Public And Residential


Public And Residential

     "Where did you go to school?" She asked. I had just met this woman, we were both attending a work related conference and were the only two blind people in the room.

     "The state school for the blind." I said. "How about you?"

     "Central High." She answered. "It was the biggest school and we had the largest graduating class since it opened, 1,202. How big was your class?"

     "Eight. We were one of the smaller classes. How many visually impaired or blind students did you have in your class?"

     "I was the only one. I don’t know if we even had eight in the entire school." She said, thinking about it.

     "Did you participate in sports?" I wondered.
     "No. I wanted too play baseball, but my sight wasn’t good enough. How about you?"

     "Wrestling, track and goal ball."

     "Oh. Well, I kept myself busy with competition in debate and speech club, Future Business Leaders, woman's choir, Spanish Club and like that. I kept busy, but I also hung out with my friends from the neighborhood too, driving around and all that. What did you guys do for fun?"

     "Excuse me you too! I want to see if you can help me with something." A familiar voice broke into the conversation. "I couldn’t help but over hear what you were talking about. I can tell that one of you had a public education and the other went to a residential school. I mean, I’m ignorant about this whole thing, I heard some of the differences, but I’m uncertain how to interpret their influences upon the final results?"

e-mail responses to

**1. "I attended a residential school for the blind in Pittsburgh. My experience there was a very good one, and I feel fortunate to have received the good quality education I did.

Since school, I've looked at both sides of the issue. On one hand, a case can be made that blind students in a residential school don't receive the interaction with sighted people and are, therefore, more uncomfortable in social settings when they leave school. I understand this position and wonder, sometimes, if that might be true for me. But, I don't know how to determine how much of what I've occasionally felt is due to my blindness and how much just to my personality. Sometimes, I feel out of place and less than comfortable with some blind people. Also, a large part of the inclusion and comfort in social settings is due to the way sighted people treat blind people. It seems that no matter how "well adjusted" you are as a blind person, it may still be difficult to interact with some sighted people if they're afraid or unwilling to include a blind person.

While in the residential school, I learned Braille, typing and business skills, a little about cooking, balancing my checkbook, taking care of myself personally, and some homemaking skills. I don't believe that students in a public school receive this instruction, unless it is from parents. By the way, much of what I learned did come from my parents, but it was enforced and supported by classes at school.

These days, it seems that the education received in many public schools by blind students is quite questionable. When the student is finished trying to get the materials and compete to receive equality in grades and inclusion in activities, etc., the question still remains: Did this sighted teacher, primarily concerned with providing an education for the 25 or 30 sighted kids in his/her class, give the proper attention to the blind student? Was that student expected to perform on the same level as the sighted students? Are the grade received by the blind student reflective of the work required and received in class?

These are a lot of questions, and I don't have any real answers. In my own mind, I've gone back and forth between the two school question many times; beginning with believing a residential school was better; then thinking, perhaps a public school might be better, and now, I'm not sure.

Basically, I believe now that if the residential schools could be the quality educational institutions they have been in the past, rather than, in many cases, something more like hospitals, caring for multi-handicapped students who are blind; the residential system might be better than the struggle we have in public schools. (As a footnote to my last comment, let me say that I believe that the residential schools, as they are now, serve a very valuable purpose. The children with multi-handicaps have a right to the best education and support they can receive, and if the residential schools are now the place for these students, that's wonderful. My only point is that I do not believe you can simply include all blind students, having no other disabilities, in these settings and expect it to work.)"

Cindy Handel (Willow Street, Pennsylvania , USA

**2. "Interesting enough, I never really gave this subject thought until recently. I went through mainstream schools, and never really spoke to anyone who had attended a school for the blind. I was the only vision-impaired person in my grade and maybe one of three in the entire school. My graduating class was over 550 people.

I can't say what advantages or disadvantages I may have had, but I am happy that I went to public schools. From speaking to blind people who attended schools for the blind, I think I was a bit better prepared for college. Being used to the various reactions from teachers and students, I have heard that some blind people had a little culture shock coming from schools for the blind. Take Care"

John D. Panarese

Managing Director

Technologies for the Visually Impaired, Inc.

(Hauppauge, New York USA

**3. "My opinion is that there are definite tradeoffs going to residential or public schools. I personally would never put a child through what I went through at the residential school--I basically feel it ruined my life in a lot of ways. Still, I don't think public school has done blind people any real good. I've seen too many blind people come out of there with no real education, and a really confused attitude about blindness and the like. Some people make it fine in public school, but many do not. Ideally, I think that every community should have a resource center where blind children can go to learn the skills they need, like Braille, typing, and the like, but be integrated as much as possible in the regular classroom, with lots of support from the resource teacher, or whatever they call them now. If residential schools are used, they should be reorganized so that the children have family units with adults who really care about them and are qualified to take care of them."

