Future Reflections Fall 1989, Vol. 8 No. 3

(contents) (next)

LET'S HEAR IT FOR BENIGN NEGLECT:
THE CHEADLES FIGHT THE SYSTEM FOR THE RIGHT TO HAVE THEIR SON LEARN BRAILLE

by Barbara Cheadle

The following is reprinted from the January, 1989, issue of the Braille Monitor.

As Monitor readers know, Barbara and John Cheadle have been active and committed Federationists for a number of years. In Idaho, Missouri, and now Maryland they have worked and laughed and cried with us as we struggle toward freedom and equality. Mrs. Cheadle is the President of the Parents' Division of the National Federation of the Blind, and Mr. Cheadle has been for several years a member of the staff of the National Office. Their son, Charles (known to everyone as Chaz) is an active, bright, ten-year-old. He is also blind in one eye and severely limited visually in the other. Chaz needs Braille now and will need it much more in the years to come. He is lucky that his parents recognize this fact and are prepared to fight for his right to learn Braille and to use it. He is unlucky in finding himself in the clutches of so-called "professionals" in special education who have declared (among other things) that Braille and print are incompatible. As you read the following article, keep in mind that there are probably no more knowledgeable parents in the country today, working to protect their blind child's educational rights. Mrs. Cheadle has served as a parent advocate in Individualized Educational Program (IEP) meetings all across the country. Both of the Cheadles have learned from hundreds of blind friends just what can be accomplished with proper training and reasonable opportunity. They have a painful understanding of the absolute necessity for blind people to master Braille as early as possible. They believe unswervingly that, if they can give their son the tools he needs, he can achieve whatever he has the native ability to accomplish. And they are determined not to allow benighted school officials to destroy Chaz's future. Here is the Cheadles' story as it has unfolded to date. Read it and ask yourself what you would do if it were your child whose future lay in the balance.

In our local school district all fourth, fifth, and sixth graders are required to take music. They may sing in the chorus, play an instrument in the band or orchestra, or take general music. But one thing is certain -- a child will have music. So far as we know, it doesn't matter if the student is tone-deaf and has absolutely no musical talent. Music is required, and that is that. This same school district, which includes some of the best schools in the state of Maryland, will not teach our blind, partially-sighted son how to read and write Braille.

The school district will spend thousands of dollars to teach children to sing and play musical instruments but will not spend a penny to insure literacy for a nearly-blind child. Please don't misunderstand us. We are not opposed to music, and we have no desire to change the school's policy regarding it. But while the other children sing and play their instruments, the door to literacy for a lifetime --Braille --has been slammed shut for our son, Chaz. It sounds incredible, and we didn't really believe that it would happen to us, but it has.

Chaz, who is now ten years old, is totally blind in one eye (due to glaucoma) and has severely limited vision in the other eye due to cataracts and nystagmus. We have been told by several ophthalmologists that his vision will never get better (surgery won't help) but that it is likely to get worse as his eye muscles weaken with time. Chaz will probably experience a noticeable and significant difference in his vision before he graduates from high school. He will not be able to read as long as he can now (he begins to get tired after about thirty minutes of reading), and he will suffer more eye fatigue. Magnification aids, one told us, will not be helpful to him until his eye muscles begin to weaken. When this happens, magnifiers will only substitute for what he can now do by bringing the material close to his eye.

However, when we mentioned Braille as an alternative or supplement to print, one of our doctors assured us Chaz could "get by." Well, "getting by" is not what we had in mind for any of our children! We see no reason why we should not have the same expectations of Chaz as we do for the others. Furthermore, Chaz is a bright child. Teachers and parents of other children get upset and worried when their bright students or children just manage to "get by." They call conferences and plan strategies to get the child to live up to his or her potential. Surely our blind son deserves the same concern.

With the encouragement and support of blind friends in the National Federation of the Blind, we decided Chaz should learn Braille as well as print in school. We had some false starts, but we finally got one good, solid year of instruction in the third grade through the Baltimore City school system.

