Lola Wins Braille Challenge: Advocating for Vision Impaired Children
Five years ago we stared into the face of a child with bright blue eyes. One was turned inward at quite an extreme angle and it was clear from the way she held out a guarded hand; she could not see. This child in a picture would become our daughter. And although we knew nothing about blindness or visual impairment it was an easy yes to make her our daughter.
Of the millions of children in the world God drew our eyes to her and gave us our yes.
We had to learn a lot in the first months. When Lola came home she was almost six and needed to get started in kindergarten and gain access to services for blind and visually impaired children. To the surprise of many who do not know blind individuals, Lola attended the same public school as our sighted children. She works alongside sighted peers doing the same work but in a different way.
Lola uses Braille to read, and she does an amazing job. Recently, in her third-grade year, Lola competed in an all-day national Braille Challenge. She and other visually impaired children were presented with grade level texts and challenges and competed for the highest score in hopes of qualifying for the national event. Lola, who spoke Mandarin until age six and learned English and Braille at the same time, took first place in the competition for the elementary level.
We are so proud of her accomplishments but want to take a moment to speak up for other children who are waiting with similar eye conditions. Blindness is so low-incidence in the United States that it presents itself as a very scary disability when instead it’s simply a different way of doing things. We have learned this firsthand in the almost five years that Lola has been home.
Today I ask you to look at these children for who they are and who they could be with the right set of tools and accessibility. I ask you to share their stories and even consider if they might be your next yes!
Erica Ho is an America World mom and Director of Missions at America World Adoption. She and her husband Calvin live in Tennessee and are advocates for orphans and adoption. In addition to her role at America World, Erica often leads mission trips to help advocate for waiting children who need forever families.
Meet Morgan—a happy and sweet music loving 3 ½-year-old boy who is currently in a program with Love Without Boundaries. Little Morgan dances at the sound of any beat. You can’t help but smile seeing several of his music videos where he happily dances with great rhythm and tries to sing along to the music. Morgan lives with a foster family and is close to his foster mom and grandma. He gets along well with the other children in the home. He is cheerful and easygoing, likes to interact with people around him, can understand adult’s instructions and follow them. He can complete daily tasks with help and guidance, but assistance is needed due to his eye condition. Morgan has been diagnosed with congenital glaucoma and corneal ectasia with leukoma (a vision impairment with white opacity in the cornea of the eye ). His blood work revealed mild anemia and several panels were positive for Hep B antibodies. (HbsAb, HBeAb, HbcAb) He is walking, running, jumping and can go up and down stairs. His file noted a language delay as of April 2017; however, it notes that he is speaking in small 5-10 word sentences. Current plans are being made to transfer him to BETHEL where he can receive extra assistance for his vision condition. His is from one of our previous partner orphanages and is a special focus file.
Contact our China team at China@awaa.org or 800-429-3369 if you would like more information about making Morgan a part of your family.
Meet Hailey—a precious little girl who will be four in January. She smiles often and it makes others around her feel the brightness she radiates. At the age of 42 months, while sitting on the chair or sofa in her classroom, she would move her body with music and so happy when she heard the music she likes. She plays with her caregiver and will approach them and will walk outdoors being held by her caregiver and likes to hum when happy. She will also sing songs during mealtime. She is obedient and understands when she makes mistakes. She will jump on the wooden horse happily with the encouragement of her caregiver. At the age of 33 months, she is bright, is quick to smile, has good comprehension, and understands what her caregiver says. At the age of 40 months, she would follow other kids to walk when familiar kids would hold her hands to walk. At the age of 41 months, she enjoyed playing with balls and would hold a ball firmly.
She has been diagnosed with vision impairments, microphthalmia, and leukoma, and is blind in both eyes. Both eyes show signs of atrophy based on medical testing and her right eye shows retinal detachment. She has average muscle tone and her language and motor development are delayed compared to other children her age. She can say words like “elder sister”, “bye-bye”, and “walk”, but she doesn’t speak all of the time. She is in rehabilitation training. She sometimes misunderstands because of blindness and will cry when caregivers speak with another child with a different tone of voice, thinking she is being talked to, but then she is happy if caregiver tells her they were talking about another child.
She was transferred to her current orphanage after several years at another orphanage and that transition was difficult for her due to her vision needs and because everything being very unfamiliar. At the age of 42 months, her living environment changed again, but this time under the careful guidance of her caregiver, she was able to adapt better and her file notes that she became braver. Her nannies state that she shows her emotion on her face and will laugh out loud when happy or will cry when sad. Her file notes that her nannies think she is cute. Her file notes, “We hope she could grow up healthily, be cute and receive good care and live under sunshine to be full of happiness.”
While Hailey has had some difficult beginnings and several tough “new starts” in her short life, she needs the love of a family to help her thrive and meet her full potential and unlock the beautiful little girl that hides behind that smile. Her file is extremely detailed with a lot of wonderful developmental information, benchmarks and history and any family interested in reviewing her file can be connected with individuals who have visited her orphanage. This little one has so much potential if given the right family to grow and thrive in.
Contact our China team at China@awaa.org or 800-429-3369 if you would like more information about making Hailey a part of your family.
If your family is interested in learning more about adoption or considering a China adoption, please contact our China staff at China@awaa.org for more information. Families can view our China Adoption page for more information on children who are currently available and waiting for families.