Vol. 14, No. 1 Barbara Cheadle, Editor Winter/Spring, 1995
Convention 1995: Make Plans for Chicago by Kenneth Jernigan
Welcome to Chicago by Steven O. Benson
National Seminar for Parents of Blind Children
**Pre-registration forms: NOPBC Workshops and Children's Field Trip
My Dream for Macy by Crystal McClain
Reaching for the Stars by Julie Hunter
Federation Philosophy and the Education of Blind Children by Gail Y. Katona
Individualized Education Program (IEP) Checklist by Jennifer Haber and Leslie Seid Margolis
Reflections of a First-time Cane User by Angelique Turner
From the Bookshelf: Care and Feeding of the Long White Cane
Some Thoughts about Physical Education and Blind Kids by John Ross
The Braille Literacy Campaign: You Can Help
Ride Like the Wind by Margie Watson
Recess Smarts by Ken Volonte
Stop, Listen, and Observe: Your Blind Multiply Handicapped Child is Trying to Tell You Something! by Linda Zani Thomas
Choices and Their Costs by Peter Grunwald
Serena Can Wait at the Bottom of the Hill by Carol Castellano
Why Go it Alone? by Margie Watson
Braille, Blindness, and the Right to Take Risks An interview with William Raeder by D.C. Denison
Literacy Begins at Home: Family Involvement in the Home Literacy Experiences for Children with Visual Impairments by Christopher J. Craig
Print or Braille? I Use Both! by Charles Brown
Possibilities by Carol Castellano
Job Opportunities for the Blind by Lorraine Rovig, Director, JOB
Parent Power Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
CONVENTION 1995: MAKE PLANS FOR CHICAGO by Kenneth Jernigan
Reprinted from the December, 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor. The time has come to plan for the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. As Federationists know, our recent National Conventions in New Orleans, Charlotte, Dallas, and Detroit have been record-breaking in every sense of the word■excellent programs, good food and facilities, and wonderful hospitality. But Chicago in '95 promises to be the best we have ever had. All you have to do is to remember our Chicago convention in 1988, and you will know what a wonderful experience is in store. We are going to the Hilton and Towers Hotel at 720 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. You have to be there to believe it. Read Steve Benson's article elsewhere in this issue, and you will know what I mean. This exquisite hotel, built in the 1920's, originally had over 3,000 rooms. In the 1980's it was remodeled to have only 1,543 rooms, but the elevators (all fourteen of them) and the rest of the infrastructure for a 3,000-room hotel were left intact. Mrs. Jernigan and I have now been to the Hilton and Towers for several planning meetings, and each time I am more impressed than the last. As usual, our hotel rates are good. For the 1995 convention they are: singles, $47; doubles and twins, $49; triples, $54; and quads, $57. In addition to the room rates, there will be a tax, which at present is almost 15 percent. There will be no charge for children in a room with parents as long as no extra bed is required. In recent years we have sometimes taken hotel reservations through the National Office, but for the 1995 convention you should write directly to Hilton and Towers Hotel, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605, Attention: Reservations; or call (312) 922-4400. Hilton has a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize NOT) use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the Hilton and Towers in Chicago.
Here are the convention dates and schedule;
Saturday, July 1■seminars for parents of blind children, blind job seekers, and vendors and merchants; several other workshops and meetings.
Sunday, July 2■convention registration, first meeting of the Resolutions Committee, other committees, and some of the divisions.
Monday, July 3■meeting of the Board of Directors (open to all), division meetings, committee meetings, continuing registration.
Tuesday, July 4■opening general session, evening gala.
Wednesday, July 5■general sessions, tours. Thursday, July 6■general sessions, banquet. Friday, July 7■general sessions, adjournment.
The displays of new technology; the meetings of special interest groups, committees, and divisions; the exciting tours; the hospitality and renewed friendships; the solid program items; and the exhilaration of being where the action is and where the decisions are being made■all of these join together to call the blind of the nation to the Hilton and Towers Hotel in Chicago in July of 1995. Come and be part of it■and for further information read the following article from the Illinois affiliate for color and details.
WELCOME TO CHICAGO by Stephen O. Benson
Reprinted from the December, 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor.
From the Editor: Steve Benson is not only a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind but also the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. Moreover he is a resident of Chicago, so he knows whereof he speaks when he talks about the host city for the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. This is what he has to say about the Hilton and Towers and the city that surrounds our convention hotel:
Chicago was incorporated in 1837. In 1840 little more than 4,000 people called it home. By 1860 it had swelled to more than 112,000. The city's history, political and economic climate, energy, spirit, and character are captured in its nicknames: Mudtown, City on the Lake, City of Big Shoulders, Hogopolis, Hog Butcher for the World, Railroad Hub of the Nation, Gem of the Prairies, City of Churches, Financial Capital of the Midwest, Windy City, and Convention Capital of the World. This latter claim is not made frivolously, for Chicago is equipped to play host to the world■and the people come. Chicago has 25,746 hotel rooms. An additional 41,000 rooms may be found in the surrounding, collar counties. The largest convention Chicago hosts, the International Machine Tool Association, meets every two years and attracts more than 115,000 people. By the end of 1994 more than 3.8 million people will have attended conventions in the Windy City. The anchor for all this activity, McCormick Place, offers 1.3 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space.
Chicago hosted its first convention of the National Federation of the Blind in 1950. The first political convention to meet here was the Republican National Convention of 1860, at which Abraham Lincoln was selected to carry the party's banner to the White House. Many political conventions have woven strands into the rich and varied fabric of Chicago's history, but none has made more impact on the lives of blind Americans than the five NFB conventions previously held here. So our 1995 national convention in Chicago, the sixth, makes this city our ■Sweet Home.■ Taking nothing at all away from the splendid conventions of recent years, 1995 will be the biggest and best by far. It is fitting, then, that the site of next year's convention should be one of the most spectacular hotels in the world.
The Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605, (312) 922-4400, is a Chicago landmark and the flagship property of the Hilton chain. To the east of the hotel, across Michigan Avenue, sprawls Grant Park with its beautiful formal gardens, its wildflower garden, Buckingham Fountain, museum campus, the Patrillo Bandshell, Columbia and Chicago Yacht Clubs, Burnham Harbor and athletic fields. This is a magnificent and proper setting for a hotel that received the 1994 Mobil Travel Guide's Four Star Award.
When built in 1927 at a cost of thirty million dollars as the Stevens Hotel, it was the largest in the world with 3,000 guest rooms. It had a rooftop eighteen-hole golf course with real grass; a 25,000-volume private library; an art gallery; a five-lane bowling alley; a swimming pool; and its own hospital, police force, fire department, and three-story industrial laundry still in operation. To say that it was roaring-twenties opulent is an understatement.
In 1945 Conrad Hilton acquired the property, and in 1951 the hotel was renamed after its owner. In 1984 the hotel was renovated with major structural changes, including the reduction of guest rooms to 1,543 at a cost of 185 million dollars. Other changes included converting two private ballrooms to a 5,000-square-foot grand luxury suite, which rents for $4,000 per night and which, I'm sad to say, none of us will occupy. The project not only restored the hotel to its 1927 grandeur, it surpassed it in many ways and placed the Hilton and Towers in a more competitive position for today's business climate.
The Hilton and Towers is a majestic structure that occupies a full city block north to south and more than half a city block east to west. The hotel boasts 120,000 square feet of exhibit space, more than fifty meeting rooms, a 510-car attached garage, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a full-service business center, the Stevens Art Gallery, four excellent restaurants, three lounges, a unisex hair salon, a shopping area, and twenty-four-hour room service■and that doesn't begin to tell the story of this very special facility.
As you step through the Hilton and Towers front doors on Michigan Avenue, you enter the spectacular Great Hall with its restored gold leaf frescoes and elegant, graceful curving staircases leading to the Grand Ballroom and other meeting space on the second floor. Immediately to the right is Lake Side Green, a two-story atrium lounge that features entertainment, billiards, and light refreshment. Immediately to the left is a corridor leading to the shopping area and escalators to the lower level exhibit area. Continuing through the Great Hall, you come to the central (north to south) corridor. Across this corridor, directly in front of you, is the elevator lobby with fourteen elevators on the north, west, and south sides. The east side of the elevator lobby is the open side. If you turn right (north) in the main corridor, you will find on the right side the assistant manager's desk, the hotel's registration desk, and the bell stand. Across the corridor from the hotel's registration desk is the Pavilion Restaurant. At the end of the corridor is the Concierge. If you turn left, there are rest-rooms for men and women on the right side. Straight ahead is the carport.
The Pavilion is a French country cafe surrounded by a spacious veranda dotted with colorful flowering plants. Contemporary and impressionist art adorn the area. The menu features sumptuous breakfasts and lunch and dinner buffets, plus a wide selection of burgers, pasta salads, sandwiches, and many daily specials. The 275-seat restaurant is open from 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. If you turn left from the Great Hall (south) you will find on the right side of the corridor Buckingham's, the hotel's fine dining signature restaurant. This warm, club-like space seats 165 guests. It is decorated in high-lacquered mahogany woods, gray and white marble, beveled mirrors, and upholstered walls with brass accents. Watercolors, line drawings, and paintings of Chicago's Buckingham Fountain by local artists hang throughout the room. Buckingham's features steak, chops, and seafood. It is open from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. and requires reservations. For those interested, Buckinghams claims the largest selection of single malt scotch whiskeys in the city, a total of 106.
Continuing south through the main corridor, on the left side are Ciro's Jewelry; Parnell's Irish Shop; a flower shop; and W.H. Smith's Store, featuring newspapers, magazines, toiletries, and so on. On the right side are men's and women's rest-rooms. Kitty O'Shea's Irish Pub and Restaurant is next on the left side. At the end of the corridor, straight ahead, is Accent Chicago, featuring souvenirs and gifts. Make a right turn, and on the right is Chicago's own world-class Fanny Mae Candy. Here are treats unequaled anywhere. Next on the right are escalators leading up to the International Ballroom. Straight ahead and down several steps is the newly renovated Continental Ballroom. The southeast corner of the Hilton and Towers is an extraordinary area. If you pause there for a bit of refreshment, you may hear echoes of William Butler Yeats, Brendan Behan, Sean O'Casey, James Joyce; or you may detect just a hint of the little people. You are certain to hear the cadence and lilt of English as spoken on the Emerald Isle. The place is Kitty O'Shea's Irish Pub and Restaurant. The 150-seat pub is an authentic Irish tavern reminiscent of centuries-old establishments in Ireland.
Hilton sent a design team to Dublin and gave them the dirty, thankless job of visiting some forty pubs to study floor plans, decor, menus, and other little touches that could carry the ambiance of those legendary gathering spots to Chicago. The Hilton and Towers has done the job just right. The oak plank flooring and ceramic floor tiles in green, orange, black, and white; the hand-carved mahogany and marble bar; the glass shelving; and ceramic mugs are imported from Ireland. The antique beer taps were donated by the Guiness Brewery in Dublin. The food is authentic, and the chef, bar men, and wait staff are Irish natives working here on a culinary hotel exchange program. Tradition and hospitality abound in this warm and merry place. True to Irish custom, according to manager Eamon Brady, ■Loyal customers are honored by personalized mugs. You may have a ceramic Guiness mug registered for your use and hung from the ceiling above the bar.■
Distinguished Irishmen of Chicago have added a special touch to Kitty O'Shea's. Past presidents and officers of the Irish Fellowship Club have donated shillelaghs that have been carried in the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade. The black thorn staffs hang in Shillelagh Corner.
And then there's the entertainment. Nightly from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., you can hear Irish balladeers sing the songs of the Old Sod. Better than that, there are sing-alongs. You can lift your voices in the singing of ■Johnny McAdoo,■ ■Whistling Gypsy,■ ■Jug of Punch,■ ■Jolly Tinker,■ and many more rowdy and sweet aires. Kitty O'Shea's is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., with food served until 9:00 p.m. Partake of Irish lamb stew; shepherds pie; potato and leek soup; and, if you like, Blarney Burgers. Don't miss Kitty O'Shea's.
For a moment let us revisit the magnificent Continental Ballroom, which was recently renovated at a cost of two million dollars. From its stunning 3,700-square-foot foyer to the state-of-the-art sound system, to the twenty-three glittering chandeliers and thirty-six wall sconces, this 10,000-square-foot room, decorated in green, mauve, and violet, is well coordinated with the decor of the hotel.
The second floor of the hotel features the Versailles-inspired 16,600-square-foot Grand Ballroom with its twenty-two-karat gold frescoes and crystal chandeliers and the nearly 22,000-square-foot International Ballroom. In addition, the second floor houses the Normandy Lounge, site of the Buckinghams-hosted Sunday brunch with a 120-foot buffet. The elegant Normandy Lounge overlooks Grant Park and is graced by chairs from the ocean-liner, S. S. Normandy. In addition, north of the elevator lobby is the Boulevard Room. It is worth noting that this was once a nightclub that featured a floor show on ice.
The Hilton and Towers has hosted every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt and heads of state from Japan, England, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, and Ireland. In addition, such notables as Charles Lindbergh; Maria Callas; Frank Sinatra; Richard Burton; Walter Payton; Michael Jordan; Babe Ruth; Ray Charles; and many, many more have stayed at this hotel. Next year the Hilton and Towers will welcome us, the National Federation of the Blind. Large and elegant as it is, the hotel definitely has the warmth and feeling of a fine home. Much of the credit for that goes to the outstanding, well-trained staff. The Chicago Hilton and Towers will be our home for a week in 1995. As we add a chapter to our history, so too we will add a chapter to the history of this magnificent hotel and to the history of Chicago. The Illinois affiliate looks forward to being your host and to continuing the positive work of the National Federation of the Blind. Welcome to Chicago!
NATIONAL SEMINAR for Parents of Blind Children
■You know, it really is okay to be blind.■ This unexpected pronouncement from a seven-year-old blind girl startled her family at their dinner meal last July. This new level of confidence in herself as a blind person was further demonstrated in the weeks and months to come as the little girl willingly began to use her white cane full-time■not just to school and for mobility lessons. What made the difference? Her father, who has been a Future Reflections reader for several years, took his daughter to the 1994 National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Her dad recounted the benefit of this experience in our Pennsylvania parent support group magazine this past Fall. ■[She],■ he wrote, ■learned at the Convention that the cane provides independence and thereby makes her the same as everyone else and not different.■
Of course, as all children, Laura must have new concepts reinforced again and again. Mom and dad, Sheila and Michael Wolk of Pennsylvania, will be taking her to many more NFB activities■including state and national conventions■in the years to come.
If you are among our many readers who have been putting off coming to NFB National Convention, consider the potential value it has to your family and don't put it off any longer! Join us in Chicago July 1 to July 7■or as many days as you can■and discover ■The Benefits of Growing Up in the National Federation of the Blind■ for your family.
Here are some of the many exciting events planned especially for parents and children:
Saturday, July 1, 1995
The Benefits Of Growing Up In The National Federation Of The Blind National Seminar for Parents of Blind Children
Sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children Saturday, July 1, 1995 Hilton and Towers Hotel 720 South Michigan Avenue Chicago, Illinois 8:00 a.m. Registration. Fee: $5.00. (This fee will also cover the cost of all of the special workshops■such as the Beginning Braille for Parents workshop■sponsored by the NOPBC during the convention.) 9:00 a.m. ■ 11:30 a.m. General Session. Keynote Address: Blindness: What Does it Mean in the Mind of a Child? by Ramona Walhof, former preschool teacher, a blind businesswoman, and mother of two sighted children. Other speakers will zero in on the subjects of low-vision children, sighted siblings, other relatives of the blind child, and sighted children of blind parents. Also on the agenda is a panel of blind and sighted children, youth, and adults discussing the impact of the NFB in their lives. 11:30 a.m. ■ 1:00 p.m. LUNCH (on your own) 1:00 p.m. ■ 5:00 p.m.
