By Richard and Marcia Jeans
Fifteen years ago my husband and I faced one of the most difficult moments in our lives when the doctors told us that our daughter, Alysha, was blind. She was diagnosed with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. We grieved for weeks, but with the help and support of our family and friends, we began to see that it truly was not the end of the world. We were fortunate to live in Great Falls, Montana where the State School for the Blind was located. Almost immediately we began sessions with an in-home specialist that worked with our daughter and us on a weekly basis. When we moved to Wichita, Alysha was 3 years old, and she soon began preschool at the Wichita Preschool for the Blind, which was a wonderful experience for us all. At an early age, we began focusing on the social aspects of her education. We felt it was very important for her to be able to interact appropriately with her sighted peers. We truly believe the early intervention she received has made a world of difference in her life.
Alysha is now a sophomore in high school and is a very bright and active student. She is earning straight A’s and is involved in choir, piano, and drama. She is the vice president of the French Club and holds a state office in Rainbow Girls, a service organization for girls. Through that organization, she has participated in projects benefiting the Humane Society, the Ronald McDonald House, the Food Bank, and several other charities. Alysha is a friendly and outgoing person who has a positive attitude and cheerful outlook. Always ready for a challenge, she is adventurous and curious. She has received numerous inquiries from colleges and is currently trying to decide which is the right one for her.
Even though Alysha has enjoyed success in many areas of her life, things have not always gone smoothly for her.
Access to timely Braille materials and appropriate technology have always been obstacles she has faced. But her blindness is not the main obstacle she has overcome. Never has she allowed her blindness to stand in the way or prevent her from pursuing her dreams. Contrary to the opinion of many people, she often says that it is people’s conception of blindness that is worst, not the actual disability. On numerous occasions, she has encountered people who are frightened to even speak to her or who underestimate her abilities. There are a wide variety of false stereotypes about blindness, and these have sometimes been frustrating for her. However, Alysha’s strong character and determination have conquered this problem as well. She has learned that the opinions of complete strangers are no way to measure herself as a person.
There have been multiple times when we have had to stand up for what we felt was right. Our goal is that no one should hold Alysha back from achieving her fullest potential. It is so rewarding for us to see that now Alysha is becoming her own advocate. She is confidently standing up for her rights and what she believes in. It is every parent’s hope and aspiration that their children grow up to be independent and successful. We have proudly watched as Alysha has impressed people with the fact that she’s blind, but certainly not handicapped! Every day we count our blessing and thank God for giving us such a special child.