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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

They Are Just Like Us

If you had to choose, would you rather be blind or deaf?
How do they dance if they can't hear music?
How can they go bowling if they can't see the pins?
These are just a few questions that were asked today when the children and I visited the Florida School for the Deaf and The Blind for a tour of the campus.

Our tour was led by Mr. Rick Coleman, Parent Specialist.  Mr. Coleman, whose daughter is a graduate of the school, was a  knowledgeable guide and  extremely passionate about his school.  We began with a brief history of the school, which was founded in the late 1800's.  The original wooden buildings no longer stand but there are buildings dating back to the early 1900's.  The campus is vast and includes a hospital, bowling alley, police department, swimming pool, gym, libraries, state-of-the-art science and technology labs and much more making it a very desirable education choice for parents of deaf and blind children.  In fact, many of the children on our tour could be heard commenting, "I want to go to THIS school!"

Florida Residents do not pay to attend this institution and those that live on campus can take a charter bus home each weekend to visit their family.  There are about 400 students that live on campus ranging in age from 5 to 18.  Seniors in high school transition from dorms into independent living facilities so that they can prepare for life on their own.

One highlight of our tour was witnessing the rehearsal of a group of deaf  high school students preparing for a musical production. These students had more rhythm than many hearing people do!  They danced disco, swing and modern dance numbers all by keeping their eye on the instructor, who counts out the music in sign language.

On February 22, 2012, there will be an Open House for the community to come out and witness the outstanding achievements these students can make when given the opportunity.  Most of the sporting events are also open to the public, including games of Goal Ball, which is played by blind students.  The students have a case full of trophies representing their excellence in sports achievements.

Outstanding academics, sports programs, arts programs, a beautiful campus, a caring and dedicated staff and children who love to learn all contributed to an afternoon learning how blind and deaf students learn.  The children taking the tour were fascinated and pleasantly surprised to find out that they are just like us.

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