South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind: The Confidence to Succeed

Seven years ago when speech pathologist, Glenna Stitt, joined the team at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind (SCSDB) in Spartanburg, she had no idea what this decision would ultimately mean to her family. She had worked in a variety of settings during her career, but this opportunity to work with the children served by Cedar Springs Academy at SCSDB provided her with a new professional challenge. A few short months later it became evident that this special school would become much more than a rewarding place to work…it would be a lifeline for her son, Cameron.

The SCSDB, founded in 1849, provides Pre K – 12 educational programs to more than 300 students on a main campus in Spartanburg, which houses the School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind and Cedar Springs Academy, a school for children with a vision or hearing disability and at least one other physical or mental disability. An additional 1,400 children are served by the SCSDB’s Outreach Services across the state. The SCSDB is recognized as a Palmetto Gold School for academic accomplishments by the SC Department of Education.

When Cameron was an infant, Glenna was concerned about his development. Her professional background and her maternal instincts told her that something was just not right. Then at six-months, her son got very sick and had a lengthy stay in the hospital. Cameron was loosing weight and there were no answers. So the family decided to take him to a specialist in Atlanta, where Cameron was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease.

Once this genetic condition was identified, Glenna had her first introduction to SCSDB as a parent. The School’s Early Intervention Program (EIP) provided her with a vast array of resources to help navigate Cameron’s complex needs. EIP is available to South Carolina children who are blind, deaf or multi-disabled from birth to 3. The program, which is at no cost to families, partners with South Carolina First Steps and BabyNet in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

Without EIP many parents would be left in the dark. The program’s specialized team travels across the state to empower families to make educated decisions about their child’s care. The team starts by making home visits to determine each child’s needs. They then design individualized service plans, which likely include specialized therapies and referrals to a variety of service providers. Ultimately EIP assists with a child’s transition from home to school.

Cameron, who just entered second grade, began attending the School for the Blind when he turned three. This witty, funny eight-year old loves his school. He gets up each morning ready to go. Once his siblings Devyn and Braedon are off to their respective schools, Glenna and Cameron make their daily commute together – from Simpsonville to the Spartanburg campus.

SCSDB is recognized for its Whole Child Initiative. Each child is challenged academically and prepared for success in college and/or employment. The specialized staff is equipped to work with each child’s unique circumstances. At school Cameron is learning to navigate with a cane in his Orientation & Mobility  (O&M) therapy. “Due to his visual impairment, Cameron cannot see his feet, so he is at risk of tripping. It is important for him to learn to accommodate and anticipate to stay safe.” shared Glenna.

SCSDB provides a full range of health services on campus. In Cameron’s case, his body does not absorb nutrients so he tires very easily. To help build his endurance he receives a regime of physical and occupational therapies while at school. Having these and other services provided at SCSDB is a tremendous benefit and time saver, since Cameron has many, many outside appointments being under the care of more than ten medical specialists.

With the help of The Walker Foundation, SCSDB’s fundraising arm since 1979, the school is able to secure important additional resources to enable the students to achieve their highest potential. Cameron uses a special keyboard with large keys and is able to participate in O&M with a special cane thanks to the Foundation. And starting in 2017 when he goes outside to play Cameron will enjoy a new covered playground designed specifically for children with visual impairments.  In the past going outside was a big deal, since he is extremely sensitive to heat and light.

Glenna is so thankful for SCSDB.

“As a parent and staff member I see the compassion of those who work here everyday. Our goal is to always look outside the box and tailor our efforts to the needs of each individual child. This has certainly worked for Cameron. He has become such a confident little boy. SCSDB has given him the confidence to succeed!”

For more information about the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind visit www.scsdb.org or call 864-447-2732. For information about how you can help visit www.walkerfdn.org or call 864-577-7583.

Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County and the Hollingsworth Funds. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages education programs for the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organization. As an a advocate for the nonprofit community, each month Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Monthly. In addition she teaches nonprofit marketing at Clemson University to inspire and develop future nonprofit leaders. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She currently serves on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the United Way of Greenville County and the United Way Association of South Carolina.

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