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Published: Monday, 4/1/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Mothers help others adapt to world without sight

Pair plan first support-group session of parents, visually impaired children

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Kristin Adolph, left, has worked to start a support group in the Toledo area for parents of vision-impaired children. Her son, Taylor, 16, is blind. Kristin Adolph, left, has worked to start a support group in the Toledo area for parents of vision-impaired children. Her son, Taylor, 16, is blind.
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Similar personal experiences with their sons brought two Toledo nurses together and challenged them to work to create a support group for vision-impaired children.

Kristin Adolph and Michelle Ballard will sponsor the first meeting on April 18 of the Northwest Ohio Parents of Blind/Visually Impaired, at the Sight Center of Northwest Ohio.

“It has just been an idea that we both have had for years,” Ms. Ballard said. Her son, Jalen, 10, has been blind since birth, although he “does have a little bit of vision in his right eye — shapes, colors, and large print,” his mother said.

Her family used to attend a support group in Michigan because she could not find any in Ohio. But when the women met last fall, they realized it was finally time to start a local group.

“I’ve kind of immersed myself in this world to kind of educate myself,” Ms. Ballard said. “I felt like there was a need in our area. She [Ms. Adolph] felt the same way. She felt like she was all alone, going through this process.”

Ms. Adolph and her son, Taylor, 16, had a similar experience that led them to seek out a group. Taylor lost his sight when he was in second grade because of optic-nerve damage.

“It was kind of unexpected,” Ms. Adolph said. “We were thrown into the world of blindness and children.”

But it soon became clear that groups designed for blind children didn’t always meet specific needs.

“We found that there wasn’t a whole lot of kids like him in our area,” Taylor’s mother said.

Her son attended a visually impaired class through Toledo Public Schools, but he encountered students who were suffering from cognitive delays in addition to blindness.

At that point that Ms. Adolph decided it was time to mainstream her son in traditional classes. Now, he is in the honors program at Rogers High School.

But in her quest for finding more opportunities, she fostered a friendship with Ms. Ballard and her family.

When the two women bonded, they discovered common issues.

“Her son is a lot like Taylor: very intelligent and mostly mainstreamed,” Ms. Adolph said. “We just thought that there was a need to help us fight for services for our children.”

With the group’s first meeting approaching, both women hope the event will open the door to more opportunities.

The two have planned the event later this month around a meet-and-greet format and plan to show a video that highlights the lives of children affected by blindness.

Ms. Adolph said the video will show the different experiences and will allow attendees to discuss what they’ve learned along the way.

The group is designed for parents and children of all ages.

For Ms. Adolph, sharing advice happens as she goes, and she hopes to communicate what she’s learned to other families.

She said she also has adapted to her son’s geometry lessons.

“I’ve learned to help him, sort of adapt our house to his vision loss,” Ms. Adolph said.

Mrs. Adolph said socializing with the blind community and, at the same time, getting around in the sighted world are important elements to learn together.

Ms. Ballard agreed.

“We want to be able to meet people so we can share. We just want kids to connect with other kids in the area,” Ms. Ballard said.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-724-6522 or on Twitter @KMcBlade.



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