Students and staff at Red Deer’s École Mountview Elementary School don’t have to look far for daily inspiration.
They find it in Caden Johnson, a nine-year-old Grade 4 student who doesn’t let being legally blind slow him down.
“We have our school motto, ‘Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Resilient,’ and I think that ‘Be Resilient’ piece is Caden inside and out,” said Diane Roberts, Principal at Mountview. “The kids see that and they learn from his example, that if he can play on Phys. Ed. Class and do Wacky Wednesday announcements, then I can do anything I want to.”
After placing first at an Alberta regional event in Calgary, Caden has been invited to compete at The Braille Challenge, a North American competition in Los Angeles, June 16-17.
“There were five different age groups, and then everyone competed against each other at the end,” Johnson said, explaining the regional competition. “The group I was in for the Alberta challenge was ‘freshman’ and I did spelling, proofreading, reading comprehension, where you read a story then answer questions about it.”
Always ready for a challenge, Johnson says it’s taken a lot of work to hone his reading skills.
“I finished learning Braille last year, but I had to learn a whole different Braille code because they changed it. A bunch of the word contractions changed,” he noted.
Caden says he’s grown to enjoy putting his Braille skills to the test at competitions.
“I did it one year and they kept inviting me back. Before I placed first this year, the last two years I got third place and got $100,” Johnson said, admitting that winning a prize was good incentive to keep at it.
Caden stole the show Friday morning at Mountview when he introduced Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities at a major funding announcement for the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.
For the guests who were there it was just glimpse of what those closest to him get to experience on a daily basis.
“He is keen and enthusiastic, just a hard working kid. It’s a pleasure to work with him every day,” said Helen Beatty, Braille Transcriber at Mountview.
“He went around during White Cane Week and did presentations to a number of classes, all on his own. He wrote the script, did the presenting and let kids try it out. Any kid who wants a try at it, he’s willing to show them,” she pointed out, proudly.
Johnson says it’s fun for him to share Braille with his fellow students.
“The kids get a chance to do a Braille lesson with Mrs. Beatty every morning recess, if they want to. They just ask her and can write their name and a sentence. They like it because they can experience what Braille is like.”
The fact that Johnson is one of only two students from Canada, out of 50 total competitors, invited to Los Angeles makes his accomplishment even greater, Beatty says.
“It always makes me proud. I’ve taken other students to various things. I feel proud of how our students do that are fully integrated.”
Caden says his mom, dad, brother and grandmother will be joining him and Beatty in Los Angeles next month. Following the competition, the family will spend a few extra days in California that will include a trip to Universal Studios.
You can learn more about The Braille Challenge by heading to The Braille Institute website or following the hashtag #BrailleChallenge2017.
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