But there was still a long way to go. He had learned most of the Braille contractions and rules, but he hadn't done much tactile reading. He needed more instruction and more prac and he needed to start using Braille regularly i| the classroom.

Then, in the fall of 1987, we moved to Baltimc County. We were in a different home, a differei neighborhood, and a very different school dis trict. Our first meeting with school officials teachers in the new school took place on Septer her 17, 1987. It passed without incident. We agreed to continue the Individualized Education] Program (IEP) drawn up in his old school in Bal-1 timore City until it was up for review in Novemj her. In that IEP Chaz was getting four hours week of Braille instruction, large print texts and tests, and other materials as needed as well as consultation services from the itinerant teacher of the blind to the classroom teacher about alternative techniques and adapted materials that he would need. Waiting until November, we were told, would give Mary Buchheister, the teacher for the visually impaired in our new school, time to get to know Chaz and do her own evaluation.

We got our first insight into Mrs. Buchheister's attitudes about blindness at that meeting when she said that she didn't like to use sleep shades. She thought it was wrong to take away a child's sight. We disagreed and pointed out that his IEP stipulated that he would use sleep shades during his Braille lesson so he would learn to trust his sense of touch. The only thing that bothered him about the sleep shades was that they itched. But we decided not to make an issue of it then. We thought that we could work it out when she started teaching Chaz.

A few weeks later I got a call from Mrs. Buchheister. She wanted to talk about Braille. She said something to the effect that Chaz had terrible Braille reading technique and he was slow. But most of all she couldn't understand why we wanted to teach him Braille anyway. After all, Braille was so slow and tedious. Those are not her exact words, but that was the sense of them. So I talked about all the reasons why Chaz needed Braille and why I disagreed with her statement. She didn't seem to understand or believe what I said. I was beginning to worry. Still, I tried to look at the positive side. She said she was a stickler for technique, and Chaz certainly needed work on that. Maybe she would come around.

Later I asked Mrs. Buchheister if she was willing to be his certifying authority for the National "Braille Readers Are Leaders" contest. She halfheartedly agreed and shortly thereafter sent home a Grade 1 Braille book for Chaz to read. Since Chaz had already learned most of the Grade 2 Braille contractions, enough anyway to read children's books, I was not impressed. Neither was Chaz. After a few tries, he declared that he preferred to read the Grade 2 books I had gotten for him. Grade 1, he said, was too slow.

We never resolved the sleep shade issue either. She really believed that it was bad, even traumatic, to take away his vision. Even though his IEP stipulated that sleep shades would be used, she absolutely refused to use them.

In the meantime, John and I were getting an education in just what schools expect of bright kids these days. We had a sighted son in the gifted fifth-grade class, and Chaz had been placed in the gifted fourth-grade class. Every time I looked at my fifth-grade son's homework, I thought to myself, "How is Chaz going to do this next year?" His need for Braille became more and more obvious to us. And we recognized he needed it immediately.

Then we got our notice for the November IEP meeting. The list of officials who were coming to the meeting included Ms. Harden, an area supervisor from the county office of Special Education. As soon as we read that name, we knew that the professionals were up to something. They wouldn't send someone of Ms. Harden's importance if this were going to be a routine meeting.

But the school didn't kick about our request for more Braille instruction. They didn't scream when we said we wanted him to start using Braille in the classroom. They just handed us the evaluation which Mrs. Buchheister, the teacher for the visually impaired, had done. She said he didn't need Braille. So Chaz would not get Braille -- end of discussion.

Actually, we had a lot of discussion, but to no avail. We knew now why Ms. Hardin, the supervisor, was present at our IEP meeting. It was clear that whatever we said, whatever documents we presented, they had made up their minds that they were not going to teach Braille to Chaz. In fact, when we pointed to Doris Willoughby's evaluation--which was part of his file -- it turned out that several of the team members hadn't even read it.