SHOW TIME!: A continuous showing of new and classic videos. Among those to be viewed will be: That the Blind May Read, the new NFB documentary about Braille literacy; Here I Come, Ready or Not a video depicting blind first-grader Alex Lesser going through a typical school day; Kids With Canes, a classic video depicting cane travel instruction for young children; and It's Not So Different, a short video portraying the normal life led by a blind couple and their young child.
BEGINNING BRAILLE FOR PARENTS: A three-hour beginning Braille course for sighted parents of blind children or teachers who want to learn Braille and/or observe the techniques of teaching Braille to sighted parents. The workshop is limited to 25 participants. The fee is covered by the $5 registration fee for the parents seminar. Pre-registration is encouraged. Please see the pre-registration form at the end of this article.
PARENT POWER: How are parents of blind children making a difference in their states and communities? This workshop, inspired by our popular new feature■also called ■Parent Power■■in Future Reflections, will show you how to organize and conduct effective seminars, projects, and programs; how to raise funds for your activities; how to work with and within your local NFB affiliates; how to organize a parent division in your area; how to prevent parent burn-out; and so forth. The workshop will be broken down into four 45-minute sessions. This will allow parents to circulate to other concurrent workshops.
SPECIAL TOPICS: A very exciting session for parents of deaf-blind children will be offered as one of three topics in this workshop. Sally Ruemmler, the mother of a deaf-blind teen-age daughter and co-chair of our Parents of Deaf-Blind Children Partnership Committee is putting together an excellent program of support and information for parents of deaf-blind infants and children. The other two topics will be announced later. Before we establish the other two Special Topics workshops we want to hear from you. Please send your ideas and suggestions for the other two topics to: Barbara Cheadle, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (work) 410-659-9314 and (home) (410) 747-3472. Some of the current suggestions under consideration are: Developmental Delays and Multiple Handicaps in Blind Children; Low Vision and Alternative Techniques of Blindness; and Social Skills and the Blind Adolescent.
MOVE IT!: The foundation for independence is mobility. This workshop will explore ways in which parents of blind and visually impaired children of all ages can facilitate movement and independence. Discussion and demonstrations will also focus on the ways in which the long white cane promotes greater confidence and independent movement.
TO BE ANNOUNCED: Several exciting initiatives regarding the creative use of toys and play activities for children are being developed. We hope to kick these off at convention with some special demonstrations. Stay tuned! We will announce any developments as time allows through our state and local parent divisions and chapters. ***********************
Blind Youth Convention Orientation Session 3:00 p.m. ■ 5:00 p.m. (Saturday, July 1) This session provides blind youth (grades 6 through 12) a chance to get together early in the convention. This allows them time to begin forming friendships. It is also a structured opportunity to meet interesting and competent blind adults. The adult counselors will take the youth out in groups to familiarize them with the layout of the hotel and convention site. The counselors will also lead discussion groups, organize get-acquainted activities, and familiarize youth with the NFB and the convention schedule.
Kiddie Land Field Trip Saturday, July 1: Kiddie Land is a scaled-down, kid-size amusement park. It is especially designed for younger children. The fee, which includes admission to Kiddie Land, unlimited rides at the park, transportation, and lunch, is $15.00 per child. Once again, Carla McQuillan, President of the NFB of Oregon, has volunteered to organize and lead the field trip. Carla owns and operates a Montessori preschool program. She has extensive experience as a teacher and an administrator, and she is also a parent. Since the number of children who can be accommodated for this trip is limited by space available on the bus and by the ratio of volunteer workers to children, we urge you to use the form at the end of this article and pre-register your children for the Saturday, July 1, day-trip. The volunteer workers, by the way, are mostly blind parents, teachers, and students who are willing to donate some of their convention time to helping your children enjoy convention, too. Children under the age of five and older children who choose not to register for the Kiddie Land trip are invited to register for NFB Camp for the day.
8:00 a.m. ■ 9:00 a.m. $15 per child. Registration or check-in time. 9:00 a.m. ■ 3:00 p.m. Field trip. Lunch will be purchased at Kiddie Land. 3:00 p.m. ■ 5:00 p.m. Return to hotel. Special activities, games, crafts, movies, etc. in the NFB Camp room in the hotel. 5:00 p.m. ■ 5:30 p.m. Parents collect children.
Family Hospitality Night 6:30 p.m. ■ 9:30 p.m. (Saturday, July 1). Family Hospitality Night is sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association of Blind Students. Bring the kids, relax, and meet other parents. We will be using the NFB Camp room, so there will be plenty of toys and space to keep the kids occupied! Teachers of blind children and blind teachers will be there, too, to talk informally with parents about educational concerns.
NFB CAMP Saturday, July 1, through Friday, July 7, 1995 The following schedule is subject to change according to changes in the convention schedule, availability of workers, funds, etc. A schedule will be available at convention when you register your children for NFB Camp. Remember also to check daily for any changes to the schedule.
Saturday, July 1: 8:30 a.m. ■ 5:00 p.m. On this day and this day alone, lunch will be provided to the children on site.
Sunday, July 2: Open in the evening only during the Parental Concerns Committee meeting. See convention agenda for time.
Monday, July 3: Open in the morning and afternoon for those who are attending the Board meeting in the morning and special division meetings in the afternoon. Parents MUST pick up children during the lunch break.
Tuesday, July 4: Open during morning and afternoon convention general sessions. (Check your agenda for times. You will receive an agenda when you register for the convention on Sunday.) Camp IS NOT open during the lunch break. Children MUST be picked up promptly after adjournment at noon and at the end of the day.
Wednesday, July 5: Camp is open only in the morning. There is no afternoon convention session and therefore no camp session. Children must be picked up promptly after the session adjourns.
Thursday, July 6: Open during morning and afternoon sessions. Closed during the lunch break. Open during the evening banquet. See agenda for time. Again, children must be picked up promptly after the banquet adjourns.
Friday, July 7: Open during morning and afternoon sessions. Closed during the lunch break.
NFB Camp is NOT an ordinary child care service. It is a special opportunity for children who are blind or who have a blind member in their family to interact with each other and with blind adults. Mrs. Willows, the volunteer director of NFB Camp, organizes activities to maximize this interaction. At the 1994 NFB Camp, for example, Mrs. Willows arranged for blind artists to come in and conduct craft and art activities with the children. Other blind persons, such as a blind horticulturist, also came and did special projects with the children.
Mary Willows (who is an experienced educator and the blind mother of two children) and many other members of the Federation put in many volunteer hours to the NFB Camp so that the convention can be enjoyable and an enriching experience for every member of the family.
Parents are asked to make these donations for NFB Camp activities: $50 for the week (including the banquet) for the first child and $25 for each additional child; or $10 per child per day and $10 per child for the banquet night if you do not want to register for the full week. Parents will also be asked to pay a fine for late pick-ups. There may also be additional fees for optional day-trips. Trips and fees will be announced when you register or check-in your children at the NFB Camp room at the convention.
Parents who cannot contribute the suggested donation should contact Mary Willows to discuss the contribution they can make. Mrs. Willows will also take pre-registration for NFB Camp. Contact Mrs. Willows at 3934 Kern Court, Pleasanton, California 94566; (510) 462-8575. She will need your name, address, and phone number; the names and ages of your child(ren); and a brief description of any special characteristics or needs of your child(ren).
Regarding teens who want baby-sitting jobs at convention, Mrs. Willows will not locate or solicit such jobs but she will pass prepared information on to parents who use the NFB Camp. Contact Mrs. Willows for more information.
Sunday, July 2, 1995
CONVENTION REGISTRATION: In order to get the fabulous room rates you must register for the convention. Registration opens on Sunday, July 2, and the fee is only $10 per person. Thursday night banquet tickets may be purchased at registration, too. Banquet tickets usually cost in the neighborhood of $20 to $25. You will get your convention agendas (print or Braille) when you register. Pre-convention agendas which cover the activities on Friday, June 30, and Saturday, July 1, will be available free at the Federation Information Desk. This desk will be located near the hotel registration and lobby area.
EXHIBIT HALL: Nearly every type of old and new computer technology and other aids, appliances, toys, games, books, and so forth for the blind and visually impaired will be on display at the NFB Convention exhibit hall. The hall is open all day on Sunday, July 2, and various other times throughout the convention. See your convention agenda for exhibit hall hours.
Monday, July 3, 1995
Annual Meeting of the NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF PARENTS OF BLIND CHILDREN 1:00 p.m. ■ 5:00 p.m. At this meeting we have the exciting opportunity to meet and hear from parents from all over the country. We discuss local and national projects (such as our Braille Readers are Leaders contest), elect officers, listen to a presentation from the 1995 Educator of Blind Children award winner, accept committee reports, and discuss activities of our state and regional parent divisions and chapters. This year we also have Mr. Christopher Craig as a special guest speaker. Mr. Craig, a former NFB scholarship winner and a doctoral student in special education, has been investigating how blind and visually impaired children ■emerge■ into literacy and how the family impacts upon that process. Readers may remember the announcement in Future Reflections about his research and about how the NOPBC assisted Mr. Craig in locating parents for his survey.
Tuesday, July 4, 1995
IEP Workshop: HOW TO BE AN IEP ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS: 7:00 p.m. ■ 10:00 p.m. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) process continues to be the key element in planning a good education for a blind or visually impaired child. That is why, year after year, we conduct this workshop at convention. And, year after year, we have a consistently high attendance. This year we are adding a different twist to the workshop. We will be discussing specific strategies for Federationists who go to IEP meetings as advocates for others. Although pre-registration for the workshop is not required, we are urging you to pre-register this year so we can plan for the number of handouts we will need in print, large print, Braille, and recorded formats. Those who pre-register will have first shot at the prepared handouts in the media of their choice. Please see the pre-registration form at the end of this article.
****************** OTHER CONVENTION ACTIVITIES
In regard to other activates, there are so many special interest committees and divisions that you are bound to find something up your alley. Here is a partial list: Parental Concerns Committee, Music Division, National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, Diabetics Division, Writers Division, National Association of Blind Lawyers, National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, and the National Association of Blind Students.
The general convention sessions, which begin Tuesday morning, always feature speakers of interest to parents. One year we had a blind sculptor, another year a blind auto mechanic. Other speakers are people of power and influence in the political, governmental, special education, and rehabilitation arenas. These people come to speak and inform, but they also come to listen and learn from the collective voice of the blind.
Other events and meetings parents are encouraged to attend are the Monday morning National Board meeting, the Resolutions Committee meetings, the Thursday evening banquet, and the Friday business session. The scholarship winners are introduced and asked to say a few words at the Board meeting on Monday. They are all introduced again at the banquet when the scholarship amounts they won are announced.
The Resolutions Committee meeting and the Friday business session is the Federation in action. Through these forums of democratic discussion and debate the NFB formulates policies about the critical issues facing the blind of the nation. More than any other convention activities these sessions demonstrate that this is ■where the action is■ when it comes to blindness. Come, join us in Chicago in 1995 and discover for yourselves the excitement and personal satisfaction that comes from participating in a process that is creating a better and brighter future for our blind children.
KIDDIE LAND FIELD TRIP Pre-registration Saturday, July 1, 1995
Name of Parent or Responsible Adult: Address City State Zip Home and/or Work Phone Numbers
As you fill out the following information, please include the child's last name if it is different from parents' last name. Also include a description of any characteristics which may require medical or other considerations on the trip. Please note that although we will keep the ratio of volunteer adult workers to children low, we do not have the capacity to assign one adult to one child. The fee for the trip (including older siblings or adults) is $15.00 per person. This includes the cost of transportation, lunch, entrance to the park, and unlimited rides at the park. Children: Name Age Grade Blind, sighted, other characteristics:
Fee: $15 per person. Total enclosed $______
Please make checks payable to National Organization of Parents of Blind Children or NOPBC
Mail by June 10, 1995, to: Carla McQuillan 3988 Main Street Springfield, Oregon 97478 (503) 726-6924
BEGINNING BRAILLE FOR PARENTS Pre-registration Saturday, July 1, 1995
Name Address City State Zip Phone Number I am (circle your selection): Parent Relative Blind Adult Professional Other_________
Please describe your level, if any, of Braille knowledge. Remember, this is an introductory workshop designed for beginners.
Fee: $5. Total enclosed: $_________ The $5 fee also includes registration for the Saturday, July 1, parents seminar. Those who pre-register for the Beginning Braille for Parents Workshop will be given proper credit for the parent seminar. Make checks payable to National Organization of Parents of Blind Children or NOPBC.
Mail to: NOPBC Convention Workshops 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, Maryland 21230
For more information contact Barbara Cheadle (410) 659-9314 or evenings at (410) 747-3472.
IEP WORKSHOP Pre-registration Tuesday, July 4, 1995
Name Address City State Zip Phone Number
Fee: $5. Total enclosed: $_________ The $5 fee also includes registration for the Saturday, July 1, parents seminar. Those who pre-register for the IEP Workshop will be given proper credit for the parents seminar.
Format(s) I prefer (circle choice[s]): Braille large print tape regular print
Please make checks payable to National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Mail by June 10, 1995, to: NOPBC Convention Workshops 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, Maryland 21230
For more information call Barbara Cheadle at: (410) 659-9314 or evenings at (410) 747-3472.
MY DREAM FOR MACY
What the NFB Convention Means to Me
by Crystal McClain
We have made the NFB National Convention a family outing for the last two years. Our family consists of myself, Crystal McClain, my husband Mark, and our three daughters, Brianne, age twelve, and the twins, Macy and Madison, ages four. This past year we also brought along our neighbor girl, Emily. From this line-up you can see we had quite a crew at convention!
When we found out over three years ago that Macy was going to be blind, we were frightened about the future. We didn't know what type of life Macy could have, where she would go to school, or how expensive raising a blind child would be. We were basically ignorant about blindness.
I originally found out about the National Federation of the Blind through Future Reflections. I can't remember how I got signed up to receive the magazine, but the important thing is that it happened. After reading articles such as ■Is Your Child Age-Appropriate?■ by Ruby Ryles, and ■An Appropriate Education for Cody■ by Marty Grieser, I felt like I was headed down a brighter path for Macy. Then I read the report about the 1992 NFB convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. I decided then and there not to miss another convention. So, I contacted Barbara Pierce, the president of the NFB of Ohio. I then attended my first local NFB meeting, which paved the way for our family to go to the 1993 NFB Convention in Dallas.
I became less ignorant about blindness with each contact with the NFB. I value the role the NFB plays in our life, and I am committed to the NFB philosophy. Here are some of the general things I have learned about blindness from the NFB and from Macy:
1. Blindness doesn't have to be a tragedy (unless you let it be). 2. Independence is a priority. 3. Networking with other parents is a must. 4. Blind adult role models are essential. 5. Parents and teachers must have age-appropriate expectations. 6. A positive attitude is critical. 7. Blind kids MUST USE A CANE. 8. Parents must know the law and their rights. 9. Parents are their child's first and best advocates. 10. ■Adapt■ instead of saying ■can't.■
Another thing about NFB Conventions is that I found out how parents can miss out on so much if they come and only attend the Parents Seminar and then leave. I feel I have learned so much by staying and attending meetings such as the Parental Concerns Committee meeting (this is for blind parents, but I learned a lot from them); the meeting of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB); technology meetings and workshops; general convention sessions, which always have such interesting topics and speakers■I would pay twice the registration fee to hear Fred Schroeder speak; and the Board of Director's meeting at which the twenty-six scholarship winners are introduced. I find the scholarship winners especially impressive. If people in our children's schools could just see these high-achieving high school and college students I feel that their expectations and attitudes would have to change, if only a little.
My knowledge of blindness has increased dramatically since we became involved with the NFB. My friends and family have also been educated about blindness, directly by Macy and indirectly by the NFB. Macy's life, I realize, will have rocky times in it just as Madison's (her twin sister) life will have rocky times. But I have learned to maintain high expectations and to carry them through. I can't wait until the NFB Convention in 2009. My dream is to see Macy walk across the stage at the Board of Directors meeting and be introduced as an NFB scholarship winner!
