Program Helps Visually Impaired Children In Remote Parts Of Arizona
Logan Fischer blended in with a flurry of card-playing first-graders, even as he had to hold his cards right up to this face to read them. But the 6-year-old is actually one of a kind — the only visually impaired student at Coyote Springs Elementary School in Prescott Valley.
Diagnosed with underdeveloped optic nerves as a baby, Logan is legally blind, with sight that varies every day. Still, that doesn't limit him.
“I can do a lot of stuff,” he said, matter-of-factly. “[Like] go down water slides and running and go on my balance bike.”
And he can read Braille and write it on a special typewriter. The reason why is because because Logan’s school district, like 170 others in the state, is part of a cooperative program run by the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB).
Since the 1990s, the co-ops have operated in remote parts of the state, sending teachers, materials and equipment out to the students who need them.
“And I feel that it shouldn’t matter where they live, and they should be able to have the same access to their education as anybody else,” said Danielle Cummings.
Cummings supervises ASDB’s teachers across the western part of northern Arizona. She said, by law, schools are required to offer services to students with disabilities. But it can be hard for a tiny school to justify hiring a full-time instructor, especially just for one student.
That’s where ASDB teachers can really make a difference. They go beyond “reading and writing,” Cummings said. “It’s cooking, and how to get on a bus, and sports and activities.”
Those are skills her own son, Zane, is learning. At 10, he’s been visually impaired his whole life.
Even though Cummings is a huge believer in ASDB, she’s clear that the system isn’t perfect. Kids with visual and hearing impairments are still misdiagnosed all the time, including even her son. And the state has cut funding for early intervention programs that help babies and toddlers. Yes, these programs cost money, Cummings said, but it’s money well spent.
“Because these children, instead of potentially being on disability for the rest of their lives, can go to college and have jobs and be productive members of society,” she said.
And soon, northern Arizona will be focusing on this in a whole new way, using hubs like this elementary school to teach visually and hearing impaired students from surrounding towns in the same place. It’s a way to give these kids more help — and more community.
And it means that next year, Logan will have new people to play this Braille board game with — besides just his teacher.
Logan totally won the last match, by the way. Not that that surprised his mom, Katie Fischer.
“He’s smarter than me,” she said as she laughed.
Katie said she used to worry that Logan would always stick out. She doesn’t anymore.
“There’s a lot of time, too, when people meet him, they don’t even know that he has an impairment, at all,” she said.
And Katie feels the services Logan has receives from the state are a big part of why. Her biggest hope for Logan’s future?
“That he becomes a scientist,” she said. “That he lives out his dreams.”
Whatever they may be.
Today, Logan said he wanted to be space scientist. Tomorrow, who knows? To his mom, just about everything feels possible.
You can learn more about the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind at asdb.az.gov.