bm990704.jpg (10168 bytes)

 The Posont Family: Peter and Katie, standing in 

rear; Paul standing beside his parents, Donna and Larry; Betsy 

seated on Donna's lap; and Ruth Anne standing in front of Larry.

	             Seeing Is Believing

	They Told Us We Couldn't Take Care of our 

        Children 	Because We're Blind

	by Lori K. Baker


	From the Editor: the following article appeared in the May 

11, 1999, issue of Family Circle Magazine. Donna and Larry Posont 

are leaders in the NFB of Michigan and the NFB's merchants 

division. Here it is:


	It's 7:30 on a school-day morning, a hectic time for forty-

two-year-old Donna Posont. The mother of five stands at a 

sizzling griddle, flipping French toast as fast as a short-order 

cook. Two-and-a-half-year-old Betsy toddles to her mother, bells 

jingling on her tiny shoes. "How's mama's baby?" Donna gently 

coos, sprinkling cinnamon on the French toast. She whisks her 

youngest into her arms, hoists her on a hip, and begins to set 

the breakfast table.
	As the scent of cinnamon wafts through her Dearborn Heights, 

Michigan, home, Donna's sons, Peter, ten, and Paul, eight, bound 

into the kitchen, followed by daughters Katie, sixteen, and Ruth 

Anne, five, and husband Larry, forty-eight, a snack-bar-service 

owner. "Ruthie, why don't I go to school today, and you stay 

home?" teases Larry. His little girl giggles, flashing deep 

	Quickly finishing breakfast, the kids are ready to dart out 

the door for school. But first Donna checks how they're dressed. 

"Let me see you," she tells Ruthie, running her hands over her 

daughter's shirt and sweatpants. One by one, she touches her 

other children's clothes and asks what they're wearing. Donna can 

feel for herself if they are dressed warmly, but she and her 

husband can only imagine how adorable their kids look. Donna and 

Larry are both blind--and all five of their children are sighted.
	"How do you do it?" friends constantly ask the couple, who 

juggle two careers and run a household of active youngsters. It 

takes lots of love, courage, and ingenuity, say the Posonts, 

especially when you can't see what your kids are up to. "We do a 

lot of careful listening," says Donna, who runs a snack bar and 

vending machine service called Donna's Delights from her home. 

"Sighted parents see their children going into the kitchen, but I 

hear the cookie jar opening or juice pouring into a cup. I smell 

toothpaste when my kids have brushed their teeth, soap when 

they've washed their hands, and candy on their breath."


	Starting a Family, Facing the Fear
	When Donna and Larry married nearly twelve years ago--the 

second time for both--they realized they'd face unique 

challenges, especially since they knew their children would be 

sighted. Donna's blindness is genetic--she has retinitis 

pigmentosa (RP), better known as tunnel vision, which causes a 

progressive loss of sight. Donna lost her sight at age eight. To 

inherit RP, typically both parents must pass on the gene. But 

Larry's blindness is not genetic. His stems from scarring of the 

retina, a condition brought on by being placed in a high-oxygen 

incubator as a baby. Larry had limited vision in his left eye 

until age sixteen when he suffered a detached retina and became 

totally blind.
	"We never had any doubt that we could raise a family," says 

Larry. "If we had married sooner, we would have had a dozen 

kids," he adds, laughing. When Donna became pregnant with son 

Peter soon after their wedding, the couple were thrilled, 

especially Larry. He didn't have any children from his previous 

marriage, but Donna did--her daughter, Katie--and she knew the 

stress and anxiety of being a blind parent all too well. "My 

biggest fear was that Katie would get sick, and I wouldn't know 

her temperature," Donna admits. At first she would ask a neighbor 

to take Katie's temperature at the slightest hint of fever. But 

she soon learned to trust her sense of touch, placing her hands 

on Katie's forehead and cheeks. (These days she uses a talking 

	Like many new mothers, Donna also lived in fear that her 

baby might choke or swallow something unsafe. When Katie was 

thirteen months old, Donna's worst nightmare came true. Katie had 

become lethargic--almost lifeless--and she wouldn't eat. Frantic, 

Donna wondered whether Katie had swallowed something dangerous. 

