Future Reflections Spring 1996, Vol. 15 No. 2

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KEEPIN' UP WITH CINDY

by Sue Bennett

[PICTURE] Cindy Bennett

Editor's note: It started with a phone call. Somehow Sue Bennett got the name and number of a local member of the NFB, who in turn gave her my name and the number of the national office of the NFB. That was over three years ago. Sue's daughter, Cindy (yes, she's blind), was no more than two at the time. Sue was anxious to learn all she could about blindness, blindness skills, and services that would (or should) be available to her daughter. Within a year, Sue (with the help of her NFB state affiliate-Alabama) attended a national NFB seminar in Washington, D.C.

Her excitement and enthusiasm for all that she was learning from the NFB about blindness encouraged her to keep her expectations high for her daughter. It also prompted her to join her local affiliate of the NFB. In the short time that she was a member she spearheaded a local effort to raise funds and set up a "Cane Bank" from which parents could get free long white canes for their blind children. But no sooner than she had this up and running, Sue and her family moved out of state to North Carolina.

Busy as she has been in adjusting to a new home in a new state, Sue was so excited about Cindy's achievement of a very important milestone that she sent me the following letter and article, "Keepin' Up with Cindy."

At the end of the letter you will notice that Sue says there are no NFB members in her area. That's not quite accurate, Sue-there's you and your family! Considering Sue's energy and the commitment the NFB of North Carolina has to blind children and their parents, I wouldn't be surprised at all if in a year or two I get an article from Wayne Shevlin, President of the NFB of North Carolina, entitled "Keepin' Up With Sue."

January 31, 1996
Dear Barbara,
It has been a while since I talked to you. We moved from Alabama last June. I am glad for the move now, although I was not so happy a year ago. The biggest reason is the great program here. Mrs. Shorkey has been teaching the blind for 15 years, and her experience and excitement is just what Cindy needed.

As much as I loved [our local] Montessori Preschool, there was not a strong effort to begin Braille instruction. Funds were also limited. The resources here in Buncombe County are tremendous. They have the ability to produce Braille at the T.C. Roberson High School. I'm volunteering in this area. I am finding out that there is always the need for someone to Braille books, tests, etc.

There is another group, Blue Ridge Braillers, who are senior citizens who learned Braille and they volunteer hundreds of hours a year to produce Braille. I do have a goal of becoming a certified transcriber, even if it takes me two years (I just started the Library of Congress course).

I am in the early stages of beginning a "Braille Club" with the five Braille readers (ages 6-16) in this area. It will be informal. We plan to meet weekly at the library during the summer to discuss the books they are reading. It will give the younger ones a chance to see the older ones reading Braille. Cindy was so excited when she met the 9th grader (and fascinated by her Braille n' Speak). She has also met a 6th grader. I want to keep the momentum going because it is quite a lot of work to keep at grade level. I'll send a report later on the Braille Club with more details.

All in all, I wrote the enclosed article to encourage other parents. I can't tell you how much the parents magazine [Future Reflections] means to me.

Sincerely, Sue Bennett

P.S. I have not found any NFB members here yet.

KEEPIN' UP WITH CINDY

It has been five years since we were told that our daughter was blind. I was determined to learn Braille. I couldn't imagine being asked, "What is this word?" and having to say to my child, "I don't know." So I ordered the course Just Enough to Know Better and plunged in. I hung up the alphabet card over my kitchen sink. I finished the first lesson. Only a short time later I felt discouraged. It seemed like I couldn't remember anything. At the ripe old age of 33, I thought my memory was shot. Cindy was two years old then, and there seemed to be so many other things about her development which occupied my time. Learning Braille seemed impossible. I was so frantic!

Fortunately, I expressed my frustrations to her preschool teacher, Jayne McDaniel, at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind. She wisely told me, "You have some time now, just wait and see how much you'll learn along with Cindy." This is exactly what has happened since September of '95. Cindy began kindergarten at Estes Elementary in Buncombe County School District, Asheville, North Carolina. Under the fantastic instruction of the Braille teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Shorkey, we have both been extremely busy! They are using Patterns curriculum and modifying it somewhat to fit into the whole language approach. I can tell you that we work hard together. Cindy began reading words by the second month of kindergarten. I wish you could have seen the huge smiles on both our faces this January after spending 45 minutes reading Green Eggs and Ham. What fun!

One night I was sitting next to Cindy on the sofa, and I thought of practicing the Braille alphabet on her leg using my fingertips. Letter by letter I gently pressed the Braille shape onto her leg. Cindy loves this game. It was especially exciting for me, that night, because I realized that I knew them all by heart! All this time I had kept the "cheat sheet" close at hand for reference, but now I didn't need it anymore. At least, not for letters and numbers. (Will I ever learn all those contractions and rules?) Later I practiced over and over on the Perkins Brailler, so proud that my memory was still in good working order!

Cindy has been very bold about telling me what I don't know. Recently, she corrected me that an f was from. I thanked her, of course. In early October she stated in an exaggerated tone to Mrs. Shorkey, "My mother doesn't even know Braille!" She doesn't say that anymore. She assures me, "I'll keep teaching you some more, Mom." And she has been pleasantly surprised to find out that I know a little more Braille than she does at this point and can actually teach her a thing or two! She's bound to catch up, however, and zoom ahead. I'll be right on her heels!