REACHING FOR THE STARS by Julie Hunter
Fifteen years ago on a warm June morning my husband, Bob, and I drove to the hospital for our appointment with destiny. Because of delivery problems with our first child, we had the luxury of being able to choose the day and time of our second child's surgical delivery. Later that morning, we were overjoyed to welcome a baby girl into our family■finally, a girl where for generations (on my husband's side) there had only been boys! She was a perfect baby■healthy, dark hair, big blue eyes, and a pretty little face. We couldn't have been happier! Little did we know that this tiny, innocent babe in arms would turn our world on its ear.
Our new daughter, Lauren, thrived in her first few months at home. She was begrudgingly accepted by her two-year-old brother, Mark, and gradually our family life fell into a happy new routine. But as she grew, some little concerns tickled the backs of our minds. She squinted when she was out in the sunlight■typical of newborns we were told. She didn't smile when someone came to her crib, but she would smile when held or spoken to. Finally, a jerky eye movement that we assumed would pass with her infancy became more and more obvious. Then came that fateful day when the doctors' tests concluded that our daughter's retinas were not functioning properly. She would have visual impairment, but no one knew to what extent. She might even be able to drive, we were told.
Of course we were optimistic and clung to the best case scenario■that the condition wouldn't worsen, that she would be mildly visually impaired, but not (God forbid) blind. As the months passed, it became obvious that this was not a stable condition. Her visual acuity was gradually fading. We mourned for every lost dream. We felt guilty that we had unknowingly passed on what we were told was a recessive genetic defect. We felt depressed about the future. But it's no fun living in depression, so something had to give! That something was our first change in attitude about blindness. This was our child! She was bright and charming, and we vowed that vision or lack of it would not define her life. We didn't want to hear any more sympathetic words from well-meaning neighbors and friends. Give up your dreams? Not on your life!
And so we were inaugurated into a whole new world■a world which has caused us to re-examine our values and broaden our horizon■a world which has brought us support, friendship, and a cause we believe in. Who would have thought that such a tiny baby born on a warm June morning would be responsible for all of that? At what point do we move from seeing the glass as half-empty to seeing it as half-full? For us it came gradually as we learned, through the National Federation of the Blind, that the possibility was there that our dreams for Lauren could be fulfilled. That foundation was in place for us when we sustained our second blow■discovering that Lauren also has a progressive hearing loss. As with the vision loss, which is now total, the hearing loss has been gradual. Lauren is now fifteen years old. She got her first set of hearing aids when she was eight. Her hearing loss has progressed from mild to moderate, and now hovers on the line between moderate and severe. Again, doctors are no help to us. They don't know why and can't predict what the future holds in store. We just live our lives and take what comes.
But one thing we have learned over the years is that fear about the future results from ignorance and failing to take control. If you do all you can to learn about your nemesis, never lose sight of your goal (which in our case is to achieve maximum independence), and stay in charge of your destiny, then the future is not so frightening. In relation to the deafness, we are still into the process of learning. The more we learn, the less scary the future seems. As we meet and talk to other parents with deaf/blind children and with deaf/blind adults, we are reassured that there can be a quality life for an individual who is blind and deaf. Our job is to make sure that Lauren has the adaptive skills necessary to remain an interactive member of society. There is work to do, but I feel confident that my daughter will achieve her potential, and no matter what the future brings, we will never stop reaching for the stars.
FEDERATION PHILOSOPHY AND THE EDUCATION OF BLIND CHILDREN
My Personal Experiences
by Gail Y. Katona, 1993 Recipient Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award National Federation of the Blind
Editor's Note: The Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award brings not only honor, national recognition, a trip to the NFB National Convention, and a substantial amount of cash, but it also confers certain responsibilities upon the recipients. Because the recipients become role models for other educators and for parents, we ask them to give a major presentation at the annual meeting of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. In this presentation they are to outline their philosophy and approach to education and describe very specific examples of how they go about putting that philosophy into practice. The following address is the presentation which was given by our distinguished 1993 Award recipient, Gail Katona of New Mexico.
Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure and honor to be here today and to have the opportunity to address you and share with you some of my thoughts on the education of blind children. I was one of those kids who always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and that, of course, was to be a teacher. I have an uncle who has Down's Syndrome and my aunt, Karen Mayry, is blind. So I grew up around people who were, as some folks saw it, ■different.■ I remember when I was little crying and asking my mom why people laughed at and pointed to my uncle, and wondering why people thought that I (a child) had to help my aunt (an adult) just because she was blind. It puzzled me that people found it amazing and fascinating that my aunt led a normal life. Because I was around these relatives often as a child, I was exposed to stereotypical thinking and discrimination towards those who had exceptionalities at an early age. I spent three summers when I was a teen-ager living with my Aunt Karen and her husband. From spending time with her and watching her run a household, go to work, go waterskiing, play golf, take care of her husband, hand out discipline to me when I needed it■basically leading a regular, average life■I quickly learned that many people in our society sure had the wrong ideas about the capabilities of blind people.
I have been a member of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) since I was about 17 years old when I attended my first National Convention in Minneapolis. Because of the NFB I have met many capable, confident, and independent blind adults. I know without a doubt that my young blind students too can and will grow up, go to college or technical school, get jobs, raise families, and be whatever they want to be in life (except of course pilots or brain surgeons). In order for these kids to accomplish their goals they need to become PROFICIENT in what we call the alternative techniques of blindness, such as Braille and cane travel, and they need a positive ■I can do■ attitude about being blind. I believe all children can be successful and grow to their fullest potential if they are taught with creativity, love, and encouragement; if their teachers have high expectations of them; and if they get the tools they need for success.
I entered college in the fall of 1980 at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. On my first day of class I wore an NFB T-shirt. I sat in the front row, right in the middle because that's where kids who get good grades sit, right?! Well, my professor looked at me and said, ■NFB?■ I replied, ■Yes, are you familiar with the organization?■ And he said, ■I am. What do you know about it?■ I answered, ■Well, I've been a member for a couple of years.■ He responded with, ■Oh NO - you're one of THOSE people?■ I was surprised and came back with, ■YES I AM AND DARN PROUD OF IT, TOO!■ (Mind you this exchange was taking place in a room full of students.) He then called us (the NFB) a bunch of rabble-rousing radicals who liked to get up on their soapboxes. My final response was ■Whatever they are, I'm one of them, and nothing will change that.■ Needless to say he and I bumped heads over the next four years, but in May of 1984 I graduated with a dual major receiving a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Teaching the Visually Handicapped.
In college I learned many teaching techniques and methods. I learned Braille (we used the Library of Congress Braille Transcribers Manual), how to use both the Perkins Braille Writer and the slate and stylus, basic orientation and mobility skills, and a little bit about the abacus. But it was through my association with the NFB that I picked up my philosophy for teaching blind children. Who better to learn from than those blind adults who have been through the education system and KNOW firsthand what is needed to be successful and make it in today's world?
When I began teaching in Albuquerque nine years ago I had six students, first through third grades in a classroom in a regular elementary school. Over the years as our reputation grew and word got out about our existence, the program continued to grow. We have even had a few families relocate to Albuquerque so their children could come to our program. Three years ago we had so many children that I could no longer handle it by myself so we split into two classrooms. For the past two years I have been team-teaching with a lady named Rye Gerry who took over the primary students. Rye does not have visually impaired certification but has many years of teaching experience and has a masters in special education. More importantly she has the skills to teach blind children: she is proficient in the Braille code and spent many hours under sleepshade learning cane-travel skills. Rye and I teach all subjects like any other elementary classroom teacher. The only difference is we teach using both print and Braille or only Braille.
The thirteen students we taught this past year are blind, and that's where the similarities end. More importantly they are individual kids with a wide variety of strengths and weaknesses, just as you would find in any classroom. Our students range from kindergarten to fifth grade. Some students have learning disabilities, a few have some physical difficulties, but most are what I call ■generic■ kids■regular kiddos who happen to be blind. Our goal is to teach the students the Braille skills and other alternative techniques of blindness so they can go out into the mainstream of the school and be able to compete equally with their sighted classmates. Some of the students spend 90 percent of their day mainstreamed into regular classrooms, some spend 90 percent of their day with us, and the rest fall somewhere in between. We take a very individualized approach with the students because we want all children to be successful in their school experience. Some kids, even if they had 20/20 vision, would still need a lot of special support in school. Those are the students that spend most of their day with us receiving individual attention.
Our students' vision ranges from totally blind to legally blind or what some people refer to as visually impaired. No matter what their visual acuity is, we are a classroom for children who are blind. We try to instill in the kids, their parents, other teachers, and other sighted students the belief that being blind is respectable. Blind is not a negative or ■bad■ word. Being blind is simply a characteristic, and it doesn't define who you are.
Although there are many differences among our students there are three things they all have in common. The first is they are all blind. The second is they are all learning to read and write in Braille no matter how much residual vision they have. The third is they are learning to be safe and independent cane travelers. Both of these skills are taught while the child is wearing a sleepshade (blindfold). We don't make a big deal about wearing a sleepshade, that's just the way it is. Usually the kids don't fuss about it either. We use sleepshades so the students will more quickly and thoroughly learn to use the proper techniques instead of depending on remaining vision, which oftentimes is ineffective and misleading.
There are reasons why children who have some vision should be taught to read and write in Braille. Some of our kids have degenerative eye conditions and will not be able to efficiently use print as primary reading and writing medium as they get older. They are learning Braille at the same time they are learning print so the skills will be in place as their vision decreases or fluctuates. Others have such limited vision that they have to stick their noses on the page to see the print. This obviously is not a very quick or efficient way to read, and so the children quickly fall behind other students in their work. Some of our low-vision students do well with standard large print materials and can keep up with their sighted classmates. However these kids also experience eye fatigue and headaches after prolonged reading. They are learning to use Braille so they will have an alternative to print material. No, it is not traumatic for a student with vision to learn Braille. It can be, though, if the teacher has a negative attitude about it. We are not trying to ■make a child blind■ as some feel. We are trying to provide students with the skills they need so they can succeed in life.
Yes, it is possible to learn and use both print and Braille at the same time; even our youngest students are deciding for themselves that Braille is often easier and quicker for their school work. Valene is one of our students who did not have Braille skills when she started with us in first grade. She is a child who could see out of one eye and could read large print if she got really close to it. We started to teach her Braille, wearing a sleepshade, and continued also with some instruction in print. Valene picked up Braille very quickly and was really enjoying reading. During her first year in school, she experienced two or three hemorrhages which temporarily took away her vision. If Valene had not been using Braille, her learning would have stopped at this time. But because she had Braille training and was already using a white cane for travel, her education could■and did■continue uninterrupted. After the hemorrhage cleared, we again incorporated print instruction with her Braille. By the beginning of second grade Valene said, ■Braille sure is quicker and easier than print!■ Valene has done all of her academic school work in Braille ever since; she begins fourth grade this August.
People often wonder when Braille should be introduced to a child. I've heard professionals say, ■He's not ready to learn Braille.■ And the child is five or six years old! Or professionals will say, ■Why bother using Twin Vision■ books? A two-year-old can't read anyway!■ My response to these statements is NONSENSE! Braille needs to be introduced while a child is small at home or in preschool. If you think about it, sighted kids are bombarded with print from the time they are babies. They are learning that these funny looking lines mean something. Our blind children need to have Braille exposure at a very young age too. I'm not saying that we should expect all two-year-olds to be able to read, but they need to know that Braille exists.
When do sighted children learn to read? Well, it varies depending on the child. But by the time they are in preschool they are at least being exposed to their print letters and numbers. And by the end of kindergarten sighted kids are expected to at least be able to recognize their letters and numbers and write their names. Our blind children need to have the same expectations placed on them. They also need the opportunity to meet these expectations. Blind children should progress at the same pace as their sighted classmates through the reading and writing process. Blindness does not automatically cause a child to fall behind in his school work; denying a child the opportunity to learn and use Braille may. Part of literacy is also writing skills. We teach Braille writing using both a Perkins Braille Writer as well as a slate and stylus. The slate and stylus is a blind person's equivalent to a pencil and paper; it is portable, quiet, and a must for taking notes. We also teach our students how to write using a pencil. At the very least our blind children need to know how to write their names in cursive; think of all the situations in life where a person needs to write his signature! We also teach our students how to type, using both a standard electric typewriter and a talking computer. It does not take a fancy adapted keyboard; we simply mark the F key and the J key so they can easily find home-row. I try to begin touch-typing instruction when a student is in second or third grade. Keyboarding skills are really important. It allows the students independently to turn in print assignments to their classroom teachers. This really cuts down on the turnaround time it takes for the Braille teacher to interline the print over the student's Braille and then return it to the classroom teacher. It depends on the individual student, but I expect many of my kids to turn in typed assignments by the time they are in fourth or fifth grade. Typing skills also give our kids a way to communicate with their sighted classmates through notes or letters.
The use of a long white cane is not an option, it is a necessity for our kids. Cane travel skills are an essential part of a child's education. What child doesn't want the freedom and the ability to go places by himself, when and where he chooses? Cane travel skills for young children give them that freedom. Using a white cane needs to be started at a very young age. I feel that by the time a child can walk and hold a cane out in front of him, he should have the opportunity to move about and explore his environment using a cane. How do you know if a child needs a cane? Basically, if children cannot safely and by themselves go places other children their age go, then they need a cane.
When Elisha started kindergarten with us she did not have a cane. Since she had a LITTLE vision, she was never given a cane. Well, the first day of school she was running down the hall and didn't see the wall until she was a few inches from it. She quickly put on her brakes (meanwhile my heart was in my mouth) and wham! She went into the wall. Luckily she put her hand up so she really didn't get hurt. That same day, going out to recess, she tumbled down three steps and scraped her knees because she didn't see the steps. I had a cane in her hand the next day and started instruction immediately. Then I could relax and not constantly worry about her safety. Now Elisha knows where steps are and where walls are because her cane gives her the information she needs! Jennifer is the opposite. While Elisha is a speed demon, Jennifer is pretty slow-moving. Jen didn't walk alone until she was about four years old, and she started at Zia Elementary a year later. She was very tiny for her age, about the size of a three-year-old. And when she started school she got her first white cane and began learning how to use it. When the recess bell would ring, Jen would pick up her cane from next to her chair and head out of the classroom door. She would go down the hallway and just as she got to the doors leading outside, the bell would ring ending recess! So, she would turn around and make her way back to the classroom and try again the following recess. Needless to say, Jennifer didn't get much playing done outside.
Were we mean? Some teachers and students thought so. Maybe it would have been quicker and easier to take her by the hand and get her outside. But what would Jennifer have learned? The message she would have gotten is that she was incapable of doing it herself. It took her a long time to speed up, and she's still no Speedy Gonzales (except when there is pizza for lunch■then she flies!), but Jennifer knows that she can get around all by herself, and we expect her to do so. (Jennifer goes off to middle school in August and is nervous but excited.)
When students have a white cane they are expected to use it at all times: on the playground, in the hallways, in the cafeteria, going to the bathroom, on field trips, in the classroom, on the bus, around their neighborhoods, in the store, etc. If they begin at an early age to use a cane, the cane becomes a part of them. But kids will be kids, and sometimes they forget and don't use their canes correctly. I can't tell you how many times I've seen our students dragging their canes behind, looking to see where they've been I guess, or just holding the cane but not arcing it or using it. And when they run into a pole, or fall off a curb, it is hard for me to stand there and watch it happen. My students have heard me say countless times, ■Are you hurt? No? Good. But if you were using your cane it wouldn't have happened.■ If we always rescue a child, they won't learn how to be good, safe, independent travelers. We need to always encourage independence for our kids and encourage them always to use their canes. Now I often hear the other teachers in the school telling our kids to ■Arc that cane and use it■don't just carry it.■ I don't know about you, but I have better things to do with my time than to walk a kid to the bathroom twelve times a day or to the drinking fountain or to the playground. With the training in using a white cane, our children have the independence to get around just like everyone else.
