LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Cassie Johnston knows the triumphs and challenges of having a daughter with special needs. Her 10-year-old daughter, Bryce, was diagnosed with Alstrom Syndrome when she was three years old.
“It’s a rare disease that causes complete blindness, type 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, liver and kidney failure, and that’s really the short list of major complications,” Cassie said.
But Cassie says her daughter is as a positive as ever. She’s in regular school classes, with the help of an aide.
"She has a full-time aide that’s with her everyday in the classroom. That person really takes what’s happening in the classroom and on the chalkboard and brings it to Bryce. Whether it’s in braille, making it large print, tactile for her,” Cassie said. “In education, no child should be denied access to a good education.”
Bryce also has an active extra-curricular life. She isn’t a part of the Special Olympics or its educational programs, but her mom says she knows the benefits. Cassie is also the executive director of Alstrom Angels, an organization she founded.
"Looking at just sports in general, there’s more to that than kids getting to kick a soccer ball. They learn teamwork, they learn respect, they learn how to follow directions, and all of those things are just as important to a child with special needs to a typical child,” she said.
CEO of Special Olympics Texas Tim Martin told KCBD Newschannel 11 that the Special Olympics program called Unified Champion Schools, on over 200 Texas school campuses, would take a cut if Betsy DeVos’ proposal were to go through. He describes it as a comprehensive school program that includes school, sports, and leadership activities that affects the whole school climate. Currently, the program is in two Lubbock ISD schools.
Bryce’s mom says these cuts to the Special Olympics educational programs are a wrong move by the Department of Education.
Cassie said, “It gets people out there and active and there’s different jobs and roles within the Special Olympics. So, our participants - our kids that are an Olympian and an athlete - they’re not just running a race. They’re learning life skills, they’re learning job skills... They’re learning communication skills. All of that transfers over into what they end up becoming as an adult. Are they going to sit on the couch and watch TV or are they going to be able to go out to the community and get a job?”