APRIL 25, 1959
HYDE PARK—The night before I left on my trip to Iran I dined with a group called the Association for the Advancement of Blind Children, Inc. This is a group of parents who have come together to help children who are emotionally disturbed and physically handicapped by blindness.
Many people will ask why should this organization, formed in May, 1955, exist? Why cannot these children be taken care of by existing facilities for the blind?
The answer is very simple. The adult blind are the first concern of most established organizations. There are only very limited programs for children. What is available for children is inadequate, and existing facilities have not been able to take care of the large number of blind children born during the past decade.
The most prevelent cause of blindness in children during the past few years is retro-lental-Fibroplasia. These children have other handicaps, too, because this condition occurs more often in premature children. They are found to have emotional problems, they are very often retarded in school, and, of course, they have little recreation capacity because it must be developed for them and so little is available.
There has been established a psychological therapy and research center that is supported by the AABC at the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the New York University-Bellevue Medical Center. This clinic gives free, direct psychological aid to blind children, whether classified as emotionally disturbed, difficult, slow learning, average or genius.
The project permits the determination of proper methods of evaluating the capacities and possible development of blind children. And to further develop the success of this project, training has been undertaken for professional workers, teachers, psychologists and counselors through research fellowships, scholarships and institutes.
In connection with this research center there also has been established—in Public School 41 in Manhattan—the first class for emotionally disturbed and slow-learning blind children. It is hoped that more classes soon will be started.
The research center also gives guidance to parents, places blind children in regular day camps, and provides special counselors for them. In addition, it appoints play therapists who visit the homes of children before they are of school age in order to prepare them for the outside world.
The general public should be more aware of this problem and of the work done by the AABC, because without the interest of the public additional facilities will not be made available and the Board of Education may neglect this phase of its work unless moved by public opinion.
Its value, of course, is that development of these children will remove a burden from the community as a whole, for every child who becomes capable of self-support and is able to live normally takes a burden from the taxpayers.