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Editor's Note: The report from Jackie Loomis
is taken from the Iowa Parents of Visually Impaired
Children, Inc. newsletter. Jackie is the editor
of that publication and a member of the IPOVIC
board. Betty Shandrow is the President of the NFB
Parents of Blind Children Division of Arizona and
a board member of the national NFB Parents of
Blind Children Division. If you would like to know
more about these state parent groups, write to:
1. Jackie Loomis, Iowa Parents of Visually Impaired Children, P.O. Box 509, Creston, IA 50801.
2. Betty Shandrow, President, NFB of Arizona Parents of Blind Children Division, 7760 N. Hopdown Ave., Tucson, AZ 85741.
A complete convention report is in the September/October, 1988, Braille Monitor. You may get a free copy of that issue in print, Braille, cassette, or disc by writing to: National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230.
What could be better than spending the Fourth of July in Chicago? Spending the Fourth of July with thousands of members of the National Federation of the Blind! The 48th annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind was held at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, July 2 thru July 9,1988.
The week started with a seminar for parents of blind children on Saturday. The afternoon session broke into small groups. I learned the basics of cane travel with hands-on experience by traveling through the hotel in a small group using a white cane. I noticed right away that I was treated differently by the general public. There are still a lot of myths about blindness and we all need to work on educating our communities that blind people are capable people.
The rest of the week was filled with a banquet, committee meetings, resolutions, reports, speakers, sightseeing, and of course, fireworks. Of special interest to parents was the IEP workshop. It was great to get together with other parents to compare notes and get new information.
A panel discussion, "Literacy for the Blind at School and Work," included panel members: Barbara Cheadle, President of the Parents of Blind Children Division; Ruby Ryles, parent and educator of blind children; and Thomas Bellamy, Director of Special Education Programs, United States Department of Education, Washington, D.C.
Paul Harvey of Chicago, Illinois, spoke on "The Media and The Image: Changing What It Means To Be Blind." You may have heard his comments about the blind on his radio broadcasts.
The greatest thing about the convention of course was the people. Thousands of blind people and parents of blind children who really understand your concerns, your fears, and your joys.
As I sit in the quiet of my home, I cannot help but recall the wonderful feelings and warmth I experienced in meeting and mixing with the people attending the National Federation of the Blind National Convention in Chicago, 1988. I live in Tucson, Arizona, and am the mother of a blind son whose competitive spirit and ambitions make me a very proud mother. I accompanied my son to the convention, and the two of us encountered so many wonderful people that I feel compelled to describe the experience so other parents of blind children will be motivated to attend these conferences as I now do.
I was...impressed with the speakers and the officers present at the National Convention. The speakers presented their talks in a personal manner as though sharing, not dictating, their knowledge with those attending. Everybody seemed a part of what was happening. There was areal sense of unity of purpose. I came away with many new acquaintances, friends, and a strong feeling that I had met people who will remain important to me for the rest of my life. I also came away knowing that I had deepened my awareness of matters that the parent of a blind child should be aware of.
First, the parent of a blind child should teach the child positive attitudes and attempt to reinforce them when at all possible. Second, the child should be taught that he can perform equally with sighted children, although it may take more effort and concentration in the beginning. Third, the parent should stress practice in the areas of orientation, mobility and white cane travel as much as possible to reinforce a sense of independence. Fourth, parents should attempt to learn Braille themselves so they can realistically assist their children in their school studies in a meaningful fashion. Fifth, parents should attempt to become as familiar as possible with federal and state laws affecting the biind. A parent should be knowledgeable about what rights a parent has before going to an I.E.P. and have the confidence to stand up for them. There are times when a parent must take action when a school or program is either moving too slowly or too fast with a student. Sixth, a parent should remember that blind children need to begin to learn to read and write at the same grade as sighted children.
Finally, I would strongly recommend that the parents of blind children make every effort possible to attend meetings of the National Federation of the Blind because of the expertise and knowledge of the speakers and participants, and for the truly wonderful people they will meet, people that understand their needs and challenges, and people that are willing to share their experiences and hopes. I hope to see all of you at the next National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind.