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Nebraska City News-Press - Nebraska City, NE
  • Local girl attends National Braille Challenge

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  • Danielle Schutz was one of only 60 kids in the US and Canada who were invited to the recent National Braille Challenge in Los Angeles, California.  
    Danielle attends Syracuse Dunbar Avoca Middle School, and she goes part-time to the Nebraska Center for the Education of Children who are Blind or Visually Impaired in Nebraska City to learn braille.
    Danielle has not always had impaired vision.  
    Her mom, Roxanne Schutz said, “We first discovered her eye problems in 1st grade when the health van came to school and indicated that we should have her eyes checked.
    So, I took her to an optometrist. They prescribed her glasses, and she did okay with them.  That summer she played softball.  
    After getting hit in the head twice with a ball that she never saw (and she went from hitting everything the year before to not being able to meet the ball at all), we took her to an opthamologist who discovered that there was something else going on and he sent her to a specialist.”
    There were many tests over the next several months.  The process was very scary for Danielle and her family.  She has peripheral vision, but not central vision.
     Colors also appear differently than they do to most people- a unique form of colorblindness.  For now, her vision has stabilized.  They still do not have an official name for her disease, but it is a recessively genetic trait that she had at birth.  It just didn’t show up until she was seven years old.
    Her mom, Roxanne, said, “She started out using a CCTV or magnifier and learned keyboarding, but after her eyesight got worse it was decided that she needed to start learning braille in third grade.  She took onto it so well that she placed first in the regional competition her first year.  She has been amazing us ever since!”
    In order to qualify for the contest at the National Braille Institute, Danielle took a Regional test to assess her skill.  She has taken the test for the last three years, and this year she scored high enough that she was invited to participate at the national level.  In total, 1,065 students from 41 states and four Canadian provinces participated in the regional challenges to determine the top 60 finalists advancing to the national challenge.
    Danielle and her family traveled to California where she took tests to evaluate her skills in braille.  
    The finalists were tested on speed and accuracy, reading comprehension, proofreading, and charts & graphs.  She said the hardest test was on speed and accuracy.
    There were 12 finalists in her age group, and she was one of only two first-timers at the National Braille Challenge.  Though she did not place in the contest, Danielle had a great experience.
    Page 2 of 2 - The awards ceremony was held at the Universal Hilton Hotel.  She said, “I liked when they announced the winners.  The show was cool, and they had a red carpet.”  Scott Innes, the voice of Scooby Doo, co-hosted the event with Atticus Shaffer, most well-known for his role as Brick on “The Middle.” Danielle was very excited that they were there and signed autographs for the students.
    Danielle and her family were able to spend some time at Universal City walking through the shops together.  She will be in seventh grade this fall, and is really happy that this was a part of her summer.  Of the whole weekend, Danielle said, “It was a cool experience.  I thought it was really fun!”
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