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from Fall 1998 issue
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Food, Food, Food

By John Jackson, Parent, Nolanville, Texas

"I heard there were no calories in Atlanta," our new friend Norma DiMartino stated as Treasa (my wife), Norma and I looked at what turned out to be the most delicious pie we have ever tasted. Norma could not have been more right. The whole week we got food. Food for the spirit, food for the mind, and food for our lives.

Treasa and I are the proud parents of Hunter, a wonderful 2 year old boy with multiple disabilities. One of Hunter's disabilities is legal blindness. Treasa, Hunter and I were in Atlanta for the International Conference of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). We were able to attend the conference due to the combined efforts of Mollie O'Leary from the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) , Jean Robinson from the Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, and Brenda Frizzell from Child Team.

No amount of calories could have filled the 690 participants from around the world as they came together to share, learn and prepare ways to enhance the lives of the population of the world whose physical vision is impaired. As Treasa and I saw the passion and focus of the participants we were overwhelmed by the realization that we and our support staff (which many envy) are not alone, but just a small part of a worldwide effort to enhance the lives of others. It made us all but cry. To see professionals who volunteered their time to come and learn new ways to help, instruct, and liberate the lives of the clients was amazing. The power of concern, love, and focus could have no other effect but to feed the spirit.

While neither my wife nor I are professionals, the sessions were not so advanced that we couldn't get something from them. The sessions on new research and methods gave us hope for the future. Sessions on ways we can work with our son at home to improve his vision added to our arsenal. Ideas, ideas, and more ideas were freely given. When people found out we were parents they were more than free with their time to answer questions and give us a fresh approach to methods they used. Each person we spoke with taught us there is so much being done and that can be done. Yes, the calories were rich and filling, but there was always room for more and more willing to give.

Food for our lives was given from the minute we walked in, and it is still being given. The conference was so much more than we expected while not knowing what to really expect. Being placed in an environment such as we were, we could walk away knowing everything is going to keep advancing in a positive direction. Sometimes I know that parents with children such as ours feel it is a never-ending struggle. Attending the conference taught me there is an end and it is success. One thing did surprise me, the lack of parents at the conference. I know that with the experience we had, we will be attending more in the future. You see, to Treasa and I the question is not how can we, but how can we not? If not us then who?

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from Fall 1998 issue