Future Reflections Fall 1994, Vol. 13 No. 3
[PICTURE] Alex Lesser at the 1992 NFB Convention
Editor's Note: Mrs. Lesser is a member of the board of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. She is, obviously, a parent of a blind child, but she is also an experienced early childhood teacher and trainer of student teachers. The following is an account of how she came to produce a practical video addressing the concerns of nearly everyone in a school who comes into contact with a blind student. The film is a quality product in every way. No doubt, as Myra points out in her article below, there are ways she can improve upon this one in a future film. Be that as it may, this is a film I would recommend to anyone needing an educational and training tool for school personnel or anyone else who needs to know how a blind child functions successfully in a regular public school setting.
Every year blind children are being mainstreamed (included) in regular public school classrooms where teachers and aides who have never before been around a blind child are expected to welcome them in and work with them. This can, and often does, create much anxiety on the part of everyone involved.
At the beginning of preschool, kindergarten, and first grade I wished there had been some way that I could have helped alleviate the anxiety I could feel on the part of each new classroom teacher and aide that would be working with my son, Alex, who is blind. Even the principal and other teachers in the building had many concerns and questions. When I heard that the Parents of Blind Children of New Jersey was holding a training session for teachers and aides last September, I requested that Alex's teacher and aide be sent to the training. My request was denied.
I felt that the teachers needed some familiarity with and reassurance about how a blind child can function in a public school classroom. I decided then that, in lieu of a training session (or better yet, in addition to it) a video of how one blind child is being included would be helpful to Alex's future teachers and also to teachers and aides in other schools who are anticipating including their first blind child.
I thought about making a video for several months. I wanted to show some really basic things, such as how he learns to read, how he moves safely around the classroom, how he gets to the bathroom, what he does on the playground, how he goes through the cafeteria line, and so forth. But I had no experience or equipment with which to do it. So, I solicited the help of the Western Instructional Support Center (WISC), a Pennsylvania agency that supports school districts in their work with special needs children, and the Distance Learning Center which has the staff, facilities, and equipment to produce a professional quality video. They liked the idea that this project was initiated by a parent and they provided the technical assistance and equipment I needed.
Everyone at Alex's school was extremely cooperative and helpful, especially Peggy Johnson, his Braille teacher, and Dian Heil, his mobility teacher, as well as all the other teachers, staff, and administrators. (Alex's presence in the school impacts everyone.) Debby Oppel Holzapfel, who works for WISC, led me through each step of the video process and co-produced it with me.
I learned many things in the process of producing this video. In addition to the technical aspects, I also learned more about Alex's actual daily education. In general, I am very pleased with how things are going. Alex is performing at grade level and appears to be well liked by the other children and the adults. However, I am not happy about how much he is being led around by other people, and in the future there will be much more emphasis on more independent mobility with his cane and less sighted guide.
My initial intended audience for this video was school personnel. However, the day I received my first copy of the video I also had a visit from a caseworker from Blind and Visually Impaired Services (BVS). I was very excited to have my first audience for my video. He was surprisingly interested in watching it and remarked afterward that he really hadn't known how they teach blind children in school, even though he works with blind people every day. It occurred to me that perhaps there are many other people who could benefit from seeing just how a blind child functions and is taught in a public school. Anyone who is interested in ordering this video, which is named: "Here I Come, Ready or Not," can write to me. The video is 30 minutes long and sells for $10 to Pennsylvania residents and $25 to out-of-state residents. (Price includes shipping and handling.) Checks should be made out to Lancaster/Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, and sent to:
Myra Adler Lesser
137 Lesser Lane
Chicora, PA 16025