The whole tenor of the meeting was, "We are the professionals, and we know what is best for your child."

The evaluation Mrs. Buchheister did, by the way, was not well done. For example, she recommended hand-held magnifying aids without ever having him use one. At one point she said his print reading speed was "adequate." Then later, when she recommended against Braille, she reported that he "reads with excellent speed and comprehension." She said that he could see her smile at a distance of four feet and retrieve a pencil he had thrown across the room. We never could decide what that had to do with whether he should or should not be learning Braille. Besides, it was clear that she hadn't considered the possibility that Chaz could have been using alternative techniques in place of, or in addition to, his vision for these tasks.

John and I talked and talked about all the reasons Chaz needed Braille. We pointed out that two other school districts had agreed with us, and had included Braille instruction in his IEP. No dice. They wouldn't budge. At one point we were told that they did not have to do anything about teaching him Braille unless he started to fail academically, and only then if we could prove that his vision was responsible for it and that Braille was the only thing that would help him make passing grades.

But the real clincher came when the itinerant teacher asked us -- and it was obvious that she was upset --"Why do you limit him by calling him blind?" We were stunned. Here we were trying to get a skill (Braille) for our son that would expand his options and opportunities, and she was accusing us of limiting him!

We said something to the effect that we didn't think there was anything shameful about blindness or being blind. Of course, we knew it was a limitation, but no more so than a hundred other characteristics. That was the way we saw it. But she didn't. Blind was bad. Braille was bad. And we were bad because we weren't ashamed or afraid to use the word "blind" with our son who has partial vision. We would not sign an IEP at that meeting. We told them that we only wanted materials (large print books, etc.) while we thought the impasse over.

When we left that meeting, we had to make a decision. We decided that what Chaz really needed was good, positive Braille instruction. Even if we forced the issue then and won, he couldn't get that from this teacher. We decided to let things stand as they were at school for a while and arrange to pay for private Braille lessons. We would try again later. It was still hard to believe that they would not eventually see reason. One thing we did after our November meetii with the school was to arrange for another inc pendent evaluation. Maybe, we thought, wit more documentation and the evidence of Chazi success with Braille in private lessons, we coul bring the school around to our view. Fre Schroeder, former director of the special educ tion programs for the blind in the Albuquerque,! New Mexico, school system and currently Direcj tor of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind,! did this one. The results were the same. Cha*| should learn Braille.

Since we had not signed an IEP in November, we had another meeting in December to approve an IEP officially. This time, however, Dr. Betsy Zaborowsky came with us as our advocate. The county beefed up their representation, too. Dr. Gloria Ergnoth, Director of Special Education for the district, was there this time along with the usual team members (school principal, classroom teacher, teacher for the visually impaired, and the school counselor).

We had decided that we would not ask for Braille instruction, but we would ask that Chaz be allowed to use Braille in the classroom for some class work. This would mean that the county would provide some Braille materials and possibly some Braille transcribing service.

When we went to the meeting, we took Fred Schroeder's evaluation with us, handed copies to everyone, and waited while they read it. After the teacher for the visually impaired (Mrs. Buchheister) read it, she said she wanted to discuss some of the points with us, but Dr. Ergnoth cut her off. It was clear that the county had taken a position against Braille for Chaz, and any evaluation we presented simply was not going to be considered.

Dr. Ergnoth was delighted, then, when we told her that we had arranged for Chaz to receive private Braille lessons. She thought that was great. She praised us and compared us to parents who go out and get private music or foreign language lessons for their children (nice but unnecessary was the message). We told her we didn't think this was at all analogous, and we still believed that the school district should be responsible for teaching him Braille.

She didn't like that idea, but the meeting went reasonably well until we said that we wanted to write into the IEP that Chaz would have the option of using Braille in the classroom. We had already agreed that Chaz could choose to use large print materials and magnifiers as he needed them. It seemed only reasonable that he should also have the option of choosing Braille.

