Future Reflections        Summer 2012

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Braille ...  I Like It!

by Penny Duffy

Abby Duffy reading in the shade.From the Editor: Parents sometimes share powerful stories on the Blindkid listserv, sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Recently Penny Duffy wrote about an incident in the life of her daughter, Abby. She developed her post into an article for Future Reflections.

My eight-year-old daughter, Abby, became blind about two years ago. She started first grade as a sighted child who might need glasses. Before Thanksgiving we realized that she was blind. Her vision loss was so severe that she couldn't tell if there was print on the page, much less read it.

At the time, I knew nothing about Braille. Fortunately, Abby has a wonderful teacher who recognized that she needed Braille from the very start. This teacher is giving her something invaluable--true literacy.

Abby didn't yet know how to read when she started first grade. After losing her sight, she had to grasp the concept of reading, learn Braille, and adjust to being blind, all at the same time. Abby often got angry. She became upset that her friends didn't have to work as hard as she did. She was annoyed that she had to read "baby books." She told me repeatedly how much she hated learning Braille.

First grade was rough for Abby. She wasn't the only one shedding tears of frustration that year! It was very rough for me, as her mom, too.

Abby Duffy uses a Brailler.In 2011, Abby and I attended our first NFB national convention. I remember sitting in a workshop and hearing Dr. Ruby Ryles say, "Braille is not hard to learn." After watching Abby struggle through first grade, I thought, Dr. Ryles just doesn't get it! Braille is hard to learn!

I didn't say my thoughts aloud. I kept quiet and listened. As the workshop went on, I began to suspect that my own frustrations were making it harder for Abby to learn Braille.

When Abby and I returned home, I made significant efforts to build a positive attitude. Learning Braille was not the real issue for Abby. The real issue was adjusting to her blindness.

Abby's Braille skills improved greatly in second grade. She started to do assignments independently, and she got excited about reading. She began to realize that learning Braille could be a positive experience. Recently she even called her Perkins Brailler "my baby."

A few months ago, I was sitting with Abby while she read a book. "Mom!" she said suddenly.

It sounded like she wanted to say something important. "What?" I asked.

"Braille ... I like it."

Abby continues to make great progress. She is committed to be reading at grade level by the time she reaches third grade.

I wish I had known two years ago what I know today. The adjustment to blindness gets easier, and Braille really isn't hard to learn. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Braille ... I love it!

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