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“Should” Parents of Blind Kids Learn Braille?

Today I mailed off my final project in hopes of earning my national braille transcriber certification from the Library of Congress! It’s a 35 page manuscript and I must pass with an 80+.

In November 2018 we went through a formal complaint and mediation process with our school district because Kai was not receiving timely, accurate braille materials for his math and science classes. We “won” at mediation and things got much better, but while fighting for braille I felt so helpless. My son was completely at their mercy. It was then, that I decided I wanted to learn to create braille materials, and I set the goal to get certified by the time he graduates high school.

Y’all, when I registered for training to become a braille transcriber in Feb 2019, I didn’t even know the braille alphabet! I honestly cannot believe I’ve made it to this point.

Parents of kids who are blind or low vision often ask if they “should” learn Braille. Here are my thoughts on that, and my answer may surprise you!

Continue reading ““Should” Parents of Blind Kids Learn Braille?”
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See Us: Overcoming Obstacles to Employment

Hi everyone, I’m excited to introduce you to a new project by author Jon Marin. His new book, “See Us” is being released soon and it addresses a crucial factor in the lives of young people who are blind and visually impaired – finding meaningful work. Currently, in the US, 70% of blind and visually impaired people do not work. This is due to a variety of factors including prejudice, ableism, education, training and more, and Jon addresses several huge obstacles in his work as the Program Director of The Career Discovery Project. We can learn a lot from him and his clients in his new book “See Us.”

Continue reading “See Us: Overcoming Obstacles to Employment”
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Kai is Featured in Beyond Sight Magazine’s Men in Motion

We’d like to thank the fabulous team over at Bold Blind Beauty for choosing Kai to be featured in Beyond Sight Magazine’s Men In Motion. Below is a bit about their online magazine and a link to Kai’s feature article and video.

From Beyond Sight: In 2021 we will be introducing you to incredible young people like Kai Owens who are doing extraordinary things. These young people are extraordinary because in spite of the barriers they encounter daily they persist. Many have learned from an early age to self-advocate and the strength, resilience, and tenacity they possess will change perceptions.

Click here to watch his video on YouTube.

Click here to visit Kai’s feature page which includes a video of him telling a bit about his life.

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover featuring Kai standing on a beach. He’s wearing a wet suit and holding his surfboard.

“…It’s all just about finding what you like, and not letting anyone hold you back or other people’s notions about you hold you back.”

Kai Owens, 18
Featured

Touch Pad Pro is on the Horizon

Hi everyone, we hope you are well. We’ve been a little quiet over here, dealing with Kai’s new diagnosis, treatment, college applications, music auditions and a family death. (We’re always keepin’ it real over here!) So, you probably wont hear much from us over the holidays as we attempt to regroup and recharge. However, we wanted to take a moment to wish you a healthy, peaceful holiday season and tell you about something that is making us smile right now. Y’all need to check out the Touch Pad Pro! It’s everything we’ve all dreamed of and more! Below are a few highlights and for more information you can visit the website or listen to an audio interview with founder Daniel Lubiner and Bold Blind Beauty.

Continue reading “Touch Pad Pro is on the Horizon”

AIR? …We need your help & connections.

Friends, we need your help.

Yesterday, we learned that Kai has been misdiagnosed for 7 years! It’s not RP or Stargardts, it’s autoimmune retinopathy (AIR). If docs had listened & run proper testing his sight may have been saved. 😭 😡 😭

After 3 negative genetic tests, today Kai was officially diagnosed with AIR. 3 different retinal autoantibodies (AAb’s) were found and he’s being tested for a 4th.
Doc recommends one of 2 treatment paths:
Continue reading “AIR? …We need your help & connections.”

The Courage to Share: Blogs by Moms of Blind/VI kids

In the early days of Kai’s diagnosis I scoured the web for blogs written by sighted parents of kids who were losing their vision. I could not find any.  Sure, I could find advocacy and awareness web sites and consumer groups, but I craved emotional honesty from another mom. I wanted to read her feelings, understand her struggles, and celebrate her wins. I wanted to know her feelings about her child’s inclusion (or lack thereof) and understand the anger and frustration behind her educational accessibility battles. And, most importantly, I wanted to know what it felt like to be on the other side: to have raised a child who became a strong self-advocate, who is highly-educated and employed. I wanted to know my child could beat the grim statistics. Now, 7 years later, I have found 6 moms (+ me) who are blogging about their experiences and I am so excited to share them with you!

Each of these blogs is written by a sighted mom of a blind or VI child(ren). Our kids range in age from 1-20, they have different diagnoses, and our philosophies, cultures, and religious backgrounds vary, but what we all have in common is the courage to share. Continue reading “The Courage to Share: Blogs by Moms of Blind/VI kids”

Is Your Child Thriving In The Midst Of Vision Loss? Is Your Loved-One Succeeding Without Sight?

Seven years ago a pediatric ophthalmologist called me at work to say that our 10-year-old son’s retinas were deteriorating. I was so stricken and confused by the words he used – deterioration, progressive, no cure, no treatment – that before we hung up I asked him, “Are you telling me that he’s dying or going blind?” “Blind,” he replied.

The way the news was delivered was so shocking that the memory still brings a visceral pang of grief. With one quick phone call, our lives were changed. We learned that our precious, youngest son, Kai, would go blind. The life we had envisioned for our bright, active child would be dimmed by blindness. We were shattered. We had no template and no understanding of what it meant to live without sight. We had never even met a person who was blind.

Unfortunately, for the first several years our family had to go it alone. We live in a small rural area 3-hours from the nearest blindness advocacy group. Kai was the first child in our county to experience progressive vision loss. We had to chart our own path, figure out our options and make the necessary connections to obtain services for our son.

It’s been 7 years now and we’ve overcome so much. Our son is thriving because of a few very important factors which are highlighted in Kristin Smedley’s new book Thriving Blind.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet,
then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison

Thank goodness Kristin took Toni Morrison’s wisdom to heart and wrote Thriving Blind! Oh, how I wish that our doctor had sat us down and explained what to expect and that our son could still have a wonderful, rich, fulfilling life. Oh, how I wish our doctor had handed us a copy of Kristin’s book which introduces her two sons who were each diagnosed with blindness at 4-months of age. Continue reading “Is Your Child Thriving In The Midst Of Vision Loss? Is Your Loved-One Succeeding Without Sight?”

Kai’s RP Diagnosis Story

When Kai was 4 he had a concussion. We took him to the ER and they did a CT scan. We were told to watch him and he was sent home. He recovered right on schedule.

When Kai was 5 my dad came for a 2-week visit. Our home is small, so having one extra person makes a big difference in our routines — changes in rooms, changes in schedules. Kai began having anxiety during this visit. He had a really hard time with “things being different.”  This anxious behavior continued for a while after the visit but calmed back down eventually.

When Kai was 6 he was on a basketball team. We noticed that when he played he would press and pull on his eyes.  It was worse during the games, but the behavior continued. Some days Kai would actually have what appeared to be bruising at the outside edges of his eyes. And sometimes when he was really tired, I’d notice that his eyes would sort of shoot off to the side repeatedly. We took him to the doctor and were told it was probably allergies and a different manifestation of his anxiety.  (We now know this behavior is called the oculo-digital sign, characterized by poking, rubbing, and/or pressing of the eyes and is very common in visually impaired children.)  Continue reading “Kai’s RP Diagnosis Story”