And that's when the meeting fell apart. We were told in no uncertain terms that we could have nothing about Braille in the IEP; they would not even concede that Chaz could choose Braille materials to read, or that he could choose to do an assignment in Braille. The message was loud and clear...no Braille whatsoever!

John was so angry at that point that he walked out of the meeting. Even Dr. Zaborowsky, who had been so calm throughout the meeting, was absolutely floored. At the end of the meeting, she asked Mrs. Buchheister why she was so opposed to Chaz's learning Braille. The reply was, "Because print and Braille are incompatible." Now that was a new argument to all of us! I suppose, if it hadn't been our son's education and future we were talking about, we would have laughed; that's how silly it was. We did sign an IEP (without Braille) that day. But we told them that we did not consider this the last word on the subject. We would be back.

In the meantime, Chaz started private lessons with Mrs. Marie Cobb, a member of our local NFB chapter. She was not a certified teacher, but she was enthusiastic and committed. She liked Chaz, he liked her, and she really believed in the importance of Braille. She had been a partially sighted child who had learned Braille when she was in the fifth grade, and she was still a print and Braille reader. She was a great role model for our son.

In about four months Chaz learned to read Grade 2 Braille with his fingers well enough to read stories aloud to the family. Some time around March he was evaluated by a certified Braille teacher, who said he was reading at a second grade level --pretty good progress for a boy who could barely identify the alphabet with his fingers when he started. He also read over 400 Braille pages from December 1,1987, to March 1,1988, for the NFB Braille Reading contest. We were on the way. But he had to have more. He especially needed to be able to use Braille in the classroom for classwork.

Chaz was beginning to give oral reports in class, and print notes would not help. On one report students who used print notes got extra points. Chaz typed out his notes, memorized them, pretended to use them when he gave the report, then turned in the notes for credit. We didn't know he was going to do this, and we didn't condone it, but without Braille, what else could he have done?

We called another IEP meeting in March, and James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, went with us to try to get Braille. Even the right to use it in the classroom with support services would have been helpful. We began with the concept that in addition to the visual techniques (large print and magnifiers) Chaz needed non-visual techniques, materials, and services. They agreed. Yes, he needed keyboard skills (typing and computer), readers, and taped books. But once again, when we came to Braille -- no way! He could have everything else, but no Braille.

We then filed for a due process hearing at the county level. It took place on June 2, 1988, and in preparation we arranged for yet another evaluation of Chaz's visual needs and skills. This time we paid Jane Kronheim, a specialist who is certified in Massachusetts and Ohio. She came to Baltimore to do the evaluation. Her conclusions supported our plea for Braille. We also prepared a video tape showing Chaz reading over an extended period. The tape showed with painful clarity what happens to him as his eyes tire. After a half hour he complains that the print is jumping, and his speed and accuracy fall noticeably. He becomes restless, and his attention wanders. Armed with these new pieces of evidence and bolstered by Jim Gashel's presence, we faced the crowd of officials from the school system drawn up against us at the county hearing.

The County Board of Education appointed the hearing officer, who was supposed to be impartial. The school system designated not one, but two, advocates to face Jim Gashel. These attorneys, Marjorie Raffel and Ronald Kaplan, tried to gang up on Mr. Gashel, but he objected to being double teamed, and the hearing officer did agree that only one at a time could question a witness. Everyone on both sides stipulated that the IEP which had continued to be in force all year was inadequate. Chaz clearly needed typing and computer skills, recorded materials, and penmanship.

