A mother's thanks...

Guest Commentary in the Springfield Republican

Jillian seated at a table takes notes with her braille note taker.

Jillian Allair at a Perkins PEP workshop. (Photo by Anna Miller/Perkins School for the Blind)

May 7, 2016

When my daughter Jillian, my third child, was only a few weeks old we learned that she was blind. My husband and I were stunned…and scared. How could I take care of a child who is blind? I had never known a child - or the mother of a child - who was blind. I was mentally paralyzed.

That’s when my own mother stepped in. She had found information about a program designed specifically for parents and infants with visual impairments: the Infant-Toddler Program at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown. It was in that program – we just called it “The Monday Group” - that I believed we were all going to be okay, especially Jillian. I was so grateful to my mother for “making” me attend.

Jillian went to preschool, kindergarten and grade school in our town of Ludlow. Every step of the way, even though Jillian was the only blind student, our school district made sure she got the additional resources she needed to learn, progress and excel. I remember vividly when Jillian was three. She’d had some medical issues and was having a hard time learning to walk. Perkins sent a teacher who put a cane in her hand and it changed her (and me) instantly. It allowed Jillian to be more mobile. It helped me see that she could be an “independent traveler.”

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