Future Reflections                                                   Special Issue: Low Vision and Blindness 2005

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The Jacobson family (from left to right, Steve, Elizabeth, Nadine, and Catherine) arrives early to get good seats at a Federation meeting where Elizabeth is scheduled to speak.
The Jacobson family (from left to right, Steve, Elizabeth, Nadine, and Catherine) arrives early to get good seats at a Federation meeting where Elizabeth is scheduled to speak.

by Nadine Jacobson

Parenting is a challenging and rewarding experience. When my husband Steve and I adopted Elizabeth, she was one-year-old, and she changed our lives for the better forever.

My husband and I are both blind. We use white canes for travel, and we read Braille. I have light perception now, but as a child I was able to see much more. However, I never saw well enough to read print.

When Elizabeth came to us, she was diagnosed with a visual condition called optic atrophy, and the doctors thought her acuity was about 20/1400. As she aged, it became obvious that she could see much better than that. Now, her visual acuity tests at 20/125. She is not legally blind, but her acuity definitely puts her in the category of visually impaired. She is unable to see things at a distance, she reads print, and she has also learned Braille.

In her speech below, she refers to being afraid of balls. That was three years ago, and she has improved. Just last week, she came home and proudly told me sheíd hit a home run in softball. She uses and enjoys her vision, and that is a good thing.

As parents, we also teach her other ways to accomplish things she cannot do using vision. We encourage her to ask for information when she canít see something (the menu on the wall of a fast food restaurant); we show her how to use her hands to find objects when her vision is not useful (cleaning under her bed); we gently insist that she tells her teacher when she canít see something in the classroom (writing on the board, overheads, scientific or sewing demonstrations, etc.); and we have taught her how to use smell and touch for cooking and cleaning. (She is becoming a very good cook.) We take pride in watching her grow in confidence and skills.

As you can see, it is important for a visually impaired child to learn how to speak up and not be ashamed of letting people know that she has low vision. The NFB has helped us with that in many ways, and one of those ways has been in providing Elizabeth opportunities for public speaking. A few years ago, Elizabeth was asked to speak on a youth panel at a seminar for parents at the National Federation of the Blind convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Her speech was later reprinted in Future Reflections (volume 22, number 1) along with the speeches of the other panelists. The theme was, ďThe Serious Work of Play.Ē Here is what she said:


Hi, my name is Elizabeth Jacobson. My dadís name is Steve and my momís name is Nadine Jacobson. I live in Edina, Minnesota. Iím going into fifth grade and this is my tenth NFB national convention. Iím ten years old and I go to Concord Elementary School.

I like to pretend a lot. I like to pretend house and school. When I play house I like to pretend Iím the mom and my sister, Catherine, is my daughter. Sometimes I make a car out of chairs. I like to do this because I wonít be able to drive a car.

I also like to play school. I usually play this with my old school supplies and workbooks, too. I like to play this because I want to be a teacher when I grow up and teach at Concord Elementary School.

I also like to play store. When I play store, I like to be the cashier. Sometimes I also like to play camping. I play this with my sleeping bag and play tent. When I was younger I liked to play restaurant.

There are a lot of things to do outside like playing basketball. Our family has balls that have bells inside them. I also like to do switch board, which means it turns from a scooter to a skateboard. We got a volleyball net just a few months ago. Thereís also a park nearby. Itís great to hang out at. My next-door neighbor has a trampoline that they let me jump on. They have a swing set my sister and I can play on, too.

Inside I use my karaoke machine that I got at Christmas. My sister and I do puppet shows and plays for my mom and dad. Iíve had sleepovers. One time we played hospital. Another time we watched movies and made the sounds we heard in the movie. My mom and I play scrabble. One time I beat her.

At school we play kickball. I used to have somebody kick for me because I didnít like to have balls come at me. But that all changed when I tried to kick it by myself. I kicked it hard and high. I was proud of myself.

Sometimes when weíre on the bus my dad thinks of a character from TV, a movie, or a book, and we try to guess it.

Thank you for letting me talk at the parents division meeting. I hope you like my report and that it is helpful.

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