Carol Ashland (Eugene, Oregon USA

**4. "I am more of the inclination, of the line of thought that it is more of a personal preference type thing as to how public or residential schooling influences a person or persons. I've heard a lot of differing opinions on the subject from time to time but it all depends on the person I think. I started school in Pensacola Florida at West Pensacola Elementary. At this time back around 79 80 mainstreaming was coming into play and was being discussed. Florida was one of the first places close to me that started this. (I'm originally from Brewton Alabama and my parents had the option to send me to Talladega, and have me away from home I think starting at three and my mother didn't want that for me or herself I think.) So, we moved to Florida. I was mainstreamed so that by the time I was in Junior high at Ransom Middle I was practically in class with all of my peers and friends. I had one period where I took all my Braille work to get "inked in" or translated so that it could be read by my math teachers, English, or whatever needed to be done that day. After a time, my father decided to move back to Brewton to be back with his parents. We ran into the factor that most schools principals, superintendents whatever had no clue as to how to best teach me. We finally decided on a high school in the area where I was the only blind or visually impaired person there, also the only one that had ever attended that school. You could call it opening doors all the way around. It was tough, it was hard, but I learned a lot and it wasn't just educational. I became a member of the band, learned to march, and participate in power lifting and other sports as my peers did. (I couldn't be on the football team, they were afraid I would run to the other side by accident. No scoring for the other team. Just kidding.) But, after everyone got to know me for who I was and not what I was, I became an equal in every aspect, from participation to dating etc. I carried this throughout high school, as well as through college where I attended the University of Alabama and not only worked and performed as an equal there, but I marched in the Million Dollar band where it was not uncommon for us to do three shows a season. (I was there or started there in 1992 when Alabama went to the National championship in New Orleans. That's another experience for another time and another subject.) But, I gradually worked my way up to where I marched all three shows, pre-game and any other additions just as everybody else did with no problems. I think I learned a lot about how to interact better with the world, the public world through this and it has helped me tremendously through life in not only getting this job at Phoenix Multimedia where we produce and sell Educational media content to schools, libraries, and businesses, as well as individuals. I am treated as an equal here as well. But this has not only helped here, but in many other places. There may be some arguments as to how better residential schooling is compared to public schooling but as I said, for me personally it was a great challenge and a great learning experience to attend public school. I walked across that graduation stage unaided, with no problem and undertook a lot of things that everyone else did, but didn't think I could. I helped to open some people's eyes to blindness as not a stereotype per Se and continue to do so, but also, I helped show myself, that I could do it, and undertake the challenge. That may be why I am a big fan of breaking that stereotype. I helped show them that blindness was not and is not a stereotypical person stumbling in the dark with no abilities, but a person of whom blindness is a characteristic of who I am. Blindness is something I carry and wear with pride. People don't really see the "blind guy" but Tim. It has taught me how to put that in front instead of carrying around the "blind stereotype." But as I said, there are a lot of differing opinions and I don't knock any of them. But for me personally, I wouldn't go back and change it for the world. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do this and continue to do what I do. I hope this made sense and didn't make too many people mad at what I have to say. I'm curious to see what opinions are shown on this and where it leads. thanks for that enlightening story. Now let's see how everyone else relates. Thanks."

Timothy Emmons (Huntsville, Alabama USA)

**5. "Here is my take on that whole thing. I'm not sure how to put this into words that won't offend people, but I've noticed among people that those blind people who went to residential schools seem to be somewhat socially more inexperienced than people from public school. It's hard to put into words because it's subtle, but there is a difference in the range of experiences and sometimes there seems to be a bit more immaturity in those who attended residential schools. On the other hand I've noticed in people who have attended public school that they seem more well rounded and socially more mature. However many of them have social scars from being more isolated that others and have a better ability to be alone socially, perhaps because of socialization problems that residential students don't experience as much. At least this is what I've noticed in blind people from different locations and different walks of life." Maureen Pranghofer

**6. "I am a veteran of the public schools as a legally blind student. I have often wondered whether the benefit of a school for the blind would have allowed me to do better in my studies. However, my father was a high school teacher in the public schools, and insisted that I deserved the same rights as other students. I would have to say that being in the public schools had both benefits and detriments.

On the detriments side, I was the only visually-impaired student in my school, and for all I know, in the entire city's school system until I reached the 11th grade. Teachers did not understand that I could see well enough to read, but could not read the blackboard to understand what "this" and "that" and "over here" meant. I read at a frustrating 100-150 words per minute, so everything took me longer than everyone else. It wasn't until 10th grade that I discovered that I had the brain capacity to do math; that was the first teacher who ever took the time to study with me after class to make up for the fact that I couldn't see what she did on the board. (P.S., I graduated college with a math minor). In a science class, I actually had a teacher tell me that I just didn't want to be able to read the board, and that if I just tried, I would be able to.

But, on the benefits side, for every teacher who stunk, there was always one who was great. My computer science teacher encouraged me to do extra work and learn more than the school's introductory class taught. My chorus teacher encouraged me to increase my natural gift for music, something that I might not otherwise have done. I had a wonderful counselor in high school who told me that I could get assistance to help pay for college (thank goodness!!) and helped me get my finances in order to pay for it. I also learned that, for better or worse, the world is not always fair, and that to be competitive, I would have to work harder and be smarter than my peers. I also learned that you can't live your life shielded from the harsh reality that sometimes comes with being different.

I cannot speak for an education at a school for the blind, although I can't help but think how nice it would be to have people around who understand what the educational needs are for a visually impaired student. I think that scholastically I would have done better, but the life lessons I learned in public school have helped me more than anything I learned in school growing up. If I were to have a blind or visually impaired child, I would probably opt for some combination of the two."

David L. Thurmond (Atlanta, Georgia USA)

**7. "Well, the debate still rages on about residential vs. public school. Probably always will. Touchy subject for a lot of people.

