My daughter, Lindsay, and I had a wonderful time at the Spring Festival and Art/Talent Show at the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired (LSVI) on April 16. Lindsay hopped in the bounce house, jumped on the bungee trampoline, rode in a horse-drawn cart, fed animals in a petting zoo, got her face painted, and tried sumo wrestling in a comical, inflatable suit. More than just providing for a fun day and great photos, the experience reminded me of the valuable partnership that we’ve built with LSVI over the past year.
Open to all blind and low-vision kids in the state of Louisiana, the two-day event had such an encouraging atmosphere. The kids’ genuine interest in getting to know and support one another gave Lindsay some opportunities that I don’t see her having every day.
Typically, Lindsay is not one who will approach kids to talk. At the Spring Festival, she became more social, because the kids there were so friendly and welcoming. She had a million questions about what it was like to go to a residential school (“What do you eat for dinner? How late can you stay up? Can you have cell phones? How much homework do you have?”), and the students and teachers alike at LSVI were happy to talk to her about it and anything else that crossed her mind.
I was impressed to see how supportive the kids were of one another. They enthusiastically cheered one another on at the Talent Show, and, on multiple occasions in the sumo wrestling arena, I saw bigger kids letting younger ones win…though not without a good fight!
LSVI’s resources—including the braille library, the adapted materials and equipment used in the classrooms, the home living classes, the athletic facilities, and the music program (which includes the opportunity to learn to read braille music)—are typically not available in parish schools. I was pleased to learn that even non-residential students have access to those resources through the short, intensive programs LSVI offers for blind or low-vision students from across the state. If students need help with a specific skill, they can go to LSVI for a week or long weekend, work with the teachers there, and then go back to their parish school.
More than just an opportunity for family fun, the Spring Festival and Art/Talent Show gave me a chance to reflect on the great partnership that we’ve developed with the Baton Rouge-based school for the blind. Several LSVI teachers have taken online courses in our Teaching Blind Students graduate program as well as attending our professional development workshops throughout the year. Having teachers from a school for the blind in our courses has greatly added to our class forums, as we are able to discuss all the different placement options available to blind/visually-impaired students and how to determine what is appropriate on a case-by-case basis.
This summer, LSVI will host the face-to-face component of our Orientation and Mobility for Teachers of Blind Students hybrid course. Even more encouraging, LSVI Director Bobby Simpson has offered to host interns and student teachers who are working on their master’s degrees at Louisiana Tech.
Lindsay, of course, was more focused on the fun. She had no interest in leaving at the end of the day, telling me that, if we left, she wouldn’t get a snow cone!