FREEHOLD, NJ (WCBS 880) – For a moment, close your eyes and enter the world of someone who is blind.
WCBS 880’s Sean Adams With The Story
Tapping away at the six keys of a Braille machine is a positive, plucky 8-year-old with adorable blonde pigtails.
“I’m not afraid of anything,” says Kaleigh Brendle, who was left visually impaired by a genetic condition. “I’m not afraid of roller skating. I’m not afraid of scary rides.”
Her 12-year-old brother Cody is blind.
Kaleigh started learning Braille before she turned 3. She recently competed in the National Braille Challenge, which tests spelling, proofreading and comprehension.
“I got third place. That made me feel very proud, especially when I got the $500 savings bond,” Kaleigh told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams. “I’m doing the Braille Challenge until I get to varsity because I have to say, I like that contest.”
“Oh my gosh, we were so proud of her and I think a total of almost 900 children from the across Canada and the United States took this test,” said Kaleigh’s mother Heather Brendle.
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She fought hard to keep both Cody and Kaleigh in the Freehold school system. Kaleigh will be in the gifted program this fall.
Literacy and Braille have always been stressed at home.
“This one was born an old soul. That’s how we describe Kaleigh, but we have instilled a love for reading at an early age for these kids and that’s they learn so well. It’s because of reading and, of course learning Braille at such a young age. I cannot stress that enough,” said Heather.
“Oh yes, I love books,” Kaleigh said. “Reading is fun because books can take you to whole other worlds.”
Mother and daughter are now writing a mystery book about a missing hall pass.
“For Kaleigh, I described everything I possibly could and made it a fun adventure for her and always said ‘We’re going to take off [on] an adventure right now’ and created this world of a love reading for her and of imaginary places and stuff like that and then her mind is now taking off on its own,” said Heather. “So now, actually, when she is reading a story, she can say she can visualize the picture without the picture cues being there.”
Despite being visually impaired, Kaleigh Brendle can clearly see her future path.
“When I grow up, I want to be an author,” she told Adams. “I want to be an author just like Gertrude C. Warner. She’s the author my favorite series – ‘The Boxcar Children.'”