Future Reflections Spring/ Summer1987, Vol. 6 No. 2

(back) (contents) (next)

NFB PARENTS: BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE FOR OUR BLIND CHILDREN

The following reports from five states are representative of the kinds of things NFB parents are doing all over the country. As a result of these activities, parents have discovered how they can be better parents to their blind children; they have improved the educational services for their children; and, ultimately, they have created a better future for all our blind children.

But as much as we have accomplished, it is only the beginning. We have not yet come close to the potential we have as an organization to grow in strength and effectiveness.

PARENTS, WE NEED YOU! -- and, what is even more important, YOU NEED US!

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind, once said that even animals in the jungle had the good sense to hunt in packs. Certainly what we can accomplish together in an organization far exceeds what we can get done working only as isolated individuals.

As parents, we must learn about blindness from someone. We do not know, nor can we ever know, what it is really like to be blind. If we go to the organized blind --to the National Federation of the Blind--we will be learning from the real experts --the blind.

Furthermore, we will be affirming our faith in our own blind children. We are telling them -- by this action --that we believe they can grow up to be people who can control their own destinies through collective action.

So, join the NFB Parents of Blind Children Division (POBC). Help make the future better for our blind children. Let your children know that you have faith in their ability to one day take charge of their own lives.

For more information about how you can join the Parents Division, or how to get in touch with NFB groups in your area, contact: NFB Parents of Blind Children Division, Barbara Cheadle, President; 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230; phone: (301)659-9314.

OREGON/ WASHINGTON

Report by Denise Mackinstadt

On Saturday, February 28, 1987, the Northwest Parents of Blind Children, National Federation of the Blind, held its third annual seminar in Portland, Oregon. The Northwest Parents of Blind Chilren Chapter worked closely with the Oregon and Washington affiliates to put on what proved to be a very successful seminar. Parents from throughout the Northwest attended.

Steve Rainey, the outgoing President, did an outstanding job of coordinating the event. There were activities planned for the children, including the riding of a horse.

Ruby Ryles, a Federationist who teaches blind children in the Anchorage public schools, spoke elonquently about being a parent of a blind child, as well as being a teacher of blind children in a public school setting. Cathy Schneider, an orientation and mobility instuctor for the Albuquerque public schools, made an excellent presentation concerning the outstanding Albuquerque program. The agenda also included items concerning the IEP process, the importance of Braille, and a comparison of the educational programs for the blind in the states of Oregon and Washington. There was also a panel of blind Federationists to discuss their experiences as blind children and adults.

The following persons were elected for one-year terms: President, Debbie Hamm of Roseburg, Oregon; First Vice President, Steve Rainey of Portland, Oregon; Second Vice President, Desiree Voegele of Battle Ground, Washington; Secretary, Denise Mackenstadt of Bothell, Washington; and Treasurer, Lissa Nash of Spokane, Washington.

Parents left recognizing that the Federation is the best hope for their children's future, and that through collective action, they are insuring that future.

MASSACHUSETTS

Report by Priscilla Ferris

On Saturday, April 5, 1986, the NFB of Massachusetts held its third annual conference for parents and educators of visually impaired children. It was a program filled with information and a great deal of sharing was done by those who attended.

A panel of junior and senior high school students was very well received. It is a feature we plan to continue in the future. Barbara Cheadle, editor of Future Reflections and president of our national NFB Parents of Blind Children Division, was our key-note speaker.

We also had an excellent exhibit table full of good literature, a display of "Learning Pillows", and much more.

The establishment of a state Parents and Educators of Blind Children Division was also one of the highlights. Officers elected were: President, Michael McDermott; Vice President, Mary Lu Createau; Secretary, Cecile Paice; and Treasurer, Betty Sabine. The first annual meeting of the Parents Division was held on October 11, 1986 in conjunction with our state NFB convention. Plans for another seminar were laid at that time.

Our next seminar for parents and educators will be held Saturday, November 7, 1987 at the Days Inn Hotel in Newton, Massachusetts. For more information about the seminar, or about the Parents Division or the NFB of Massachusetts, write or call our NFB state office at: 72 Bank Street, Fall River, Massachusetts 02720; (617)679-8543.

TEXAS

Report by Cheryl Finley McCasslin

A Parents and Educators of Blind Children Committee was organized at the 1985 NFB of Texas Convention. Since then, we have had two successful seminars. The first one was held on Friday, March 14, 1986 in Austin, Texas; the day before our 1986 state convention.

Our next exciting seminar adventure took place on Saturday, April 12, 1986 at the North Park Holiday Inn in Dallas, Texas. Those who made presentations to help make the seminar a success were: Fred Schroeder, President of the NFB of New Mexico (now Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind); Barbara Jungjohan, NTSU Assistant Dean of Students, Marshall Nay, Texas Commsssion for the Blind; Susan Baxley, Region X Education Service Center; and Doris Henderson, president Progressive chapter of the NFB of Texas.

