Future Reflections Convention Report 1997, Vol. 16 No. 3


State Division Reports

California Parents of Blind Children

Report by Shirley Baillif, President

California is a large state. This is both a blessing and a curse. We have the potential for a large membership but the many miles separating us make getting together for meetings and/or seminars quite difficult. Our annual meeting is held during our NFB of California state convention, which is held alternately between northern and southern California to help accommodate the members. Consequently, most of our contacts are through networking. As president, I have some exciting and productive experiences through this media—such as reassuring heartbroken discouraged parents and helping to set the groundwork for successful IEP meetings.

In addition to our annual meeting we had two other successful events this year. Our vice-president, Donna Sexton, conducted a seminar for young girls in Northern California. The girls were given instructions and tips concerning make-up, skin care, and exercise. The highlight, however, was the rap session that followed. The outstanding concern was learning to shop when first leaving home (for college or a job) and not having mother along to help.

In southern California, we held our annual Halloween Party. This started three or four years ago with our local parents of blind children (POBC) support group. It has now extended to include children and adults of my family and that of our neighbors as well as POBC families and friends. This has been a great learning experience for both the blind and the sighted.

I want to thank our vice-president, Donna Sexton, who took over late last summer, when ill health besieged yours truly. But with renewed health comes renewed spirits, and we are making plans for a better tomorrow.

Colorado Parents of Blind Children

Report by Julie Hunter, President

Our annual meeting and elections were held November 9, 1996.

The following officers were elected:

Julie Hunter, President

Retta Masloff, Vice President

Audrey Smith, Secretary

Bob Hunter, Treasurer

Raul Gallegos, Board Member

Caressa Gallegos, Board Member

Community outreach is, I believe, very important. To achieve this goal this past year, we sent parent representatives to:

--an AER (the professional organization for teachers and rehabilitation counselors of the blind) meeting on vision stimulation,

--a low vision/literacy conference,

--and a community resource program sponsored by the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.

We also put together and mailed out numerous information packets to families of blind children around the state, encouraged new parents over the phone, and used other networking techniques and referrals to assist Colorado parents of blind children.

Fund raising this year went quite well. We sold entertainment coupon books, held a mail solicitation, and organized a garage sale. Our efforts resulted in a profit which enabled us to assist one family to come to the NFB National Convention this year.

Regarding our other programs, our Cane Exchange Program continues to be strong. We had four participants in the Braille-By-Mail Program. This is a Braille correspondence course which I teach to members who want to learn Braille [Julie is a certified Braille Transcriber]. Our newsletter, News and Views covers all of our activities and is growing in popularity. It is published approximately four times a year.

The Colorado Center for the Blind and the Colorado Parents of Blind Children joined efforts in establishing a summer day camp program for youth between 8 and 12 years old. Our grant writing has been successful, and the first day camp will be conducted later this summer. We also have a new parent focus group which has a good program and a new brochure which we designed and produced.

Maryland Parents of Blind Children

Report by Christine Highlander

In the last year, educational advocacy has been a priority for the Maryland Organization of Parents of Blind Children. In addition to working individually with families from one end of the state to the other, the Federation was instrumental in getting the Maryland State Department of Education to begin Brailling the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP), thereby allowing Braille users to participate. This is very exciting because the MSPAP is all about accountability for the education of children in Maryland. Finally, we are on the way to getting school districts to accept responsibility for the education of our blind children.

Our Cane Bank continues to thrive. We placed canes with children at more than half of our activities. Our Braille Storybook Hour which is held at the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is now in its fourth year. It has been a very successful activity in bringing together blind children and their families with blind adult and teen role models. It has also resulted in more than fifty new books being added to the children's collection at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

In May, the Parent Division hosted a Braille Readers are Leaders Awards Celebration to honor the Maryland participants in the nationwide National Federation of the Blind contest. The children received awards from both the NFB and the Friends of the Library for the Blind.

Last August we extended our activities to include a week-long day camp for children in grades 1-5. This was done in partnership with Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). The program, which utilized blind counselors, provided extended time periods for blind children to be taught by, and to socialize with, blind role models and blind peers. We will have camp again this summer, and by request from the teens, we will add a four-day youth retreat at a KOA campground for blind teens.

The Parents Division has also been involved in a service learning program for regular middle and high school sighted students. A program to Braille and adapt card and board games has been in operation for two years. Blind adults teach the students to Braille the games with a slate and stylus, and provide training in the awareness of blindness issues. This program meets state board of education criteria for the required high school credit in service learning.

