I was born with bilateral cataracts and had to have surgery twice as a baby. Once when I was six months old and a second time when I was seven months old. As a result of the two operations, I have to wear thick glasses. I never got intraocular lens like some children with cataracts because I have severe optic nerve damage in my left eye. When I was nine, I received some news that changed my life forever; I was diagnosed with glaucoma, a common complication of cataract surgery.
Today, I am 22 years old. I take four eye drops to keep my pressure stable, and I am currently seeing a glaucoma specialist at the University of Iowa. His name is Dr. Bettis. He is a really great doctor.
I have a fiancé named Denny, who I met at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind(FSDB) four years ago. He’s a wonderful and sweet man who supports me through my struggles and achievements. He’s a blessing from God, and I love him so much.
I graduated from FSDB with honors two years ago, and I did one year of college at Daytona State after graduation. I plan to finish my last three years of college at Iowa Wesleyan University. I eventually want to be a teacher for babies and toddlers who are blind or visually impaired but not right away. I’m going to major in early childhood education and graduate with a degree and teaching license.
Because Iowa Wesleyan doesn’t have a special education program with an emphasis on blind children, I’m going to supplement my education by taking online classes through another school and working at a small preschool. By doing this, I will be able to get my degree to be a teacher for babies and toddlers with visual impairments as well as a masters degree.
I want to be a private teacher because it is challenging and would allow me to come up with my own lesson plans. I want to teach visually impaired preschoolers the braille alphabet, numbers, and everything they will need to prepare them for elementary school. I hope that I can be an inspiration to them. I want to teach them how to be confident and believe in themselves.
At FSDB, I was a teacher’s aid for first grade at the elementary school. It was great work experience, and the children loved me. I also volunteered with little girls in the Girl Scout program at the school.
I’ve learned a lot by attending and volunteering at FSDB. I’ve learned about the individualized education program (IEP), braille, orientation and mobility, eye conditions, deaf and deaf-blind students, sign language, and so much more.
I also have experience working with younger children in a church nursery. I love these kids so much. I hope that I will see them as successful young adults when I run into them later in life.
Aside from teaching, I am also interested in becoming an artist. I like to draw little cartoons of blind and visually impaired people on wooden benches, tables, and other wooden items. I recently sold some artwork at the Fairfield Art Walk. That’s just a part of my small business, JazzyArt Galleries (formerly known as JazzyArts). I hope to expand my business endeavors to include braille transcription in the future.
I am still learning braille to use in my future career and to help me in case I go blind from glaucoma. In twelfth grade, I took a braille class at FSDB, and I took one this spring at the Iowa Department for the Blind. I also took a braille literacy class through the Hadley School for the Blind, and I have a mentor from the National Federation of the Blind who has volunteered to help me with braille and orientation and mobility skills. His name is Ted. He’s very strict on me, but it’s for a good reason. He wants to make me better and more confident in myself.
Recently, I’ve been working on some ideas for a book I plan on writing titled, “The Eyes of Glaucoma”. I also plan to write a “Glaucoma Coping Guide” this summer and have them both in a bundle. My goal with this book is to help other people who are struggling with glaucoma. I would like the book to be available in braille and as a PDF people can read on their computers with a screen reader. With these books, I want to change the negative perspective and stigma associated with glaucoma and blindness. I also want to motivate and encourage those battling with glaucoma.
Reprinted with permission from the American Foundation for the Blind. Copyright 2017, all rights reserved. Originally published on afb.org.
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.