Teaching is much more than passing on reading, writing, math skills, and knowledge. Teaching is acceptance, patience, flexibility, creativity, and having the honesty to admit we don't have all the answers but will try to find out. It is assuming that all children have the desire to learn, and then giving them the tools they need to learn and to succeed. It is challenging students to think and grow to their fullest potential. This is what I try to do. It is a wonderful experience to watch my students mature and learn to be capable, confident young people who just happen to be blind.
INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP) CHECKLIST
Prepared by: Jennifer Haber and Leslie Seid Margolis* Maryland Disability Law Center
This checklist contains the federal legal requirements governing the individualized education program (IEP) process and suggestions for making the process as productive as possible. Please note that state laws impose a number of additional requirements on school systems. Please also note that any time the words ■school system■ are used, the reference is also to any public agency that is responsible for the provision of special education services to students with disabilities.
___1. After the initial determination that a student needs special education, a meeting must be held within 30 days to develop an IEP.
___2. A meeting to review or, if appropriate, revise an IEP must be held at least one time per year.
___3. The IEP must be in effect at the beginning of each school year.
___4. The parent(s) must receive notification of the meeting early enough to ensure that they will have the opportunity to attend.
The meeting must be scheduled at a mutually agreed to time and place.
The meeting notice must indicate the time, purpose, and location of the meeting and who will be in attendance.
If the purpose of meeting is to determine transition services, the meeting notice must also indicate that the purpose of the meeting is transitional planning; indicate that the student will be invited; identify any other agencies that will be invited to send a representative to the meeting.
___5. If neither parent can attend, the school system must use other methods to ensure participation, including individual or conference telephone calls.
___6. A meeting may be conducted without a parent in attendance if the school system is not able to convince the parent(s) that they should come to the meeting. If the school system proceeds without the parent, the school system must have a record of its efforts to arrange a mutually agreed on time and place for the meeting. ___7. When a parent does attend the IEP meeting, either in person or by other means, the school system must ensure that the parent understands the proceedings at the meeting. This includes arranging an interpreter for parents with deafness or parents whose native language is not English.
___8. The parent has the right to review the student's complete education file prior to any meeting.
Suggestions It may be helpful for parents to review school records prior to an IEP meeting, including assessment results, medical reports, and records from other agencies with which the student may be involved. It also may be helpful for parents to talk with the student's teacher(s) and with the student him- or herself.
Prior to the meeting, it is helpful for parents to think about the areas in which the student needs special attention, the kind of attention that would be most successful, long- and short-term goals for the student, and the kind of education setting the parents think would be most appropriate for the student.
It is also helpful for parents to think about what modifications might be needed in order for the student to participate successfully in the regular education and nonacademic programs. Modifications might include curriculum changes, testing procedure changes, a one-to-one or classroom aide, a computer, etc. After thinking about these issues, the parent(s) should write down any thoughts, questions, or concerns and organize any documents they want to bring to the meeting. The parent(s) may wish to contact an advocacy or parent education organization for advice, information, or assistance prior to the meeting.
IEP MEETING ___1. The following participants must be at the meeting: a representative of the school system who is qualified to administer the provision of special education; the student's teacher; one or both of the student's parents; the student, if appropriate; and other individuals at the discretion of the parent or school system■for example, therapists from the school system or outside agencies. ___2. For a student who has been evaluated for the first time, a member of the evaluation team must also attend the meeting. The school system must also ensure that the school system representative, the teacher, or some other person who is knowledgeable about the evaluation procedures used and the evaluation results is present at the meeting. ___3. If the student does not attend the IEP meeting at which a transition plan is developed, the school system must take other steps to ensure that the student's preferences and interests are considered. ___4. If the representative of any other agencies invited to a meeting at which a transition plan is developed do not attend, the school system shall take other steps to obtain participation.
Suggestions Parents are members of the team. They should feel free to ask questions and participate in the discussion at the IEP meeting. The discussion should be based on cooperation and mutual concern for the student.
Parents should ask for an explanation of assessment results, unfamiliar terminology, and recommendations. It is helpful to proceed through each item on the IEP, addressing any areas of disagreement or concern on the parents' part. It may be helpful to look at each goal and objective and determine if it has been met, partially met, or not met. Going through this process will help identify goals and objectives that need to be changed and goals and objectives that should be carried over to the new IEP. The meeting participants should discuss the type, amount, and frequency of any related services the student requires. The meeting participants should discuss whether the student needs assistive technology devices and/or services to benefit from his/her education.
The meeting participants should discuss the amount of programming the student will receive in regular education and in nonacademic and extracurricular activities and services. As part of this discussion, the meeting participants also should discuss any supportive aids or services or any modifications necessary to enable the student to benefit from participation in regular education and activities.
The meeting participants should discuss whether the student needs extended school day or extended school year services.
IEP CONTENTS ___1. The IEP must be developed at the meeting. It is permissible for the school system to come to the meeting with a draft IEP, but the parent(s) must have the opportunity to participate in the development of the final IEP.
___2. The IEP must be developed before any placement decision is made.
___3. The IEP must include a statement of the student's current educational performance. a statement of annual goals including short-term instructional objectives; a statement of the specific special education and related services to be provided; the extent to which the student will be able to participate in regular educational programs; the projected dates when services will begin and how long they will last; and appropriate objective criteria and evaluation procedures and timetables for determining, at least annually, whether the short-term instructional objectives are being achieved.
___4. The IEP for each student, beginning at age 16 or younger, if appropriate, must include a transition plan comprised of: a statement of the needed transition services based on the individual student's needs, taking into account the student's preferences and interests; needed activities in the areas of instruction, community experiences, and if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation.
If the committee decides that some of these services are not necessary, the IEP must include a statement to that effect and the basis upon which the determination was made. If appropriate, a statement of each agency's responsibilities should be included on the IEP.
Note: If any other agency fails to provide agreed-upon transitional services contained in the IEP, the school system must initiate a meeting as soon as possible to identify alternative strategies. (This provision does not relieve the other agencies of responsibility to provide or pay for services.)
___5. The parents shall receive a copy of the IEP if they request a copy.
Suggestions The IEP should include all areas in which the student needs specially designed instruction.
The IEP should be designed to enable the student to attain knowledge and/or skills and should not be a repetition of subjects already mastered by the student.
The IEP should include any supportive services or aids or modifications necessary to enable the student to participate in regular education or nonacademic or extracurricular activities.
The IEP should include any assistive technology devices or services necessary to enable the student to benefit from his or her education.
The IEP should include extended school day or extended school year services if the committee determines that such services are appropriate.
The IEP should include any testing modifications that will be provided to the student.
The IEP should include the type, amount, and frequency of any related services the student requires.
The IEP should include the persons responsible for implementing each piece of the IEP.
The parent should always request a copy of the IEP.
___1. The IEP must be implemented as soon as possible following the IEP meeting.
___2. The student's placement must be based on the IEP and must be the least restrictive environment in which the IEP can be implemented. Unless the student's IEP requires some other arrangement, the student's placement must be in the school he or she would attend if not disabled.
Note: Federal and state special education laws include a number of procedural safeguards, one of which is the parent's right to challenge any aspect of a student's special education services or placement, including the school system's failure to implement the IEP.
*Jennifer Haber, a law student at the University of Maryland law School, was an intern at the Maryland Disability Law Center during the fall of 1994. Leslie Seid Margolis is a managing attorney at the Maryland Disability Law Center, Maryland's protection and advocacy agency.
REFLECTIONS OF A FIRST-TIME CANE USER
by Angelique Turner Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from the Spring, 1994, issue of the Buckeye Bulletin, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. Angelique (Angel) Turner received a 1993 National Federation of the Blind of Ohio Scholarship. She is also President of Ohio's Student Division.
I attended my very first Washington Seminar in February of this year. While there, I was asked to put my impressions of the event in writing. This seemed an easy request with which to comply. After all, I was experiencing a great many firsts. For example, I purchased my very first long white cane and began using it on the long trek from the hotel to Capitol Hill. Much to my surprise, however, when I sat down to write about my many new experiences, the words simply were not there. So many things had happened that I could not decide what to write about. But my writer's block was short-lived. It ended suddenly and dramatically with an incident that took place shortly after I returned from Washington.
During the weekend immediately following the seminar, I felt that some time for relaxation was definitely in order. Therefore, I got together with some friends to attend a student production of The Pines of Rome, and I decided to take my newly purchased NFB white cane along for the trip. Since I am a new cane user, this was not an easy decision to make, but my friends supported me in my endeavors to explore my blindness more fully and thought the cane was ■cool.■ However, as we started to leave my room, one young woman, who had evidently missed the whole point of the conversation leading up to the decision to take my cane, innocently commented,
■You're not going to carry that thing around with you, are you?■
I will omit the initial remark that popped into my head, for I did not say it to her. However, I feel certain that it was written all over my face. After a brief recovery, I innocently replied, ■Sure. Why not?■ And then with cane in hand and a smile painted brightly on my face, I walked out the door to enjoy the show.
That incident combined with others that had occurred during the Washington Seminar and on the trip home made me think more and more about the societal attitudes and stereotypes that many people in the blind community have incorporated into their own thinking. Many blind people with some residual sight hinder their well-being and progress by rejecting the alternative techniques of blindness because of the negative attitudes and stereotypes associated with being blind. For example, a person who fears that a cane makes him or her look blind is unlikely to use it. If one feels that Braille makes one look blind, one will not be eager to learn or use it. Our attitudes about blindness begin to take shape when we are very young. I can remember hating the coke-bottle glasses I owned when I was six because everyone called me ■four-eyes■ and ■blind bat,■ etc. I did not have blind adults to serve as role models for me. For that matter, there was no one to teach me that it was okay to be blind. In retrospect I remember how many kids came to school damning their parents because of the brace-face brand seared into their little egos. These were usually the kids that picked on the special ed kids and others like me. Perhaps it is well for all to recognize that every child gets called names along the way.
But many parents and professionals in the field of work with the blind keep the negative attitudes and damning stereotypes alive. We in the blind community know all too well the harmful effects of sight-saving classes with their emphasis on audio tapes and their discouragement of independent travel. Yet to many parents and professionals the fact that a blind child has to be taken to the bathroom or have her food brought to her or that she must cling to the corridor wall for direction is not particularly worrying, as long as she doesn't have to use a cane. It doesn't seem to matter that, even with large print a half inch from his nose, a bright college student can read only ten print words a minute or that he has to stay up all hours of the night reviewing five or six lecture tapes simply to prepare the notes for the course, let alone study for the exam he has the next day. And he thinks it is worth all of that not to look blind.
I am now struggling in college as a result of the so-called sight-saving class and attitudes I was subjected to when I was a child. I am still dealing with my blindness in all senses of the word, and, as a new state student chapter president, I find it difficult to give guidance to others when I am still searching for answers. While at the Washington Seminar, however, I received a great deal of support from other students and leaders in my Federation family to provide me with a gentle nudge or a swift kick to keep me going in the right direction. I sincerely hope that the students of today's NFB will aim more and more to set positive examples for the youth that are fighting society's stereotypes. I will certainly try.
FROM THE BOOKSHELF
CARE AND FEEDING OF THE LONG WHITE CANE: Instructions in Cane Travel for Blind People by Thomas Bickford (c) 1993 National Federation of the Blind, ISBN 0-9624122-7-9
Author Thomas Bickford's faith in the blind traveler to become independent■with or without the assistance of a good travel teacher■is demonstrated over and over in this sensible, down-to-earth, self-help guide. He draws extensively upon personal experiences (Mr. Bickford is himself blind and a former mobility teacher) to demon-strate to the reader that there is no special difficulty or mystery to traveling independently and safely with a white cane.
■To become an independent traveler,■ he tells the reader ■you must, and I believe you can, learn to take care of yourself. The best thing this booklet can do for you is to help you come to the time when you don't need it.■
Mr. Bickford begins with the basics■■Getting Yourself Ready,■ ■Getting the Cane Ready,■ ■Actually Walking Around■■and moves on up to more complex travel situations: ■Crossing Big, Busy Intersections,■ ■Subways, Escalators, and Elevators,■ ■Picnics, Hiking, and Rough Country.■ One segment near the end of the book is especially reassuring, ■No One Has to do Everything Perfectly.■
Although the book targets adults, parents of blind children will find the information extremely valuable. It answers many questions and addresses the fears parents typically have about independent travel.
PRICE: $2.00 large print $4.00 cassette tape $10.00 Braille One case of 48, large print: $20
Send check or money order payable to the National Federation of the Blind to Materials Center National Federation of the Blind 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, Maryland 21230
For more information call (410) 659-9314 EST 12:30 p.m.■5:00 p.m.
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND BLIND KIDS
by John Ross Reprinted from the March-April, 1991 issue of the Feeling Sports newsletter.
From the Editor: ■P.E. class is a joke.■ My sighted son's lament about his regular physical education class in high school is no comfort to me when I consider the sad state of physical education for blind kids in this country. Here's how sad it is: The staff at a summer program for middle-school blind kids have to reorganize their program when they realize that many of the kids can't walk a few city blocks without getting exhausted. These kids have no medical or physical conditions which should limit them; they're simply out of shape. A bright, talented teen-ager whose only physical limitation has been his blindness has never learned how to run. Throughout the years he has, with his parents' consent, been exempted from all strenuous P.E. activities. A blind youngster and her parents go to an amusement park. Her parents request a wheelchair for her at the park. Again, there is only the blindness, but the girl has no stamina and her parents have no patience. At home or in school her only physical activity is to walk from room to room or from the door to the bus or the car. The real irony of the situation, however, is that the amusement park was only a side trip to a Special Olympics event the youngster was attending.
` Why do these things still happen and what can we do about them? John Ross, the author of the following article, attacks these questions and offers up some strong opinions. I have never met John Ross and know nothing about him other than what you are about to read in the following article. Furthermore, I don't agree with all his opinions and conclusions. For example, I know many athletic blind people, including my son, who find no challenge in beeping baseball or in any beeping-ball sport; and laws already exist which protect the right of blind youngsters to participate in school or community-sponsored sports. It's not new laws we need, but a new understanding of blindness and more parents who are willing to follow the example of Mr. Ross's father.
Despite our divergent views on how to solve the problem, Mr. Ross and I share a common concern about the continued neglect of physical education opportunities for blind kids in our schools. What he has to say is thought-provoking and challenging.
I've been totally blind since age seven and know firsthand how the system and society deal with visually impaired people. I give high marks and ratings to a public system that provided me with an excellent education. I always had skilled teachers and up-to-date equipment to aid my learning process. They served me well enough that I went on to earn two college degrees.
Because of my teachers' skills, dedication, and efforts, I learned (and continue to extensively use) Braille. I also learned how to operate a typewriter and a computer. They taught me good study habits and the importance of competing equally in the business world. I shudder to think what my life might have been had it not been for those dedicated and wonderful people. I also shudder to think what my life might have been if I didn't have the kind of parents who wanted as much for me as my non-handicapped brothers and sisters.
I grew up in a sports-oriented environment. My father was a physical education teacher and my two brothers and two sisters where involved in different and various sports activities. I, too, wanted these same opportunities but it wasn't any easy path to follow. During gym classes, I had to stay out of the action because of ■potential dangers and injuries.■ If lucky, I could find another sidelined student and play a game of checkers. This made both my father and me furious. But, the accepted philosophy of educators and the school board was adamant: No gym activities for blind students.
However, my dad and brothers worked with me, and I learned gymnastic skills, did well in swimming, and performed even better in wrestling. Neighborhood rules were modified to allow me to participate in football, basketball, and baseball games. In high school, however, I was encouraged to substitute gym class requirements for study hours. And I was refused the opportunity to try out for any of the athletic teams. My dad fought this issue and won a minor victory. He had to sign a disclaimer absolving the school district of any liability in the event of an injury, and he had to get a special health insurance program for me. But this allowed me to letter in football, and I won the state high school wrestling tournament.
