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Dec 2, 2010

Healthy Living looks at the blindness of 3 yr old Alyssa Fisher

alyssa fisher

Without eyesight, the simplest things can be the biggest challenges to overcome.  Many take such things as crossing the street or avoiding an uncovered manhole for granted, but for the blind, it can be the difference between an ordinary day and a bruised knee. In this week’s issue of Healthy Living, we have the story of how a young child deals with her blindness.

Denise Trapp, Principal, Building Block Preschool

“We’re telling the children a bit about disabilities because this is disabilities week.  We have Miss Zelaya with us from the disability center she will also be giving a little talk about disabilities.”

Liza Zelaya

Good afternoon boys and girls.”

Kids

“Good afternoon teacher.”

Lisa Zelaya

“Do you know what visual impaired means? That’s a big word. Do you know what blind means? When you cannot see; ok. This afternoon we’re having a small session, we have Alyssa here with you and she cannot see.”

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Three year old Alyssa Fisher has been enrolled at Building Blocks Preschool in Belize City since September 2010. Like most children her age, it is the literal first block in her academic foundation. For parents of a preschooler, selecting a school to trust with their child is an arduous task; but for Carol Fisher, Alyssa’s mom, it was an even greater challenge. That’s because Alyssa is blind.

Carol Fisher, Alyssa’s Mother

carol fisher

“She was born premature and she spent approximately two months in the incubator at Karl Huesner. It was something like three months after she was born we realized there was a problem with her eyes.”

Following a series of tests & examinations in Belize and Guatemala, it was determined that Alyssa had retinal detachment.  Even after several surgeries, she is left with limited possibility of gaining any vision in her future.

Marleni Cuellar

“What was it like when you first got the prognosis of the possibility that she might be totally blind of the rest of her life?”

Carol Fisher

“Something you no wish for anybody to hear. For me it was very devastating. I cried a lot and Dr Valdez talk to me and so. And my family is there as moral support. With that I learn to adjust to it.”

As a working single mother, Carol relied heavily on her family during Alyssa’s first 2 years. But as Alyssa approached school age she knew the next milestone was going to a major hurdle in their lives.

Carol Fisher

“She was with my mom but when she reach the preschool age. I decided to bring her down and so I’m working with it from there.”

Marleni Cuellar

“Did you have any fears in integrating her in the school system?

Carol Fisher

“Yes I did.  When Alyssa reach the age of two, I got in contact with Lisa from BCVI and I explain to her that I have this child with disability and I wanted to know what to do. And it was something new for me.”

Liza Zelaya, Regional Field Officer, BCVI

lisa zelaya

“Well the mommy was devastated wanted to know what she can do what Alyssa can do in the future. I told her well BCVI was here. I will assist. I will visit the child and make sure she meet her milestone.”

Liza Zelaya works with the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired as a Regional Field Officer. She assisted directly with the placement of Alyssa at Building Blocks Preschool.

Marleni Cuellar

“What is the process when a parent calls and says “I want to integrate my child into a school?”

Lisa Zelaya

“The first thing I need ensure is that yes the child is visually impaired. Yes, she is blind. She can’t function with sight.  So I would visit the home give them a project let them practice the activities that they need so that the child reach their milestone then the alphabet in brail and see a preschool for them to go to preschool.”

According to Liza, not all preschools eagerly jump on board to facilitate children with Special Needs. Hesitations due to methodology and environment keep them from attempting inclusion. But at Alyssa’s preschool it was different. Both Principal Denise Trapp & Teacher Delone Bailey were enthusiastic.

Lisa Zelaya

“At the beginning when I tell Teacher Denise about it she was so happy. It’s a new process for her and she like the challenge so she said bring the child in and I will work with her.  I was so happy at the first approach she welcomed it with open arms.”

Marleni Cuellar

“Do you have to teach her differently than the other kids and how do you adapt to it?”

delone bailey

“Not all the time but sometimes we teach her different. The letters you have to do wither one to one. The ones who can see they know it off the blackboard and with her she just have to use the brail that we use and she can adapt to it.”

Marleni Cuellar

“What was your worst fear in having her at a school that wasn’t catered to blind people?”

Carol Fisher

“At forts I had the fear that when I bring her to school she would be teased she would be laughed at and maybe she would get hurt, children would trip on her and things like that. But then when I brought her the first day, it was not like that. And then the second day when we came in, the teacher opened the gate and there was a little girl who met us at the door and she took Alyssa’s bag and put it in the corner and she hold her hand and she brought her and so then I realized ok she’s in good hand there’s no reason for me to worry. So I could go to work and be relaxed knowing that she would be taken care of.”