Having attended both a residential school and a public school, I see good and bad in both settings. Beginning my education at a residential school, I had the benefit of becoming a competent Braille reader. I still use It everyday and feel it is essential to all blind people. I also learned that I wasn't alone and that there were other kids who were blind, like me. I had the wonderful benefit of living at home with my family and only attending the school for classes, extra curricular activities, etc. I'm not a big fan of dorm life, but for kids in residential schools. While at residential school, I had parts in several plays, ran track and was a cheerleader.

During the eighth grade I began to take a couple classes a day at the public junior high school. I eventually became a full-time student at the public school. I had no problem academically. I had good study and organizational skills, and my good background in Braille. In public school I was in every musical, swing choir, National Honor Society, speech team (went to state competition two years) and was president of FCA, Fellowship of Christian Athletes. (FCA was open to those who weren't athletic). On the surface it looked like I would have been popular. That was not the case. I wouldn't go back to those high school years if you made me a millionaire, and that is my final answer. One of the drawbacks to being at the residential school was not having that growing up time to make friends with my sighted peers. Without rambling on much longer, in a nutshell, I'm trying to say there are positives and negatives to either school setting. Residential schools are changing quite a bit these days, but, in my day, (and probably still today) they do provide a good solid background in Braille and other skills. I was able to participate in extra curricular activities and knew that I wasn't the only blind kid in the world. However, I wasn't encouraged to use a cane regularly, something that irks me to this day. A cane and knowing how to use it is just as fundamentally imperative to a blind person as is Braille. Anyway, a public school setting prepares you better for the "real world." Blind folks are a minority group, and a fffsmall one at that. However, I don’t think I'd of had the same quality training in Braille and other skills had I attended public school from kindergarten on. I know there are some wonderful vision teachers within the public school setting, but they are few and far between, and 2 hours a week is *not enough* for blindness skill teaching.

This is not an easy issue. The debate will always rage on."

Amy Rut (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)

**8. "There are so many variables which make public or residential school the appropriate choice for a blind student. It is commonly thought that a child will get better socialization in a public school than in a residential school. This can be, and is often true. However, certain factors can make that theory invalid. First, if the child is being heavily supervised by a teacher's aid during the times when other children socialize, decide whether to run to class or be late and do all the other things kids do in school, socialization is not enhanced. The student is also being inadequately served if the school cannot or does not teach the student the appropriate alternatives of blindness such as Braille, abacus and cane travel. I think short-term placements in the residential program are worth considering. I went to a school for the blind for 4 years and attended the school in my home community of Douglas Wyoming for the rest of my school years. I am glad I had the combined experience of public and residential school even though going to residential school away from my family was hard. I use Braille on a daily basis. I wouldn't have gotten that in Douglas. I do wish I had gotten more training in how blind people do math successfully, but over-all, I am glad I had the education I had. I hope the experiences my family and I had will help someone else who is making these tough choices."

Nancy Coffman (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)

**9. "I spent a little time both in public and residential school. Ironically, I spent the time I had the better sight at the blind school and I've come to the following conclusions. Going to Perkins and only coming back for the weekends gave me a certain prestige among the neighborhood kids. After all, going to boarding school as I insisted on calling it was something only kids in the movies and in books got to do but I permanently placed me in the realm of an outsider. I never really became a member of the pack that our neighborhood formed. Even when I came home full time the other kids were unsure what to do with me. They were starting to adjust when my vision took a nose dive. I felt as though I were living 2 lives. On the one hand I had Perkins where I had my best friends who I always played with and who saw nothing wrong with the fact that my books had bolder type or that I couldn't see everything and on the other I had this twilight zone fame in the neighborhood. I enjoyed the sense of family that the blind school offered. Our house Mother was the equivalent of an adoptive grandmother and us girls would go to the mat for one another. On the other hand I missed my parents. I would have liked to be excepted by the neighborhood as readily as I was by those kids at Perkins. So one would think that I would regret having gone third through twelfth grade in public school. In truth, especially once my vision crashed I wished desperately for my old friends and our sense of community. Especially when that support and friendship wasn't forthcoming from my sighted peers. Yet I'm glad I went through with the rest of my time at Public school. I got a top rate academic preparation for college, I never saw the inside of a resource room because accepting difficulty I had with math I could hold up my grades pretty well. I even got to take some advanced placement courses. And probably most important of all I was acclimated to the harsh reality of being a minority and having to fight to get my needs met. and to make myself understood and taken seriously. Like it or not the world isn't trained to handle and accommodate blindness so the sighted world can be a shock to one coming out of a blind school and a few hours a day in a public schoolroom and then back to the security of the blind school just isn't the same as coming home from school with an impossible paper to write with a mountain of research to go through, most of it not already in accessible format then hearing everyone piling into someone's car to make the trip to the movies that you were simply not invited on because no one wanted the risk of being considered responsible for you because sad as it is, that is the real world in all it's ugliness and the sooner we realize it the better off we'll be because then we can get busy educating the public and changing it. That will never happen so long as we're closeted safely away in blind schools in the hope that when we get out adult society will have magically learned to tolerate us and treat us better because they've read the Miracle Worker and listened to the music of Ray Charles and Stevey Wonder."

