Red Deer Public School District

Caden Johnson earns three-peat win at Braille Challenge

One Red Deer Public Schools student continues to break down barriers and be an inspiration for others. Caden Johnson, Grade 6 student at Westpark Middle School, recently placed first for the third consecutive year at the Alberta Regional Braille Challenge in Calgary.

The Braille Challenge is a national reading and writing contest that helps promote the importance of Braille literacy skills amongst students with vision loss.

“I spent many hours practicing,” said Johnson, who competed in the sophomore category.

During the challenge, Johnson participated in reading comprehension, reading charts and graphs, proofreading and a speed and accuracy test.

The win may be Johnsons, but credit also goes to Helen Beatty, educational assistant with Red Deer Public Schools, who spends many hours preparing Johnson’s materials in Braille to ensure that he is able to learn alongside his classmates. Services for Students with Visual Impairments (SSVI), a government agency, provides some materials for Johnson, but the majority is prepared by Beatty.

“All of his textbooks are provided as well as some books, if it’s a required novel study for that year,” she said, adding Johnson uses a device called a BrailleNote Touch for all his core classes. “Any of the classroom handouts, I prepare all of those and I prepare a lot of the books that he is reading in braille. Music also isn’t provided, even though band is part of the curriculum.”

This year is Johnson’s first year in band and he plays the tuba. It’s something that he’s enjoyed so far. “I’m learning braille music, which is very challenging,” he said.

Beatty agrees.

“The only resource we have been able to come up with anywhere are some volunteers in Ontario who do it on their own time. The rest I have been trying to learn.”

Meanwhile, Johnson has had to overcome challenges in his young life and has some encouraging words for others. “Never give up,” he said. “If you don’t give up, eventually you’ll get it.”

Beatty added Johnson is an inspiration.

“What I admire about Caden is that he accepts his circumstances and he owns it and goes from there.”