Haley’s first encounter with the Seeing is Believing program was when she was in 1st grade. She has now graduated from Northern Illinois University with her master’s degree in Special Education – Visual Disabilities and is working in the Naperville school district as a Vision Itinerant.
“I have been a patient, camper, counselor and panelist with the Seeing is Believing program,” says Haley. Haley has had vision loss since birth, diagnosed with microphthalmos, nystagmus and coloboma. She recalls being part of the technology camp that we offered to students with vision loss. “Learning how to use the adaptive technologies really opened up my options.”
Sometimes the hardest part of vision loss is knowing how to make the best use of the vision you have. A key component of the Seeing is Believing program is providing students, parents and teachers with the knowledge about how to help each child succeed. Vision loss is not the same for everyone, even students with the same diagnosis. The doctors in the program work very hard to develop a plan that addresses everyone’s unique needs.
Her participation as a counselor at the Seeing is Believing technology camp is what inspired her to go on to be a vision itinerant. “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher but working with kids with vision loss really spoke to me. I knew I could have the biggest impact on that group.”
Reflecting on her primary school experiences, “being a kid with vision loss isn’t always easy. There is the usual kid stuff of bullying, but the hardest part is getting the help you need.” Haley was one of the first children with vision loss in her district and it was challenging to get the tools she needed. Even in high school, she had to remind teachers that she needed enlarged print and certain accommodations. They would either forget or couldn’t be bothered. “I was just Haley, not blind Haley, which was great, but it also made it harder for me to get the support I needed.”
Her advice to the younger Seeing is Believing students is never afraid to ask for what you need. Even if you are young, you understand what you need best.