Sharing support, hope: North Shelby father helps visually impaired children

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2007

David Hyche runs a finger along the white label stuck on the end of his daughter&8217;s classroom table. He knows the small, raised bumps don&8217;t mean anything to her yet, but believes it&8217;s not too early to start teaching her Braille. &8220;Other kids try to read letters at 2,&8221; Hyche said, shrugging his shoulders.

The North Shelby father began the Alabama Association for Parents of children with Visual Impairments shortly after he learned his child would be blind. Though Hyche found a similar group in Montgomery, he felt the need for it here, if only for himself.

&8220;The main focus of our group is mentoring to other parents. There are questions they have that the doctors can&8217;t answer,&8221; Hyche said.

When he learned of daughter Rachel&8217;s retinopathy condition, he suffered from deep depression and a barrage of questions like how she would learn to eat or go to the bathroom. &8220;All these things just fly through your mind.&8221;

But he soon learned that even if he had all the answers, headstrong and vibrant Rachel would invalidate them anyway. &8220;The most important thing she&8217;s taught me is not to decide what she can do or what she can&8217;t do or what she likes and what she doesn&8217;t like.&8221; The 2-year-old rides a tricycle and loves movies, which still seems to boggle Hyche.

&8220;She wants to do everything, and I don&8217;t tell her she can&8217;t. I let her try,&8221; Hyche said. He draws from Rachel&8217;s can-do spirit to organize special activities for her and other children in the group.

A beeping Easter egg hunt, an idea the father got from a group in Los Angeles, has become the group&8217;s trademark event. Volunteers scatter dozens of plastic eggs, drilled with holes and rigged with beepers, across a flat, roped-off field and let the kids loose to find their own.

&8220;It gives them a lot of satisfaction to find it themselves,&8221; Hyche said, adding, &8220;It gives them practice finding things, which is good, too.&8221;

While detailing his involvement with AAPVI, Hyche seemed to suddenly remember he gave up the parts of his job he loved most. As an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Hyche used to travel all over working with bomb units.

Without even a flinch of regret, he raised a

purple egg with Swiss-cheese holes and said, &8220;Now I wake up thinking about stuff like this.&8221; But he said his efforts are nothing special. &8220;I do it because I have to do it, for my sanity.&8221;