Future Reflections Convention 1990, Vol. 9 No. 4
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Barbara Cheadle, Maryland.
It may seem strange, but my involvement in the National Federation of the Blind occurred some five years before I became the parent of a blind child. My husband, John, and I were working as rehabilitation counselors/teachers at the state agency for the blind in Nebraska when we were first introduced to the National Federation of the Blind. It didn't take much for us to decide that the Federation was the only way to go. We had the opportunity to observe the results of Federation philosophy-based training, and of other approaches to blindness, and as far as we were concerned, there was no comparison.
Because the Federation had helped us learn that it is respectable to be blind, we felt comfortable about choosing a blind child when we made the decision to adopt. In 1980, when our oldest son, John Earl, was nearly three, our blind son, Charles, arrived from Korea. Charles has a number of eye conditions. In addition to being monocular he has congenital cataracts, glaucoma, and nystagmus.
Today, we have three children. John Earl, now 13; Charles, age 12; and Anna, who is eight years old. John's aspiration is to be a writer, Charles is active in Boy Scouting and thinks he would like to design toys someday, and Anna will be happy as long as she has something to organize. All three are in gifted and talented programs in our local schools. I have been the editor of Future Reflections since its inception in 1981, and the president of the Parents Division for about five years. John, my husband, is the Director of Program Facilities at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland.
My husband and I believe in the "W.W." theory--Whatever Works. In the seventies we learned how the Federation makes a difference in the lives of blind adults. Today, we have the joy of seeing what it has done (and continues to do) for our own son. My commitment as President of the Parents of Blind Children Division is to bring this message to all blind children and their parents in this country--the Federation philosophy about blindness WORKS! Get involved, and USE IT!
First Vice President:
Ruby Ryles, Washington.
Ruby Ryles lives in Washington state with her husband, Dwain, and three children: Dan, age 16, has been totally blind from birth; Tom, (the "good one"--so Tom says) age 14; and Beth who is 10 years old. Dan attends the local public school, with no support services beyond getting his materials in Braille and on tape. He is in the high school marching band and tackles such subjects as trigonometry. Tom, his brother, is a hockey player on a national championship team, and Beth aspires to teach multi handicapped children.
Dwain owns a mobile home dealership, and Ruby works part-time as a teacher/consultant for blind and visually impaired children. She also serves as a board member for the Washington State School for the Blind and is currently working on her doctoral degree in special education. Ruby has been in the teaching field since 1966 and has been a professional in the field of blindness for the last twelve years.
This is what Ruby says of her experience with the Federation: "I think I got involved as a professional because I wanted to get to know blind adults. However, it wasn't until four or five years later that I met blind adults in the National Federation of the Blind. I was so excited. It was immediately obvious to me that these were the kind of people I had been looking for--the kind of people I wanted my son and my students to be like. The Federation changed our family. The biggest impact, of course, has been on Dan, but we have all been affected. It also changed the way I taught. I use Federation materials and role models because I now know that these children won't really learn confidence and independence unless they develop a good attitude about themselves as blind people. For our family, the Federation is not just an organization, it is a philosophy--a way of living."
Second Vice President:
Charlotte Verduin, Illinois.
Charlotte Verduin and her daughter, Cherrane, make their home in Illinois where Charlotte is working to complete her master's thesis, a study on teacher's responses to echolalia in blind children. Cherrane, blind from ROP, was born premature ten years ago and, despite numerous early health problems, is doing quite well today. Charlotte, a former Head-Start teacher, discovered the National Federation of the Blind when Cherrane was about four years old. She remembers how thrilled she was: "Here were people talking positively about my child, about all the things she could do--not about the things she couldn't do and the ways I had to treat her special."
Charlotte and Cherrane attended their first National Federation of the Blind national convention in 1985, and they have been coming ever since. Charlotte, a juvenile diabetic who has had to face the possibility of blindness from diabetic retinopathy herself, is also active in the Diabetics Division of the Federation.
Tom Balek, Kansas.