SueElllen Milo (Albuquerque, New Mexico USA)

**10. "So far experiences seem pretty similar to public school. So I can understand your difficulty. I have lived too many years in a residential school and spent Senior High at a public school and lost my sight at 6 months of age. When I lost sight I lost all of it. The differences ran like this in my experience. Others will have additional perspectives on this if you meet with them. Braille education was excellent in the residential school I attended. Higher math education from what I understand was also excellent but unfortunately restricted to those in Senior High. I remember having put in a request to take Algebra in 8th Grade and being refused by the guidance counselor because it went against school policy. I was told later by a Psychologist who determined that I scored 147 when the correct I.Q. test was used that Overbrook School For The Blind made a serious mistake with that policy. Other academic education connected to humanities was excellent. Science education was not worth the time we spent at it. The reason being that all funding other than for one book for each student had been withdrawn from the science program. The reason for this was that a student who I knew when in Chemistry Class had violated the safety rule in chemistry and tasted chemicals he was mixing. All students in that class were told do not taste anything unless specifically told to do so by the instructor. The school was afraid of liability exposure. Gym class was better in public school than residential. Because of a genetic foul up, I needed to wear diapers at nights and sometimes during days when I was at both residential school and public high school. Because of school policy I wasn't permitted to do so. Because of the smell at the residential school I took allot of physical abuse which at one time resulted in a threat against my life. The gym at the residential school was frequently where abuse happened but by no means always. Abuse could happen anywhere. Invariably it was the partially sighted students beating up on the totally blind students. In public school sometimes that happened but it was infrequent. I remember a day in public school when walking down the hallway when a student stepped on my aluminum cane and ended up bending it and then that student ran away. This was while I was walking with the cane using proper cane technique. I was told that my technique is very compact by an itinerant vision consultant who saw it too so there was no possibility for a claim of a loose technique. Mobility wasn't taught in residential school until Senior High. Probably a good thing; with all the fighting that was going on at the residential school students could have been killed if canes were introduced and became used as weapons. Braille resources were awful in the public school. Math classes were better, but I ended up having a personality conflict with two math teachers so their dealing with me was far less than fair. I don't know how frequent personality conflicts were at Overbrook School. I suspect the problem with both of those teachers was that I was blind and in their classes. I ended up attending Neshaminey Senior High School in Langhorne, PA. One of the places we lived would have entitled me to attend Palisades Senior High School but the school refused to admit me because of my blindness. This was back in 1972 when blind people didn't have civil rights protection or that afforded by the ADA Whatever protection the ADA does afford. There are bones in this body that still pay me back because of the abuse they took at Overbrook School For The Blind. That experience has caused me to go on a very different religious path than the one which I started with. Was originally Catholic, am now Pagan. If people live through abuse, they begin at some point to think about how that experience fits into their life. That thought process caused me to ask and answer several questions and that changed the religious path. Another difference is that in public high school I had a regular home life. In residential school it was home once every two weekends and on holidays and summer vacations. So when you attend residential school, you enter a different and smaller society. Any questions, ask."

Jude (Lexington Park Maryland USA

**11. "I went to public school, but I wish I had gone to the school for the blind. I still have education and self esteem issues from going to public school. I had a TVI, but I never learned Braille or any other blindness skills while in school. I was put in remedial reading classes because I was behind in reading. It never dawned on the teachers that my poor reading was because I was blind. I was taunted and teased by my peers every day during all the years I was in school. I would skip lunch because I didn't want to sit alone.

I would have preferred the school for the blind because I would have learned the blindness skills I needed and I would not have grown up ashamed to be blind. I would have been part of a crowd rather then a loner and I would have had a chance to be involved in activities that I was excluded from in public school.

I would have been away from my family, but this might not have been so bad considering my mother's attitude towards blindness was so negative.

The people I have met that went to the schools for the blind have the skills I didn't have and have fewer self esteem issues. I think they were better prepared for life."

JODY (Keene, New Hampshire USA)

**12. "Well, I love this PROVOKER. I have never attended a residential school for the blind, but I think the public environment is much less sheltered from the real world. I'm in the computer lab now and I need to leave."

Stacy (Wisconsin USA)

**13. "This is a very individual question. I attended a public school where I had the opportunity to learn along with my sighted peers where in most cases the same standards were expected, homework, grades, tests etc. I had many challenges, and I had the drive and support from home to meet them. For example, in high school I had to figure out how to set up the biology notebook so it looked as close to my sighted classmates as possible and still complete it on a typewriter. Had to fill in tables and graphs. This taught me the skill of problem solving which is useful in life. It also helped that my parents had high expectations, and were supportive.

What else well I participated in a variety of activities, music, plays, stage crew. Working on the stage crew gave me an appreciation for sets and has helped me as I attend plays.

Why did it work? Well, I received excellent training in Braille reading and writing in a resource room program for the visually impaired. A student must have the skills to gain the most from a public school education. Social skills are extremely important, and must be taught not just at school but at home and begin in infancy.

Each student should have the opportunity to attend a program to strengthen skills if they are week. At some point maybe a year should be inserted into a blind child's schooling which works on those disability specific skills such as technology. Many students could benefit from such a program, but not all. It may be at a residential school. Again there isn't one clear answer, because each student is an individual."

Sue Mangis

**14. "I attended schools for the blind; and I've got to tell you that I hated it. That's just my personal feeling. I realize that many people were comfortable in that situation, but I never was. I guess it's simply that I don't like being segregated. school, and I truly wish that there had been. Please do not take my view as a criticism of those who disagree with me. It is not. I just feel that, for me, public school would have been a better experience."

