Future Reflections Summer 1996, Vol. 15 No. 3

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Report From The Classroom: Federationist Makes A Difference

By Betty Walker

Reprinted from the Feburary, 1996, issue of the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

From the Braille Monitor Editor: Betty and Dave Walker are active members of the Jefferson City chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. At the beginning of the 1994-95 academic year Betty was hired to work with an elementary school student who was entering the public school system for the first time. Educators often refuse to consider hiring blind people to assist with such transitions, and of course to do the necessary work effectively the blind teachers must have appropriate skills and good sense, but done right the experience can be positive for everyone. Here is Betty's brief report of what happened in Jefferson City:

In 1988, when David was ready to enter school, the Jefferson City Public School System was not prepared to work with blind children, so David was sent to the school for thez blind in St. Louis. In 1991 the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri led a successful campaign to pass our

Braille Bill, which mandates that blind children be given the

opportunity to learn Braille in public schools. With this new

law in place, David was enrolled in the city school system,

and I was hired to facilitate meeting his Braille needs and to

advise staff in other areas about blindness.

When I heard that David was returning to Jefferson City to enter school and that there was a need for a Braille

teacher to work with him, I applied for the job and was hired.

I was the first blind teacher hired by the Jefferson City

Public Schools, and David is the first totally blind child to

be enrolled in this school system. Prior to applying for this

job, I passed the National Library Service Literary Braille

Competency Test; I was the first person in Missouri to do so.

I felt that, with my background in education, Braille skills,

and Federation philosophy, I would be a positive role model

for David and would have the skills and knowledge to help him

develop his Braille skills and alternative techniques in order

to reach his highest educational potential.

David is very bright, but he needs to improve his Braille skills. This is one of my primary tasks. In addition to

teaching him new uses of contractions, I teach him to use

Braille in subjects other than reading and writing. I advise

his teachers in how to use Braille and tactile markings in

classes like physical education, art, and music. I also

transcribe examinations, work sheets, and other classroom

handouts and assist his sighted aide in preparing other

materials such as graphs, charts, games, etc.

I continually remind teachers and his sighted aide that David is a normal child and that special efforts to protect

him are not in his best interests. I remind them that he needs

to face many of the same things sighted children do if he is

to develop and survive in a sighted society.

I have been introducing David to Braille maps borrowed from my husband so that he can learn how to use them. I

recently bought him a book that led him on an adventure

through the Great Lakes to the ocean. When I brought in maps

of the area, David was ecstatic. It gives me a great feeling

to know that I am developing David's skills in Braille and

having a positive influence in his education and life.

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