The Balek family--Tom, Linda, Jenny, and Jeff--live in Kansas where Tom is employed as Vice President/ Treasurer of Whelans, Inc.-- a chain of home centers. Tom is active in his community as chairman of the school board advisory counsel, coach and referee for local basketball leagues, and an Optimist Club member and supporter. His wife, Linda, runs a computer accounting business from her home, Brailles materials for Jeff and sees that his education stays on track, and is a state board member of the NFB in Kansas. Both are also active members of the local chapter of the NFB. Jenny, age 13, is a straight "A" student and a basketball star. Jeff, age 10 and totally blind from birth (Retinopathy of Prematurity-ROP) is mainstreamed in his local public school. He is an avid sports fan, an accomplished drummer, and one of the youngest members of the local chapter of the NFB.
Of the future for Jeff and other blind children, Tom has this to say: "In the 1990s and beyond we will see more and more that information is power. Technology will allow the blind to share in that power. The role of the NFB will be to channel the energies of the organized blind and facilitate the flow of information to maximize their opportunities."
Debra Smith, Iowa.
Debra and husband Rocky Smith live in Iowa and are the parents of two children: Kyle who is eight years old and mildly visually impaired; and Kallie, age four, who is legally blind from congenital cataracts. Rocky is self-employed, operating a roadside vending business through the Randolph-Sheppard program. Debra is currently considering a career switch--from food service manager to aerobics instructor. Both Debra and Rocky have strong convictions about surrounding their children with positive attitudes about blindness and alternative techniques such as Braille and the use of the long white cane. These convictions are rooted in their own experiences in growing up as partially sighted (but really blind) children. Neither of them had the opportunity to learn Braille as a child, nor had any positive blind role-models. Debra says: "We've been members of the NFB since we were teen-agers. The Federation is the most important thing in our lives because it really did help us believe that is it is respectable to be blind. And that is what we want our children to know and believe. I' we been in other parent groups, and I always felt we were bogged down in petty detail. In the POBCI feel that we are working on what really counts--the future of our blind children."
Stephanie Martin, Washington.
A Registered Nurse employed at the Everett Medical Hospital in Washington state, Stephanie is a single parent with two children: Allyson, age 12; and Benjamin who is six years old and blind from ocular albinism.
This is what Stephanie has to say about POBC and the National Federation of the Blind: "I initially joined the NFB/POBC for an obvious reason. I wanted to ensure that Ben would receive an appropriate education, and I knew NFB shared this concern for all blind children. We got so much more! For myself, meeting successful blind adults reassures me that Ben's success is dependent on his motivation, not his blindness. POBC has been a never-ending source of support and guidance. For Allyson, the opportunity of being with other families with blind members seems to help her feel more comfortable with her own family.
For Ben, who hasn't a clue yet what NFB's philosophy and commitment has already done for him, the benefit has been enjoying good role models and learning positive attitudes from our NFB/POBC friends."
Martin (Marty) Greiser, Montana.
Martin, Nancy, and their two children--fouryearold twins Cody and Jessie--live in a small community in Montana. Martin is a lab technician with Pfizer Company, and Nancy is a full-time homemaker.
This is what Martin has to say about his family, blindness, the National Federation of the Blind and POBC: "I cannot imagine any two people being more ignorant about blindness than my wife Nancy and I were when our twins (our only children) were born in 1986. Our daughter, Jessie, has no health complications and our son, Cody, is only blind due to Retinopathy of Prematurity, despite extensive medical intervention. Cody has received in-home educational assistance from an early childhood intervention program for handicapped children since he was 18 months old.
"Our problem is that to date no one with any experience or training in educating the blind has ever worked with Cody. Our ruralness and geographic isolation makes acquiring a trained and competent educator very difficult. We intend to mainstream Cody in our local public school even though he will be the first blind child to go through our school system. We have been working with the school administration trying to put together an appropriate long-term education program.
"Our only real source of information about blindness has been the NFB and particularly the Parents of Blind Children Division. This approach to educating ourselves is, in my opinion, (combined with the unsatisfactory assistance from our state School for the Deaf and Blind) transferring to our public school, which is beginning to realize the magnitude, appropriateness, and availability of information from the National Federation of the Blind and our Parents Division."
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