Colleen Chandler (North Platte, Nebraska USA E-mail:

**15. "I was raised in the public school system from kindergarten to twelfth grade. I was the first person with a visual impairment in the school district I attended. Anyway it was a great experience. It wasn't an easy battle for my parents though. Much of my elementary school years were spent advocating done by my parents. I started attending my staffings in junior high and high school. Anyway I look at advocating for myself in the public school system as something beneficial for life in college. Fighting for my rights still happens in college and I got practice and get advice from my parents now that I am doing it all over again as a junior in college. At the two-year college I attended before the four-year school I am at now I didn't have to do much advocating. All of my accommodations were met without any problems. They liked me at that school. They were excited to learn about what I could do. They saw potential in me. At this school I am majoring in elementary education with a reading endorsement. My goal in life is to teach visually impaired children and to work with adults who are visually impaired. Anyway some of the faculty in the education dept. here don't want me majoring in education because they don't know I will handle student teaching which won't happen for another two years.

Anyway I look at attending public school as a positive for the most part. My friends are sighted and I pretty much act like a sighted person. In high school I didn't have many friends although I participated in track in junior high and band throughout school. Anyway I guess maybe an advantage to attending a residential school would be being with people who are blind. Now that I am struggling with figuring out what to do about handling decisions in the teaching field I notice how I learn so much differently academically concepts that is than my sighted friends. I find it difficult to understand how sighted children learn. Anyway I did spend some time with blind people in high school. I attended different camps including one where we had work experience for six weeks and we stayed on a college campus."

Lisa Ehlers (Waverly, Iowa USA)

**16. "I attended a school for the blind and believe I got a good education. Some definite advantages were the solid foundation in Braille, excellent training in music, the opportunity to participate in many extracurricular activities and a certain degree of self-sufficiency. However, I do regret not having been able to attend a public high school because I would have been better prepared for the real world when I arrived at college. Even though I used a white cane, my travel skills were very poor because no one used canes on the residential school campus. Also, I had to learn how to manage in an environment where there were thousands of people rather than tens. I appreciate what I gained from my high school experience, but I wonder how others feel about theirs."

Linda Milliner

**17. "This one I can answer, at least as far as my own schooling went. I went to public school, mainstreamed all the way. And I can't say with all belief that I feel that that's the way it should be, at least not in my case. My hearing and eyesight problems were more or less ignored throughout the years. I was expected to keep up one hundred percent with everyone else. Of course I fell behind, horribly. Since I couldn't read regular print at the same speed as all the other kids I usually pretty much didn't do it at all. I was assumed to be lazy. Since I couldn't read and copy what the teacher was writing on the chalk board I'd miss out on important notes. My teachers didn't care. I was simply assumed to be a bad seed and pushed off. Plus I was always very shy which didn't help matters any. Most people thought I was rude.

I kind of wish I had gone to a blind and/or deaf type of school. I think I'd be a different person right now if I wasn't always the black sheep in the crowd, if I could have spent more time amongst other kids like me. But on the whole I guess it really depends on who the kid is being talked about. In my case the blind school might have been better, but in someone else's - say my kid sister, Carol, who's also blind - the public school's the better deal."

Patricia Hubschman (Levittown, new York USA)

**18. "Personally I don't think that there should be a difference as to where you went to school. It is the education that you get and what you want to get from the school. I went to public school and this was back in the 50's and to compare the type of education today to then is different as day and night. But stop and look at the time difference and the way the people that are blind were education then and now and the many ways that a person can get the education today and with all the new and modern tech. that is out there that I did not have and if you were not big business you did not have a home PC or anything like that or the speak and talk, because you stop and look at it back in the 50's you as a blind person had to learn Braille in order to read anything and you did not have the freedom like you have today. Just my opinion I think that a person blind or sighted that all people should get the best education they can and move forward with there life so that if they are blind they can show the world that a blind person can do as good a job as a sighted person if not better."

Willie Burton (Arkansas USA)

**19. "I attended public school for all of my school years. I didn't really know how much I didn't get to participate in during my public school life until I met my husband who attended a school for the blind. When he told me all of the activities such as track, beep basket ball, roller skating and many other school related activities he got to participate in, I found myself feeling like I'd missed out on something really important to my development. While I could participate in chorus and other non physical activities, I missed the feeling of being part of a teem or just being a part of all of the physical activities of the school. During gym there were many times when I would have to sit on the bleachers while the other kids played basket ball or some other teem sport. During these times I often wondered if there were a way I could learn to participate, but I didn't have the slightest idea how I would and neither did my teachers. I was the only blind person in my school. Some of my teachers did very well at adapting things so that I could learn and participate in class just the same as the others, but there were always some teachers who just didn't know what to do and how to deal with teaching a visually impaired child, so they would tell me to just sit and listen and get out of the class what I could. I believe I helped to educate many of the teachers and students concerning blindness, but at the expense of my not learning as much and as well as I could have, because neither I nor many of my teachers knew how to adapt things, so that I could better learn. As a young child, I didn't have the skills and no how to show my teachers how they could help me. Some teachers were real creative and knew just how to get around the barriers of my sight impairment, while there were others who just didn't want to be bothered. I have very mixed feelings about my public school life. I had friends, but never felt totally accepted. I always felt like the odd ball, because I couldn't play many of the games with the other kids on the playground at recess. I have developed a real inferiority complex, because of growing up feeling so different from everyone else. I am one of those people who likes to just blend in and be part of the normal scene, but for me during school that was never an option. I did have acceptance and friendship from a few very special kids, and to this day, I consider those childhood school friends to be very special, because they befriended me when it wasn't the popular thing to do. It takes very special kids to do something like that.

