are beginning to change. Today there is an innovative program which strives to give children quality training and confidence in themselves as blind people. For the past two summers I have had the wonderful opportunity to work in the Buddy System program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston. Over the past three years the Buddy System has touched the lives of over thirty children and their families. The program's main goal is to show blind children and their parents that it is respectable to be blind. Blindness does not mean sitting on the street corner selling pencils. It is not a tragedy or a punishment. Blindness is merely a characteristic like blue eyes or brown hair. With equal opportunity and quality training, a blind person can do the same things as a sighted person.
The Buddy System fosters positive attitudes about blindness in a variety of ways. Since the counselors/instructors are blind, the children learn effective techniques from successful blind adults. Classes are taught in Braille, cane travel, computers/typing, and daily living skills. For five weeks the Buddy System participants are submerged in a positive and challenging environment. There is, however, an ample amount of fun thrown in for everyone. Hot air ballooning, horseback riding, camping, and water skiing were only a few of the activities that the children and I enjoyed.
Although five weeks may not sound like a long time, it was amazing to watch the tremendous growth that occurred. The children began to realize that it had been their attitudes and not their blindness that had prevented them from reaching their goals. Participation in the Buddy System marked the first step on the journey to independence. I feel honored to have been part of such an instructive, innovative program. As our motto in the Buddy System says--"Together We Are Changing What It Means To Be Blind!"
My name is Jennifer Lawson and I am thirteen years old. I am from Loreauville, Louisiana. I spent most of my summer as a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston. I was part of the "Buddy System" program.
I learned a lot of things that I didn't know before. I also learned more about the cane than I already knew. I learned that I shouldn't be embarrassed to go places with my cane because people will stare at me more if I don't use it than if I do. I am more confident about crossing streets. I also learned how to cook and clean by using alternative techniques (that means when we use our other senses instead of our eyes). We also have seminars when we talk about being blind. I now feel much better about being blind. Blind people can do anything!
My name is Emily Fuselier. I live in St. Martinville, Louisiana. I am 14 years old. I am a participant in the Buddy Program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston. I was born blind, but my mother can't pronounce the eye condition I have. I have been going to school since I was 3 months old. I went to the Louisiana School for the Blind in Baton Rouge until the 7th grade.It was harder for me in public school, but it helped me deal with sighted people better.
Beginning in the summer of 1991, I entered the Buddy Program which teaches me good cane travel skills, independent living skills, Braille, and computers. In the apartment we learned how to cook for ourselves and do house work.
In cane travel we learned to cross streets, find addresses, and go on independent routes. We also learned the proper way to use a cane. All this was done under sleepshades. The instructor was Harold Wilson.
In independent living we learned how to mop, sweep, vacuum, dust, iron, and wash clothes under sleepshades. The instructor was Kisa Hampton.
In computers we worked on the Apple, the IBM, and the typewriter. I have learned WordPerfect and have increased my typing speed. The teacher was Melissa Lagroue.
In Braille class we practiced reading and writing in Braille. We learned how to use slates (which are very helpful). I was timed on my slate and I wrote 10.6 words per minute. I am faster each day. My instructor was Pam Dubel. She was also my counselor.
After class we had seminars. We talked about dealing with people; we also talked about being blind. I know that I can be blind and be confident and independent. I have really enjoyed this program!
My name is Rosalinda DeRouen and I am from New Orleans. I am 12 years old. I am in the Buddy program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind with 6 other blind children. Our counselors are also blind. During the summer we had classes in computers, Braille, cane travel, and independent living. I have learned how to cook and clean. I have been camping, swimming, shopping, and horseback riding. I have also learned how to use my cane so I do not have to hang on to other people. I am happy to say that I am no longer afraid of the stove and the grill. I know how to do many things which will make me more independent. I now realize that I am blind and that it is okay!
My name Alycia Parr. I am 11 years old. I have learned a lot in the Buddy System. I learned how to cook, clean, shop, and use my cane. I finally know the streets. We also do lots of fun things like camping and horseback riding.
The cane is very helpful; when I come to a sidewalk, I will be able to tell where it is. I also learned how to use a slate. It's very useful. When I want to write, I can bring it with me wherever I want. I don't have to lug around a 20-pound Brailler.
My name is Jasmine Sethi, and I am 12 years old. I am from New Jersey, but I came to Louisiana to be in the Buddy System program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. The program lasted 5 weeks. This program teaches alternative techniques for doing simple things like pouring and harder things like cane travel. We are taught to do things without using our eyes; instead we use our ears, noses, mouths, and fingers. I came without the ability to cook, and I am leaving with the ability to cook if I have a recipe to follow. The program has also provided me with new experiences. Just a few examples are: fishing, inner-tubing, and hot air ballooning. However, the most important lesson I learned is that I am blind and that it is okay to be blind. I have benefitted from this program, and others have as well.
My name is Sham Hasberry, and I am in the Buddy System program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. I've learned how to use my cane properly. At first I didn't know how to use a cane at all. I have learned some grade two Braille also. My Braille teacher's name is Pam. Just in case my Mother yells at me, Kisa has helped me learn how to clean up.
The first day I came to the Center I was a little nervous, but Harold taught me about the cane. This is a really good place to learn. Even though it's five weeks, it's a really good program.
It was really sort of surprising and neat that I learned how to use the cane, and it has really helped me. I have a little sight, but my friends in the Buddy System have taught me some techniques that I can use without having to rely on my little bit of sight--and that's very helpful to me.
The Louisiana Center for the Blind Buddy System Program packs many learning experiences into five short weeks. Activities can include…
[PICTURE] NFB Conventions…
[PICTURE] horseback riding…
[PICTURE] water skiing…
[PICTURE}and (yes, Mom!) cooking.