River Forest teen nabs Braille Challenge title

September 1, 2011 10:12:29 AM PDT
The National Braille Challenge is a blind version of the National Spelling Bee. It's the only national academic competition for blind students.

A local, Chicago-area student placed among the top in his age group.

The National Braille Challenge is quite a competition because Braille is tough to learn and read. Twelve-year-old Alexander Traube faced these challenges head on and succeeded.

"Nothing's impossible," said Alex. "You can do anything, no matter what it is."

Alex's determination to excel in Braille enabled him to qualify as one of 60 finalists in the 2011 National Braille Challenge that was held this summer in Los Angeles.

"It's a full-day experience where the kids do four different test," said Alex's mother Suzanne West. "They do reading comprehension, maps and charts reading, proofreading and speed and accuracy."

Alex competed with the fifth and sixth grade group. He placed third in the finals.

"He's fluent in Braille," said Suzanne. "He reads contractive Braille, which is instead of reading the words fully written out, they're shorter versions of words, so it makes it faster."

Alex has been blind since birth.

"He has something called colobomas, which are clefts in the eye tissues, so he's missing the upper two-thirds of his vision," Suzanne said. "He also has nystagmus, so his eyes kind of move back and forth, and he also has placid eyelids, so it kind of looks like his eyes are partially closed, and he's missing peripheral vision."

This was Alex's first time participating in the national academic competition after failing to place in the regional challenges.

"For the first three years I had gone there I really had wanted to win, and the fourth year I didn't really care, and when they called me for first place I pretty much fell over in my chair," Alex said.

"He won $250 worth of gift cards to use whatever way he wanted," said Suzanne, "and for the National Braille Challenge, they gave him obviously the plaque, but they also give him a saving bond, so we're going to put that away for college."

Alex just started seventh grade. He is planning to go back to the finals next summer to win first place.

"I would be competing in a different age group, the seventh and eighth grade age group, which is called junior varsity," said Alex.

Nine-hundred students who are blind and visually impaired from across the United States and Canada competed in the National Braille Challenge.

http://brailleinstitute.org/


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