At our NFB state convention we held a workshop on physical education and recreation, and a Halloween costume party for the kids. We also sponsored a number of other social activities for blind children and their families throughout the year. These have included a Christmas party, a family picnic, and a specially-designed trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Our fund raising hasn't been as good as some years, but we still raised enough through our annual baked goods auction, a quilt raffle (handmade by one of our parents, Danielle Becker), and grant writing to support all of our projects plus help pay some of the transportation cost for parents and blind teens to come to New Orleans this year for the NFB National Convention.

Michigan Parents of Blind Children

Report by Dawn Neddo, President

The POBC of Michigan has been extremely busy. We just finished another successful school year of tutoring. Our tutoring program runs from October through June and meets twice a month. Our adult blind NFB members tutor our children on subjects such as Braille, Nemeth math, cane travel, Braille music code, social skills, and goalball. We end each season with a fun family picnic where everyone's favorite game is a water balloon fight. We all have a great time, and we've grown into an NFB family.

We hold our parents support group meetings during the tutoring sessions. This has worked out well. We have speakers, videos, or just conversations sharing concerns and helping each other with our IEP's.

During the summer months we sponsor a family day camp. Our dates this year will be August 11 through 15, 1997. We have day trips planned for a water park/wave pool, a zoo visit, a tour of a sports arena, a nature trail walk, and a hands-on tour of a post office. In this program blind children and their families come together with blind adult role models from the NFB. The activities also give the children an opportunity to use the blindness skills they've learned throughout the year.

In October we are planning a parents seminar in conjunction with our NFB state convention.

A special project that we are hoping will be successful this year is our "Blind Children's Right to Read Act" (Braille Literacy Bill). This September we parents will be at our state capitol advocating for our children's right to read.

Our fund-raising efforts were so successful this year that we were able to fund all the programs above plus provide a bus to bring parents and other NFB members to the National Convention herein New Orleans.

Minnesota Parents of Bind Children

Report by Barbara Schultz, President

The major thrust for our activities this year came out of the responses we received to a questionnaire we developed and sent out to our mailing list. (I have extra copies in case the format would be helpful to anyone.) The information received was valuable in determining needs and will continue to help us focus our energy where parents want it.

We sent our Braille Readers Are Leaders contest forms to anyone who expressed an interest and promoted it in our new Parents' column in the NFB of Minnesota newsletter. We had three Minnesota participants last year and are hoping to hear there were more this year. We have requested and received gift certificates to send to all who participated in the contest.

We held our first fund raiser in May at a local Barnes and Noble bookstore. We set up a display of NFB literature and Braille/print children's books in the store. We also gave away Braille alphabet cards and had blind children there Brailling people's names for them on their Braillers. The store gave us a percentage of its sales for the two hours that we were in the store. The success of this, beyond the funds raised, we hope is in increased awareness of the importance of Braille and the abilities of our blind children.

We have the beginnings of a mentoring program, pairing blind children with blind adults. This is a slowly developing program which we hope will grow into positive support and relationships for all participants.

We coordinated with the Shriners on an audio described performance of the Shrine Circus. A total of 45 people attended, including 15 blind children, 2 blind adults, and their families. Everyone enjoyed the experience.

We have several things in process for the coming year including a Minnesota Resource Guide for parents of blind children, a play group for preschool blind children, and a public service announcement for Radio Talking Book.

Although we are excited about these programs, I feel our most important function is the individual contact with parents, answering questions, supporting each other, and sharing resources. The time I spend one-to-one with another parent is always the time when I learn the most and find I am able to share the most of what I have learned. The growth of our organization here in Minnesota has been frustratingly slow at times, but the support I can give to and receive from other parents is what makes our organization worthwhile.

Missouri Parents of Blind Children

Report by T.J. Dixon, President

On April 12, 1997, the Missouri chapter of the POBC was officially reorganized at the state convention of the Missouri National Federation of the Blind. The following officers were elected: President, T. J. Dixon; Vice President, Crystal Attaway;

Treasurer, Lawrence Luck; Secretary, Susan Trotter; and Board Member, Brian Attaway. A Charter of Affiliation was presented by Gary Wunder, President, NFB of Missouri and Julie Hunter, Treasurer, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Thus far the response to the organization has been outstanding. We already have between 30 and 40 members.

My wife, Kathy Watts Dixon, is organizing and chairing our new white cane exchange program. Kathy is the former President of the Arkansas POBC and a former member of the National NOPBC Board. We have already raised funds to help get the project started.

Speaking of fund raising, we have one in the works! The town where I live (Liberty) has an annual Fall Festival. I have permission to organize an arm wrestling tournament, proceeds to go to the Missouri POBC, at the festival this year. I am a professional arm wrestler, and you would be amazed at how supportive arm wrestlers can be for a good cause.