The Dallas seminar was packed full of learning experiences for all with much informtion given and frequent discussions taking place.

NEW MEXICO

Report by Kitty Smith

The New Mexico NFB Parents of Blind Children Divison has been very active throughout 1986. In June, 1986 the Telephone Pioneers helped us sponsor a picnic with a local Beeper Ball game at the University Campus in Albuquerque. We had a wonderful turnout and lots of fun.

In August (just before school starts), 1987, we are planning a parents potluck dinner and in November a local storytelling expert will entertain children and adults alike at another gathering of our parents group.

Plans are also being laid for a seminar in the spring.

Other activities include the publishing of our local newsletter, Direction, encouraging the Education Department to sponsor a summer camp for our children, and building better relations with the parents of the New Mexico School for the Blind.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Report byNadine Jacobson

On May 4, 1987, the NFB of South Dakota held a conference for parents and teachers of blind chilren in Huron, South Dakota. According to the evaluations, the conference was a resounding success. Doris Willoughby, a longtime active Federationist and author of A Resource Guide For Parents And Educators of Blind Children and Your School Includes A Blind Student, presented the keynote address. Her enthusiasm and genuine caring for the students she served was transmitted to the audience. Her positive attitudes about the potential of blind students was apparent in her speech.

Dan Boyde, Director of the South Dakota State Library for the blind and physically handicapped and Darlene Murphy, who is in charge of providing materials to school districts for blind students, gave a presentation which illustrated their committmebnt to literacy for blind chidlren in South Dakota.

One of the high points of the conference was the emphasis on independent cane travel. The Nebraska tape, "Kids With Canes" was shown and specific examples about teaching cane travel were illustrated.

The afternoon session began with a presentation by the Huron School District Special Education Director, Bruce Wilier, and three of his staff. They offered practical examples of achievements in providing special education services to a six-year old blind student. The audience was delighted to hear that even in Kindergarten this student is already reading first-grade Braille books. This bodes well for the child's future --truly a positive step for the Huron School District in the education of blind children.

South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped was represented by Superintendent Marge Kaiser. She spoke about options and future direction of the residential school.

Presentations were given in the areas of Braille by Nadine Jocobson, cane travel from Karen Mayry and the importance of extra-curricular activities by Doris Willoughby. (Nadine is from Minnesota and is an officer of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Karen Mayry is the president of the NFB of South Dakota.) Following this, Nadine Jocobson spoke about the importance of job readiness, the value of blind children achieving their dreams and the success of the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program (JOB). She stressed the importance of blind people deciding what kind of job they prefer rather than being limited by jobs traditionally held by blind persons. The participants gained a new perspective on the value of Braille and cane travel as they affect the overall future and success of their blind students.

It was my impression that many of the persons attending had not before had the opportunity to talk with successful blind adults about their perspectives on the education of blind children. I hope this kind of interaction will help them feel more positive about the potential for their blind children. Only through the collective experience of blind persons through the National Federation fo the Blind would we be able to offer specific suggestions and encouragement to parents and teachers of blind children. The more conferences like this that are held throughout the country, the brighter the future will be for blind children and all blind persons.

MARYLAND

Report by Arlene Gashel

The POBC of the NFB of Maryland has been extremely active throughout 1986 and into 1987.

Early in 1986, we had the opportunity to help some parents who were desperate about the refusal of their school district to put Braille instruction into their five-year old son's IEP, or to provide the other services he critically needed. Although the parents were professionals with influence in the county, and even though they had hired a private Braille tutor and their son was already successfully learning Braille; the school district was not going to budge. The parents contacted the NFB shortly after they had requested a due process hearing. The NFB helped turned the tide for them. We provided an independent evaluation, information, guidance, and moral support. The school district backed off and the child is now learning Braille in a setting that is meeting all his other needs as well.

We have also been working to get legislation passed which would state that all legally blind children shall have the opportunity to learn Braille. We have not gotten the legislation passed (yet!) but we have raised the consciousness of the public and the legislators to the problem of illiteracy among blind children in this state. Correspondence between the school for the blind (which oppossed the bill, and seems bent on oppossing anything to do with teaching Braille) and an NFB member was printed in our largest newspaper. This past Spring we sponsored a very successful parent seminar in Wheaton, Maryland. This seminar included activities for blind children and their sighted brothers and sisters. Afterwards, one parent wrote and said, "We want to thank you for the outstanding seminar you conducted...Rebecca has asked several times if there will be a similar program in the future. From my point of view and Rebecca's that was the most successful seminar we have attended."

We also started a newsletter called, Horizons; consulted with parents and the Baltimore school district about some special education services needed by blind early elementary students; and raised funds for all these activites through a very successful "Sweetheart Winter Get-Away" raffle. (The winning prize for the raffle was a week-end at the Baltimore Inner Harbor Hyatt Regency, complete with breakfast, dinner, flowers, and wine.) We anticipate continuing to grow and having influence over what happens to blind children in our state.

(back) (contents) (next)