I will never forget the great memories I had while I attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB).
Being a Teacher’s Aide
I was inspired to become an early intervention specialist for the blind and visually impaired when I was as a teacher’s aide in 10th and 11th grade. I worked with the first grade children for my parenting and on the job training classes. My job was to help the children out with their schoolwork while the teacher completed her tasks.
One experience I really enjoyed was creating a lesson plan involving Florida for their geography lesson. I had a picture of Florida for each of them and there were Wikki Stix for the children to feel the borders of the state. They were also given shaving cream to fill in the state of Florida! They received raised markers to put on the model to represent locations around the state, such as St. Augustine, Jacksonville, and their homes.
I loved helping the children with their reading assignments if they had trouble. The hardest part of my work experience was the fact that I did not know braille very well at the time. I remember when the first grade teacher asked me to help one of the students who was totally blind. I felt uneasy because I had no clue how to read braille to correct the child’s schoolwork and it really broke my heart that I was unable to help them. A lesson I took away from this as a future educator of the blind and visually impaired is to be proficient in braille and other skills, so you can assist the child as best as you can.
Things I Learned There
Besides braille and mobility skills, I also had the chance to learn other things at FSDB. One of the things I discovered there was how to use different types of technology, including Victor Reader Stream, ZoomText, Ruby Magnifier from Freedom Scientific, and other devices for the blind and visually impaired. The Victor Reader is a talking device that can hold a lot of books and record notes to listen to. I currently have my very own that the Division of Blind Services bought me to use in college as an accommodation. ZoomText is a magnification program that can go on your laptop to enlarge the screen. The other features with this program are a screen reader that can read things to you if your eyes are tired, and you can change the contrast! The Ruby is a portable magnifier that you can take with you anywhere you go: work, school, the store, etc. FSDB will definitely help your blind or visually impaired child select the best technology, depending on their visual or multiple needs!
Independent Living Skills
I also learned how to cook, clean, and manage my money. I was able to make my own breakfast casserole in the dorm after my adult living teacher taught me how to make it in class. I felt like I was becoming independent on my road to adulthood! Once you learn how to do something and challenge yourself, you feel like an achiever. Never let your visual impairment stop you from living the life you want!
Orientation and Mobility
In mobility, I was able to take the bus to various places in St. Augustine, such as Winn-Dixie and Wendy’s. My favorite moment in mobility class at FSDB was helping the little children with their scavenger hunt. The children were asked to find certain clues on their mobility lesson and read them. They received treats after finding the hints and had a fun time. Another thing I enjoyed was when I went to a cupcake place known as Luli's and St. George Street. I always liked using my cane to travel those places!
In 12th grade, I had a job through my vending class. I worked on Tuesday nights taking orders from students and eating food from there. I received a pretty good paycheck from working at the Cobra Corner Café and I also learned some pretty great employment skills through that job!
Fun Things I Did There
I did a lot of fun stuff at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, such as going to Young Life, Bible Study, ASL, Drama Club, Clay Club, working at Cobra Corner, being a zookeeper, cheerleading, and going on field trips. I loved going to Young Life camp to have fun. I enjoyed being outdoors and doing fun activities, such as swimming, going on the swing, and interacting with my friends. Young Life, which is a Christian youth club for teens, held meetings every Wednesday. Those were a lot of fun and I still have some of my Young Life shirts. ASL (American Sign Language) was another fun club that I enjoyed at FSDB. I learned how to sign different songs and phrases. Along with braille, sign language is also important for me to learn in case I work with a child who is deafblind as an early intervention specialist. In middle school, I really enjoyed caring for my science teacher’s animals as a zookeeper. I still have my three zookeeping t-shirts with me! I also loved going to field day and going on the waterslides with my field day shirt on! Being in pageant two times was a great event that I achieved in my 11th and 12th grade years of high school. I will always treasure the trophy I won after playing the autoharp! I have an FSDB t-shirt with my name in braille along with the school mascot. I’ve enjoyed all my moments and fun times at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind! I would recommend that school to any child who is blind, deaf, visually impaired, or deafblind.
My Friends I Made There
Through my years at FSDB, I’ve made so many friends that I love talking to and hanging out with. My friends have always been there to support me. For example, my friends have helped me by giving me advice on learning braille giving me encouragement to keep focusing on my studies with braille. Another friend taught me sign language when we were roommates in the dorm together, so I know a little bit about communicating with individuals who are deafblind. There is nothing better than having support from good friends to cheer you on!
My Graduation from FSDB
My graduation from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind was one of the best moments of my life and I will never forget it! I received a standard diploma along with five scholarships: Florida Council of Citizens with Low Vision, Board of Realtors, Young Life award, the Board of Trusties FSDB Scholarship, and the Elks of St. Augustine. Along with my excitement, I was also a bit sad because I knew that I was going to miss my second home where I had spent 10 years! FSDB helped raise me, along with my own mother. They taught me all the things I needed for the real world and I made many friends that I will never forget. The key for me to receive all these scholarships and my diploma was that I worked really hard in school and I never gave up when it got challenging for me. Yes, I faced taking standardized tests and completing things I had struggled with, but I didn’t throw in the towel and call it quits! Just because you are blind, visually impaired or something is challenging doesn’t mean you can’t overcome these obstacles in life. There are great sources today for people that are blind or visually impaired to assist them in any task! If it wasn’t for FSDB teaching me all these great skills, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. My motto is for anyone who is blind, visually impaired, or has other disabilities: If I can do it, then you can too!