Future Reflections Spring 1996, Vol. 15 No. 2

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LOOKING AHEAD

by Lois Luecke

[PICTURE] Caleb Elliott

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Editor's Note: The Times Record News is publishing a story each day written especially for younger readers.

Caleb Elliott is blind. That means he cannot see. But Caleb is a busy boy. He enjoys gymnastics and playing T-ball. He also loves music. He plays the piano and the guitar. Being blind has not kept Caleb from having fun and learning

Editor's Note: The story above and the following article are reprinted from the Times Record News, January 20, 1995, of Wichita Falls, Texas.

I'm not sure what the author of the article wished to convey by the title "Looking Ahead" but, in respect to blindness, that's what Dale and Ann Elliott did. They took a "look ahead" into the potential future for Caleb by getting to know blind adults through the NFB. They discovered that if Caleb was to grow up to be a confident, competent adult, he had to have a solid foundation in blindness skills. They also learned how important it was to hold high expectations for Caleb in all areas of life-academic, social, family, recreational, and community.

So, what impact has their foresight had on Caleb so far? The following news story tells much, but Ann Elliott (who sent me the clipping along with some photographs) had more to add.

"Caleb," she wrote, "is quite busy. In addition to gymnastics and T-ball he rides a bicycle, roller skates, swims, and loves bowling. I do not have any good pictures of all this because Dale and I are usually running along behind (ha!). Caleb is a good cane traveler, but he could do better. He is the only blind student in his school and the kids all love doing sighted guide. He is a very good Braille reader, and also the best speller in the class. He is always called on to help the other students (he loves that)."

That's what mom had to add to the following article:

Six-year-old Caleb Elliott was eager to show what he had learned in gymnastics at the Family YMCA. With seeming ease and a bit of coaching by teacher Claire Bishop, he went through his routine, doing cartwheels and forward rolls, working the rings and parallel bars and jumping on the trampoline. What's unusual about Caleb's performance is that the boy is blind.

Ann Elliott, Caleb's mother, said she had checked into several other places to try to start him in gymnastics and no one would take him. The YMCA just signed him up and didn't even question his blindness.

"It has been just wonderful. He has benefited so much," she said. "We put him in the gymnastics program more than a year ago for the physical activity, and he loves it."

"But then Caleb", she said, "is pretty enthusiastic about anything he gets into, whether it's gymnastics, playing T-ball, playing the piano, or the guitar."

"When he was playing T-ball, he could hardly wait for practice. He will play T-ball, another `Y' program, this year, too," his mother said. With a runner who ran all the bases with him, he played all of last year with the Cunningham Blue Jays.

Now a kindergarten student at Ben Milam Elementary School, Caleb won awards in piano in recent Wichita Falls Independent School District cultural arts competition. Submitting tapes of his original compositions, he placed first in the primary division and won overall honors in the school in the music category. He has taken piano lessons for the last five or six months, his mother said, and has had almost a year of instruction on the guitar.

Young Caleb has been blind since birth. Ann and her husband Dale Elliott adopted him when he was one day old. They didn't know that Caleb was blind until he was about five months old. Physicians found a fatty build-up and a "pseudo cherry spot" on his retina. "No name was given to his condition at that time and no one knows why," Mrs. Elliott said. The youngster does have light perception and that helps him with balance and mobility.

Caleb's mother and father are older parents in their 40s. They have become active in the National Federation of the Blind and are involved with the Parents of Blind Children Support Group. They have studied Braille and have encouraged Caleb to learn Braille since he was about three years old. At Ben Milam, where he is in a full-day developmental kindergarten, he is learning how to read and write in Braille.

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