Local educators and physical education instructors ridiculed my dad for subjecting me to physical activities where I could suffer serious hurts and injuries. Thank God he was willing to take that risk. I had my share of injuries (which no one welcomes), but I also greatly benefited from the joys and lessons that are part of participating in athletics. The learned lessons, lasting friendships, memories, and pure joy of participating in organized athletic programs are rich with pluses and benefits. Because of my father, it was my good fortune to have access to these opportunities.
But, oh, I hurt to think of the many, many, blind youngsters who would love to have such opportunities but, because of circumstances, are denied. And, unless individuals and parents demand it, the doorways to unique athletic challenges and opportunities will continue to remain closed.
My college days ended over thirty years ago. Much of my professional life has been involved with promoting physical fitness and organized athletic programs for the visually impaired. Times have certainly changed. Progress over the last twenty years has been made. The options for blind people to engage in a wide variety of athletic pursuits continue to grow and multiply. But, sadly enough, this is not the case for our young blind kids.
Even schools for the blind drag their feet when it comes to making new opportunities available. They do sponsor regional, and some national, competitions in such sports as wrestling, bowling, swimming, track and field; some are getting into gymnastics and weight-lifting. But none of them have any real or progressive programs for beep-baseball, golf, or the newly-developed field of audio-darts.
The schools for the blind in Illinois and California do own audio dart machines. However, to the best of my knowledge, neither school has emphasized that activity (and it is the least likely to pose danger or injuries for participants.) Beep-baseball is the most interesting and challenging team sport available to the blind. Golf is a definite skill sport but, with proper equipment and training, many more blind adults and kids could be enjoying this activity. The younger they start, the more skilled and proficient they will become. Counselors, teachers, and school superintendents who work with the visually impaired fail to take necessary steps and actions that would make these opportunities available to their students.
Because of this yoke of hesitancy, parents are virtually unaware of what their children are missing. The bottom line is fear: fear that a child may be injured and the parents or guardians will initiate a costly lawsuit. State and federal legislators have to be pushed and made aware of this fact so that children with handicaps have the same opportunities to pursue and enjoy sport and leisure activities. The main push has to come from parents who demand that these shackles be removed. Parents have to band together to form clubs and organizations to face these issues and to pass laws that will insure that visually impaired children are no longer excluded from such an important aspect of life and learning.
A skinned elbow or bloody nose is a small price to pay for the opportunity to swing a bat and hit a pitched ball, and then, run like the devil to beat an ■out■ call. Or to throw a dart and score a bulls eye, or the sheer satisfaction of playing a game of golf with a sighted or unsighted opponent. Every school district in America should feel morally and legally obligated to make such opportunities readily available to their handicapped students.
The following article is also reprinted from the same issue of Feeling Sports newsletter: HINTS FOR PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND RECREATION TEACHERS by Dr. Jim Mastro
A good physical education or recreation program for visually impaired children can be easy if common sense is used by the educator. If teachers and recreation specialists use their creativity and treat visually impaired children the same as normal children, programs can be very beneficial.
The following are hints that may help your program succeed:
1. Preschool and elementary children should be taught that movement can be fun and beneficial (with some adaptations for safety). If you wait until these children reach twelve to fifteen years of age it may be too late for visually impaired children to learn to move with confidence.
2. A good physical education program can provide the prerequisite skills needed for further participation in sports; for example, strength and agility.
3. Choose familiar environments for physical activity or take time for orientation of the child to the surroundings.
4. Allow the child to explore the physical education area alone.
5. Remove obstacles that would interfere with free movements.
6. Use a radio or sounding device for cues in the gym and swimming pool.
7. An aerial guide line, contrasting colors, and textures can be used for boundaries and for running.
8. Use audible or brightly colored equipment (i.e. balls, balloons, scarves, and goal locators).
9. Accentuate auditory cues and verbal instructions.
10. Expand your verbal directions to children. For example, ■Go over there■ is inadequate. Where is there?
11. Provide verbal descriptions, manual manipulation, and Braille or large print instructions for guidance in activities as needed.
12. Maintain normal voice intensity.
13. Provide auditory starts and stops of activities.
These are a few hints that may help visually impaired children in your programs. Remember that visually impaired students are the same as sighted children in their physical education needs.
THE BRAILLE LITERACY CAMPAIGN:
YOU CAN HELP
FACT 1.■Braille is literacy!
Literacy: An individual's ability to read, write, and speak in English and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society; to achieve one's goals; and to develop one's knowledge and potential.
For blind and visually impaired
students, Braille IS literacy!
Tragically, however, for decades our schools have downgraded Braille to the level of just another information-gathering tool. This has led to a nationwide crisis.
FACT 2. ■Thousands of blind and visually impaired students are functionally illiterate.
These students cannot read, write, or compute independently and efficiently. Currently, there are about 50,204 elementary and secondary level students who have only 10 percent or less of normal vision. Of these, only 4,385 read Braille. The vast majority of the remaining students use print materials even when reading with sight is inefficient, inadequate, and a never-ending daily struggle.
FACT 3. ■Something MUST be done!
The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Federation of the Blind have been engaged in a nationwide Braille Literacy Campaign to eliminate illiteracy among blind and visually impaired children and youth. Last year, that campaign went national as we sought to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, that effort was put on hold when it became apparent that action on IDEA would not be taken until 1995.
By the time you receive this issue the Braille Literacy Campaign at the federal level will have shifted from the back burner to the front burner. Sometime this spring Congress must begin tackling the re-authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
This, then, is the ideal time to push to get strong Braille literacy provisions added to IDEA. It is the best opportunity we will have for many years to get strong language at the federal level which confirms the right of all blind children to basic Braille literacy skills.
FACT 4. ■You can help. Write a Letter!
Whom To Write:
a.) The two senators from your state (address: U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C., 20510);
b.) your member of congress in the House of Representatives (address: House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515);
c.) *Congressman Randy (Duke) Cunningham, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515; and *Senator Bill Frist, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510.
*Congressman Cunningham and Senator Frist chair the key committees to which IDEA will be assigned.
What To Say: Tell them how you feel about the importance of this issue. It does not need to be a complex or lengthy letter (in fact, a one-page letter is best). Just tell them who you are, why you are interested in Braille literacy, and specifically urge them to support the addition of strong Braille literacy provisions to IDEA. The letters may be the same, they can be hand-written or typed, and they must include your name and address.
Send A Copy: Take one more extra moment and send a copy of your letter to Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
For more information call Mrs. Cheadle at (410) 659-9314
RIDE LIKE THE WIND by Margie Watson
My five-year-old daughter, Katie, likes to ride her bike. That surprises most people, because Katie is blind. My husband or I walk about ten feet in front of Katie and tell her when to turn the corner, but otherwise she rides straight ahead on her own.
Last spring, we were getting our bikes out from the basement, (Wisconsin snow keeps us off of them in the winter), and Katie told us that she wanted to ride with us and not ride behind us while we walked. Our first thought was to look into purchasing a tandem bike. We learned that we could add on something called a stoker kit which would make the back seat the right size for a child. The problem with this idea was that it was expensive■about $1,000. Another problem with the tandem bike was that the back-seat rider would have to pedal at the pace of the front-seat rider. That would be difficult for a five-year-old child. Disappointed, we figured that we would have to forego family bike rides until Katie was big enough for a tandem bike.
Then we heard about a bike called the Allycat Shadow. It was designed for bike-riding enthusiasts who also happened to be parents. Essentially, it is a child-sized bike without a front tire. A bar extends up from the handlebars which is then attached to an adult's bike just below the seat. The Allycat Shadow would make our own bike into a detachable children's tandem. It was the right size for Katie (it holds children from ages four to ten up to eighty pounds), and the price was reasonable. We immediately ordered one.
We are thrilled with Katie's new bike. For us it means an affordable bike for Katie and that we can use the adult bike we already have. For Katie it means that she can pedal (or not pedal) at her own pace. And while riding with mom and dad, she is getting the feel of balancing and learning to turn, as well as riding much faster.
For any family that enjoys family bike rides, we highly recommend the Allycat Shadow. You can ask Katie how much fun she is having riding her new bike■that is, if you can catch her.
The photograph shows the Allycat Shadow attached to an adult bike, (you would use your own adult bike). For more information, or to order, contact
Allycat Shadow P.O. Box 1242 San Carlos, California 94070 (800) 700-ALLY (2559).
Members of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children will receive this special deal from Allycat: $159.95. (Dealer may ask for confirmation of membership.) This price includes: shipping costs, a child's helmet, a velcro-attached bike bag, and a water bottle. Again, it does not include the adult bike.
RECESS SMARTS by Ken Volonte
Editor's Note: Ken Volonte has been a member of the NFB Writer's Division since its inception. He lives and works in Stockton, California, as a marriage and family therapist.
It's amazing how vitalized a high school reunion can make you feel. You get to see people you don't care about any more and have nothing in common with, that you didn't have anything in common with even when you were in class. The reunion committee couldn't locate any of your friends; but luckily for me, I didn't have that problem because I was friends with everybody.
Apart from the fun of reminiscing, reunions can stir up old memories. That's what happened to me last Saturday night at my 25th reunion. After dinner, I was approached by Ronda Crell. I never much talked to her when we were in school. I think we only had one class together in four years, but we went back as far as kindergarten, so we talked for a good long time.
Since we had known each other for so long in school, we kept asking each other what we remembered. Our questions probed for specific feelings. This was different than nostalgia. We were trying to recreate our lives as children and superimpose an adult perspective on them. Our conversation was serious and intense, and I suddenly remembered with great detail how it was that I came to know the difference and meaning of my blindness■to really know it. As parents, we sometimes forget that it's easier to learn something from someone your own age.
When I was five, I had Miss Elsy in the afternoon for kindergarten. She always made sure that I was included in all of the activities. One day I brought a Braille book to school that was given to me by a lady from the Variety Club. She came to see me and talk to my mom about ways to teach me skills I would need in school. Anyway, Miss Elsy explained to the class that this book would be how I would read when I was a big boy in the first grade; and she read the story. Miss Elsy was always doing things like that, making sure that my classmates knew that I was going to learn just the same as they were.
One day it was time to test our ability to follow directions. We were all given books and told to do various things. ■Put an X on the baby,■ said Miss Elsy. Of course, I put an imaginary X on an imaginary baby. I followed all of the directions and felt like I was really hot stuff. ■That stinks.■ It was Bruce Odelson. I hated him. He was all the time bothering me.
At recess, Bruce started throwing sawdust at my eyes and calling me names. I ran as fast as I could to get away from him, but he just kept coming and throwing sawdust. Somebody took my hand, and we both ran. It was Francine Peticlere. She ran with me while Ronda yelled at Bruce.
When we were off by ourselves, Francine asked me if I knew why Bruce was picking on me. I said that I didn't. ■It's because you're blind.■ I knew that. Dr. Wesmith told me. ■Do you know what that means?■
■Sure I know. It means I'm blind.■
■Hold up some fingers.■ She said this slowly, like she was thinking out loud. ■Don't tell me how many.■
This was fun.
■You're holding up three fingers,■ said Francine. ■Now I'll hold up some fingers. Don't feel my hands.■ (My reaching for her hand was automatic.)
■You're holding up four fingers,■ I said.
■When you told me how many fingers I was holding up, did you guess or did you know?■ asked Francine.
I admitted that I had guessed.
■That's the difference. I knew.■
So there it was. Francine didn't say this out of meanness. That's just how it was. At first, I felt inferior. Then I got used to the idea and felt special. Now I'm back to feeling that my blindness is just how it is. It took a little girl to explain this to me, a friend with the heart and mind to care enough to explain a difference more real than grownups could face. Even Dr. Wesmith couldn't tell me about my blindness in a way that I could understand. And the experts■so long as I could do the tests and was happy■didn't have to think about my blindness and what it meant to me at all.
It's always important for kids to know why things are happening to them. Without my friend Francine's demonstration, I might have wondered for a long time, ■What's wrong with me?■
STOP, LISTEN, AND OBSERVE:
Your Blind Multiply Handicapped Child Is Trying To Tell You Something! by Linda Zani Thomas
Editor's Note: Linda Zani Thomas is a member of the New Jersey division of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, and the president of the Little Angel Health Network, a medical information service for parents. Linda also reports that she is the mother of five-and-one-half year-old Marisa, a happy, visually impaired, multiply handicapped child.
There probably isn't a parent around who doesn't pay attention to where his or her child falls on the development charts. For the parents of children with multiple handicaps, those charts can give you nightmares. And as your child begins to slip farther and farther behind other kids his age you begin to wonder: Which delays are due to blindness? Which may be signals of other problems? How can I help? Am I doing enough?
First of all, here is some good advice that has served me well:
1. If your child seems intelligent to you, you're probably right! No matter what the experts say, no one knows your child better than you.
2. A visual impairment alone is extremely challenging. Add on other handicaps such as cerebral palsy and cognitive dysfunction, and your child's got a real challenge on his hands. Relax. Delays are inevitable, but development will occur.
3. You can't pull a flower out of the ground. Like your child, a flower blooms when it's good and ready. All you can do is nurture it and surround it with the best possible environment for growth. The rest is up to him or her.
4. Accept the fact that your child may take a different path to development. The sooner you accept the challenges children face, the sooner you will be able to help them make the most of what they've got.
The first place to start is to objectively observe your child's daily routine. Start by keeping a diary of your child's typical day. Jot down the times and duration of all his activities. Write down your child's actions and reactions. What makes him happy? Sad? Curious?
Remember: Repetitive motions may not be random! Watch for the rhythm of movements and gestures.
Write down or record all sounds. Pay attention to their tone, melody, rhythm, and intonation. Remember, crying is the earliest form of communication. Be sure to listen for different types of cries, i.e. scared, hurt, bored, or angry.
Next, have a friend or other family member write down their observations for a whole day on their own, then compare notes. You'll be amazed at how purposeful your child's behavior really is!
CHOICES AND THEIR COSTS by Peter Grunwald
From the Editor: Some articles do not need any introduction or explanation. This is one of them.
In early 1952 my parents and their young daughter arrived in the United States from Germany. They settled in Chicago, and in September I was born. A few short months later, however, they got the bad news that I had a cancer in the retinas of both eyes, known as retinal blastoma. The doctors told them that the cancer was already too advanced in the left eye to warrant any treatment, and that eye was removed. But they did recommend that the right eye could be treated with radiation, and that some sight in that eye might be saved.
Obviously the choices my parents faced were wrenching, and my survival was hardly a sure bet. But they did elect to go ahead with the radiation treatment. I am sure that the doctors thought that there was a reasonable likelihood that the treatment would work, and saving the sight in even one eye seemed important to all concerned. Unfortunately, however, the treatment was unsuccessful and soon the right eye was removed as well.
Now came the daunting effort to raise a child and to learn whatever was to be learned about blindness. While (especially in the early years) my survival was still uncertain, my parents entered the task with uncommon determination.They became among the most educated and forward-thinking parents I have ever known regarding blindness. I was not at all a sheltered child. I got early cane training long before it was fashionable. I was encouraged to become physically and socially active. My parents also routinely took on the educational establishment to ensure a quality education for me. My mother became fluent in Braille, and she produced materials which would have otherwise been unavailable.
Somehow I managed to grow to adulthood. I found my niche in the work place as a piano technician, tuning, repairing, and rebuilding pianos. I have been active in community affairs and in the National Federation of the Blind and have been privileged to serve in leadership positions. For the past fourteen years I have been lucky enough to be married to a wonderful, strong, and caring woman. There have certainly been difficulties and tribulation, but I have had much of what is called the good life.
However, now the events of my infancy have come back to haunt me. However far from perfect our knowledge of cancer and its treatment is now, it was far more limited then. Radiation is used far more selectively now, and in much more controlled doses. Most importantly, there is much more understanding of the long-term ramifications of radiation treatment.