"I was hysterical," she recalls. Donna's brother-in-law rushed 

them to the emergency room, where doctors took blood tests to 

rule out poisoning. After an agonizing wait, Donna overheard the 

doctor phoning the lab for the test results, "The mother doesn't 

know if the baby swallowed anything," he said. "She's blind."'
	Tears of humiliation welled in Donna's eyes. "It just 

crushed me," she says. "Suddenly I felt totally inadequate. I 

started thinking, I am blind. Maybe I shouldn't be a mother." 

Heartsick, Donna felt utter relief when tests showed no signs of 

poisoning. Doctors later discovered Katie had a hernia, which was 

making her nauseated and lethargic. After corrective surgery 

Katie quickly returned to good health.
	Although the terrifying episode caused Donna moments of 

self-doubt, deep down she knew she was a capable mother despite 

what anyone else might think.
	After the birth of the Posonts' first son, Peter, in 1988, a 

hospital social worker stopped by to see Donna before she and her 

newborn were discharged. She asked whether Donna needed help at 

home, such as rides to take the baby to the doctor. "Of course I 

always need rides," replied Donna, who relies on taxicabs, buses, 

and friends to get around. The social worker jotted down a few 

notes and left.
	A week later Donna was shocked to get a call from child 

protective services. "Why are you calling us?" she asked. The 

caseworker said it was a hospital referral and that she must now 

come for a home visit. Donna's stomach immediately tied in a 

knot. "I felt like I was on trial, and I had to prove my children 

were okay," she says.
	When the caseworker arrived, she asked questions about who 

fed and bathed the baby and who changed diapers. She noticed 

Katie, in pigtails, playing on the floor with one of her friends. 

"Who braided Katie's hair?" the caseworker asked curiously. "I 

did," Donna told her.
	"I think she was surprised that my daughter's hair was fixed 

and that another parent was allowing a blind woman to watch her 

child," Donna says. Once the caseworker realized Donna took good 

care of her children, she left.
Bells, Beepers, and Other Tricks of the Trade
	What child protective services didn't know about the Posonts 

is just how ingenious they are in handling all the day-to-day 

tasks of raising youngsters. "We're like anyone else," Donna 

says. "We just do things differently." While laundry for a family 

of seven is a daunting task for anyone, Donna has figured out 

clever ways to make it easier. (Even sighted parents could try 

these tips.) She has family members fold dirty socks together; 

then she pins them so they stay matched in the wash. In the 

laundry room, she keeps a different basket for each person, lined 

up according to age. "When the clothes come out of the dryer, I 

can tell who they belong to by size and shape," Donna explains.
	Donna can also maneuver through a maze of supermarket aisles 

with no problem. She's memorized her grocery store's layout and 

can easily shop alone. But she prefers to take a different child 

with her each week. "This gives me one-on-one time with each of 

them, something they find precious," Donna explains.
	One thing Donna won't do is rely on her children for help 

beyond their basic chores. Otherwise, she believes, it blurs the 

line between a parent's role and a child's. To keep track of the 

flood of mail and school papers that land on her desk, for 

instance, she hires a reader to come in once a week and go 

through a stack. "I'd be willing to pay Katie to do the job," 

says Donna. "But I'd never make it her responsibility."
	Still family roles become confused in public, where 

strangers often treat the Posont children as if they are the ones 

in charge. Katie remembers well-intentioned strangers often 

asking, "Aren't you Mommy's little helper?" when she was young. 