Braille continued to be the stumbling block. Mrs. Buchheister testified that, based on test results in Chaz's file, she would not recommend Braille. It did not matter that many of the tests in question had been administered while we still lived in Baltimore, and, based on those test results, the city schools had recommended Braille. The evaluations of Chaz that had done by Doris Willoughby, one of the most tinguished teachers of visually impaired childr in the country; Fred Schroeder, an expert blindness and programs for visually impaire youngsters; and Dr. Betsy Zaborowsky, licensed clinical psychologist, were rejected of hand because we had not paid for them.1 Kronheim's evaluation could not be dismissed, but it was one against the experts ranged on the] other side. Not surprisingly, Maynard Simmons, i an educator at the Maryland School for the Blind, i testified that it is damaging to a child to be taught Braille simultaneously with print. He suggested strongly that we bordered on being abusive parents. He as much as told the hearing officer that video taping Chaz's print reading was cruel.

In mid-June the hearing officer rendered his decision. In an astonishingly poorly reasoned opinion he found in favor of the school system. Among other oddities he discounted the ophthalmologists' finding that Chaz's sight will not improve and will probably worsen. He said that anyone at that hearing might someday go blind, but that fact was not justification for teaching all of these adults Braille. With this piece of logic as a sample of his thinking, his decision came as no surprise. Chaz could not have Braille. He could not be taught Braille; he could not use Braille. He could not have anything to do with Braille. Braille was out.

In the final moments before Jim Gashel and we left for the National Federation of the Blind convention in Chicago, we completed the State Board of Education's paperwork in order to file an appeal of the county's decision. That hearing was scheduled for August 25,1988, and we were allowed to choose from a list of names of appropriate people the three members of the panel who would hear our case. The state named Dr. Burton H. Lohnes, Director of the Forebush School, a part of the Shepard Pratt Hospital, to chair the panel. The transcript of the June hearing would be part of the evidence.

At the August hearing we also had Fred Schroeder and Doris Willoughby as experts prepared to testify. The school system had no new witnesses. Early in the proceedings Jim Gashel called attention to the fact that the county hearing officer had misreported one piece of information from the June hearing. In response to a question from Jim Gashel, I had testified that the schools had never offered us the option of an impartial assessment of Chaz. The hearing officer's opinion stated that we had refused such an offer. (The transcript of the June hearing is clear, and so was the testimony it recorded. The schools never so much as mentioned the possibility of an impartial assessment.) Ron Kaplan, the head of the county's advocacy team, broke in to say that the schools had offered me this option, but, if I had not understood the offer, they were prepared to make it again.

At this point the character of the hearing changed. It became a negotiating session to work out the terms by which an impartial party could be identified to do an evaluation. Cay Holbrook, a County expert, and Fred Schroeder went into another room to try to agree on names of people to do the evaluation. Fred suggested several names, and they agreed on two. The expert they were able to reach was Dr. Sally Mangold, a professor at San Francisco State University. On September 2 Dr. Lohnes, Fred Schroeder, Cay Holbrook, and John and I talked by conference call with Dr. Mangold and determined that she probably could conduct an independent assessment.

Before we had left the hearing, Ron Kaplan insisted that (in order to insure Dr. Mangold's impartiality), everyone pledge not to contact Dr. Mangold. Everyone agreed. We further agreed that, after her report was in hand, all of us at the local level would try again to agree on the IEP. Only if we could not would we return to the suspended state-level hearing.

On September 20,1988, John got a call from the State Board of Education instructing him to have Chaz report for his test on the following Friday. It was obvious from the conversation that the County schools had been in touch with Dr. Mangold despite their agreement to the contrary, so Jim Gashel called her and learned that Ron Kaplan (the very Ron Kaplan who had insisted on everyone's keeping away from the independent expert) had been in contact with her. In fact, his was the only name associated with the case that she recognized. Dr. Lohnes called Mr. Gashel almost immediately to say that Kaplan was "bouncing off the walls" because Mr. Gashel had talked with Mangold. Mr. Gashel explained the whole story and told Lohnes that he was writing a letter to all parties explaining what had happened and raising our doubts about Dr. Mangold's independence since she had clearly been in prolonged contact with the county advocate. Dr. Mangold was in fact about to board a plane to come to Baltimore, so we decided to go ahead with the test despite our reservations.

