Weekly Feature

2016-01-13 / Education

Blind author visits St. John’s with canine companion

Author Carol Chiodo Fleischman, right, shows student Gianna Shevlet how to use a special typewriter that prints in Braille. Author Carol Chiodo Fleischman, right, shows student Gianna Shevlet how to use a special typewriter that prints in Braille. Author Carol Chiodo Fleischman spoke to the students of St. John the Baptist School in Kenmore during a recent visit.

Fleischman, who has published more than 70 articles in books, magazines and newspapers, from the Chicken Soup for the Soul series to the New York Times Syndicate, is approaching the first anniversary of her children’s book, “Nadine, My Funny and Trusty Guide Dog.”

The story explores the relationship between a blind person and her canine companion, Nadine, the loving working-dog with a playful and mischievous personality. Nadine is based on Fleischman’s experience with her own guide dog, Nadine.

Fleischman’s presentation to students in grades one through six included many elements, from her experiences as a person living with blindness to her techniques in writing. The Niagara Falls native explained that she was not blind at birth but began to experience vision problems when she was quite young. By high school, her mom had to begin reading to her because of her difficulties, and by her late 20s, she was legally blind.

Fleischman showed students the various tools and devices she uses to accommodate her disability, such as a “talking watch” and a computer designed with a speech synthesizer. Although she is grateful for the electronic aids, Fleischman has relied on her canine friends to provide additional support, too.

“Nadine was my second guide dog that the book is based upon,” Fleischman said. “Tino is my current guide dog. My first dog was a black shepherd named Misty that I got back about 20 years ago in ’92.”

She received all her dogs from Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey, the country’s oldest guide dog training facility.

Fleischman has been writing for more than 20 years, but publishing a children’s book was a new venture for this author.

“It’s tricky,” she said. “Not only do I have to explain what it’s like to be blind, but I also wanted to explain what it’s like to have a guide dog by my side, and I had to do it in less than 1,000 words to fit it into a children’s book.”

Fleischman also demonstrated to students how a special typewriter could produce letters and words using Braille, which allows her to read. She typed several students’ names from the audience, including third-grader Nadia Shilen.

“I thought the machine was really cool and I like how my name feels. When I touch the papers, it feels like only little bumps to me, and I can’t believe how blind people can actually read it, but to blind people it’s like reading a book or words on a paper,” Nadia said. “One swipe of my finger across it feels like my fingers are walking on little stones and pebbles.”

Fleishman’s book is published by Pelican and available through many venues, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The author welcomes the opportunity to speak at additional schools and can be reached through www.pelicanpublishers.com or by calling 283-0632.

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