In August of 1992, I was diagnosed with a new and fast-growing cancer in the nasal and sinus area. This new cancer was almost certainly the result of the radiation treatment. At this writing, (May, 1993), I have received (and will continue to have) a number of chemotherapy treatments, and had an extremely major surgery. My future is still very much undermined.
I would guess that today, if my parents had it to do over again, they would not have gone ahead with the radiation treatment for me. Of course, they did not then have the experience of raising a blind child to a reasonably happy and successful adulthood, nor did they know successful blind adults. Saving my sight (even in one eye) seemed important, and they got the best medical advice available at the time. They then went on to become model parents. Yet the decision forty years ago to try to save some sight, however loving and well-intentioned, may yet cost me my life.
Obviously most decisions which a parent may face are not this dramatic, nor are the possible consequences. Yet each choice that a parent makes does have ramifications, whether that decision seems dramatic at the time or not. My wife Mary, for example, is blind with some remaining vision. Her mother, too, lacked knowledge and experience, and therefore went along with the recommendation of the schools that Mary learn print and not Braille. Mary is bright and inquisitive, a naturally good student. Yet she dropped out of high school because she could not keep up with the reading demands. She is now a successful businesswoman, but she must rely on others for much of her record-keeping and accounting. Her independence and available options have been seriously limited because of well-intentioned choices.
My plea to all is to become as well-informed about blindness as possible, and then spread your knowledge far and wide. My parents could not have become more medically advanced than the doctors. But if a true understanding of blindness, what it is and is not, had been more prevalent in our society, perhaps they would then have had a different perspective on the importance of the sight of one eye.
But today we all have available to us the great resource of the National Federation of the Blind through which we can soak up the knowledge and life experiences of tens of thousands of blind people and then disseminate that collective wisdom throughout society. In this way we can, for ourselves as well as others, avoid making mistaken choices for the next generation of blind children. Choices which, although made with love and the best of intentions, still may be harmful in their consequences. This is my fervent hope, and I invite all to join in this effort.
SERENA CAN WAIT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE HILL by Carol Castellano
From the Editor: Carol Castellano of New Jersey is one of the leaders of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. There is a connection between her correspondence of two years ago (reprinted below from the October, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor), the article about ■Choices■ by Peter Grunwald on page 32, and another article in this issue■■Possibilities,■ page 45■also by Carol. If I had to assign a moral■that is, a lesson■to be learned from these true tales, I think it would be this: Correct information about blindness can help parents make choices from which blind children will reap benefits■not suffer consequences.
Here is Carol's letter:
Madison, New Jersey June 2, 1992
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
Recently I received a phone call from the principal of my daughter's school. I was told that Serena, who is in first grade, would no longer be allowed to wait for me after school at the bottom of the hill with all the other children. She would now have to be picked up in the office. When I asked if something had happened, I was told, ■We're concerned for her safety.■ When I questioned why there was concern for her safety, the principal answered, ■Because she is blind.■
For two years, kindergarten and most of first grade, Serena had been waiting with no problem for me to pick her up. Putting this restrictive policy into effect in May of her second year in that school seemed ludicrous. When I informed the principal that there were laws against such discrimination, I was assured that school personnel were not discriminating against Serena; they were just concerned with her safety.
I spoke to Mrs. Maurer soon after the phone call from the principal, and it is at her suggestion that I am sending the enclosed letter I sent to the superintendent of schools in our school district.
Had it not been for my contact with the Federation over the years and my familiarity through the literature with NFB positions on issues (the airlines issue in particular), I would not have been able to formulate so persuasive an argument. I am happy to report that the superintendent decided in our favor ■in deference to the strong feelings set forth in [the] letter.■ Serena will continue to come down the hill and wait for me at the corner.
Can't wait 'til the National Federation of the Blind convention in Charlotte.
Carol Castellano Madison, New Jersey
May 22, 1992
To the Superintendent of Schools:
I am writing to explain our position on whether or not our daughter, Serena Cucco, can safely wait for me to pick her up at the bottom of the hill at Kings Road School.
Serena has good safety awareness. She knows about the school driveway, the street, the curb, and the traffic. She is aware of the crossing guard and what his job is. She comprehends the scene that is occurring as the children wait for their parents after school. Generally, she does not stand on the sidewalk to wait. The sixth grader who accompanies her down the hill usually stops on the blacktop path, several yards back from the corner. Serena stands in one place, alone or with other children or mothers, and waits calmly, patiently, and alertly, to hear my voice.
Unsafe behaviors do occur at the bottom of the hill outside Kings Road School. Children play tag wildly, sometimes stopping their running at the edge of the curb. Many children push and shove each other practically into the street. Several children are kept waiting for a long time before a parent comes to pick them up. Parents continue to ignore safety instructions and park their cars where the road narrows. As people parallel park along the street, the rears of their cars jut into the sidewalk where children are walking and playing. Parents continue to congregate at the corner, even though they have been requested not to. Serena, however, is engaged in none of these unsafe behaviors.
Has a separate policy been put in place to guard the safety of the children who play too wildly or push and shove at the corner? Is a special watch being kept over the children whose parents do not come for fifteen or twenty minutes? Or is Serena the only child for whom a separate policy has been formed?
We do not believe that our daughter is unsafe when she is standing at the bottom of the hill waiting for me. If we thought she were, we would be the first to request an accommodation. As we understand it, the issue of safety was brought up by a teacher who saw Serena waiting alone one day. This teacher was evidently unaware that there have been many days over the past two years that Serena has waited alone for me for several minutes and that I had explicitly told the sixth-grader that she did not need to wait with Serena until I arrived.
As usual, without any discussion with us, a policy was decided upon and I was issued an order: Serena would not be allowed to walk down the hill; I was to pick her up in the office from then on.
Those who decided on this plan did not consider the effect this separate treatment might have on Serena's confidence and self-image; they did not consider that this action would prevent her from ever learning the skill of walking down the hill independently, safely, and efficiently, and of course did not think that perhaps we, the parents, might have something relevant to contribute regarding the situation.
This safety concern is the product of someone's inaccurate perception, assumption, projection, or fear. It is not based on reality. Reality is that Serena has waited on that corner for almost two years entirely without incident. (The principal concedes that there has never been an incident or even near incident in which Serena was in any danger. The crossing guard, too, stated that there have been no problems with Serena's waiting at the bottom of the hill.)
The perception that a blind person cannot be safe because she is blind is typical of the way our society in general thinks about blindness. It shows a lack of understanding of the fact that blind adults lead independent lives and of the process of gaining skills that leads to that ultimate independence. My husband and I know blind adults who travel wherever they want to go independently; one of our acquaintances (totally blind, I believe since birth), in fact, travels the world as a member of the Foreign Service. Serena will never gain the skills for efficient, safe, independent travel if 1) she is not allowed to participate in activities such as walking down the hill and waiting alone, and 2) her confidence and self-image are undermined by custodial policies based on other people's inaccurate perceptions about blindness.
We wonder if, according to the person or people who decided that Serena can no longer wait safely alone, a magic age will come when suddenly she will be ready to wait alone. Will waiting alone somehow become safe? A child surely will not gain the skill she needs without the opportunity to practice. Independent mobility, like most things children learn, is a process. Serena is learning to cross streets, for example. This year she is crossing quiet streets alone; I do not need to walk beside her because she is well on her way to mastering the skills of knowing when she is in the middle of the street, walking purposefully, looking for the curb or cutout, and stepping up quickly and efficiently. I do not feel she has mastered listening to traffic on a busy corner, and we do not allow her to cross in traffic alone. It is a process, and as she gains skill we, her parents, will allow her increasing independence and responsibility.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act before it, were written to counter historical attitudes of custodialism that were based on false perceptions of what disability involves. There are things my daughter cannot do; but please do not keep her from doing something she can do perfectly well and with safety just because of someone's perception that she cannot be safe because she is blind.
The anti-discrimination laws do not allow exclusionary policies to be made on the basis of a person's disability. The ADA uses such language as ■No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity■ (Title II: Sec. 202). The ADA also ensures that ■nothing in this Act shall be construed to require an individual with a disability to accept an accommodation, aid, service, opportunity, or benefit which such individual chooses not to accept■ (Title V: Sec. 501 d).
We hope that the seeds of custodial attitudes will not be sown or nourished by policies decided upon by the Madison School District. We don't want Serena or those dealing with Serena to view her as dependent and not capable. We hope you will help us in our striving toward a self-sufficient, independent future for Serena.
WHY GO IT ALONE? by Margie Watson
Reprinted from the Fall, 1993, issue of the Wisconsin Chronicle, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin:
Several years ago my husband and I attended a seminar for parents of blind children sponsored by the NFB of Wisconsin. Federationists shared their insights and personal experiences, and the supportive environment of that seminar affected us very positively. In the years to follow, however, our family often went it alone: resolving issues and addressing concerns as best we could. Increasingly, we came to feel a great deal of frustration that we were wasting our time reinventing the wheel. At this time I renewed contact with Bonnie Peterson, President of the NFB of Wisconsin. After I expressed my feelings of frustration and aloneness to Bonnie, she strongly urged me to attend the 1993 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind to be held in Dallas, Texas.
When Bonnie learned that, because of limited finances, I would be attending the convention alone for only a few days, she arranged for financial assistance. This meant that our family was able to attend the convention for the entire week. My husband Marc and I were astounded at this unexpected generosity. We were very interested to learn why Bonnie felt the convention was so essential that she would commit limited resources to see that we all got there. The answer became evident soon after we arrived in Dallas.
Like many other parents we felt great pleasure and satisfaction at the warm welcome we received. Certainly Bonnie had meant for us to network so that we could help our four-year-old daughter Katie learn good Braille and cane skills. To be sure, she also wanted us to be alert to the harmful and commonly-held attitude that blind children cannot be expected to keep up with and compete with their sighted peers academically or socially. This information and the availability of the National Federation of the Blind as a resource empowered us and undeniably made the convention extremely valuable for us. But I do not think that this was the only reason, or even the most important reason, that Bonnie had wanted us to attend. There was something more that was happening■a kind of magic that is a part of the National Convention.
This magic has to do with the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. Throughout its literature the NFB repeats its conviction that it is respectable to be blind; that blindness is just one characteristic; and that when a person receives the proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance, enabling him or her to compete on equal terms with the sighted. As parents of a blind child, we said that we believed this philosophy, but I'm not sure whether we really did or whether we just desperately hoped that it was true. The convention changed that. At the convention we saw that these beliefs are undeniable realities.
There were well over two thousand Federationists in attendance at the National Convention. The sheer magnitude of this number made it impossible to stereotype people. Day after day for a week we observed confident, competent blind people successfully achieving their goals. This experience was invaluable in shaping our attitude toward blindness, and we now have no doubt that great things lie ahead for Katie because we now truly share the philosophy of the NFB.
The importance of an organization that promotes positive attitudes toward blindness became readily apparent at the banquet when the student scholarships were announced. The high aspirations of these students underscored the importance of the NFB. Federationists not only encourage students to dream big dreams; we also see to it that these dreams become realities by being successful role models, by promoting good attitudes toward blindness, and by providing financial support to demonstrate the confidence that students will attain these lofty goals.
In 1994 the NFB National Convention will be held in Detroit, and in 1995 it will be held in Chicago. This is a golden opportunity for families who live in the Midwest. When you attend a convention of the National Federation of the Blind, you can have no doubt that the NFB is changing what it means to be blind. Come and share in the magic. Being part of the NFB means that you and your child will never again have to go it alone.
BRAILLE, BLINDNESS, AND THE RIGHT TO TAKE RISKS
Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the April 29, 1990, issue of the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine.
by D.C. Denison
William Raeder, 54, is the managing director of the National Braille Press. We spoke in his office on St. Stephen Street in Boston.
Out of 500,000 legally blind people, only 80,000 read Braille. Why so few?
There are a number of reasons. One is that a large percentage of people become blind in their elder years and may not want to learn how to read again. It takes a lot of motivation. Another reason is that in our society, we don't believe that blind people have the same right to literacy as sighted people do.
Why do you say that?
When a sighted child goes to school, they are automatically put on a literacy track. Reading and writing are a key part of their early curricula. When a blind child goes to school, many of those schools assume that tape recorders can do the job.
What's wrong with tape recorders?
Well, suppose your child is entering first grade, and the teacher gets up and says, ■We have a wonderful announcement to make: We don't have to put your child through the rigors of learning how to read, because we've got everything on tape.■ You wouldn't be very happy. Why? Because there are some very important differences between reading and listening.
What are some of them?
Reading is a very active process: You're in contact, either with your eyes or your fingers, with something that's totally static. It's entirely within your own control, to move from word to word. This is particularly important with reference materials and nonfiction. Tape recordings work pretty well for fiction; you can just sort of sit back and enjoy it, like a movie. But for the materials that we need in order to conduct our lives■cookbooks, or computer manuals, or the Harvard Business Review■you don't just sit back and listen to them, you study. And that means that you want to go back to the last phrase, and so on. You just don't have that intimate control over a tape recorder.
You said that the teaching of Braille is also a privacy issue. Why?
Well, how do you have privacy over your financial matters when you have to have a bank statement read to you? Or how much privacy do you have when you have to ask someone to read you information about AIDS? A few years ago, when the government sent out AIDS literature, we sent out the same information in Braille. And many blind people were grateful. They never thought they would get the kind of material that would let them cut through that privacy barrier.
In the past, Braille publishers translated a lot of religious texts, didn't they?
Oh, yes. Braille has a number of abbreviations for words that occur frequently, and many of these abbreviations were established in the 19th century when Braille was developed. And if you look at the words that are abbreviated■■spirit,■ ■lord,■ ■behold■■it tells you something. By contrast, ■plow,■ ■horse,■ and ■tractor■ aren't contracted. So Braille was basically the Bible and a lot of religious writings. The attitude was: What does a blind person need? Well, they need solace.
What kinds of books are you publishing today?
Books that give blind people the information they need to carry out responsible functions in life. Right now we're raising money to put Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care into Braille. Sighted people rush out to buy that book because they need the information. So do blind people. And it's not available. We've also been publishing more computer books. If you go to a bookstore, you'll see shelves and shelves of computer books. How is the blind person supposed to get that information?
Are there any technical breakthroughs that you think are imminent?
Well, there is a device called a paperless Braille display that uses little metal or plastic pins that stick up through a plate and allow you to read a line of Braille. Then you touch a button, and it puts up the next line of Braille. The only problem is that it can only display 22 characters, which is a very small window to a page of information. So I think the next breakthrough would be a full-page display that wasn't too expensive. Once you get that, you could also use diagrams and maps. So that would be a great breakthrough.
What was the response when you started publishing Dr. Ruth Westheimer in the Braille Syndicated Columnists Weekly?
I suspect most people were in favor it, because Braille readers are accustomed to having a very small amount of material. The selection is very narrow. So even if someone is on the fence about Dr. Ruth, they are in favor of having something different in Braille.
I read that you also publish the Red Sox schedule every year.
Yes, but that's sort of a vestige of a bygone age. The Red Sox are into the entertainment business. And the idea was: Blind people need to be amused. So let's give them materials that will keep them amused. I once heard someone use the term ■companionative■ to describe the books and other materials designed to be simply companions for blind people■to help them while away the time, to make their lives a little less boring. That's from the age of pity and charity. I'm not being critical of the Red Sox, or religious literature, but we're trying to move beyond that, to the next stage.
What's the next stage?
Support and responsibility. That's the attitude that we're trying to encourage. We assume that the blind person is mature, intelligent, and responsible■equal in all three of those things to their sighted counterparts. We also assume that they're responsible for their own lives. We're talking about independence for blind people, and the right to take a risk.
What do you mean by the ■right to take a risk■?