Marleni Cuellar

“How have you seen a difference with the students who have her in the classroom?”

Delone Bailey

“They don’t treat her any different than the others in the classroom just like a normal child.”

Denise Trapp, Principal, Building Block Preschool

denise trapp

“Giselle, what do you help us do with Alyssa?”

Giselle

“I help ah walk.”

Denise Trapp

“Anybody else help Alyssa with something? Zair?”

zair

Zair

“I help Alyssa go around.”

Shenelle

“I help Alyssa use the bathroom. I like ker Alyssa round me.”

Student # 1, Building Blocks Preschool

“I like when Alyssa sit down beside me.”

shenelle

Marleni Cuellar

“You help her?”

Student

“Yes.”

Student # 2, Building Blocks Preschool

“I help Alyssa fi mek ih sit down.”

Lisa Zelaya

“And you know what? By helping Alyssa do all these things you make her very happy. Do you guys know that? 38 She always wants to come to school now. She does not sit home and cry. She wants to come out. At a certain age, a child need independence.  Mommy and daddy won’t be there forever. So the more the child is independent be who she wants to be it is very good for the child.”

Liza explained that Alyssa is the sixth visually impaired child to be integrated into a regular school system for the 2010 school year. It is a countrywide undertaking conducted by BCVI and the National Resource Centre for Inclusive Education NARCIE.  AS for Alyssa, with the support of her family, the BCVI & NARCIE and a solid foundation at Building Blocks preschool the possibilities are limitless.

Delone Bailey

“Alyssa is a bright child. She can talk she can do everything just like a normal child. Talk, play, sing. [Reporter] and when she gets in trouble she gets punished too?

Just like a normal child, yes. She get timeout too.”

Carol Fisher

“We’re taking her back to Guatemala and so it kinda give me the motivation that something will work out. Well if she have vision I’d be much more happy and if not, I’ll still be happy. She’s my child.  I would hope that everything would work out for her that she would go through preschool, she would go through primary school, she would go through high school and as far as she would want to go I will be there to support and what she wants to do after that well that’s her choice.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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5 Responses for “Healthy Living looks at the blindness of 3 yr old Alyssa Fisher”

  1. RadicalBelizean says:

    I left the school system in Belize for more than 20 years ago, however I cannot recall anyone with a disability. Therefore I think this is progress. I wondered if the primary, secondary and tertiary education are prepared for children like Alyssa. There is no reason why we shouldn’t expect her to excel in life, as long as the environment is there for this to happen. The items in Braille to assist her reading etc, is wonderful and its definitely progress in our school. The other children will benefit immensely from having a classmate like Alyssa, as they will learn about someone living with a disability and learn from a very early age about respecting people like her.

    I would like to see this progress in society now. By changing the mentality of the adults, improvements in the pavements, access to the buildings for people using their cane and respecting the guide dogs.

    In my career working abroad I have met some incredibly intelligent people with visual impairment. I am sometimes left in sheer amazement of their brilliance. I had the pleasure of meeting the former British secretary (Minister) of Education David Blunkett, who has been blind since birth, and came from a deprived family but this didn’t stop him to succeed to become a well respected politician. So to Carol push for everything you would have done if Alyssa had sight, there is no limit, only we put limits on ourselves. I can see that you are already doing that by getting her in the school, so you’re on the right track.

  2. Joaquin Magana says:

    Wonderful story ! Congratularions to everyone who contributed for Alyssa’s integration into the education system, I am sure she will be succesful in life!

  3. SMG says:

    Thanks BVCI and all other organizations involved in this. Mom keep your head high, she’s gonna reach for the stars. Congrats to all the teachers who are enthused to be a part of this project.

  4. belizeanpride says:

    my respects to the BVCI, the pre-school and the outstanding mom that have a heart of an angel, mom you’re so loving regardless of the difficulties your baby girl has, keep in mind that the Lord Almighty wil always be there for her and for you to help her grow and adapt to this world. Lord willing let there be a chance that she can recover sight in the future as she keeps on checking a specialist that might give her the chance to see. My prayers to you and your baby girl.

  5. Chami-Ka says:

    Alyssa is such a beautiful angel. Ms. Fisher, I hope and pray to God so that your daughter can see one day.

    If she is not able to see, I guess its because God knows she has a good mom that will care for her. God Bless you.

    We must acknowledge the help of the BCVI and also the school for accomodating young Alyssa.

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