Putting aside the matter of the county's contact with Dr. Mangold, we were still troubled about her ability to give an unbiased evaluation. But she is clearly a professional in the classical sense of the term--which means that she is not willing to compromise her principles, yield to pressure, or say what somebody wants her to say. She made the evaluation, and here are her recommendations:

DEFINITION OF TERMS

Primary Learning Medium

The primary learning medium is the medium most frequently used during classroom instruction. It should allow access to the greatest variety of educational materials. A primary learning medium can be utilized in a wide variety of settings inside and outside of the classroom. It should permit both reading and writing.

Secondary Learning Medium

A secondary learning medium is occasionally appropriate for a student. It is learned in order to allow a student to perform specific tasks not easily performed in the primary learning medium. It may alleviate fatigue experienced when using the primary learning medium for extended periods of time.

Reading --Charles should:

1. use print as his primary learning medium, especially in subjects such as spelling and basal reading;
2. use Braille as a secondary learning medium (a minimum of three forty-minute periods of Braille instruction per week);
3. complete daily assignments for Braille reading and writing;
4. be given the alternative of using tape recorded texts as a secondary learning medium when the classroom or homework assignments require extensive periods of reading in subjects such as social studies and science (tape recorded material should not be used for subjects such as basal reading, spelling, and grammar);
5. be reintroduced to the potential use of optical aids for near and distant reading (stand magnifiers for near-point viewing and telescopic lenses for distance viewing). Distance viewing might include reading the chalkboard, street signs, and numbers on buses.

Writing--Charles should:

1. Receive instruction in typing during a min-j imum of three thirty-minute periods each week, j A silent, portable, battery operated typewriter '¦ should be used for writing long assignments, and taking notes in class. The portable typewriter should be an LED display and a variable print size output (i.e. Canon).
2. Use a unique style of writing composed of some manuscript and some cursive letters. The style should be so developed as to allow him to write clearly and require him to lift the pen point from the page as little as possible.
3. Continue to receive instruction in penmanship until he can consistently write short amounts of information and read them back easily.
4. Receive computer keyboarding instruction as an extension of his typing lesson. As soon as possible he should be operating a computer equipped with a voice synthesizer.
5. Should be introduced to talking software and its appropriate academic applications.
6. Receive instruction in the use of the Braille slate and stylus after he can demonstrate third grade competency on the Braille writer.

Orientation and Mobility

It is recommended that a complete evaluation by a certified orientation and mobility instructor be conducted in order to determine the current needs Charles may have in this area.

Activities of Daily Living

The academic skills learned in the classroom should be useful outside of the classroom. Such academic skills should be useful in making grocery lists, recording telephone numbers obtained from information, reading bus schedules, and reading recipes. Since Charles' focusing distance is very close to the work surface, his tactile abilities should be developed to help in performing certain jobs such as adjusting gas flames, manipulating range settings situated behind burners, cutting with a knife, pouring hot liquids, etc. If Charles is trained to use his tactile sense in performing certain tasks, he may function more safely and/or effectively.

That is what Dr. Mangold found, and for anyone who can read, the message is clear. Chaz needs Braille. With this independent assessment in hand, we awaited the IEP meeting, which was set for November 15,1988. Unknown to us, both of the county advocates were to be present, as well as the usual array of professionals which we have come to expect as standard stage props. Prior to any IEP session, the school system is required to send the parents a notice of meeting, which is to include a complete list of those who are to attend. Marjorie Raffel's name appeared on this list. Ron Kaplan's did not. Mr. Gashel was to go with us, and for this we were very grateful. We kept telling ourselves that the battle had been won and that Braille would be offered now that the independent expert had agreed with us, but...