"Who do they think took care of me?" says Katie. "My mom and dad 

can do everything."
	"It's not that strangers are trying to be rude," Larry says, 

recalling similar incidents. "There's just a lot of 

misconceptions and negative stereotypes about blindness."
	The Posont kids' friends are equally curious about what it's 

like to be raised by blind parents, say Peter and Paul, who are 

often asked what they can get away with at home. To their 

friends' amazement, the answer is "not much." Careful listeners, 

Donna and Larry always seem to know what their kids are doing--

"Like when we're downstairs playing, and we're supposed to be in 

bed," admits Paul. The eight-year-old also confesses to trying to 

sneak chocolate. Then his mom will give him a kiss, smell the 

chocolate on his breath, and his secret is out.
	Typical boys, Peter and Paul enjoy roughhousing and playing 

sports with their dad. "I spend a lot of time with my kids," says 

Larry. "I want them to know how much I love them." Thanks to 

clever inventions, he and his children are able to play all sorts 

of games together. "We play catch with baseballs and soccer balls 

that beep," says Peter. "And we shoot hoops with a basketball 

with bells. We also have checkers and Scrabble in Braille." But 

what amazes the boys about their dad is his uncanny ability to 

bowl. "At first the kids thought they could beat me bowling," 

says Larry, laughing about a recent family outing. "Then I scored 

163 on one game. When I got a strike, you could hear everyone in 

the bowling alley hollering." Larry's secret? A guide rail 

designed for blind bowlers, which he holds with his left hand as 

he rolls the ball with his right. The kids were still impressed. 

"It's amazing how he gets all those strikes," says Paul. "I 

always get curb balls."
	Like any proud father, Larry totes a camcorder to his 

children's hockey and soccer games, school plays and musical 

performances. "We want pictures of our kids, too," he says. "Not 

just for us, but for our children to know they're special." But, 

he admits, it's a real challenge. Sometimes kind strangers help; 

other times Larry aims and hopes for the best. "I don't always 

get a picture of the kids, but at least I get their voices. 

Someday they'll look at these tapes and say, `My dad was blind, 

but he was always there.'"

A House Full of Love
	On a recent afternoon Betsy squeals with delight as Larry 

arrives home from work at 4:30 p.m. He sits on the living room 

floor and quickly becomes a human jungle gym with kids crawling 

all over him. "Hi, buddy," he says to Paul, playfully tousling 

his son's hair. "This is one thing no one can take away from me--

the closeness I have with my children," says Larry. "Sure, it 

upsets me that I'll never see my kids. But I know what their 

faces look like because I've felt them, touched them, and kissed 

	In the kitchen Donna sets the table for a crowd-pleasing 

dinner of spaghetti, crescent rolls, and salad. After dinner 

Peter and Paul rush out the door for hockey practice. Nowadays 

Donna's biggest challenge is keeping track of her active kids' 

schedules: church youth groups, hockey, cheerleading, Boy Scouts. 

"It's a lot to juggle," Donna readily admits.
	While Katie does her homework, Donna snuggles on the couch 

with Ruthie and Betsy for story time. Nestled between her 

daughters, Donna reads The Berenstein Bears Forget Their Manners-

-the girls' favorite--aloud as her fingers decipher raised dots 

of Braille. Donna's Twin Vision(R) book is cleverly designed so 

the blind and sighted can read together: it has transparent pages 

with Braille over typical storybook pages. Hanging on to every 

word, Ruthie and Betsy burst into giggles when Papa Bear forgets 

his manners and Mama Bear gets after him. Much too soon it's time 

for bed.
	Once everyone is tucked in, the weary couple have a quiet 

moment to reflect on how being raised by blind parents has shaped 

their children's lives. "They don't make fun of people who are 

different. They're very patient and tolerant of others' 

disabilities," says Donna. "In many ways they are wise beyond 

their years." That doesn't mean they miss out on typical 

childhood joys. The family has been on trips to Disneyland, Six 

Flags amusement parks, and different cities across the country.
	Like other parents Larry and Donna dream that their children 

will grow up feeling loved and become happy, healthy, 

compassionate adults. "In the future I hope my children will get 

scholarships, go to college, serve the Lord in their lives, and 

give me lots of grandchildren," says Donna, smiling. Along with 

these common wishes is a special dream: "We want our lives to 

give hope and encouragement to parents of blind children. These 

children can grow up to enjoy fulfilling lives with careers an 

families," says Donna, a perfect example herself. "No one is 

limited by blindness. We're only limited by attitude."