File photo by ADVOCATE staff Grade 6 Westpark Middle School student Caden Johnson is practising his braille skills for the North American 2019 Braille Challenge in June.

Red Deer student makes it into North American braille competition

Westpark Middle School student one of 50 competitors

A Grade 6 Westpark Middle School student has earned a coveted spot at a North American braille competition in Los Angeles in June.

It is the second year Caden Johnson will be one of 50 Grade 1 to 12 students competing in the Braille Institute’s Braille Challenge. He also competed in 2017.

Caden won the Alberta Regional Braille Challenge in March, and it’s the third time he has placed first in Alberta. He started learning braille in play school and has competed regionally for six years.

To make it to the North American competition, he had to be in the top 10 for his age group.

His mother, Tera Johnson, said 50 students are chosen from about 1,400 American and Canadian competitors, so her son is “over the moon” that he made it into the competition.

“He knows what to expect and how amazing this event is. It’s a one of a kind,” his mom said.

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.

Braille is a system of raised dots that people who are blind or vision impaired can read with their fingers.

At the challenge, students compete in spelling, reading comprehension and proof reading, to find both spelling and braille errors.

Older students also compete for speed and accuracy while translating an audio file, and do charts and graphs.

The challenge is held at the University of Southern California and organizers go all out for the students, his mom said.

“He also gets to meet other kids just like him, and that’s huge for him.”

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