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Nevada’s First School for Blind Kids Comes to Henderson

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Carly Lamb, right, says she wants to share what she has learned through the Nevada Blind Children's Foundation by serving as a counselor to other visually impaired young people. She and another foundation client check out the robotics equipment at the group’s new learning center, which opened in Henderson this week.

Nevada has nearly 16,000 blind and visually impaired youth. And yet, it hasn’t had a school for blind children before now. That changed recently, when the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation unveiled its new Learning Center.

Since 2006, the foundation has served local blind children and their families with after-school programs, summer camps and the like. But its capacity has been limited to around 60 kids. With the recent purchase of a larger building, the foundation will have four or five times that capacity. It will continue its previously existing programs and add to them a pre-school starting in 2019.

Emily Smith, executive director of the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation, said it’s the first step toward a full-fledged school for blind children. Asked whether the move doesn’t contradict current educational trends toward mainstreaming students with disabilities, Smith said she would ultimately prefer that a special school for blind students be rendered unnecessary by a high level of services being offered within the public school system, but that isn’t currently the case.

Carly Lamb, a blind girl who recently graduated from a CCSD high school, said that her teachers and fellow students did much to accommodate her special needs, such as letting her sit close to chalk boards, but that better technology would have helped her schooling go more smoothly. Lamb added that the learning center offered her a sense of camaraderie and validation that she couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

Karina Gaines, the parent of both a blind and a sighted child, said that many parents would be surprised by the range of services a blind child needs — far more than just learning to read and write in a special way. Blind children require various kinds of therapy just to learn how to be comfortable moving through the world and interacting with other people. Gaines said she’s grateful for the opportunity to get specialized early childhood education for her blind son at the foundation’s Learning Center, and she’s looking forward to it opening next year.

Emily Smith, executive director, Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation; Carly Lamb, blind student;  Karina Gaines, parent of blind and sighted children

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Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.