Future Reflections Winter 1988, Vol. 7 No. 1

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Report On The 1987 NFB Workshop for Children

[PICTURE] The children sing, "We're Here To Learn About Blindness From The NFB, " to some 1,500 conventioneers in Phoenix, Arizona at the 1987 National Convention. Doris Willoughby (far left) helps lead the singing.
[PICTURE] Joseli Walter meets one of the "Kids On The Block" puppets at the NFB1987 Children's Seminar.

While parents were attending the parents seminar at the 1987 NFB national convention in Phoenix, the children were having fun learning
about blindness at special workshops organized just for them. The theme, "Is There Anybody Out There Like Me?", was selected because we believed that children who were blind, or had a blind family member, often felt alone and isolated. This workshop was an opportunity for them to meet other children just like them. About 50 children--some of them blind, some of them the sighted brothers and sisters of blind children, and some of them the children of blind parents-split up into three age groups for the day. The coordinators of each group were all blind, and most of the helpers were also blind.

Lori LeBlanc, a former kindergarten teacher who is now a rehabilitation counselor for the blind, was in charge of the younger children (age 5-7). The middle group (ages 8-12) activitie were organized by Diane McGeorge, First Vice-] President of the NFB and a grandmother of two. ] Judy Sanders, a former elementary school! teacher and currently an assistant to a congressman from Minnesota, kept the teenagers (ages 13-17) in line. The coordinators were assisted by some very competent parents, teachers, and students. The students from the NFB of Louisiana Rehabilitation Training Center were especially helpful.

Activities which emphasized the techniques of blindness (Braille reading and writing, cane travel, etc.) were planned for each age group. Some of the parents were a little jealous of their children who, with a little instruction, were traveling confidently about the hotel with white canes and sleepshades (blindfolds). Learning to write Braille was a favorite activity, too, and several children wanted to keep their slate and stylus.

The teenagers had some serious discussions about how blindness affected them and their families. The middle group had a treasure hunt, and the younger children visited a nearby science/nature museum and then purchased their own treats at an ice cream parlor. Both the middle and younger groups enjoyed a puppet show put on by a local "Kids On the Block" volunteer group. These puppets have different disabilities, and the purpose of the show is to help children understand and accept children who are "different." It was an entertaining show and helped generate some good discussions.

The younger children also learned a special song written by their coordinator, Lori LeBlanc. At the end of the day, the children sang the song to the parents and others at the "big people " seminar. To the tune of "The Bear Went Over The Mountain, To See What He Could See," the children sang, "We're Here To Learn About Blindness, From the NFB." They then, through song and verse, told us how they "saw a great puppet show," went to the museum, learned Braille and cane travel, etc. Needless to say, their performance was a great hit.

It also was a fitting ending to the program, for we had all- children and adults, blind and sighted- learned a lot about blindness from the National Federation of the Blind on that day.

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