I mean that in American society, risk-taking is something that we admire. Except if you're disabled. We admire risk-taking by our athletes and our entrepreneurs, but we say to our disabled: ■Don't take a risk. Be careful. Take charity. Take welfare.■ I'll give you an example. Just this morning I was attending a press conference on a dock in Charlestown. I had a portable cane, so I knew exactly where the edge of the dock was. But it was obviously a new experience for someone there to see a blind person functioning independently on a dock, because she literally put her arm around my back and informed me that she was going to prevent me from falling into the drink. My feeling was that I was responsible for myself, and if I wanted to risk falling in the water, that was my decision. I didn't want anyone to take that responsibility. It's a well-meaning prejudice, of course, but it's the kind of prejudice that prevents society from providing blind people with certain very important opportunities.
LITERACY BEGINS AT HOME Family Involvement in the Home Literacy Experiences for Children with Visual Impairments
Christopher J. Craig, Ed.D.
Editor's Note: Christopher Craig is a former NFB Scholarship winner.
As the father of three, I have had the opportunity and pleasure to see two of my children emerge into literacy. The term emergent literacy refers to a process which begins at birth and continues until children begin to read and write conventionally. That is, this process ends when children are able to gain meaning from words either in print or Braille and use these written words to communicate with moms, dads, siblings, friends, and teachers.
In recent years, professionals have become very interested in this process for children who are blind or have low vision. There is some research which suggests these children begin kindergarten with fewer concepts about written language than their peers with normal vision. However, until recently, there has been virtually no research on how this process might be similar or different for children with visual impairments or how the family or home literacy experiences for these children impact on literacy development. Thanks to the help of the National Federation of the Blind, there is now at least some information on which to build a program of research in this area.
In September of 1993, Barbara Cheadle and other members of the Parents of Blind Children assisted me in disseminating survey instruments developed, in part, by parents of children with visual impairments to families throughout the United States. Through the use of the toll-free number at the American Printing House for the Blind, parents were able to call if they had questions or needed help in completing the questionnaire. As a result of the efforts made by Mrs. Cheadle and other members of the parents organization, I was able to complete my doctoral dissertation and hopefully make a contribution to the professional literature on educating blind children. This article briefly summarizes some of the findings of this research and suggests some ways in which families can improve the home literacy experiences for children with visual impairments.
The survey instrument was designed to collect information on a variety of issues identified as important in the professional emergent literacy. Respondents were asked to indicate whether they believed their child would be primarily a print reader, primarily a Braille reader, or both a print and Braille reader. These groups formed the basis for comparison on issues such as reading aloud by adults and siblings and participation in reading and writing activities in the home. The extent to which learning to read and write is regarded as a priority in the homes of children with visual impairments and the expectations parents have toward their children's literacy development were also examined.
Reading aloud to children has been identified as one of the most important practices for fostering literacy development. While the results of this research indicate the children who comprised the print group were read to more frequently by adults in the home, all three groups were read to an average of three to four times a week. In addition, where there were siblings and other children living in the home, the children who comprised the print/Braille group were read to more frequently by siblings. However, the respondents who indicated that their children would be primarily print readers on average spent more time as a family reading and talking about books per week.
Another practice which is believed to impact on literacy development is making outings to places which help to build understanding for stories. Visiting a zoo, farm, shopping mall, and park are all examples of experiences which might be referenced in children's books. Children who comprised the print, Braille, and print/Braille groups were comparable on this item and made outings to these places an average of one to two times a week.
These groups were not, however, comparable in the frequency of using the library or bookmobile. The children who comprised the print and print/Braille groups used these resources more regularly than the Braille group. In fact, the results suggest that many of the children who comprised the Braille group had never visited a library. This finding is not surprising given the interviews I conducted with parents prior to the beginning of this study. Many parents whose children read Braille stated ■the library is simply not a place for my child.■
Independent Reading and Writing
Differences were found between the print and Braille groups in the amount and range of participation in reading and writing activities in the home. For example, 75.6 percent of the respondents who comprised the print group checked the item ■chooses books to read or to be read aloud.■ By contrast, 35 percent of the respondents from the Braille group checked this item. In addition, 65.6 percent of the print group checked the item ■asks questions or made comments about books during reading,■ compared to 52 percent of the Braille group. With regard to pointing to pictures during reading, 75.6 percent of the respondents who made up the print group checked this item. By contrast, 40.7 percent of the Braille group checked the item ■points to or examines pictures you can feel.■ Finally, 50 percent of the respondents who made up the print group checked the item ■retells stories or pretends to read using print.■ Only 41 percent of the Braille group indicated their children exhibited comparable behaviors using Braille.
Of course, these findings can be attributed in part to the differences in the amount of material available in the home in the chosen medium. While the majority of the respondents who comprised the Braille group indicated that they had been provided early literacy material in Braille such as touch books or shape books, only 33 percent indicated that they or someone else in the home read Braille. Thus, the children who comprised the Braille group had less access to material in Braille and fewer opportunities to observe others in the home reading Braille.
With respect to writing activities in the home, 72.2 percent of the respondents who comprised the print group indicated that their children scribble with pencils, magic markers, and paint brushes. By contrast, 27.6 percent of the Braille group checked the item ■scribbles in Braille using Braille writer or slate and stylus (just makes dots).■ In addition, 17.8 percent of the print group checked the item ■tells stories for others to write down in print.■
Only 12 percent of the respondents who made up the Braille group indicated their children engaged in comparable behaviors using Braille. Finally, 44.4 percent of the print group checked the item ■copies letters or words in print,■ compared to 15.4 percent of the Braille group who have comparable behaviors using Braille.
Priorities and Expectations
Among the respondents who indicated that their children had no additional disability such as a speech impairment or mental retardation, learning to read and write was ranked as the highest goal for their children, followed by learning self-help skills and communicating effectively. By contrast, the respondents who indicated their children had one or more additional disabilities ranked learning self-help skills as the highest goal, followed by communicating effectively and learning to read and write. Only half of the respondents who have children with additional disabilities indicated their children would some day learn to read and write efficiently.
1. The family and home is a key component in the literacy development of young children with visual impairments who will use print and those who will use Braille. While it may be next to impossible to provide your child access to the same amount of material in Braille that is readily available in print, try to target a few places in the home and times during the daily routine to increase your child's exposure to either print or Braille. For example, designate an area in your house as a reading center or corner. Be sure there is a variety of material available in either print or Braille which is physically accessible. That is, the child can easily pull books off the shelf or obtain them with little effort. If a sibling generally begins the day by mindlessly eating a bowl of Captain Crunch with his or her nose three inches away from the box, make this a regular literacy event for your child with the visual impairment. Label the box with Braille or encourage the child with low vision to examine the box with an optical device. Describe in detail what the box looks like, or have the sibling read aloud the printed material.
2. Encourage ■pretend■ reading and writing. Whenever you perform mundane tasks, such as paying the bills or reading something for school or work, involve your child. Have him or her pretend to do these tasks as well. If your child will be a Braille reader, encourage scribbling using the Braille writer or slate and stylus. Make over what your child produces in relation to what you are doing.
3. As part of the ■On the Way to Literacy Project,■ APH has adapted several classic children's books with tactual representations of visual concepts. These materials, as well as other children's books which have been adapted tactually, can be used to form the basis of a shared reading experience for you and your child. Encourage your child to point to pictures and examine them visually and/or tactually. When possible, maintain a high standard for your child's comprehension and involvement in stories you read aloud.
4. Explore ways in which your child's early intervention program or school can serve as a resource to you in your efforts to promote home literacy experiences. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) specifies the responsibility of school districts in providing assistive technology to students in special programs in order to insure a free appropriate public education. The IEP team can make determinations concerning the need for providing equipment and material for use in the home.
5. Finally, if you believe your child will be a Braille reader, by all means learn to read Braille. Grade I Braille can be learned quickly and can be a fun activity for you and your family. Involving the family in the learning of Braille or in the use of optical devices creates opportunities for your child to learn that reading and writing serves a functional or meaningful purpose in your home and that your family values literacy in either print or Braille.
PRINT OR BRAILLE? I USE BOTH! by Charles Brown
Editor's Note: Yes, there really is a Charlie Brown. He has practiced law for almost twenty-five years and currently serves as assistant general counsel for the National Science Foundation. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and the Federation's Virginia state president. Charlie is married and the father of two sons, ages twenty and sixteen.
As a leader in the National Federation of the Blind, I am an enthusiastic participant in our Braille literacy campaign. I know how important Braille is to me, even though I have a good deal of usable vision. ■Low vision■ blind kids are primary victims in today's crisis in Braille literacy.
Yes, Braille is important to me, but I also use print. I use it a lot.
Even totally blind folks need to know print. Print is all around us■raised letters and numbers are on everything from kids' blocks to restroom doors. Our language assumes a knowledge of the print alphabet. Like sighted folks, blind folks need to know what a T intersection is, or an S curve, or a U turn. Blind folks need to know why O is used synonymously with the number 0 (in Braille zero corresponds with the letter j). How does Zoro make the ■mark of the Z■ on the chest of his victims?
My totally blind friends routinely sign their names, make out checks, and type letters to their friends. I strongly believe that the schools must teach blind kids to read, write, and touch-type (keyboard) print. Print is part of living in the world even if you never see a word of it.
Many blind people, like me, can see print. Does knowing Braille mean I should ignore what I can see? Nonsense! My office is full of print, and I use it everyday.
I've always been able to read ordinary sized print with decent lighting, provided I held it right up to my face. If I were in school today, there would be a good chance that I would not be taught Braille. My print skills would probably be judged as ■good enough.■ But, thankfully, when I was starting school in the fifties, my parents and the others responsible for my education realized that I could not read print fast enough or long enough (comfortably) to compete as a true equal with sighted folks my age. So I also learned Braille; and I competed pretty well in school. I did well enough to get through Harvard College and the Northwestern University Law School■using mostly Braille, tape recordings, readers, and my typing skills.
Just after I graduated from law school, the closed circuit television (CCTV) was invented. I got one of the first models and have used CCTVs in my career as a lawyer ever since. With a CCTV, I can read print faster, longer, and more comfortably than I could before the CCTVs came along.
I use the CCTV in my office to read all the papers and files that come across my desk, to read cases and articles in books and periodicals sitting in my bookcases, or form items checked out from the law library. I also use the CCTV to fill in forms and prepare hand-written notes.
As so many other working Americans do these days, I constantly use a computer. Some blind folks use speech output devices to gain computer access, but I use screen enlargement software. I use my computer to write legal opinions and memoranda. I use it to handle my electronic mail and for so much more. When it became time for me to become computer literate, I had a real leg-up on most of my sighted colleagues. I was already an excellent touch-typist.
A number of screen-enlargement software packages are on the market, and they are mostly pretty inexpensive. Many members of the NFB use screen enlargement programs. One of the great fringe benefits of being a Federationist is the ability to check out each other's packages and exchange demos. We talk about color contrasts, letter shapes, cursors, Windows compatibility, etc. I need to know what's out there in order to know what will work for me. It's almost as if no two ■partials■ see alike. What works fine for me may be frustrating or even useless to someone else.
When I leave my office, Braille looms larger in my briefcase and in my life. I use a Braille slate to take notes at meetings. It is one of the fastest, least disruptive, and most efficient note-taking devices I know■at least for me. I like to get periodicals in Braille because, unlike print, I can read Braille rapidly and comfortably anywhere; on the bus, for instance.
I still use recorded materials, too. For example, I get the American Bar Association Journal on tape (produced by the National Association of Blind Lawyers, a Division of the NFB).
Like most lawyers, I must often make prepared oral presentations. For one thing, each year I teach about thirty seminars on the Government ethics rules to employees of my agency. I design the lesson plans, write the case studies and other hand-outs, and conduct the classes. The participants get the materials in print, but I Braille all of my materials, outlines, quotations, slides, etc. This way I can have these items literally at my fingertips. I cannot credibly do the essential teaching part of my current job in print. I'd hate to think of trying to teach hiding behind a CCTV, or holding papers up in front of my face. Eye contact and rapport count so much in effective and convincing teaching. That's why I use Braille.
I use Braille outlines for my speeches (including any quotations I'll be using). Braille is also my primary medium for meeting agendas when I am chairing. I cannot afford to let a struggle with print get in the way and distract from my messages.
Sometimes I need to make a very formal address, and I write it out completely in Braille. This way I can concentrate on my delivery, without worrying about phrasing. I can focus on voice modulation, gestures, and eye movements. Remember, lawyers are supposed to be convincing.
As a lawyer, church leader, and civic activist, I use Braille when it is the best medium, and I use print when it works best.
It all seems so obvious and second-nature to me that I am shocked when some so-called experts talk so loosely about the ■choice■ between print and Braille. Did learning Braille impair my ability to learn and use print? Not at all! Some people even say that learning print and Braille is comparable to learning two languages. No way! It's all English. I can fully attest■as I recall my struggles with four years of high school French■that learning both Braille and print is nothing at all like learning two languages.
Parents often come to me looking for advice about the education of their children. The advice I give is basically pretty simple. Their children need, I tell them, to find alternative techniques for reading, mobility, and the like. These techniques need to be, on the whole, as effective as those used by sighted peers■assuming they want their kids to be prepared to compete on terms of equality. Braille and print are just two parts of the total mix.
Print or Braille? It's a silly question not worth asking, as far as I am concerned. Most blind kids need to learn both.
POSSIBILITIES by Carol Castellano
It took my daughter Serena a long time to decide just what she wanted to be when she grew up. Whereas my son was only four when he decided that he would be a dinosaur scientist, it wasn't until she was seven that Serena realized that her destiny in life was to be a folksinger. Happily she played the chords to her favorite song, ■Michael Row the Boat Ashore,■ on my guitar.
Then came the Presidential campaign of 1992. Serena was eight. She sat rapt before the television listening intently to the speeches of both parties. After the summer's two national conventions, she realized that it wasn't a folksinger that she wanted to be after all■it was a folksinging Senator. By late fall, having heard all three Presidential debates, Serena was going to be President.
Her barrage of questions about how she could learn to be President and conversations about what politicians do kept up for so long that my husband and I were convinced she really might go into politics when she was older.
In the late spring of this year, Serena went out with her father to pick early snow peas from the garden. Coming inside with her basket of peas, she told me she was very interested in gardening. ■That's wonderful,■ I replied. ■You'll be a big help to Daddy.■
Overnight Serena's interest must really have taken root, because the next day she asked me if I thought the gardens at the White House were too big for the President to tend, since the President is such a busy person. ■Yes,■ I replied. ■I'm sure there's a staff of people who take care of the White House gardens.■ ■Well then, I won't be a gardening President,■ she told me. ■I'll just be a gardener.■
The desire to be a gardener was still but a tender shoot when Serena took a piano lesson■just a few weeks after picking those peas■and realized it was a pianist she wanted to be!
Serena is at such a wonderful stage of life! Interested in everything, trying everything out, she sees the world as her plum, ripe for the picking. She believes in herself, as we believe in her. And since what people believe largely determines what they do, it is critically important for parents of blind children (and other adults in the child's life) to have positive beliefs about blindness and what blind people can do.
If we are told (in a journal article or by a teacher of the blind, say) that blind children usually do not or cannot learn how to do a certain task, and if we come to believe this, chances are we will not give our child the experience or opportunity anyone would need in order to do this task. And chances are the child won't learn to do it. Imagine, though, if we■and our blind children■were never told that blind people couldn't accomplish a certain thing. Imagine what the results might be if everyone believed that blind people could do anything they wanted to! Well, I believe this■and attending NFB National Conventions has solidified this belief for me.* It is this belief which guides the way I bring up my daughter.
Sometimes in the literature I read the phrase ■accepting the child's blindness.■ That word acceptance always causes me concern; what different people mean by acceptance can be entirely opposite things. To some, ■accepting the child's blindness■ means accepting■or coming to believe■that because the child is blind, there will be limits to what the child can do, limits to what he or she can understand, limits to what he or she can learn. (They often refer to these beliefs as ■being realistic.■) It is easy to see what the effects of that kind of thinking will be.
