Future Reflections Spring/Summer 1994, Vol. 13 No. 2


Reports from Divisions and Chapters of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, President

Parents, I find, really want to know more about what parents groups are doing around the country. What can a parents of blind children group accomplish? Are they all limited to being only support and social groups, or can they become something more? Can a parents of blind children organization really make a difference in the lives of the blind children in a particular state or community?

To answer these questions, we are establishing Parent Power as a regular feature in Future Reflections. In this feature we will publish reports about the many varied and exciting activities and projects carried out by our National Organization of Parents of Blind Children's state divisions and chapters. We are calling it Parent Power because that's why we are organized-so we can develop and exercise the power necessary to bring about equality and opportunity for our blind children.

As you read the Parent Power reports, you may want to refer back to the following list of goals of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. These are the goals we have set for our organization and which we strive to accomplish in even our fun, social events. If you like what you read and are interested in joining a local NOPBC group, want to organize an affiliate in your area, or you represent an independent group which may be interested in affiliating with NOPBC, just fill out the form at the end of this article and send it in. We want to hear from you!

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 experience 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.

National President of Parents Division Addresses South Carolina's Parents 
by Donald C. Capps, President NFB of South Carolina

From the August, 1993 issue of The Palmetto Blind, the newsletter of the NFB of South Carolina.

Barbara Cheadle, of Baltimore, who serves as President of the Parents Division of the National Federation of the Blind, addressed the Parents Division of Blind Children of the NFB of South Carolina at a special May 29th luncheon, held at the Federation Center of the Blind.

The luncheon, compliments of our good Federation samaritan, John Fling, who was on hand to greet the gathering, attracted some forty parents and children from across the state. Our thanks also to our staff member, Robin Fruitticher, for an excellent job of preparing the luncheon.

Our distinguished national speaker's keynote address was on the subject, Why Blind Children Need Blind Role Models. Mrs. Cheadle, the mother of a fifteen-year-old blind son, emphasized the importance of blind children developing wholesome attitudes from those learned from the best of blind role models, who are generally leaders in the Federation.

I spoke on the major accomplishments of the NFB of South Carolina in the area of special service to blind children, including: 1) the adoption of a law in 1983 providing for the participation of four- and five-year-old blind children in the state's kindergarten system; 2) a law passed in 1989, with the requirement that all vision/itinerant teachers of the blind be competent in Braille; and 3) the passage of the Braille literacy law in 1992, providing for greater Braille literacy for blind and visually impaired children across the state.

I also talked about the special Children's Camp we have for one week every year at Rocky Bottom Camp of the Blind.

Mrs. Sarah Jane McCracken of Mayo, the mother of 10-year-old Jessica, who came in number three nationally in the NFB-sponsored contest, Braille Readers are Leaders, spoke on the perspective of the parent of a blind child. Mrs. McCracken emphasized the need for strong advocacy for all blind children. Mrs. Lin MacKechnie, acting principal of the South Carolina School for the Blind, also addressed the group.

The Parents Division elected five outstanding leaders: Mrs. Sarah Jane McCracken, President; Mrs. Gert Williams, First Vice President; Sheila Compton, Second Vice President; Gail Coppel, Secretary; and Paula Payne, Treasurer. Everyone present joined the Parents Division.

by Dawn Neddo, President Parents of Blind Children Divsion of the NFB of Michigan (POBC/MI)

We are well into the school year here and our Parents Division is looking forward to our NFB State Convention in November in East Lansing, Michigan.

We had a successful summer. We had a whole week of NFB day camp. We had a lot of fun and friendship. We went to farms, horseback riding, picnics, swimming, nature trails, and sightseeing in Detroit-all of this under the direction of our President, Allen Harris, and NFB members Steve Handshu, Georgia Kitchen, Joy Osmar, Angela Curvin, and POBC parents. The children made friends, had fun, and learned many blind skills in the process. My own son, Kyle, age five years old, made the comment as we walked on the paved parking lots each day and heard the sound of canes moving, My friends are all using their canes-the canes are singing. Day camp was very much worth our time and effort. I can't wait until next year.

