Cleveland Elementary Plays Goal Ball with Legally Blind Classmate


Photo courtesy of Alysa Potter

Oakley Giraud, the daughter of Alysa and Bo Potter and Jeremy Giraud, is a lifelong resident of Carbon and Emery counties and a student at Cleveland Elementary School.

Turning 10 this year, Giraud faced many years of tests, misdiagnoses and appointments before being diagnosed with Achromatopsia, an eye disease. Some in the community may remember the story of her eyes, as the Oakley Giraud Foundation was created as a nonprofit in 2013 to raise funds for research.

With Achromatopsia, Giraud does not see any color, has extreme light sensitivity, is day blind and has almost no depth perception. Being legally blind does not hinder her much, though. She uses a mobility cane, dark red sunglasses and red contacts. She swims, dances, has played t-ball, plays soccer and much more. There is currently no treatment for Giraud’s condition, but her vision is stable and with hope and research, clinical trials may be upcoming.

Giraud has worked with the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind since she was an infant, receiving her first mobility cane at 15 months old. Her Occupational and Mobility (O&M) teacher visits monthly to work with her on all aspects of mobility and first introduced the family to the Paralympic Game “Goal Ball” during Giraud’s first grade year at the elementary.

The game was first created in the 1940s following World War II to help rehabilitate veterans that lost their sight during the war. In 1976, it became part of the Paralympics and athletes are blindfolded for the game regardless of their visual ability.

The ball, similar to a larger basketball, has holes and a bell system within it. The game is played as three to each team, using hearing to determine which direction the ball is traveling.

“It’s very eye-opening for everyone who tries it,” said Giraud’s mother, Alysa. “The struggle to rely on your other senses and the disorientation you feel because of not having your vision really allows you for a moment [to] experience what it’s like for someone who is blind.”

Cleveland Elementary Principal Janet Ewell stated that they have played goal ball at the elementary for the past three years, making it an annual event, and that the whole class has learned how to play. Alysa said that the children really enjoy playing and that there has been discussion on possibly bringing it to the other schools or the recreation center for a new sport or P.E. activity.

“We are just thankful for Oakley’s team at Cleveland and her O&M instructor,” Alysa shared. “They really look out for her best interest and ensure she is able to learn and keep up with her peers.”

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