We should have known from past performance that the county would not willingly see reason. When we walked into the room we discovered that Ron Kaplan was not only present but planning to take an active part in the negotiations. As a result, the atmosphere was very tense even before we began talking. Mr. Kaplan opened the meeting by stating, in a cold and hostile voice, that they did not like the evaluation, but they would work with it. Mr. Gashel then managed to get consensus on beginning our negotiations by working with the IEP framework we had devised last year, based on the IEP's developed in the Baltimore City schools and upon the evaluations we have had since. At first we made slow and grudging progress even though the "professionals" were highly annoyed about using our IEP outline. But the tone was bad. Mrs. Buchheister made a number of snide and defensive remarks to Mr. Gashel throughout the meeting. Miss Davis, Chaz's classroom teacher this year, has been wonderful with him. She has taken extra time and has provided him with the kind of flexible, sensitive guidance that is unfortunately all too rare today. She would be an ideal teacher to work with Chaz as he integrates Braille and keyboard skills into his learning. But when we began talking about the daily Braille assignments that Dr. Mangold had recommended, she was clearly uneasy. I tried to reassure her that you don't have to be an expert to assist a child who is working in Braille. The print text enables the teacher or parent to help sound out words and follow instructions. But it was no good. It seemed clear to me that Mrs. Buchheister had succeeded in convincing Miss Davis that we and Dr. Mangold had conspired to increase her workload.

By this time we had reached an impasse. We insisted that Chaz use Braille every day. The county refused. They demanded that Mrs. Buchheister decide when and how and if he would use it. We were not prepared to let the experts sabotage the Braille instruction which Chaz needs and Dr. Mangold had recommended. The county had no intention of abiding by either the letter or the spirit of the assessment, so the meeting fell apart.

We have now notified the State Board of Education that we are unable to agree on an IEP for Chaz. In January of 1989 (this is being written in early December of 1988) the hearing that was recessed August 25 will begin again where it left off. That panel, chaired by Dr. Lohnes, will then write an IEP that will be binding on both sides. We hope for the best. The panel pinned great hopes on the independent evaluation. Now that it is so clear and so supportive of what we wish to have happen for our son, perhaps one small boy will have a chance to acquire the tools he needs in order to make his full contribution to the world.

It is hard to know what the impact of all this struggle has been on Chaz. He is still an outgoing, active boy, who is clearly bright. But his grades have fallen this year, as we knew they would. He needs the tools that are being withheld. We know what he needs, and we have fought as hard as we can to win the right for him to receive that instruction. And still our son suffers.

I wonder sometimes about all the youngsters who, like Chaz, are being denied this necessary training and whose parents do not know what is going wrong--and all in the name of professionalism, a pseudo professionalism which cloaks ignorance, shelters the inadequacy and laziness of the teacher who has not learned Braille, and promotes nothing but ego. The experts assure lawmakers that a Braille bill is not necessary in Maryland because every child who needs Braille will get it. I have experienced to the marrow of my bones the destructive effects of that lie. Children who need Braille in Maryland and in every other state are not getting it and will not get it, I am afraid, unless their parents and the members of the National Federation of the Blind fight for their right to literacy and a decent education. Is this so much to ask for our children? Is it unreasonable to believe that one trusting, intelligent ten-year- old blind child should be allowed to have the tools and training that will give him the opportunity to compete in the world, live a normal life, and earn his own way? I don't think so, and I don't think the members of the public (once they are informed and understand) will think so either.

POSTSCRIPT: The state of Maryland did rule in favor of the Cheadles and ordered the Baltimore County school district to teach Charles (Chaz) Cheadle Braille. The details, including the IEP written by the state review board, is in the article, "Maryland Rules in Favor of Braille: Victory in the Charles Cheadle Case" from the June 1989, Braille Monitor. You may get a free copy of that issue in print, Braille, cassette, or disc. Send your request National Federation of the Blind, Attentic Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimo MD 21230. Please be sure to designate font desired.

(contents) (next)