We have many ideas for fall and winter. In October we start our Saturday Enrichment Program. Twice a month NFB blind members work with blind children on alternative techniques. Braille is a big focus, as is orientation and mobility. 

We will have a busy year. All of us in Michigan's POBC are eagerly looking forward to the 1994 NFB Convention in Detroit. See you there!

What A Great Year!
by Debra Smith, President Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of Iowa (POBCI)

[PICTURE] Debra Smith of Iowa (center, standing) and her children, Kallie and Kyle, pick up information at the NFB Convention exhibit hall to take home and share with members of the Parents of Blind Children Division of Iowa

Reprinted from the POBC of Iowa Newsletter.
POBCI will soon be celebrating its first anniversary, and what a great start we have had. We met last fall and formulated several goals which we have successfully reached.

We decided we would work closely with our blind colleagues to help the passage of the Braille literacy bill. We wrote letters and made numerous calls to our state legislators showing our support of this bill. Deb Smith and her daughter Kallie traveled to Des Moines, where they joined other Federationists, including our state President, Peggy Pinder (now, Peggy Elliott), to talk to the legislators in person. President Pinder, Deb, and Kallie also met with Representative Grubbs, who is the Education Committee Chairman in the house and the Smiths' representative. Representative Grubbs expressed his strong support of the bill. This bill passed unanimously in the house and in the senate. This law will prove to be one of the most important pieces of legislation to affect our children for years to come.

The POBCI President, Deb Smith, appointed a Braille Readers are Leaders Contest committee for our state. Kim Brown served as the chairman of this committee. We sent each child from Iowa who entered the national contest a Braille letter of congratulations and a brand new $10.00 bill. Next year the committee has plans to expand the program and present some other gifts as well. This year Iowa had the following seven participants: Lauren Back, Beau Borton, Jacob Elsberry, Rachelle Wheat, Megan Miller, Tia Sammuel, and Kallie Smith.

The Bix Beiderbecke Chapter of the Quad Cities and POBCI entered a joint fund-raising project last summer. The two groups sold candy bars. Since a number of parents were also members of the Bix Chapter, the two groups decided to have one project and split the money. This sale is just one more example of working together with our blind colleagues. This time we earned money!

We also decided to distribute more information. In the past year we have mailed four issues of our newsletter as well as additional articles published by the National Federation of the Blind. We also distributed parent packets to parents who were interested in additional information. For parents who become members we send copies of various paperback books from our Kernel collection.

This is just the first of many years to come, as we work closely with our blind colleagues, sharing their knowledge, their leadership, and their friendship.

by Betty Woodward

Editor's Note: We do not yet have an official parents group in Connecticut, but we will soon. As you can see from the following report there is much support for parents and their children from our Connecticut affiliate of the NFB.

Dear Barbara,
As you can see from the enclosed flier and agenda, our seminar for parents of blind children and students was an all-day event, and it included activities for children as well. Everyone who attended seemed glad to be there, and they generously participated throughout the day.

Nine families were represented, as well as several active Connecticut Federationists. Twelve children, ages two through twelve, five of whom were blind, participated in the children's activities program. A thirteenth youth, who is sixteen and is an NFBC scholarship applicant, attended the entire seminar with his parents. Two of the five blind youngsters, who were twelve years old, moved between seminar and activities.

Betty May (wife of Reverend Howard E. May, the first president of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut); her daughter, Sue; Cherie Heppe, member of the Greater Hartford Chapter; and Sue Morand, member of the Greater Waterbury Chapter, worked together planning and executing a full schedule for the children. They used modeling clay, made their own lunches, and took a walk by the famous New Haven Green, using long white canes, of course. The Sunday School rooms had been made available to us, so there were lots of toys and books on hand.

Meanwhile, back in the meeting room, parents heard from a panel of blind students: twelve-year-old Christy Killion (two time winner of Connecticut's Braille Readers are Leaders Contest); Jesse Ruffin; medical student Mark Stracks; law student Christopher Kuczynski; and Michael Gosse, recent Lehigh University graduate with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. 

