Future Reflections Winter/Spring 1990, Vol. 9 No. 1

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by Dennis Baxley

[PICTURE] Canes for preschoolers also made sense to the parents of (from left) Jerred Gill, Timothy Day, and Cherrane Verduin.

Editor's Note: Nearly ten years ago, in the very first issue of Future Reflections, parents were invited to join the Federation as partners in making life better for blind children. And we didn't mean partnership in the general, impersonal sense of paying dues once a year (though that's important, too). Real partnership means personal involvement with blind people. Dennis Baxley, father of a blind child, accepted our invitation of partnership. It paid off for his blind son. What about you? Think about it. It's a standing invitation.

Thank God Jeffrey is only blind. When trauma occurs head injuries can result in many handicaps, and we soon learned how fortunate Jeffrey was as we met other blind infants and preschoolers, most of whom had multiple problems.

So, what do you do for a healthy, active, inquisitive toddler who keeps getting hurts and bumps because he can't see what's ahead? Consulting various resource persons in the field yielded confusing answers. The logic that said he was "too young" for mobility training didn't quite fit for he was certainly "mobile."

Finally, a meeting with Marilyn Womble, a blind mother and teacher (and arch Federationist) led to some sensible-sounding guidance: "Get him a cane now! He'll figure out how to use it and can refine skills later."

At 29 months Jeffrey learned a new word -- "cane." And he shouted it plenty. With that new word came a new freedom and another new word -- "run." No, he hasn't had mobility training, but I think he can teach the mobility instructors a few things.

Do we require other children to wait until they have full cognitive skills for receiving instruction before we expose them to spoons, bowls, forks, crayons, tricycles, phones, or any other tool of society they are safe to begin experiencing for themselves? Give them a chance; let them help themselves. Thanks to Marilyn for giving us the courage to back up our own judgment and follow common sense over "expertise."

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