Young Braille contest winner crossed borders and barriers
Cricket Xiao Jiu Bidleman was born a girl and blind -- two major strikes against a child in China, where girls are routinely left at orphanages and those with disabilities rarely adopted.
But Cricket outshone her peers with a quick mind and a quicker tongue, mastering Mandarin before she was 4. That was when Hawaii residents Cliff and Sally Bidleman adopted her in 2002. She picked up English and Braille literacy within months once she started living with her new family on Lanai.
Thus it was no surprise when Cricket, now 8, won first place in her category in the Seventh Annual National Braille Challenge last month for the second year in a row, Cliff Bidleman said. Last year, at age 7, she was the youngest to win in the apprentice category for first- and second-graders, he said.
"We know how bright she is, but it is always very rewarding for her and to see her so happy, because she works so hard," he added.
Sally Bidleman said, "She really likes to compete. She likes to be the one to know the answers, likes to find out information. She is so curious about the world." They renamed her "Cricket" because of her bouncy personality.
Cricket was among 60 top students from Canada and the United States who competed at the Braille Institute of America headquarters in Los Angeles. Cricket won a $1,000 savings bond and a PacMate, the world's first portable Braille PC, worth $3,800.
Cricket will enter Waimea Elementary School this fall on the Big Island, where the Bidlemans recently moved. Other children include brother Tucker, 12, and sister Scout Li Ting, 6, who was adopted from China two years before Cricket.
Sally Bidleman said two miscarriages after Tucker was born prompted the couple to "bring a family together from the ends of the earth." They discovered that there were many abandoned girls in China because parents preferred boys.
As for Cricket's future, her mother said, "She wants to be a judge after being a lawyer. Or operate a shave ice stand."