I do believe that at a school for the blind a student can maybe be a little too sheltered from the real world and I also believe that the academic standards weren't as high as in some public schools. I see that in my husband and some of our friends who went to a residential school for the blind, that they didn't get the quality of education that I did in public school, however they at least felt like one of the gang and they could participate in many physical activities and know what it is like to be part of a teem. Personally, I wish a blind or visually impaired student now days could have the experience of going to a school for the blind to learn blindness coping skills, but then in their later school years go to public school and use the skills they've been taught at the schools for the blind. I had not been taught any blindness coping skills during my school years, which made it really difficult for me to know how I could have made my learning experience easier. When I look back on my school years I so wish I would have had the blindness coping skills that I learned after I left public school and went off to a rehab center. I wish I would have been equipped earlier in my school life to know how to do things as a visually impaired student, because I think I could have not only done better in school, but I could have shown my teachers how they could help me. That was back in the 60s and I realize that blind kids in public school are now being taught blindness coping skills to help them during their school years, at least I sincerely hope they are being taught those important skills, because without them things are hard in public school for a blind student."

Bev Tietz (USA)

**20. "my name is Marianne and I would like to address some of the problems I have seen in CA. By the way I am a blind teacher with specialization in teaching blind and visually impaired. I have taught two years as an itinerate teacher in arural county.

One problem here is that not too many districts have classes for blind students to learn some of those special skills but afterwards return into the mainstream. The itinerate teacher has to teach all this with a caseload almost too much for anyone. My caseload was thirty six at the end. Each student needed different amounts of time. One student needed five hours plus a week for learning braille. The regular teacher was almost a little mad that I could not give more since she did not have the training, time or interest to adapt some of her teaching methods. I litterally did not have time to teach adaptive, academic and social skills. At the end the clue was that someone said they had to save money so they could not afford to hire me backand provide an assistant to drive me.

In that county public transportation was so awful almost noneccistant. Now they hired a teacher that is not even fully credentialed. One parent related that that teacher asked her if her child ever had services. When that parent talked about me the teacher reacted completely suprised and did not even have my I. E. P. to look at thinking she was the first one to give services. By the way,there were three vi teachers before me.

I am not chosen for those mostly itinerate jobs because the school districts simply say they have no money to provide an accommodation. I personally agree with you that manz students should go to college. It is hard enough for a blind person to find a job as is. I also think colleges and advisors have a responsibility to alert students going into different fields abouth some of the difficulties. I, for instance would have liked to know before going into teaching about the itinerate nature of a lot of jobs and the inability of school districts to help me out.

I do see an advantage of a school like Kenedy High, where I have substituted in another class. Technology and equipment wise they are in abetter position than some of my students were. Again many districts claim poverty and inability to buy the equipment students need. Interaction with sighted pears is a difficult thing. Allot of sighted people just are afraid or unable to relate on an equal basis. I have seen some of that when I was growing up mainstreamed in a country where there wer no services.

By the way I do not know enough about the school for the blind. I think some of the problems are that so many students now have more severe disabilities. I thik there should be different parts to schools for the blind, one of which should be to help catch up.

By the way I am still substituting in the hope i find a job. I also passed my trainee exam for rehabilitation counseling. Sincerely"

Marianne Haas (AERlist)

FROM ME: "I would also recommend to anyone in planning a carreer, do your own research. Make several contacts with individuals performing the job/profession you are thinking of and secondly, employers who hire these people. What other recommendations would you make?

Secondly, who better for a role model than a visually impaired/blind teacher?"

