Interview Cheryl Gillespie Shares About Being Blind and Her Children’s Book About Blindness

Interview Cheryl Gillespie Shares About Being Blind and Her Children’s Book About Blindness

Teaching piano lessons and music theory, writing a heart-warming picture book and poetry, having a web site and a Facebook page…these are all the things Cheryl Gillespie does but what is extraordinary is that Cheryl has been blind since early childhood.  The team at Special Needs Book Review congratulates Ms. Gillespie on all her accomplishments and thanks her for informing us about her delightful children’s book, Tigger And Jasper’s New Home, that introduces young children to blindness.  Links to our review and where to buy her book are at the end of this post.

We are very pleased Cheryl Gillespie agreed to this interview because we want to learn more about her book, about being blind and the services and support that help children who are blind

Lorna: Congratulations on your wonderful picture book titled Tigger And Jasper’s New Home. What motivated you to write this book? What do you hope your book will accomplish?  

<<Cheryl Gillespie:  Thank you so much Lorna!  When I was a child, my mother would often read to me, (and still does by times), and I loved reading to my niece when she was a little girl.  When these adventures happened with my cats, I thought it would be a story that children would enjoy, and at the same time, open a door for dialogue on the topic of blindness.

Lorna: Do you do presentations of your book to students or libraries? What positive comments have you received that have made the effort to publish a book all worthwhile? Do you think you will try to write a second children’s book?

<<Cheryl Gillespie:  Some years ago, my brother-in-law and illustrator, Mike LeBlanc, and I, both did a workshop at a school during a book fair.  Children loved meeting us and receiving autographs.  Personally, I tend to be a bit out of my element in a public setting, but Mike was really wonderful with the children, and with his presentation.

I have received so many amazing comments on Tigger And Jasper’s New Home.  What truly impresses me, are the deeper comments that I hear from people on the overall meaning of the book.

Yes, I certainly hope to write another children’s book in the future.

Tigger And Jasper’s New Home by Cheryl Gillespie - Children's Book About Blindness -Lorna: You must have had a lot of faith in your illustrator, Michael Allison LeBlanc. How did you work together and decide on the illustrations?

<<Cheryl Gillespie:  Mike has a passion for art, and a great eye for detail.  Along with using my manuscript, Mike’s creative imagination and his connection with kids, is what made the illustrations so incredible.  As for choosing which ones to use, being a blind individual, I really relied on Mike, as well as other family members for their general opinion, and it all came together.

Lorna: Your bio says, « Cheryl continues to teach piano lessons which has been her passionate devotion since 1986.” Besides this work, what else occupies your time?

<<Cheryl Gillespie:  Teaching piano lessons and music theory takes a lot of my time.  Besides that, I seriously like to write poetry, and currently I’m working on writing my life story.  I like to knit, read, and go for walks.  Other than that, I am a house wife, so those endless household duties can be time consuming.  Really, not too exciting!

Lorna: What assistive technology do you have at home that allows you to work at a computer and use social media sites like Facebook?

<<Cheryl Gillespie:  I have a Mac computer which talks, that helps me with my writing as well as research.  Quite honestly, Facebook is a challenge, but I will master it, eventually.  Also, I did not own a computer until only 7 years ago.  Many assistive devices for blind people, as well as for those with other disabilities, are expensive, so I was much later getting into the world of technology.  Contrary to the public’s belief, blind individuals do not receive assistive devices for free.

Lorna: Support and services for students with special needs in our school systems are constantly changing. What do kids who are blind now receive in schools that was not available when you were a student?

<<Cheryl Gillespie:  Regarding support, my mother was the greatest contributor to my education as a student.  I had to be very independent and self motivated, since there wasn’t a lot of other support in the school system for me.

As for devices, let’s put it this way, when I was in school, all I had was a Perkins Brailler, a typewriter, and a tape recorder.  Technology has come a long way since then.  Today’s blind students have their computers, and devices that can write in print or in braille, making it easy to communicate their answers or write reports for teachers to read.  They also have small digital recording devices to record a class, then using a USB port, they can put it on to their computer.

Although blind children have more devices, and more access to information than I did, I have to say, that when I was a kid in school, braille literacy was emphasized, which is something that I am very grateful for.  I have read concerning today’s blind students, that only 12% of them are literate in Braille, which is a shame.

Lorna: What are some changes that could be made in your community that would make the lives of a person who is blind safer, easier? I am thinking of a man with Cerebral Palsy who said on streets going up steep hills in Halifax he would appreciate a small flat surface or two along the way so he could stop in his wheelchair and rest before going up the remainder of the way.

<<Cheryl Gillespie:  I may not be the best one to ask on this topic, but here are a couple of thoughts.  I think it would be an advantage for blind people, and for that matter, any individual, if the city buses arranged it so that an announcement was made at each stop, taking the guess work out of, “Where am I?”  I think in general, that the community just needs to be more aware, and not assume that everyone can see their surroundings.  There shouldn’t be (sandwich boards) or (bicycles) or any other obstacles left on sidewalks that could injure someone who wouldn’t know that the items are in their path.

Lorna: Thank you very much for all the information about your book and for this interview. All the best!


Buy Tigger And Jasper’s New Home 

This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.