On August 30, 1997, we will have our first meeting and family activity at the Bass Pro Museum in Springfield. Bass Pro has live fish in aquariums and thousands of different species of stuffed fish and animals. The museum has agreed to give us a meeting room and a guided tour of the museum, allowing the children to touch many different animals and displays. All of this will be free of charge. We are not sure about lunch yet. They have been so nice I hate to ask them if I can drop a fishing line into one of the aquariums.

We are also working on getting school districts to change policies that have been harmful to blind kids. Melissa McCann is a 14 year old who currently lives in Boliver. Melissa, totally blind from birth, grew up and lived in Springfield, Missouri, for the first 12 years of her life. When Melissa was old enough to start school, Danny and Candy decided they wanted their daughter to go to public school rather than the school for the blind. But when Melissa started school her parents were very disappointed to hear from the professionals that Melissa was incapable of learning to read or write and would have to be in a class with mentally handicapped children. Danny and Candy McCann were always concerned about this, considering how intelligent their little girl seemed at home. When Melissa was 12 they moved her to the small town of Boliver. Melissa's special education teacher in Boliver agreed with the McCann's about Melissa's learning capabilities. So this teacher taught herself to read and write Braille so she could begin to teach Melissa, at the age of 12, how to read and write. (The teacher is what is called a "generalist"—she has no special training or certification in visual impairment.) Within 1-1/2 years of reading instruction Melissa is now reading grade 2 Braille well enough to not only compete in the NFB's 1997 Braille Readers are Leaders contest, but also to finish fourth in her category.

We cannot sue the Springfield school district for money, however, we can make them change their policy. This is extremely important since this school district is now telling the Vice President of our Missouri POBC, who has a 3 year old blind daughter, the same story they told the McCann's when their daughter was that age. We—the Missouri Parents of Blind Children—will stay on top of this situation. Now is the time to turn our dreams for our children into actions.

Nebraska Parents of Blind Children

Report by Lyndon Willms

Hello. My name is Lyndon Willms and I am a member of the Nebraska Parents of Blind Children (NPBC). I would like to take this opportunity to help you become familiar with the Nebraska Parents of Blind Children organization (NPBC).

The NPBC is a branch of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, which is a division of the National Federation of the Blind. We are also a division of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska. The purpose of our group is:

* To create a climate of opportunity for blind children in home and society.

* To provide information and support to parents of blind children.

* To facilitate the sharing of experience and concerns among parents of blind children.

* To develop and expand resources available to parents and their children.=20

The NPBC was formed in August 1994 with these purposes as our guide. We currently have more than 20 members in our organization.

Our Officers' and Board Members' time and skills are donated on a voluntary basis. We are currently working on our fourth annual golf tournament as our major fund raiser for the year.

In NPBC we use our funds in several different ways. We have created a lend/lease program for equipment in which a family or school district can request a certain piece of equipment from our group on a loan basis. Did you know that a Braille 'n Speak, a piece of equipment that is almost essential for junior high and high school age blind students, costs more than $1,400? A Braille writer, an item that a child needs by first grade, costs $750. Each year the NPBC gives at least five technology grants worth up to $500 each to blind and visually impaired students. We also donate $250 per year to the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska for a college scholarship for a blind or visually impaired student. In addition, a camp scholarship of $250 is also awarded to school-age children who wish to attend any camp.

This coming year we anticipate working more closely with organizations such as the Lions Clubs and the Optimist Clubs to raise funds to help blind and visually impaired children acquire the necessary technology to enable them to become productive and successful in today's society.

Tennessee Valley Parents of Blind Children

Report by Pat Jones, President

This has been a busy year for the Tennessee Valley Parents of Blind Children. We participated in a parent panel in Knoxville sponsored by the Tennessee Outreach Project for Children and Youth Experiencing Dual Sensory Impairments in the fall. We brought with us many modified items for people to see. We were congratulated by area teachers that attended because they learned so much from us parents. A gentleman from the school for the deaf also complimented us on our presentation.

My husband, Jerry, and I are Advisory Board Members for Tennessee Outreach Project, and we participated in a panel to try to come up with ideas on how to identify more children in areas that have no services. We have some counties in Tennessee where we have no children registered.

We participated in a Health Fair for area teachers who were taking an extended education science course at UTC last summer. We set up a table with literature and science projects that our twins (who are both blind) had completed. One project was a representation of a human body of tactile organs, the other was a hanging solar system with styrofoam balls wrapped with yarn in a blanket stitch. Debbie Robinson, who is blind and a member of our parents group, and myself were available to answer questions.

