When it came time for Babette Haggerty to choose a preschool for her daughter, Sarah Brennan, who was born with a retinal disorder, she brought her to the Child Development Center (CDC) at Lighthouse International. The CDC is an integrated preschool that teaches visually impaired children learn alongside their sighted peers. “I wanted her to be able to learn, run, skip and jump with all of the other kids,” said Babette. “I want her to be challenged. I felt like the Lighthouse was going to challenge her.”
At the Lighthouse, Sarah, 5, learned to read, write, and improve her social skills by interacting with children of her own age. “They have been wonderful at teaching Sarah,” said Babette. “The background she was given has been tremendous. It was a loving and nurturing environment.”
On June 18, 2010, Sarah was one of the 19 visually impaired children who graduated from the CDC in a heartwarming ceremony. “Sarah is a child who clearly showed an excitement to learn new things in her classroom,” said Greg Santamoor, Principal of the CDC. “She has a great sense of humor and accomplished everything her teacher expected of her.”
Sarah’s graduation marks a turning point, as she is one of the many CDC graduates who transition towards being mainstreamed into the public school system. “I think for Sarah, mainstreaming is important,” Babette said. “I want her to be exposed to all sorts of people. I feel like she could handle it. Emotionally, she’s a tough girl.”
For Babette, providing Sarah with a public school education is as equally important as allowing her the opportunity to be independent and not use her visual impairment as a crutch. “I think it’s important that you don’t baby your child too much,” she said. “They have to learn how to fight their own battles and speak up for themselves.”
Sarah’s independence will commence this fall, as she starts kindergarten at P.S. 183 Robert Louis Stevenson School in Manhattan, N.Y. While Babette is anxious to see her daughter start school, she is confident that Sarah’s low vision won’t hinder her growth in the future. “I want her to maintain a positive outlook,” said Babette. “Just because you don’t see like other people, that’s not a reason not to move forward in your life and accomplish great things.”
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