Looking Through Braxton Allen’s Eyes

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Looking Through Braxton Allen’s Eyes

Aubree Peterson, Writer

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be blind or visually impaired? To go to school every day and have to use special tools just to help you see the whiteboard clearly? Well, let me tell you; it’s definitely interesting! I recently had the pleasure of talking to Braxton Allen, an eighth grader here at the Barack Obama Academy. He was born with a rare birth defect and, as he explained to me, it has had and still has a big effect on his life. As someone who also has a visual impairment, I’ve had some similar, if not the same, experiences as Braxton regarding academic opportunities. We’ve known each other for about 9 years now, but even I learned some new things while listening to him talk about his daily routines and interests.

Aubree Peterson-Spanard: What would you say a normal day is like for you?

Braxton Allen: A normal day is waking up at about 6:00am – my 300 pound dog will usually lick my face to wake me up in the morning – get up, take a shower, get ready to go, and take the bus to school. It pretty much all begins with a lot of hecticness.

APS: What’s it like at Obama as an eighth grader?

BA: It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be at Obama, but it’s actually a really great school.

APS: Okay. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to talk a little bit about your vision. So, what exactly is your vision “diagnosis?”

BA: Alright. So, I have retinoschisis, which is the tearing of the back of the eye (called the retina), and it’ll bleed sometimes. So, I’ve been taking eye drops that reduce the bleeding and hemorrhaging in the back of the eye, which is hurting. It’s actually been really good for me and my vision is getting better.

APS: Did you have any negative experiences because of your impairment?

BA: I had a situation where one of my brothers and I were just playing football: he had to take a step further and try to jump on me and accidentally kneed me in the eye. I had a blood vessel pop and blood was all in my eye. It wasn’t able to show, but I could just see blood pouring into my eye.

APS: Ouch! That must’ve hurt a lot. So, going back to your vision in general, what effect or effects does it have on your life? Or even just being in school? For example, in a classroom, you prefer to sit up at the front, right?

BA: I prefer sitting up at the front because I feel like I’m more focused, but I can sit pretty much almost anywhere. Nothing really stops me; everything just seems normal and feels good to me.

APS: Like that’s just the way it’s always been for you, right? What would you say if I asked you: What kind of person is Ms. Olisky (our vision itinerate)?

BA: Yeah. Ms. Olisky is a very helpful and great person because I have had some trouble with doing her homework, having regular homework, and then having projects on top of that. But I’ve been able to get it done.

APS: Yeah, I get that. So what’s it like, as a student, to have Braille homework on top of everything else you have to do? I’m actually very curious since Ms. Olisky stopped teaching it to me in sixth grade.

BA: It’s really, really hard. I think if I didn’t have it, I not have gotten the benefits of learning Braille. But now that I do have it, it almost just adds another thing onto my case level and what I need to do. But there is nothing, nothing, wrong with it at all. It’s fun for me to get to learn new things, go to new places, and meet really interesting people.

APS: So, I guess that kind of leads into my next question, which is something that I even ask myself and some people ask me which is: If there was a way that you could have better or “perfect” vision, would you take that chance? Or would you like to have been born with normal vision?

BA: I probably would have because-… Well, there’re always pluses and minuses. I think a plus would be being able to play more sports. I’d want to play football. Like, at a younger age I really couldn’t, but that’s something I’ll still do and I’m hoping to do. But without it (his visual impairment), I wouldn’t have met Ms. Olisky and all the other people we know who we’ve met because of our vision had as much help with my work, and having extra things (like our tools).

APS: I probably wouldn’t even know who you are. Yikes! So, I’m just going to back track a little bit here and ask: What kind of sports do you play, or any other extra-curricular things?

BA: I really don’t do anything right now, but I’m planning to do soccer in the wintertime, or like the winter-spring season. And then I’ll do football in high school. Like, usually in July, because that’s when our training starts.

APS: Yeah. You know, the boys won the city championship. Yeah, they did a great job. I’ve also got to ask: Why do you want to play soccer and football? Like, what kind of draws you in?

BA: For football… I’ve just always been around it and it’s something I’m really good at. When I see someone who is bigger than me in football, I think to myself: Wow, can I really take him down? I mean, once I just know how to position myself and see how big I actually am, I think: Wait. Maybe it’s not as hard as I think it is. As for soccer, I got it from my older brother. And he was so great at it and he made it look like so much fun. Sometimes I can’t get my footwork to the best it can be, and it’s sometimes harder to do different moves because I’m not that good at controlling a soccer ball. But I’ve been really practicing and I’ve gotten really good at it.

APS: That’s really cool, Braxton! I admire you for working so hard on getting better. My last question is: What would you like to say to anyone out there who feels they can’t achieve or accomplish something because of a disability or lack of self-confidence?

BA: I would say to just, just do it! There’s no point in not doing something because then you might think: Oh, well maybe I should’ve tried out and joined the football team in high school or as a kid in college. Or you could’ve made the team as a freshman and then become the Most Valuable Player by the end of high school and gotten a scholarship to a great school for college. I’m not saying sports are the only way to get a good scholarship for college. I mean, education is important as well! But if you took the time to look back and say: Oh, wow! I did such a great job that I got straight A’s from 9th grade all the way up to 12th! Also, I even had some A’s back in middle school and elementary school! And that could get you into Harvard and Yale and other schools like that.

APS: That’s awesome! Well, thank you very much for your time and opening up to me about your everyday life. I really appreciate it!

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