Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Continuing our ride through Braille awareness

Have I ever told you the story of my first meeting of the special education director in Salem?  Back when we were still going to be attending their school - before the move.

Let me preface this for all of you who are new to my blog and don't know about this person.  She was a "fill in" special education director while they were looking for someone permanent.  Salem school was wonderful and Finley was going to have fantastic care there.

We were waiting to start her IEP meeting.  I was the first one there and so I sat with the director and we chatted while we waited for the others to arrive.  She didn't know much about Finley - she had only been filling in a few months - so we talked about her.  She asked me if Finley still had vision.  I told her yes.  The next words out of her mouth were "oh good - then she won't need braille or braille materials".

Insert long pause.

I explained that she has a degenerative eye disorder, so that Braille was starting because eventually she would have no sight at all.  That already is was very deminished.

Her come back?  "oh, she doesn't need braille - she can just listen to all the books on tape!"

This.  Coming from an educator.  She doesn't need to learn to read.

I decided to wait for my advocates and told the special education director that we would just have to wait for them.

When you have a child who is vision impaired, but isn't completely blind, strange things come out of people's mouths.  They think that because they can see, that accommodations "for the blind" are not necessary.

But what they are missing is that even though Finley has sight, she has very little.  And she has to work 10 times as hard to see the little bit she can.  By night time, she is done visually.  This is when we see her struggle the most.  She has put in a whole day of school and her eyes are tired.  She spends all of her energy trying to see.

I hear this from parents all the time - I am not alone in this conversation I had with this special education director.  Kids with LCA, just like Finley - with various degrees of sight.  Here are some "winner" statements that these parents here about their kids:

"tech guy who thought teaching Braille to kids was a waste--you know, they have speech software for computers and books on CD."
"Now, Everyone knows our daughter has quite a bit of vision.  She is learning Braille and only uses it at this point to label things, especially at school.  At last year's IEP meeting when possible decrease in vision was brought up and adapting reading materials was discussed, one teacher said, 'Well, she can just listen to the books to MAKE IT EASIER FOR EVERYONE'  I said, with very controlled tone (trying to mask my sarcastic anger), 'Well, to really make it easier, why don't you have all of the students listen to the books'  In astonishment, she replied, 'Why would we do that, that's not literacy.'   To which I replied, 'I know, and neither is it for our daughter'"  

"My child had almost no sight. Yet, the teacher tried to teach him Braille by using flash cards with large print representations of Braille dots."
"In my case an educator argued that if a child has some sight, it is destructive for that child to try to learn both Braille and print since only a certain amount of learning can be done and teaching both systems would cut the progress of each in half. That educator went on to say that it is not necessarily essential for a teacher of young blind children (even a teacher who is responsible for teaching reading to those children) to be proficient in the use of Braille. When he was asked how such an argument was different from saying that a French teacher did not need to know French or a math teacher math, he simply responded with anger ~ perhaps understandably since there would seem to be no logical answer that could have been given. "

The article I read recently called "Why do you want to make that child blind?" is worth a read, but too long to post here.  I encourage you to visit this link and read it for yourself.

The point is - braille remains as important to a child who can't see as reading for a child who can.  When the schools stop teaching kids to read and write, I will stop advocating for Braille.  Maybe.
To end the post with cuteness, here is a picture of two of my sweet nephews wearing their braille shirts.  Baby J's says "loved" and Big E's says "Big Brother".  Love these boys to death.

1 comment:

Martha said...

OMG, yes! I see this all the time. I am blind and going for my degree for teaching blind students. Audio does not take the place of physically reading, sigh; we've come so far but have so much more to go.