When I consider the term ■accepting the child's blindness,■ I think about accepting that the child is blind, learning and coming to believe that blindness need not stop the child from achieving what he or she wishes, and allowing, indeed insisting, that the child learn the alternative techniques of blindness that will enable him or her to achieve the desired results!
Find a way, parents. Keep all the doors open. Glory in the exhilarating feeling of watching a child look toward the future and see only possibilities.
*Post Script: At National Conventions of the National Federation of the Blind there are opportunities to meet blind people from many walks of life. My husband and I know personally or have heard speak a blind high school teacher, college professor, mathematician, scientist, car body mechanic, industrial arts teacher, Foreign Service officer, engineer, a high-performance engine builder, and a man who has sailed solo in races from San Francisco to Hawaii. Attendance at National Conventions has enabled us to see firsthand that blindness does not have to stop people from achieving what they want to achieve. This knowledge gets passed along to our daughter and, equally as important, to the teachers and other professionals who work with her. Go to a National Convention! It might turn out to be the most important thing you do for your blind child's future.
JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE BLIND
by Lorraine Rovig, Director, JOB
Do you need more input on how to succeed at a job search? When you think about your job prospects, do you crave some positive recharging of your emotional battery? Do you wish someone who knows that BLIND PERSONS DO REGULAR JOBS would put on a job seminar and do it for FREE? Okay, we will.■
JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE BLIND will hold its FREE
1995 NATIONAL JOB SEMINAR
July 1, 1995 * Saturday * 1 - 4 p.m.
Chicago Hilton And Towers
This year, JOB is paying special attention to the growing profession of customer service representative. Some such jobs pay $5 per hour and some start at $11 per hour plus benefits. Speakers from top training centers for blind adults along with employed blind persons will share their tips for success in this growth industry of the `90's.
That's not all. In its fast-moving three-hour program, JOB will pack in blind speakers from many different lines of work. Check out their tips for success. One agenda item features NFB chapter members in a single chapter who, in just two months, have helped SIX fellow members to find decent work!
Come, meet your kind of people■folks who know how to get things done. Ask questions of those who have been where you are and succeeded. Network! Build up your personal think tank rolodex. You'll meet good people to call on for help when you are back home and get stuck. Bring copies of your resume. Keep your notebook handy. Pick up valuable JOB publications at the seminar and on the JOB table in the exhibit hall. Job seeker, professional job developer, or employer■this seminar will help.
Are you a legally blind resident of the United States and looking for work? Then you are eligible for a FREE subscription to the only taped job magazine in the country, the JOB RECORDED BULLETIN. To get started, call JOB at (800) 638-7518 (8 a.m. - 5 p.m. EST) and ask for a JOB Sample Pack. This package includes a copy of last year's national JOB seminar, a copy of the latest bulletin (both on 2-track cassette), a JOB Application Form, a JOB Publication Order Form, and a one-page explanation of the program. Look and listen; borrow any ideas you hear from other blind Americans that will fit your job search. We share what works. (Counselors■you are eligible for a sample package, too. Please call or write on your agency's letterhead.)
JOB NETWORKING BREAKFASTS
In addition to its annual FREE seminar, JOB offers exciting NETWORKING BREAKFASTS during NFB Convention Week (July 1 - 7). Each breakfast is BYOB (Buy Your Own Breakfast), begins in the hotel coffee shop at 7 a.m., and offers a friendly gathering of like-minded people. Job seekers, job developers, employers, parents, and others who want to ■talk jobs■ are welcome. JOB breakfast coordinators take reservations, help keep the conversation on topic, and help everyone get a chance to speak. For information about how you may reserve a seat at any networking breakfast, call JOB (800) 638-7518).
The following reports are from three of our newest parent division affiliates of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. For more information about the NOPBC and the nearest state or regional chapter to you, contact:
Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, President National Organization of Parents of Blind Children 1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230 (410) 747-3472.
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
Goals and Objectives
1. To create a climate of opportunity for blind children in home and society.
2. To provide information and support to parents of blind children.
3. To facilitate the sharing of experiences and concerns among parents of blind children.
4. To develop and expand resources available to parents and their children.
5. To help parents of blind children gain perspective through partnership and contact with blind adults.
6. To function as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind in its ongoing effort to eliminate discrimination and prejudice against the blind and to achieve for the blind security, equality, and opportunity.
REPORT FROM NEBRASKA by Joe Larson, President Nebraska Parents of Blind Children
Two Nebraska families, Joe and Gail Larson and Mark and Carol Smith, met for the first time when the NFB Convention convened last July in Detroit, Michigan. Both couples are parents of blind children. Angela Larson is fourteen years old, and Eric Smith is two years old. After attending the parents seminar, the Smiths and Larsons were convinced that Nebraska needed an NFB parents division, too. We wanted to bring all the advantages of an NFB parents group to our state■the positive philosophy, the networking with parents, the competent blind role models, the political savvy of the NFB, the information, the parent-to-parent support system, and the commitment to creating better opportunities for our blind kids.
After the convention, we lost no time organizing our parent chapter. On August 21, 1994, our chapter came into being at an organizing meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Joe Larson was elected President; Carol Smith, First Vice President; and Kim Becker, Secretary/Treasurer. The first order of business was a fund raiser. Joe had successfully organized charity golf tournaments for other organizations and offered to do one for the newly-formed Nebraska Parents of Blind Children. The date was set for September 17, 1994. With the help of two local radio stations in Omaha, advertising spots were donated for the tournament. In a six-week period we recruited eighty golfers to play in the tournament. All golfers received a T-shirt with the NFB logo on it and other prizes. The first-, second-, and third-place teams received trophies. Plans are already underway for the second annual golf tournament, and the radio stations are eager to help again!
We have wasted no time helping blind children in Nebraska with the money we have raised. At the annual White Cane Banquet on November 5, sponsored by the Omaha chapter of the NFB, we presented a Braille writer to a program that has thirteen blind children and is in desperate need of equipment.
Through all our activities such as the golf tournament, which was as much a public-education effort as it was a fund raiser, we expect to have a positive impact on all blind children and their parents across the entire state.
REPORT FROM WEST VIRGINIA by Keri Stockton, President Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of West Virginia
Three cheers for the new West Virginia parents division! Although we are small, we have been quite active since we organized in August, 1994, at our NFB state convention. Along with Nicolas (my son who is blind) I have contacted parents, schools, and vision teachers to let them know about our parents group and our Children's Cane Bank. Nicholas and I have made several presentations about blindness and blind children to groups such as the Head Start teachers from a ten-county area. We also plan to participate in a special Children's Day at the legislature this year.
We are especially proud of our Children's White Cane Bank, which was up and ready for business the day we organized. The bank provides free white canes to blind children of all ages in West Virginia. Nicolas started raising funds for the bank months ago. He got a special piggy-bank for the White Cane Bank. Soon, others learned about his bank and began making contributions. Then he took it with him to the NFB Convention in Detroit. By that time the pig was so fat he had to push it around in a doll-stroller. Thanks to everyone who helped him, he raised enough to get the cane bank started. We hope with this bank to help all blind children in West Virginia to get the tool that will enable them to move and walk easily, as free of the fear of falling as Nicolas.
I guess everyone comes to the NFB by a different path, and it was a fall that brought Nicolas and me to learn a better way. Nicolas was not yet two years old when he learned how to descend the stairs standing up. But one day he missed a step and fell. Down he came, thump, thump, thump■screaming at each smack of his face on the uncarpeted tread. When he reached the bottom, he cried for a long time. He was so small and so upset; I held him for about an hour. When he could talk again, he said, ■Those stairs, those bad stairs!■ It was clear he was in pain. He said, ■My head was just like a drum; Bum, Bum, Bum.■ At that point, I cried.
I swore to him that day that if there was any way to help him walk safely up and down stairs, and to help him not trip over things he couldn't see on the floor, I would find it. I called the NFB that day and spoke to Barbara Cheadle and learned about children's canes. To make a long story short, Nicolas got one, and he was the youngest child in West Virginia to use a cane. He has enjoyed discovering his world in ways I've treasured watching. He pulls a child-size shopping cart at the store, hikes, and camps■all with his cane doing what he calls, ■Tap-taps■ out in front.
What about the piggy? Well, it is collecting pennies (and nickels and dimes and dollars) again, and who knows how many it will collect this year. Penny by penny, and one member at a time, both the piggy and the West Virginia Parents of Blind Children will keep growing and providing new opportunities for the blind children of West Virginia.
R REPORT FROM WISCONSIN by Margie Watson, President Parents of Blind Children of the NFB of Wisconsin
The Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of Wisconsin was formed in August, 1994. Margie Watson and her husband Marc (who is Vice President) are parents of three children, the oldest of whom is blind. Jodie Cowle, Secretary, is a long-time blind member and leader of the NFB in our state. Diana Reinhardt, board member, has a son who is blind. These leaders bring many talents and experience to our new parents division.
Our first events occurred during the NFB of Wisconsin Annual Convention in October. On Friday night, parents gathered to discuss cane travel issues and to view the ■Kids with Canes■ video. On Saturday, the Parents Division invited Mrs. Mary Ann Damm, President of the Volunteer Braillists and Tapists, Inc. of Madison, to speak about the services the group offers. She described the monthly library hour for blind children, a Braille library for children and adults, and the annual holiday Braille book sale. Parents and NFB members alike were excited to see all of the Braille children's books on display.
In November, our new cane bank presented 18-month-old Ziggy Reinhardt with his first cane. In the coming weeks parents will be gathering to write letters to government officials to gain their support in obtaining Braille literacy provisions in the revision of IDEA. We are also organizing a spring fund raiser to offer financial aid to families attending the 1995 NFB Convention in Chicago. Our parents division is off to a strong start.
REPORT FROM WASHINGTON by Barbara Freeman, President Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of Washington
Mrs. Barbara Freeman gave the following report on October 15, 1994, at the annual luncheon meeting of the POBC of Washington:
It has been a year since the blind children and parents of this division formally joined the Federation family. Everyone here should be proud of what we have accomplished. We have made great strides both in educating ourselves and the community about blindness and in supporting each other in our efforts to provide all of our blind children■the gifted, the developmentally threatened, and the multiply handicapped■with the best possible opportunities to reach their highest potential.
The adults of the affiliate have given every help in our efforts to form a strong, vital organization. They have generously provided funding. Individual members have given time and attention to any child who needed a mentor, tutor, or advocate.
We put on a successful parents seminar in March for twenty families. Our parent division national president, Barbara Cheadle, attended. Our student division put on a teen-age seminar at the same time. The teen-agers used public transportation, cooked pizza, and discussed the cost of special privilege.
For the first time, State Services for the Blind hired someone recommended and endorsed by the Federation affiliate to teach their preschool conference. Joe Cutter, a pediatric orientation and mobility specialist from New Jersey, put on an unusually positive seminar on teaching mobility skills to preschoolers. Joe's workshop was the best-attended preschool conference ever sponsored by State Services for the Blind. Record numbers of parents and mobility instructors from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia, Canada, attended. We touched the lives of hundreds of blind children with that one seminar.
We held a family picnic in August that introduced more new parents to our movement and gave us all a chance to talk with one another and to admire each other's children.
Most importantly, we have all grown more comfortable with blindness, and we have advocated for our children. Every parent here has already gone out of his or her own way to come here to learn how to help his or her child. Our children can't wait for society to come around and provide opportunities for them. We, the parents, must see to it that we create those opportunities.
Debbie Day sought out and obtained a private grant to take her son Tim to our National Convention in Detroit, Michigan, this summer. Carol Linhart took her whole family to the Detroit Convention. Barbara Weller arranged for summer tutoring for her son Steward and also organized our summer picnic. Ivy and Frank Jen successfully advocated with their school district to continue their son's placement in an integrated preschool. Melanie Savage has convinced her school district to provide her multiply handicapped daughter with physical and occupational therapy and pre-Braille skills. (The school system had wanted to ■warehouse■ her at the age of seven.) Jim and Barbara Call are in the process of negotiating Braille instruction for their daughter Terra, who is losing her sight. Denise Mackenstadt taught cane travel to a little girl from Russia this spring. The girl, who was sponsored by Save the Children, went blind while here and had but a short time before she returned to Russia.
Many others have also been creating opportunities for their children. It is this will to provide the best for our children that binds us together as a community and overrides differences of religion and social class. This will to provide the best for Washington's blind children also joins us in fraternity with the adult blind members of this affiliate and the National Federation of the Blind. Together we can provide all of our children with hope, pride, and opportunity.
We have been asked to print the following announcement:
Camp Tuhsmeheta is located on 297 acres of oak/maple forests on the Morgan Mills chain of lakes. As a camp it is our philosophy that all blind children deserve the opportunity to be successful in the out-of-doors. They should have the chance to meet other blind children, make new friends, learn new skills, and grow in self-confidence. To this end we offer a week-long session for elementary school age campers, a two-week session for junior high campers, and a two-week adventure canoe trip in northern Michigan for senior high campers. We also have week-long sessions for families and deaf-blind or multiply impaired children and adults. The registration fee is $25 and the cost per week is $175. We do try to locate local service clubs to pick up the $175 costs. For further information about the 1995 camp season contact Robert Burnett, Executive Director, Camp Tuhsmeheta, P.O. Box 128, Indian River, Michigan 49749; (616) 238-7003.
National Conference for Active Learning
The following announcement comes from the Blind Children's Fund:
Turning Latent Potential into Dynamic Ability for Infant, Preschool, and Multi-impaired Blind and Visually Impaired Children, June 19 - 23, 1995, Novi, Michigan, sponsored by the Blind Children's Fund and the Penrickton Center for Blind Children, featuring Lilli Nielsen, Ph.D. of Denmark.
This Conference is designed to provide parents, teachers, related professionals, and students with a foundation in Dr. Nielsen's Active Learning Approach theory, but with emphasis on actual practice, techniques, and hands-on demonstrations. Participants will have the opportunity to learn firsthand about the innovative and unique growth environments, such as ■The Little Room,■ ■The Resonance Board,■ ■The Bench,■ and other equipment created by Dr. Nielsen. Dr. Nielsen has presented her Active Learning Philosophy in conferences throughout Europe, Australia, South America, Africa, and the United States. For registration information contact Blind Children's Fund, 2875 Northwind Drive, Suite 211, East Lansing, Michigan 48823-5040; (517) 333-1725. A discount is available for those who register prior to May 1, 1995.
Book for Children and Parents about Sex and Growing Up
The National Braille Press has asked that we print the following announcement about the availability of the book, Asking Questions about Sex and Growing Up, by Joanna Cole:
This unique book uses a question-and-answer format to offer straightforward information on subjects that often concern and mystify young people: how girls' and boys' bodies differ and how their bodies change during adolescence, what happens during masturbation and sexual intercourse; preventing pregnancy, sex abuse, and sexually-transmitted diseases. In a clear, easy-to-understand text, a noted author of books for children provides a reassuring blend of facts and practical guidance written for the audience that needs it most. When kids learn about sex from adults they trust, they learn values along with facts. Ages 8 and up. Two small volumes in Braille, $4.95; and one volume in print (w/postage), $7.25. Prepay to: National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115. (617) 266-6160.
Utah Student Division Formed
From Insight, the newsletter of the Salt Lake chapter of the NFB of Utah:
The National Federation of the Blind of Utah announces the reorganization of its student division, the Utah Association of Blind Students (UABS). Thirty-one people attended a back-to-school party sponsored by UABS on September 24, 1994. Members of UABS met Ollie Cantos, President of the National Association of Blind Students, and enjoyed goal ball, swimming, food, and dancing. The students also elected new officers and established goals for the upcoming year. Congratulations to the new officers of UABS: Nick Schmitroth, President; Anitra Webber, Vice President; Marne West, Secretary; Anna Wilkinson, Treasurer; Dan Cameron and Sylvia Schultz, Board Members.