**21. "I'm not a blind individual (yet-- gettin' there, though), but my son was born totally blind and has been in both residential and public school. Here in California we have a royal mess. The school for the blind is clueless. Here's the deal: if you're a very high functioning blind student and you can make it in public school with nothing more than your materials put in braille, you can go to the school for the blind in the afternoon and the local public high school in the morning and you will eventually earn a high school diploma from that public high school (in Fremont-- I think it's called Kennedy H.S.) BUT if you have a learning disability in math or are behind academically for some other reason, so that you need some additional help, and if you want to go to school for the blind to catch up academically and improve your blind skills in assistive technology, O and M and daily living skills, you are in trouble because you won't be allowed to go to the public high school near the school for the blind. You will have to spend full time at the school for the blind and you may get farther behind for a number of reasons (your fellow students may be pretty low functioning, staff will consider you multi-handicapped and so will have lower expectations and energy toward you, you will suffer from the non-association with sighted peers in terms of social and extra-curricular activities, "coolness quotient" and all those esoteric but esteem-building parts of being in public high school, etc.-- I could go on but won't). Now if you are at school for the blind full-time, you can't earn a high school diploma-- you can only get a certificate of completion, which is meaningless. So in California, there's no reason whatsoever to go to the school for the blind (unless, of course, you hate your parents and just want to get out of the house)-- If you're so high functioning you can go to Kennedy HS, you might as well stay in your own community and go to the high school all your friends from church, neighborhood and community activities go to. If you need to go to school for the blind to catch up, forget it--- it's not worth risking your high school diploma. The people at California School for the Blind just will not understand how crucial it is for a blind student to go on to college if at all possible-- and a blind student does not have to be in the top 1% of blind students in order to be successful in college. There are many colleges with many programs and almost anyone of average intelligence, blind or sighted, can and should go. But you can't go without a high school diploma-- and the GED's are tougher to pass than getting a diploma. This is a complicated world, and unemployment for blind is 70%. What the heck is it going to take for educators of the blind in California to figure it all out? I am printing this post out to take to my son's IEP in two days-- because I have to ask the IEP team to fill in the gaps that ordinarily a school for the blind might fill in. He's going to need some education therapy for academic gaps yet unfilled by a TVI who has a caseload of 32 all on itinerant services (with at least 5 braille readers-- maybe more), a private computer consultant to teach him assistive technology, funding from the Dept of Rehab for a daily living skills program in Colorado or Louisiana; and a private TVI to teach slate and stylus, which also hasn't gotten accomplished in two years in high school due to our teacher's huge caseload. (By the way, I do not blame the over-worked TVI-- but rather the State Dept of Ed. which created a useless SELPA system for situations like ours (the system is obviously ineffective for a number of reasons); the inability of districts to share TVI's when the caseloads get lopsided-- as is virtually always the case; a low energy, clueless and uncreative school for the blind; and frankly, a divided and argumentative blind community in this state that hasn't accomplished much.) Well, now I've managed to offend just about everyone, so it's time to sign-off. Am I in hell? you might ask. No, just in California. Need I sign my name? I think you all know who I am by now."

**22. "I went to public schools all my school life. starting in 1964 through high school in 1978. I got put back a year when I was in the fifth grade, because there were three teachers, and a large class in the same room. There was another blind person in class with me, and for the first three months of the year, we were handed braille reading books and instructed to read them. That was all we were given to do. The teachers couldn't be bothered with teaching blind kids. We had just moved at the time, and finally my parents moved me to what was my home school in the district. They also moved me back to the fourth grade. My parents had to do a lot of advocating for me during those days. Some teachers didn't feel they should have to teach a blind child. They were told by my parents, that if they knew what was good for them, they would teach this blind child. Sometimes it took sitting in the director of special education's office for several days, but my parents and others got the point across to school officials. Incidentally, I met this man later when I was in college, and he remembered my parents, not with great fondness, but with a lot of respect. He was very cordial toward me and asked how they were doing, and we reminisced for some time about those days. As a whole, I liked public school life, and, I think, would have preferred it immensely to residential school life. Friends of mine who went to residential schools new a lot less about the sighted world, and about the world in general than I did. I do anything I need to do now, including cutting down sixty foot tall elm trees, to remodeling houses, which I did for a while to make a living. I did all the carpentry, dry wall and things like that, and my wife, who is sighted, did the painting. I was never taught a good technique for painting. My wife also mows the grass, as I was never taught a good technique for doing that either."

Gail Crowe (Blind-X)

**23. Blind children and their parents are confronted with a terrible choice and blind adults are often left with memories of an in complete life as a result. For example many school systems give blind students limited physical education and limited access to shop classes. This results in students who by definition are less well-rounded."

Gerry Mack (Blind-X)

**24. "It seems that they both have professional positions since they are at a work related conference. They both seem satisfied with their educational experiences.

The woman had taken advantage of the multi dimensional course offerings and excelled. The gentleman had excelled in sports that he was able to take at the residential school. (Hurray for goal ball!)

The woman did not have any blind friends from school. Although she seemed to have a full social life and hung out with the neighborhood kids who took her places. The man had eight in his graduating class. They probably had a really tight bond. It seems a shame that the woman didn't even know if there were any other visually impaired classmates. It has been my experience working with kids that are mainstreamed, that there is such a value in getting together with other visually impaired children.

I have been witness to the blind children being left behind at recess. At times we have invented games that other children want to play, like guessing game or canoe down the river, but on the whole everything is so visual. When we get out kids together for picnics or gatherings, they instinctively interact with each other and know how to play together. In the sighted world the blind child is different. Together they interact and don't compare themselves as much as when they are in the classroom with the sighted students.

Recently we have had a wonderful experience where two blind students are at the same school. It is so wonderful for them to learn Braille together and to interact socially. They argue and tease, there is something so empowering about having the older student mentor the younger one. Yesterday we walked across campus to a drinking fountain and I had the older student in charge of monitoring the mobility technique of the younger one. He would say, "Hey, your arc is getting a little sloppy." Or "pay attention, you're wandering off of the path and headed for disaster." Then they would giggle and laugh.

Last year I had my student do a center on Braille. He conducted it with my assistance and everyone got a chance to use a Perkins Brailler and do the alphabet and write their name. It was so great when a student came up at the end and told him that he was really cool because he could do Braille. The student said "It's like you know two languages and I only know one." Although everyone has to make it in a sighted world, I have seen the magic of that happens when blind people unite. There is a sense of community and sharing that happens that is beautiful. To me, I would love to have my students best friend who lives in a nearby town in the same classroom. They would probably be rowdy and give me a run for my money, but I would truly love it. Then my student could have a real best friend like the other kids and feel like he really fits in. It would be great to have a school where all of the blind kids came to be mainstreamed. It would be hard to send a child away to a school that is far away. I would want my child to be home and part of my family. (Except for the older child, if they were willing.) I would still miss the daily interaction. Our blind school is three and half hours away. Bottom line, get the education and get Braille literate. Lobby for the technology that will keep them on a level playing field with the sighted peers. Have high academic standards and stick to them."

