Boy from Red Deer tops in provincial braille competition

Rare genetic disorder causes visual impairment, light sensitivity

Red Deer boy Caden Johnson recently won a provincial braille challenge.

A Red Deer boy who is visually impaired has won a provincial competition for his competency in braille.

Tera Johnson said her son nine-year-old son Caden competed against about 25 other children between the ages of six to 18.

He came in first in the Alberta Regional Braille Challenge held in Calgary on March 3.

Caden was born with Leber’s congenital amaurosis. The rare disorder is a genetic eye condition that affects the retinas, causing severe vision loss and light sensitivity. He wears sunglasses all the time because of the sensitivity.

He attends École Mountview Elementary School where he is in Grade 4. He has an education assistant who helps him and also translates his books into braille for him.

“He does really really well. He has a little bit of vision inside the school when it’s not so bright. Outside he doesn’t have any vision,” Johnson said.

Caden was exposed to braille when he was just two years old at the Aspire Special Needs Resource Centre in Red Deer where he attended for two years, Johnson said.

Braille is a system of raised dots that people who are blind or vision impaired can read with their fingers. In the competition, Caden was tested for spelling, proofreading and reading comprehension.

His mother said he had been entering the annual competition since Grade One, and the past two years he had placed third.

Caden downhill skis, participates in kneeboarding and other water sports, and loves to ride his bike, “which is a scary thing. … We have a bell and we do lots of verbal cues. He knows when we say stop, you have to stop,” Johnson said.

He also does gymnastics and plays the piano.

Johnson said she wants other people to know that life is not over when someone has a disability. “It’s just different. You have to adapt things.”

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