Alfonso Family: Allie, Age 8, Peter's Anomaly

Alfonso Family Video

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Transcript of Alfonso Family Video

Narrator 1: A mom and daughter holding hands as they walk outside.

Allie Alfonso: So Mom, do you think one day you will be able to have braces?

Mom: Do I need braces?

Allie: Yes!

Narrator 2: Alexandra Alfonso is anything but shy. This precocious eight-year-old is confident, feisty, and enjoys showing off her math skills, as our interviewer quickly discovered.

Interviewer: 20 plus 20?

Allie: 40.

Interviewer: 20 plus 30?

Allie: 50.

Interviewer: 20 plus 20 plus 20?

Allie: [Thinking] Hmm, 60.

Narrator 2: Alexandra, Allie, as she likes to be called, was born with Peter's Anomaly, a glaucoma-like condition that resulted in an opaque left eye that has significant vision loss and a right eye that's a prosthetic. Her so-called "good eye" had to be removed because surgery resulted in a torn retina.

Narrator 1: A photo of baby Allie with a protective cover on her right eye.

Narrator 2: But challenges aside, Allie is a model second grader who stays busy, according to her mom, Kim Alfonso.

Kim Alfonso: She is in Girl Scouts. She also is in a group called "Jack and Jill," which is a social organization in Washington, D.C. She takes piano and she also takes drums.

Narrator 1: A photo of Allie playing a large African drum.

Narrator 2: Allie attends a public school in Montgomery County, Maryland. She is the only student at her school with severe visual impairment. Her parents and older sister believe being surrounded by sighted peers will help Allie.

Kim: I think at the end of the day, no matter how you look at it, at some point, whether you're blind, severely— you have to enter the society, the mainstream society. And so I think to the extent that you do that as early as you can, I think there's a value.

Narrator 2: Allie has done exceedingly well academically. She finished first grade with straight A's and is now taking 12 hours per week of braille. Although she can see colors and text at very close range, she cannot easily negotiate her surroundings without assistance. She does not like to use her cane in public.

Allie: People might think I'm blind, and I'm not. People would say, "She's blind, look at the blind girl!" If anyone says, "She's blind," I would hit them with my cane, like a stick! I'd go...bam!

Narrator 2: While the Alfonsos strongly believe in their decision to mainstream Allie, they recognize that raising her without introducing a cane at a younger age has reduced her independence.

Kim: When she is transitioning from classrooms, she needs someone to help her, or she needs somebody to walk so closely that she can track as they're walking. And so the disservice is that now that she will be turning eight, she should be totally independent inside of a school, and she's not.

Narrator 2: At Allie's current school, she still resists using the cane. However, the school has insisted that she learn, so all parties reached a compromise.

Narrator 1: Photos of Allie posing with a white cane outside her school.

Narrator 2: To make Allie feel less self-conscious, she receives her one hour of daily orientation and mobility training in an area where her classmates cannot see her being instructed on cane use. Allie has met friends at school but as she grows older, her mom feels increasingly protective of her, worrying that fitting in might become more challenging.

Kim: When I look now and think about what teenagers are going through, I do have fear that maybe she won't, and she said to me one day, "Well Mommy, will I have friends?" You know, so there is a fear of because she, number one, does look differently, and then number two, she is visually impaired, will that stop her from having the kind of friends that I know I enjoyed growing up?

Narrator 2: To help Allie fit in, Allie's mom bought her a colored contact lens to make her eyes look identical. But independent Allie wanted no part of it.

Kim: She says, "No, don't want to do it, Mommy. I know my eye looks different, but I like my eye and it's me." And I love it.

Narrator 2: The Alfonsos now realize just how strong and independent their little girl really is, and they are confident that one day, Allie will feel comfortable enough to use her cane regularly in public.

Narrator 1: Allie outside the school doors, holding a white cane.

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