Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jack's Story

Destination - Independence Walk Founder - Jaimie Haver Shares From Her Heart

What did you first feel when you learned Jack was visually impaired? Jack was three months old when we learned he was going to be visually impaired; we were still numb from watching him struggle to stay alive that the visual impairment diagnosis didn't strike us as a challenge until he was closer to a year old and wasn't hitting his developmental milestones.  We then started to experience a grocery list of unproductive feelings, mostly sadness for the struggles that we thought Jack would have to experience for the rest of his life. As parents we concerned how people would treat him as special vs. just a normal kid that was visually impaired and really the crux of emotions was the uncertainty of what this diagnosis meant for his future happiness and productivity. 

How did you learn about Blind Children’s Learning Center?  We learned about Blind Children's Learning Center from the Orange County Regional Center.  When they referred us to the Center, we did think they were nuts, because Jack was legally blind but he wasn't totally blind. We did not put much weight or value on the services offered and did not reach out to the Center until Jack was nearly one.

The frustrating thing is my husband, Darren, grew up just a few miles away from the Center.  We've lived in Orange County our whole lives and we had never heard of this place.  Albeit we did not have a prior need, but nonetheless, you would have thought that an organization that had been around 50 years would have been known by at least one of our friends, or parents' friends or even the doctors or ophthalmologists that work in Orange County.  This still gets me a little heated...maybe I shouldn't have started this topic! 

Can you tell me what your first feeling was when he began receiving services in-home or in the Early Childhood Center program? 

When Jack started receiving services in-home, we still did not grasp the value of what was being provided.   It wasn't until after the first several visits that I realized the therapy was as much for Jack as it was for me.  They taught me how to engage Jack through sound and touch vs. visual cues that I observed from other moms.  Christine (in-home infant specialist) kept encouraging us to visit the Center – she described all the services we were taking Jack to outside the home could be done at the Center by trained (Visual Impairment) VI specialists.  Being the ridiculous parents we are, we thought she was nuts – Jack was not blind, therefore, he would not be going.  When we finally went for a tour of the Center, watched kids like Jack tear through the playground and have fun doing therapy, we made the transition.  Jack’s world opened up and our lives changed forever.  He started attending classes when he was nearly three. At that time he was not talking, eating solid foods or socializing with other toddlers.  Within three months, he said Mama, ate a banana and cried when it was time to leave to come home.  It was AWESOME.  Our first real life parenting experiences with a child that cried leaving when it was time to leave a party – that is what his day was like – playing in the Occupational Therapy (OT) room, taking walks in the community, playing with paint or pudding – life was a party!

 What are Jack’s goals/ambitions now?  Jack’s goals and ambitions are probably similar to every 15-year-old boy – play as much basketball as possible; have fun with friends and then…apply as little effort as possible to get good enough grades for his parents to not ground him forever!  Our expectations for Jack are the same as every parent – earn a great education, build a career that he is proud of and pay as many taxes as possible! Additionally, we want Jack to always remember, that if not for the skills he learned and the friends he made at Blind Children’s Learning Center, his life may have been dramatically different.  We hope that he will be as grateful for Blind Children’s Learning Center as we are.