Future Reflections Winter/Spring 1997, Vol. 16 No. 1


Rocky Bottom Camp Of The Blind Hosts Southeastern Leadership Seminar Of The National Organization of Parents Of Blind Children November 8-10, 1996

by Sheila Compton

[PICTURE] From left to right beginning with the upper left photo: Valerie Bratcher, LA; Carolyn Sasser, LA; Judy Williams, TN; Carol Castellano, NJ; Donna Hammond, GA; Frank Coppel, SC; Don and Susan Richardson, NC.

Editor's note: Sheila Compton is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina and a member of the South Carolina Parents Division. This article is reprinted from the November/December, 1996, issue of The Palmetto Blind, the newsletter of the NFB of South Carolina.

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, held its Southeastern Regional Leadership Seminar at Rocky Bottom during the weekend of November 8-10, 1996. National representatives included Barbara Cheadle, President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children; Carol Castellano, Second Vice President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children; Ruby Ryles, educator of blind children; and Sandy Halverson, long-time leader in the Federation and a Missouri resident. Leaders from state affiliates in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, and our own Frank Coppel and Sheila Compton from South Carolina were also in attendance.

Approximately 30 individuals attended the seminar which included parents of blind children from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

The seminar was designed to provide information to parents regarding blindness, development and education of blind children, the importance of alternative techniques, parent advocacy skills, and the role of the NFB and NFB Parents Divisions in the lives of their children. Parents were given the opportunity to interact with blind adults and to share information about the education and development of their children.

Discussions and group activities included a panel of blind adults discussing their childhood, education, and careers; an Individualized Education Program workshop, demonstrations of independent living skills, Braille, and cane travel; and a "History Through Song" of the National Federation of the Blind.

Time was also spent discussing ideas and strategies to strengthen existing NFB parent divisions and developing new state divisions of organizations of parents of blind children.

All participants expressed their appreciation and felt the seminar was a tremendous success. Everyone was impressed with the hospitality and facilities at Rocky Bottom. They expressed a strong desire to make this seminar an annual event.

Editor's Note: That's the article Sheila Compton wrote about the seminar. The following letter is a more personal reflection from a participant in the regional conference:

by Pat Jones, President
Tennessee Valley Parents of Blind Children

March 5, 1997

Barbara, I'll try to give you our insights on the South Carolina Parent Leadership Seminar.

The Friday afternoon question and answer panel of NFB blind adults gave invaluable information for us as parents of blind children. The three of us from Tennessee talk about it often. In fact, to prove how much we liked it, we are going to do a similar panel at our State NFB Convention in a couple of weeks. It added food for thought when each panel member was asked to answer the same questions. GREAT idea. We'll use this in the future.

The cooking demonstration helped answer some questions many parents have. We all agreed that the chicken and rice [cooked by Sheila Compton] was unbeatable! Amanda and I sometimes get frustrated about how she can do things safely in the kitchen. (April's not a cook. Boys are on her mind as the most important thing right now.)

One day we were going to bake an apple pie. I tried to show her how to peel an apple. She kept trying to cut into the apple rather than just peel the outside off. She stomped off to her room and decided she'd never be able to master this. She finally returned to the kitchen even though I didn't try to coax her back. We decided I would peel, and she could cut them in sections.

The next day I asked Debbie Robinson [a local blind member of the NFB] how she peels apples. She said she peeled the same way I do it, but David [Debbie's husband who is also blind] told us that he quarters his first and then peels. We're sure this way will work.

Sandy Halverson is an excellent song leader, and I think this will be another fun thing to do with our kids at one of our parent meetings. [Editor's Note: The songs we sang were all NFB songs taken from our official NFB Song Book. Similar to patriotic or folk songs, these songs were written by blind people about important issues which they have faced throughout the history of the NFB. Some of the songs are funny and tongue-in-cheek; others rousing and spirit-lifting; and still others chronicle society's unequal treatment of the blind. For example, "I've Been Working in the Workshop" and "Blind Workshop Blues" describe, through song, the frustration and despair of blind workers paid sub-minimum wages under poor working conditions in workshops for the blind.]

I hope the brainstorming we did in groups helped the new parents in the states with no parent groups get ideas about how to start an NFB Parents of Blind Children Division in their state. I feel we could probably go a little further and do more to keep in touch with these parents to see how we can help.

Jerry participated in the cane-travel demonstration with Frank Coppel (Frank is blind). He felt it was very informative. Since I didn't get to do this activity, I can't include my comments. Even though I planned to participate in this there just wasn't enough time for everything.

The "get acquainted" game was a lot of fun also. AND, the accommodations were wonderful! How lucky they are in South Carolina to have that beautiful camp. I only wish we had more time for "nature loving." The couple from Florida loved the snow on Sunday morning, but those of us from the mountains just wanted to get down off that mountain before the snow made it too slippery to leave. Excellent choice for a place to hold a leadership conference, Barbara. You get an A+.