[blindkid] applying to teach internationally

Joy Orton ortonsmom at gmail.com
Sun Feb 13 04:07:29 UTC 2011

Dear friends,
Recently I posted an email from an organization that places teachers
in international schools. I have drafted a reply to the concerns that
they raised, and I would love to have feedback on it.
Here is the bulk of the text of my email. It is quite long.
Please tell me what you think.

The concerns you have raised about our oldest daughter seem to me to
be in three areas: Her educational needs, her mobility in a foreign
country, and her general adjustment to a new culture. I would like to
address each of these areas in this email. Feel free to pass this
along to the school director there as well.

As a parent of a blind child, I am fully aware of the tremendous
amount of work needed to provide for her education. We are not asking
(ORGANIZATION) or any of your schools to provide special accomodations
for our child. For our daughter’s education, we will take full
responsibility for making sure the materials she needs will be
provided in braille or auditory format.

We plan to bring her electronic notetaker, a “PacMate,” which allows
her to read and create Word documents. Currently she receives a
variety of writing assignments electronically via a thumb drive. Her
classroom teacher saves the assignment to the thumb drive and hands it
to her. She is able to plug it into the PacMate, open and read the
file, create her own file to fulfill the assignment, and then save it
to the thumb drive again. A.  hands the drive back to her teacher, and
he is able to read it in Word. No braille translation software or
human transcription from print to braille or from braille to print is

We also have an embosser, which is a printer for braille. With braille
translation software, we can emboss items into braille, from an
electronic file. In addition, A.  uses two manual devices for writing
braille. They are a Perkins braillewriter and a slate-and-stylus

Academically, A.  is at the top of her class. Currently she is in a
regular classroom at our neighborhood school. She does not attend a
special school or class for blind children. Recently her teacher told
me he forgets that she is blind except when he has to hand her a
paper. Then he has to remember to touch her hand with the paper rather
than just hold it out. She participates fully in the individual and
group projects in the class. One special class she does participate in
is Gifted and Talented Education, called GATE in our district. Fourth
graders have GATE class for a half a day per week. A.  is often one of
the first to answer questions in GATE.

Our school has a program called Accelerated Reader in which students
read books of their choice; then they take a multiple choice quiz over
the contents to earn points. A.  is one of the two top readers by
total points, for the whole school. She and the other girl go back and
forth with who has the most points. In spelling, A.  recently won the
school spelling bee and will represent the school at the district
level on Tuesday. Here is a web address for the school's website with
that news item. On the scrolling photos at the top of the page, A.  is
number 19 in the group photo of the spellers.

We are quite proud of our daughter's academic achievements. She
regularly earns grades in the 90's and stays on the A honor roll. She
will excel in whatever academic environment she finds herself.

A. ’s mobility skills are excellent; she uses a white cane, not a
wheelchair, and she does not need special ramps or safety railing. She
sometimes walks while holding the arm of another person, but she often
walks by herself.  In her dance studio, there is a step up into the
lobby area which I (her mom) regularly trip over; A.  has never missed
that step. I do not see that moving around in a new place will be any
greater challenge for her than for most ten or eleven year old
children. In a new environment, we will provide Orientation and
Mobility lessons to help her familiarize herself with the new place.
We will provide her with a spare cane and any replacement canes that
are needed.

Where we live now, we use a private vehicle to get around, as public
transportation is not common in our small town. There is a train from
Fort Worth to Dallas, and A.  has ridden the train with us several
times. I recall the crowded buses I used to ride when I lived in
Northwestern China, and I can imagine that riding a bus with three
children would be an adventure. However, I don't expect that A.  would
have any more trouble than any other child her age.

As far as adjustment to a new culture, we are not asking the school
director or any staff to provide any more help to us than would be
offered to other families new to the school. A.  is very interested in
the possibility for our family to serve God in another culture, and
she has already made significant adjustments in her life, very
successfully. When she was age 4, we adopted her from an orphanage in
China. She was speaking a different language from ours (Hakka
Chinese), eating Chinese food, and living in a very different kind of
environment. After we brought her into our family, she made rapid
progress in learning English, eating American food, and living with a
Mom and Dad instead of in an institutional setting. Today she speaks
English as a Texan, with no Chinese accent. She is an adventurous
eater, willing to try whatever is on her plate.

We attend a bilingual church, with English and Spanish both being
spoken and sung during each service. In our church we have members
from Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and other countries, as well as
people who were born and raised in the United States. A.  is well
accepted by our brothers and sisters at church, and she participates
fully in Sunday School, worship service, girls’ mission class, and
children’s choir. When she knows in advance the Bible text for Sunday
school and/or worship, she takes the appropriate volume of her braille
Bible with her in order to read along with the text. Even though she
cannot see the words that we sing, projected onto the screen, she
picks up the songs very quickly and is able to sing along in English
and sometimes in Spanish as well. None of our three children is fluent
in Spanish, but they all know some basic phrases. When we began
attending this church three and a half years ago, we had been
attending an "anglo" church. A.  was able to adapt to the new church
culture very well.

For our family, both Dad and I have cross-cultural and international
experience. I, Mom, have lived in Japan, Korea, Germany, and China,
and I have visited Hong Kong (when it was separate from China and
since reunification), Holland, Switzerland, France, Spain, England,
and Thailand. Dad has studied in Mexico and has visited England and
Spain. In addition, he has served in a multi-cultural, bilingual
church for a total of more than seven years, and he is a foreign
language teacher. We understand that culture shock is real, but we
feel we are up to the challenge of learning a new culture and
language. We have one daughter from China and two blonde, blue-eyed
daughters. Our family does draw second looks--we are used to that!

I hope this synopsis can help to set your minds at ease about our
family, and in particular, our oldest daughter. She is a wonderful and
amazing little girl, with many different characteristics. Her
blindness is one of her characteristics, but it is not what defines
her. I do not expect a move to another country to be traumatic for her
nor time-consuming for the school staff.


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