by Ann Hollowell
(Editor's Note: This article was submitted to me along with a letter from Debbie Butler. As the letter explains Miss Butler is a Braille teacher. Miss Butler is also blind and an active member of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is Miss Butler's letter and the article.)
November 16, 1985
I'm sending you an article by Ann Hollowell, a parent of one of my students. The article is about teaching Braille to children who have some vision, and both Ann and I thought it would be helpful for other parents of blind children. Mrs. Hollowell is also a member of the NFB Tidewater Chapter. I'm sure you'll find her article very interesting.
Having a visually handicapped child that is in a catagory of not totally sightless but legally blind can, as some know, be very difficult. My son at age five was diagnosed as having Macular Degeneration; a disease that can leave only peripheral vision. In the past three years we have spoken with many doctors and professionals in the visions field. Doctors of course offer very little, if any, hope for the future while many of the professionals cannot agree on teaching skills or learning aids.
Our first professional with the Virginia Department for the Visually Handicapped stressed and assisted with large print books, talking books, and magnifying aids only. She was very adamant that a person should always use any eye sight--to do otherwise would, in her words, "make him handicapped." When I suggested Braille as a tool for learning and to relieve severe eye strain she would get very upset and firmly state no Braille skills would ever help him.
Seeing my son struggle for two years in private school--always at the bottom of the class--was enough for me to see special education was needed. After contacting our public school and visiting the vision class, I knew more could be done. Again, the professionals felt no special placement was needed, they recommended a regular classroom setting with a visting teacher as needed. After much discussion I requested he be placed with the vision program in a school outside our immediate school zone.
During his first year in public school Braille was introduced at my request and the agreement of his teachers to see if he would want to learn more. His response was very positive and his teachers agreed it should become a part of his regular education program. This year has been wonderful. His self-esteem has improved, he feels he has a special talent not a handicap. As a parent I see only positive points with his knowing Braille. A future job, ease and speed in reading, medically less eye strain and therefore less medication for inflamed eyes.
I feel no professional should be allowed to make all the decisions about a child's future learning program. I know my child and I want to be a part of his education planning program. I have become involved and learned much in such a short time. By giving my child this added gift and skill I feel the future looks bright for the first time in many months. He will have a choice in the planning of his future with this added skill. I say, "Why Not Braille?"
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