December 26, 2017
Vision Impairment Specialists Drue Banister and Michelle Kim from Wayfinder’s Blind Babies Foundation program flew from Northern California to Beijing for an international early intervention forum hosted by Bethel China, a nonprofit organization pioneering early intervention for blind Chinese children.
While early intervention home visits are considered critical for children who are blind or visually impaired in the United States, it is still a relatively new concept in China. Over three days, Michelle and Drue presented best practices to Chinese families and teachers so that home visits can be integrated into the field in their country.
In addition to best practices, the two specialists demonstrated tools that they use to help children strengthen their visual impairments. Michelle and Drue brought two sensory quilts, a toy bar, a scratchboard and other active learning toys and equipment to give to the blind children of Bethel China. Toddlers played with the toys for hours. The families and teachers were mesmerized, saying that they had never seen toys like these before!
Between presentations, Michelle and Drue listened with compassion to families. Parents described the challenges their children faced. Also, the specialists answered questions to help families navigate their children’s journey through early intervention.
“This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career,” says Michelle. “I will never forget the relieved looks on the parents’ faces the moment they each found the hope that they were looking for.”
Before leaving China, Michelle and Drue visited the Beijing School for the Blind, Bethel China’s foster care program and one of Bethel China’s many learning sites. Drue described the visit as “humbling,” noting that even though the children did not speak their language, they could still communicate with a universal warm smile.
Michelle and Drue have kept in touch with the team from Bethel China, and we look forward to seeing their wonderful work in action across the ocean!