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LOGAN, Utah (AP)

But this gentle resident of Mendon, known to friends as “Bess”, will not tell you, reports the Herald Journal. The woman who launched Utah’s internationally recognized “widely modeled arent blind-blind” program for the visually impaired 40 years ago likes to talk about how much she learns from the people she works to help.

“I consider myself a cross-pollinator,” he says. “I learn a lot from everyone I work with. I get something somewhere, then I’m ready to share it next time. “

Sharing began in the early 1980s, when Denison rode in a wagon with a master’s degree to his field to see visually impaired children in Utah and set up a network of special education providers to serve those children’s families. The goal was to fill the gap in child development services for blind, visually impaired children between birth and preschool ages 1 to 3 years.

“In the first year of the new program, I toured the state trying to find children in need, and then we were looking to hire people from those communities to bring Ogden to train. Then they started working with newborns. ” Denison remembers. “Every three months, I traveled around the state to visit these new intruders, provide more on-the-job training and supervision, and had special sessions with my parents.”

Initially funded through a four-year federal grant, the program was the first of its kind in Utah. After receiving ongoing funding through the Utah legislature, it eventually became a ubiquitous program model, leading Denison to devote his time to serving families and training others.

“One of the most awkward things I do in my position is to introduce myself as Bess’s boss, because he’s so skilled,” said Karen Borg, a former Logan City Council member who ran the Arent Nogh-Baby program. : Through Ogden Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. “Bess is a real pioneer in the field. In the beginning it was all Bess,, over the years he has taught people in other states as well as in other countries. He still does. He goes to places that are not as lucky as Utah. “Utah is really within the state of the art of providing sensory, hearing, and hearing-impaired children.”

Denison is currently training Zoom through an awareness program run by Utah State University’s SKI-HI Institute, training a group of about 20 West Virginia teachers in Tennessee to begin the state’s first parent-child programs. She works with eight visually impaired infants and their families, some of some of Utah’s 200 or so families.

Even though he is now in retirement age, Denison has no plans to retire. As he says. “I love what I do. I’m not ready to stop yet. I have postponed my hours a bit, but as long as my health is stable, I like what I do, I think I will continue with a little work. ”

When Denison և other professionals, whom he calls “early interventionists”, enter the house, it is as much about working with parents as it is about newborns. Transfer of techniques that adults can use to accommodate blind or visually impaired infants. the world around them.

One of the techniques is “normal training”, which includes tangible research for the child in daily activities, such as changing a napkin and feeding. This serves the dual purpose of regularly promoting the child’s development while making the learning process less demanding and stressful for parents who are often overwhelmed.

“Bess is great at that (it balances the needs of the parents և the child),” Borg said. “She is OK. It’s amazing. “Amazing is possible.”

Denison himself describes coming home for help as an “honor” as opposed to a job because, among other things, he shares very tender moments with his family.

“We are there to celebrate their children, to enjoy with them, just to help where we can,” he said. “It’s fun to be there, to support the process, to help them enjoy their child. They are primarily parents, but they do not have to be permanent teachers. “Sometimes they just have to be able to enjoy their baby.”

Denison said his first few visits were not just about assessing a child’s disability, but also about assessing a parent’s condition, exploring what he or she could do to “make it a little easier for them to help their children learn.” to do what all children learn to do. ”

The little ones. That’s what Denison calls the babies he works with.

“With children you try to look at the positive, what they can do, then build from there, not focus on what they can not do, love them where they are, accept them where they are,” he said. he:

There was a time when many blind or deaf children were institutionalized, but in the years when Denison worked with visually impaired children and their parents, the world saw a huge shift in the way such cases were handled. This is what his efforts undoubtedly contributed to.

“When I first came to Utah in the early 1980s, in the first two years of life, there were young children whose families were encouraged by other families, and sometimes by their own doctors, to remove them from institutions,” Denison said. “Somewhere around Provo, there was a large institution that had a lot of little ones because the parents did not have the support they needed to help. Not so! These children stay at home with their loving and caring families. The nurses are getting the support they need. ”

He says the key to effective intervention is a vision impairment early in a child’s life to begin adjustments, but this is often missed because many children with limited vision are born with other difficulties.

For the people of the Denison generation, the story of Helen Keller served as a guide to what a resolute, intelligent interventionist working with a child can do. Keller was born deaf and blind, but grew up with the help of teacher Anne Sullivan, becoming a world-renowned public speaker in the early 20th century.

The story of Keller-Sullivan was sharply portrayed in the 1962 film The Miracle Worker, a title that also seems appropriate in connection with Denison’s pioneering work.

Asked what he would like the general public to know about early intervention programs, such as the one he started in Utah four decades ago, Denison stressed the need for continued funding.

“Providing these services to children in the beginning really helps them to start their lives better, because before these programs, some of these children were going to start preschool or maybe kindergarten, often falling behind in their development. “These little brains are the strongest in the first years of life. For us, they can have a very positive effect on their learning. Help families not to be alone in this.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, reproduced or redistributed without permission.

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