MPW.64 / Troy One of a Kind by Ray Whitehouse
Photographer
Ray Whitehouse Chicago, Illinois
Team Lee

Story Summary

Alexandrea Lyon is the only blind student at Troy Middle School, the largest middle school in Missouri. Her blindness isolates her socially and academically. It presents her with challenges that she must address as she grows up.

When Lyon’s cane grazes the sides of the school’s brick hallways, she feels the confinement that her sighted classmates see.

Lyon approaches school with enthusiasm. Her personality is upbeat and optimistic. When she makes a mistake, she keeps trying until she finds a solution. Even though she finds math to be difficult, it’s her favorite class. "She's such a sweet girl," eighth grade math teacher Anastasia Caldwell said, "and she knows her math."

Socially, her conversations with classmates most often consist solely of a terse greeting. She has a hard time pronouncing the letter "s" and looking at the person with whom she is conversing.

Academically, she must rely on her auditory and sensory faculties to absorb and retain information. She reads Braille books, writes on a Braille typewriter and does math with an abacus. Classes that involve slideshows and demonstrations are difficult for her to comprehend.

Paraprofessional Andrea McBride spends the majority of every school day with Lyon, helping her meet the challenges that blindness presents.

McBride said Lyon has made some strides in the three years. Lyon's knowledge, reading ability and pronunciation have improved somewhat, McBride said, but Lyon still has a lot of work to do in order to prepare for high school and beyond.

Blind from birth, she has never seen the world. Yet, on Lyon’s weekly walk to Main Street, the feelings of isolation abate and a Mona Lisa smile lights up her face.