We've also made presentations at AARP meetings and the Lions Clubs. The main speakers there have been the twins because we feel they can convey more about blindness than we could ever get across. They (the twins) have been such a positive force in our area in teaching the public that the blind CAN DO. I've had parents who, when I talk to them the first time, tell me that they had seen the twins on TV or heard about them from someone else, and they feel more confident about the possibilities for their own blind children because they've seen or heard about what our twins are doing.

One activity we had for the summer was an outing at a local veterinarian's home. It was really GREAT. Our hostess invited us into her home where she had a standing harp and spinning wheel. Everyone could spin, or play, or just look. We brought a pot luck dinner and ate under the trees in her yard. Before we finished eating a large pony arrived for riding. All the kids took their turn on the back of the pony. One of the children was just shaking with delight. It was a real treat because we got to look at the horse trailer, too. After the pony ride, we all went back inside to learn how to play the harmonica. The music teacher presented everyone who wanted to play with their own harmonica and had them all playing within an hour. Next, our hostess brought out their Nubian goats and llamas for hands-on looking. Later we were joined in the yard that evening by her Great Pyrenees dog, Mary, a collie, and a nice quiet-type pet—a turtle.

We had a salad luncheon for our parents in the fall. At that luncheon we had a mother of a blind, Downs Syndrome child speak.

In the spring we had a couple of workshops in our home to Braille children's playing cards. We used slates and styluses and Braille writers. The work went quickly, and everyone had a great time.

At our NFB state convention we set up display tables full of adapted items and had an area with blind adults available to answer any questions a parent might have. We had the video "It's OK To Be Blind" running in another area.

We held a Read-a-thon in April to raise money for the trip to the convention. We took the Read-a-thon to our local Books-a-Million store and read to children who were in the store. Most had never seen Braille, let alone a child reading Braille. Our garage sale in May was a great success and if anyone ever needs someone to make signs, our Vice President, Judy Williams, is a real pro. Part of the funds we raised went toward helping nine parents from our group come to the NFB National Convention here in New Orleans.

Washington Parents of Blind Children

Report by Barbara Weller, President

Since last convention we have kept very busy. We had our annual picnic which was open to blind members of the NFB as well as families of blind children. That is always a great success. In October we had the NFB of Washington state convention meeting, which many families attended.

For the first time we had a fund raiser last fall. We sold Christmas wreaths and greenery. We were very successful and were able to help several families make it here to the NFB Convention in New Orleans. We now plan to make this an annual fund raiser in the hopes of raising more funds, bringing more families to convention, and funding other activities for families as well.

The first weekend of June we had our Spring Conference and Annual Meeting. We were fortunate enough to have Greg Trapp as our speaker. Mr. Trapp is a blind attorney who works for a disability law center in New Mexico. He spoke to us on estate planning and access to technology. His presentation was very interesting and informative. It was enjoyed by members both new and old.

Plans are now underway for a picnic this summer and other events to be announced.

West Virginia Parents of Blind Children

Report by Keri Stockton, President

We had an excellent program at our Spring Annual Meeting (held in conjunction with the NFB of West Virginia State Convention).

This year parents, teachers, and interested Federationists enjoyed hearing Mr. Don Capps speak. Mr. Capps is President of the NFB of South Carolina and a long-time national leader within the NFB. We also watched our video "That the Blind May Read," and received warm greetings from Mr. Ed McDonald, President, NFB of West Virginia.

Mrs. Loretta White, President of the Maryland Parents of Blind Children, gave a presentation entitled "Strategies for Teaching Braille and Other Academic Skills for Blind Children."

We had an overwhelmingly positive response to our conference, and we continue to hear from people who attended. Several teachers have contacted us for materials for their students and students' families on the need for Braille and cane travel. As I was preparing to leave to come here to the National , I received a call from a parent who has been in contact with me on other subjects concerning her young daughter. Loretta's speech was so captivating and inspiring that she decided that she needed information about cane travel. She now knows how important this training is to her daughter to attain independence. It will be my great pleasure to fill that request.

At our annual meeting we discussed potential projects and fund raising ideas. We will be placing print/Braille books in selected libraries across the state, so that blind children could learn to use and enjoy the public libraries of West Virginia as do their sighted peers. The first library has already received five books, and I challenge other NFB Parents groups in other states to begin working to make neighboring public libraries truly accessible.

We have decided to present a Braille book of their choice to each new entrant to the upcoming 1997-1998 Braille Readers are Leaders contest and to each child who improves his or her score from last year. We felt this would be an incentive to each student to do his or her best. As the last order of business we held our elections. The following are our officers for the 1997-1998 year:

President, Keri Stockton

Vice President, Renee Bailey

Secretary/Treasurer, Tim Cecil Morris