What is your biggest challenge of the day?

Beth talking to a crowd of 200 kids

Beth at the elementary school giving a talk

My Seeing Eye dog Whitney and I started our new year of elementary school visits in a big way: we took a commuter train to Elmhurst (The Chicago suburb where I grew up) and gave a presentation to 250 kindergartners, first-graders, and second-graders. All. At. Once.

Whitney usually leads me to the train station in downtown Chicago on her own, but when my gem of a husband, Mike, said he’d accompany us to the train that morning, I had five reasons to swallow my pride and accept his generous offer.

  1. Freezing temperatures — if Whitney and I found ourselves lost or turned around for just a few minutes, we might have ended up with frostbite!
  2. Snowy slippery sidewalks
  3. Salt (Mike can spot it on the roads and help us avoid those areas so it doesn’t end up in Whit’s paws)
  4. The train we needed to catch left at 7:40 a.m., which meant we’d be approaching the train station precisely when commuters were getting off trains and rushing to work
  5. And oh, yeah. I still have a cast on my broken left hand.
Seeing-Eye dog Whitney sitting at Beth's feet

Whitney at my side while I give my talk to 250 kids

The kids at Lincoln School were sweet, polite, and very curious. The Q & A part of the presentation was entertaining, as always. A sampling of their questions:

  • What does your dog like to chase?
  • How can you tie your shoes if you can’t see them?
  • How long did it take you to learn to read and write Braille??
  • How do you write if you can’t see?
  • Do you shop by yourself?
  • Can you write cursive?
  • Does Whitney ever slip on the ice?
  • Does your dog keep you safe from other things?
  • Do you always have to say your dogs name before you tell her what to do?

To answer that last question, I picked up Whitney’s harness and told the kids that when you’re training at the Seeing Eye school they teach you to always say your dog’s name before giving them a command. “If I just say the word ‘right’ like I just did there, Whitney doesn’t even notice, but if I say, ‘Whitney, right’….” I had to stop talking right there, mid-sentence. Whitney had immediately flipped right and was guiding us toward the hallway! “I guess the Seeing Eye knows what they’re doing,” I said with a laugh. The kids laughed right along. Whitney was a big hit.

To me, the most thoughtful question from the kids was this one: “What is your biggest challenge of the day?”

My days have been particularly challenging lately with this cast on my hand, but my husband Mike and other friends and co-workers here at Easter Seals National Headquarters have made my one-handed days far less challenging than they would have been otherwise. Huge thanks to all of them. With any luck I should have this *&)#! cast off my hand by this Wednesday. I have my fingers crossed — the ones on my right hand, at least.


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  1. Rosemary Garza Says:

    Carol Williams-Furtado,
    Thank you for the inquiry. I need to know where you reside (city and state) in order to give you a referral. Do you live in Massachusetts?

    Best Regards,

    Rosemary Garza, CIRS
    Easter Seals Information and Referral Services
    233 S. Wacker Drive – Suite 2400
    Chicago, IL 60606

  2. Debbie Says:

    I am new to this journey and new to Easter Seals as a stepmom of a 21 year old high functioning son with ASD. I have watched for several years now while the mother continues to create a very codependent lifestyle, disallowing any interaction and encouragement from Dad to work towards some self sufficiency. Removes the son from programs or classes that work towards that. All the while continuing to increase the demand for more money from the father. We are at a breaking point. Feeling so hopeless, finding no advocate for us. We live in the Vancouver, WA area. Thank you for listening. And thank you for Easter Seals.

  3. Carol Williams-Furtado Says:

    Where do I find places for my high functioning Autistic son (27 yrs ) old to socialize. I’ve looked everywhere. Please, please help. Thank you, Carol. 978-891-0189