Braille champ feeling great before tourney

Sightless from birth, avid reader gets ready for national challenge

May 24, 2016 | | By Katie Langford

When 8-year-old Hayden Roswell reads her favorite books, she experiences it differently from the other students in her class. Her hands glide across the pages, fingers translating clusters of bumps into words, sentences and stories

Hayden was born blind, and next month she’s headed to Los Angeles to test her reading and writing skills against other students from across the United States and Canada in the National Braille Challenge.

Hayden attends Pear Park Elementary School and started working with Angela Sims, a teacher for the visually impaired, when she was in preschool. Sims teaches her braille and computer skills so she can access the same curriculum and content as her peers. The Braille Challenge, Sims said, is a chance for visually impaired students to be set apart from their peers.

“It gives them an opportunity to test their skills and to be able to shine, which is sometimes not easy for a blind student,” Sims said.

That’s exactly what Hayden did — winning her age category in Colorado and placing seventh in the United States and Canada for her age.

“She’s worked really hard this year,” Sims said. “She’s worked really hard to be a good student and she’s worked hard to have good reading and writing skills, and this confirms that her hard work is paying off.”

Hayden said she wasn’t expecting to do so well on the tests, which were designed to challenge her spelling, proofreading and recall abilities.

“They were pretty hard but I went through them fast,” Hayden said. “I didn’t think I was going to be at that level, and when my teacher (Sims) got the note before my mom even knew, she was trying so hard not to tell me. I was so shocked.”

Hayden’s mom, Laurel Kellogg, said she is grateful for Sims’ work with her daughter.

“It’s been a challenge, for sure, but Hayden is amazing and it’s been awesome to have Angela (Sims),” Kellogg said. “I love having Hayden in a public school so she’s treated the same as everyone else.”

That’s also important to Sims — Hayden is as capable as any other kid her age, she said, if not more so.

“People had a tendency to misjudge and think that kids like Hayden can’t do things, when if they’re given half a chance and allowed accommodations, they can do many of the same things other kids can do,” Sims said. “It goes back to making those initial judgements about somebody without actually having a conversation with them. Sometimes it’s hard when people make judgements about Hayden when, if they would have a conversation with her, they would see she can do just about anything.”