A great deal of literature was available, and parents were eager to take some home. Early in the day, Gina Woolford stood up in front of the group with a print copy of the National Federation of the Blind's A Resource Guide for Parents and Educators of Blind Children by Doris Willoughby in her hand. She held it up in front of her and said, Don't go home without one of these books. Gina and Keith have a fourteen-year-old son who is blind. Keith wrote an article for our Connecticut Federationist (1993, Spring edition) sharing some of their concerns and hopes.

Parents and students talked about cane travel, Braille, school, how to, and other issues. I think parents went home with hope and promise for the future of their children.

As a result of the seminar, one of the students who had formerly refused to use a cane personally requested one of our folding canes from the Connecticut White Cane Bank. Also, two of the families who attended the seminar are planning to attend our 1993 NFB National Convention.

Parents and Blind Children Enjoy Day of Fun
by Deborah Kent Stein
Reprinted from The Braille Examiner, Spring/Summer, 1993, issue, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois.

For eight-year-old Lindsay Sloan, the best part was the supermarket. It was just like Jewel Foods, where she shopped with her mother. But here the carts were child-sized, the shelves were all within easy reach, and the fruits, vegetables, and meats were made of plastic.

The miniature supermarket was just one of the intriguing displays that parents and children explored at the Kohl Children's Museum in Wilmette, Illinois, on May 15, 1993. Everywhere there were new toys to discover and musical instruments to play. Children could climb aboard a wooden sailing ship or unearth artifacts in a simulated Egyptian desert. Twelve-year-old Greg Skrzesinski had his moment of glory as a rock star, dancing before TV cameras to the beat of recorded music. Two more twelve-year-olds, Katie Zodrow and Tiffany Weber, displayed their talents on piano and guitar. Kelsey Grau, age three, became fascinated by an enormous Egyptian-style statue, and repeatedly asked to go back and sit on toe.

It was Kelsey's mother, NFBI Parents Chapter board member Amy Grau, who conceived the idea of the museum outing. We've held workshops and seminars and things, she pointed out at a meeting in January. Why don't we try something different? Let's plan something fun.

In all, nine blind children and their families gathered at the Kohl's Children's Museum on the appointed day. Several of the families were newcomers who had never taken part in a Federation-sponsored activity before. In the safe, child-friendly environment of the museum, kids explored freely while parents got to know one another. Afterwards, over lunch at a nearby pancake house, there was time to share experiences and resources.

By the end of the day, many old ties had been strengthened, and new friendships had a chance to be born. Some parents seemed to catch the Federation spirit right away. This is the best day we've spent since our son was diagnosed, said Karen Brooks, the mother of nine-month-old Jordan. It's wonderful to know we can meet blind people of all ages, and find out what he's likely to experience at all different stages of his life.

There will always be a place for workshops and seminars. But it's wonderful to know we can get so much important work done and have so much fun along the way.

1993 in Review: Report to the State Convention
by Loretta White, President
Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of Maryland

[PICTURE] Eleven blind youth received scholarships to attend the 1993 NFB of Maryland State Convention. They are, from left to right: Sindy Greenwell, Lydia Richardson, Ellen Nichols (behind Lydia), Jason Morris, Henry Brim (behind Jason), Emine Watson, Jason Johnson, Mark Nichols, Gina Bunting, Christina Shorten, and in far back Charles Cheadle.

State Convention is always a very special time. For many of us, it is the only opportunity we have to actually see each other in person. It reminds me of a family reunion, a time when we can talk about how our children are doing, and marvel at how much they have grown. It is also a chance for us to step back out of the hectic nature of the year and take stock of what we have accomplished over the year at our Parents Luncheon.

Over the past few years, our family has developed some traditions. One of the favorites is the Christmas Party. The children gather at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore for a time of games, stories, songs, and crafts. The highlight of the party is always a visit with Santa himself, who always has a special treat for each child.

