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The Children’s Visual Rehabilitation Program

Tuesday, 07.17.2012 / 2:30 PM / Pittsburgh Youth Hockey Network
Pittsburgh Penguins
By: Jill Saulnier
The Children’s Visual Rehabilitation program based out of West Virginia University holds a summer institute for visually impaired individuals who are living with visual restrictions. The organization was established in 1996 and has expanded in both administration and participation since. Not all eye conditions have the ability to be cured. Some of the individuals enrolled in the Children’s Visual Rehabilitation Program are fighting incurable vision loss. However, a loss of vision in no way restricts a child’s effort to learn. Individuals with vision loss are found to work extended amounts in the classroom, and are commonly very successful with their school grades. Many get into great universities and have paths laid out for them, but when the transition is made from a comfortable lifestyle to a more social environment such as University or work life, these children struggle.

The goal of this program is to create independence and employability through vision rehabilitation. When medical intervention will not change to find a cure to reconstruct ones vision, this organization reverts to rehab methods. By practicing independent life habits and communicative methods in social situations, these individuals develop the proper skills required to excel in the real world.

In 2012, the summer institute consists of 10 teenagers aging from 15-18 who in this case have the primary focus of technology and becoming educated with voice over access which helps in building self esteem. These individuals come together for a period of time and learn how to utilize technology to their advantage so they can succeed in the working field. The younger group consisted of children ages 5-10, and this group came together for just a day camp, focusing on a variety of topics, but receiving a baseline of information regarding skills needed for independent living and social interaction.

The summer institute program has a theme based structure each year, hockey claiming the title this season. The individuals joined at a local arena and laced up the skates. Special guest Mark DeMontis was also in attendance to assist the children and help teach them the basic skills of hockey. Mark is an international inspiration and role model for children everywhere. At age 18, Mark was diagnosed with a rare eye condition, which took away the central vision in both of his eyes, leaving his legally blind, but this didn’t stop Mark from achieving his goals. Since then he has made a historical imprint on battling adversity to achieve your goals, inspiring children with visuals impairments to play hockey across globe.

Mark has been an inspiration to indivuals all across the world, and he made a point to stop with the children of the summer institute program and share his story. He, along with some other assistive instructors, joined the children on the ice for a skate. Many of them began without sticks, guiding themselves around the rink with the assistance of the boards; however, this didn’t last too long. Perhaps one of the most impressive things about this skate was the fact that almost all of them were holding a stick, passing and shooting the puck within the hour. The simple skills these individuals acquired within such a short period of time just proved that these along with many other skills can be easily attained with a bit of practice and attention.

Overall, the hockey day was a success, and the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Overcoming adversity is argumentatively one of the most rewarding accomplishments an individual can come across. Having role models such as Mark, to lead the way and show these kids what they have the ability to do and succeed at, is very reassuring and confidence boosting. Visual impairments may have their restrictions on some things in life, however, the feeling of independence and success is something that everyone on this earth can experience.

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