Monday, November 20, 2006

School for the visually impaired make families hopeful!

Alicia Shackelford, 24, has been bringing her daughter, Jenesis Rose Adkission, to Anchor Center for Blind Children for two years. The center has applied for a Season to Share grant.

Her answers to questions about the school, and those of teacher Cathy Smyth, have been edited for space and clarity.

What brought you to the school?

My little girl was shaken when she was 5 weeks old. Now she's got a brain that's like swiss cheese - it's got a lot of dead parts in it. So we've got to find a way to make the live parts connect, so that she can talk and see.

How did you hear about the school?

Social services.

How has the center helped you?

When Jeni first came here, she wouldn't let anyone touch her. Now, she'll let anyone get close to her. She sits up by herself and can stand.

If I had to do this without the Anchor Center, we wouldn't be half as far along. They help show you how to make a child who doesn't see, see.

It also gives you hope. Every parent who comes here gets frustrated. Sometimes, when I look at Jeni, I think she should be out playing with her sister in the yard, instead of sitting in her playpen. But my fairy tale didn't turn out. Coming here makes me realize not everyone's fairy tale turned out the way they thought.

What do you see for Jeni's future?

I do believe that one day Jeni will get to the level where she can read and write. My biggest hope is that some day she'll walk down the street and make a friend.

Teacher Cathy Smyth has taught at Anchor Center for seven years and has worked with visually impaired people for 20 years.

How and why did you get into this line of work?

Anchor is my dream job: I've wanted to be a teacher to the visually impaired since I was 13. I like to work with families one-on-one, and visually impaired kids can be anywhere from multichallenged to geniuses. That makes it a challenge.

How have your clients changed over the years?

We used to have a lot of premature babies and babies whose mothers got measles in pregnancy, causing deafness and blindness.

Now we see congenital optic nerve defects, problems stemming from a lack of blood to the brain during childbirth and a lot of shaken babies.

Tell me about a time where you really made a difference.

We had a little boy who was diagnosed with severe eye damage. Doctors wanted to remove his eyes. When he came here, he was drawn to a black light box, which shows colors in high contrast.
Most people don't know this, but vision has to be taught. We worked with him and he started to learn to use the vision he had. By the time he left, he was using shadows to help him navigate as he walked down the hall. Now he's in Denver Public Schools, doing very well.

Another time, a 6-month-old girl came in. We showed her a red-cap flashlight, and for the first time in her life, she reached for an object. Her mother was weeping. We give parents hope.

What keeps you up at night?

Not a whole lot. This is a pretty happy place. We are a family.

What's your biggest joy?

Watching the preschoolers go off to graduation by themselves and go on to kindergarten.
In general, we celebrate the little things here. Even when a child can reach out with their feet to touch something. Anytime a child reaches a milestone, however small, it's worth celebrating.
What's your motto?

We at Anchor Center feel visually impaired kids have no limits. They are kids first and visually impaired last.

Post-News Season To Share, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, last year gave more than $1.73 million to 56 agencies serving children, people who are hungry, homeless or in need of medical care. Donations are matched at 50 cents for each dollar and 100 percent of all donations go directly to local charitable agencies. To make a donation, see the coupon on page 10A of today's paper, call 1-888-683-4483, or visit

Anchor Center for Blind Children

• Mission: To teach life skills to visually impaired children and their parents • Year founded: 1982 • Clients helped each year: 480 • Number of staff: 21 • Number of volunteers: 20 • Budget: $1.1 million • Web site:


Post a Comment

<< Home