January with its cold weather is a great time for fundraising-if you're selling chocolate! In 1993, we made nearly a thousand dollars selling  candy bars. Danielle Becker did a great job coordinating the sale and has agreed to take the job again for 1994. Look forward to a call from her to get your candy soon!

In February, we prepared lunch for the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the NFB monthly meeting. This is always a lot of fun and an opportunity for the older kids to help out. After the Chapter meeting, we had a baked goods auction. This, too, has become a tradition. In addition to the Parent Division, members of the Baltimore Chapter help us out by donating baked goods, and then buying them back. It is great fun to watch the bidding and excitement, not to mention the addition to our funds! With the help of Brenda Williams, we also made lunch in April for the Baltimore Chapter meeting just for the fun of it.

In the spring, the Division was busy with seminars. We had an education table at the workshop at the Maryland School for the Blind in April. Then in May, we had an education table at the Maryland Infants and Toddlers Seminar. Also in May, we held our own seminar at the National Center for the Blind called Focus on Braille, Focus on Partnerships. It was a successful seminar that dealt with the implementation of the Maryland Literacy Rights and Education Act for Blind and Visually Impaired Students and the use of Braille in school, at home, and on the job.

Also during the spring, we began our Dinners for Two, Four, Six, and Eight. In small groups, interested parents are invited to have dinner in the home of blind members of the Federation. It is an opportunity to observe blind adults using alternative techniques in the home setting, to make new friendships, and to ask questions about blindness. To date, this has been very successful and rewarding to the families who have participated.

Both our Cane Bank and Newsletter are in their second year. We now have canes from our bank scattered across the state of Maryland, and our newsletter has a circulation of about 150 families. As you know, Mark Bunting is leaving for off-shore duty. We thank him for his fine work; he has done an excellent job in laying out the newsletter. We will miss his great recipes and graphics!

The National Convention was held in Dallas this year. The Parents Division provided scholarships to four families. It was a great convention, and everyone came home inspired and ready for another year! We are planning to have scholarships available for the 1994 National Convention in Detroit. We are especially interested in helping families to attend their first convention. Scholarship applications are available from President Cheadle. National Convention is the experience of a lifetime for parents of blind children. Every parent of a blind child would benefit greatly by attending!

In August, the Parent Division sponsored the Braille Storybook Hour in conjunction with the Friends of the Library at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Baltimore. Each story was read by a blind Federationist and included an activity in the story theme and refreshments. It was very well attended and everyone had great fun. The last story hour was followed by a family picnic and barbecue at Friendship Park. This event was highlighted by a great water balloon and squirt bottle battle. We are proud to report that each person present did get wet!

The new Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped held its grand opening in September. The Parent Division displayed pictures from the Storybook Hours and artwork by our children. The children participated by reading books in the Children's Room as patrons and visitors toured the library.

This brings us full circle back to state convention. Because it is Halloween weekend, the Division sponsored a Halloween Party for children on Friday night. This year was also special in that we began a special program for Maryland blind teenagers. Through a grant from the Severn River Lions Club, eleven blind teenagers are attending this convention with Federation members Aloma Bouma and Dr. Michael Gosse as chaperons. We are filling their weekend with activities and many opportunities to learn more about the skills of blindness and independence from blind adults. To keep the momentum going for our blind teens, we are forming a subsidiary group of the Parents Division called the Blind Youth Association. The kids tell us that they want one of their first activities to be a Career Day seminar.

I am also excited about the success of this year's luncheon. You have heard Tammy Jones, a blind teacher of the visually impaired on the Eastern Shore, give an inspiring keynote address; Jude Lincicome report on the National Convention, Charles Cheadle talk about his great adventures in Scouting; and you have listened to Esther Layton, winner of the Outstanding Educator of the Year Award for the State of Maryland, speak to us about her philosophy of educating blind children. It was a joy to see how dedicated and committed she is to our blind children here in Maryland.

It has been an honor to serve as your President. Your support and friendship to me and my family have been invaluable. I look forward to serving our children in my new role as Second Vice President and to supporting our new President together with you. We are indeed growing and getting better each year. Through unity in the Federation, we can and are building bright futures for all our children!