Suzanne Lange (Chico, California USA)

**25. “My name is Annette Harvey and I am a student at Blind Industries and
Services Of Md. I came from the Md School For The Blind. They did a fair
job. But They do shelter the students a little to much for me. They also
slow the students down, because they had to mix the mentally disturbed
students with the students that were not. The dorms were like that also. I
had a student that was in public school. One transferring, And one that was
mentally retarded. I was in the middle. That slowed me down. I did not get
the blindness skills I needed. That is why I came to rehab. I also started
losing sight. I do not have the social problems that were previously
talked about.

Annette Harvey (Student of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland
Baltimore, Maryland 21223

FROM ME: Note this students post high school enrollment; a rehab center. What other options might there be for any grad, from public or residential, when blindness/alternative skills are not strong?

Second, when we speak of the learning environment, we do include the make up of the student body, right? So what happens when the mix is too heavy on distracting, non-academic or intellectually challenging fellow students?”

**26. “Well, I think that many of us out in the world have very mixed feelings about whether or not a residential school is better, or a public
school is better. I would have to agree with one of the other members who
responded about the fact that most residential schools today are admitting
multi-handicapped students, and students who are strictly blind feel a little
out of place. I can share a specific example of this feeling. This past school
year, my vision teacher and a group of us of us from our public school
district, took a trip to the residential school here in Wisconsin. WE
attended a Braille Olympics type of thing, and I truly felt out of place
because a majority of those students have multiple handicaps. I was so happy
to get back into my public school environment.”

Stacy (Wisconsin USA)

**27. “In reading everyone else’s posts I've realized how angry my last post
sounded. Actually there were several things I had that made my public
school a memorable experience though not necessarily wonderful one. The
things that mostly got me through school were an outstanding itinerant
teacher who was an excellent advocate for me both with teachers and with
my extremely overprotective mother. She had one of those personalities
that compelled people to listen and she infect became a kind of extended
member of the family serving as both teacher and councilor. She would tell
me about what would be written in my educational plan and ask for my
suggestions before it was set in stone and she ensured my path crossed
with the other 2 people who gave me positive encouragement I
needed. First, she introduced me to a fantastic mobility instructor. I had
been dragged to the cane kicking and screaming as loudly as I had when
they tolled me I was to use Braille. This mobility instructor made the
learning experience fun, teaching me how to confidently approach sighted
people for directions, encouraging me to use the vision I had helping me
regain my skills with a great deal of patience after a teenager came out
of no where while I was crossing the street and almost hit me, and again,
convincing my mother the apron strings must be cut. The other person the
itinerant teacher put me in touch with came to me through a big brother
big sister program she initiated herself through the community college
after the official one in town kept having trouble finding someone willing
to work with a blind person. These college students gave me a lot of
encouragement and direction in the social arena as well as tutoring me
but there was one guy who entered the program who particularly helped
me. He encouraged me to stop trying to be popular and try to fit into a
world I was clearly not being permitted entrance to, he gave me a certain
ego boost that comes from having an older guy not laugh at you and run
around with you in town, he encouraged me to cultivate my sense of humor
which I later used to handle social ignorance with such stunts as waling
down the hall and calling out to sighted students standing in my way with
no intention of moving, "Look out, I won't." then turning back and telling
them if I'd bumped into them, "Sorry, I wasn't looking where I was
going." He also however, taught me how to problem solve and encouraged me
to speak up for myself and not carry my anger around in a tight ball and
just be whatever I felt was right and not worry so much about what other
people wanted me to be, and he too became enough a member of the family
that he was able to help my mother see when she was going overboard in the
protectiveness department. I think if one is going to survive the public
school experience and be able to function in this world of mostly sighted
folks they need to have people like that to provide them with the skills
and the confidence they need as well as setting the example how to treat

Sue Ellen Melo (Albuquerque, New Mexico USA)

FROM ME: “How many responses have we read and will read that mention the special influence of a VI teacher or other instructor or individual and how they positively impacted the students development and life?!> What other “significant other” might also play that very special role when the issues are those unique to vision loss/blindness?”

**28. “I think everyone had some problems with school that may still bother them today. My dad was in the military, so I went to over 25 schools before I
graduated from high school, I'm sure that Bill Gates was probably stuffed
into his locker a few times, in fact, I would stuff him in one right now if
I could. But it seems that the problems you guys had are either social,
which absolutely everybody has, or maybe an inadequate educational system,
which may be a little more of a problem to overcome. So my question is that
if the teachers and the school's were great only in the educational area,
which would you prefer? You don't really have to answer, I like the original
thought PROVOKER anyway.... Just remember to be nice to the new kid...”

Beth (Utah USA)

**29. “I was the first of two to be sent to a residential school. My parents
wanted me to remain at home, however, my mother was convinced that I
would be treated as if I were "mentally retarded" and just passed through
each grade as someone we knew who had a lower IQ had been done. Though
she knew of my intelligence and talents, she feared the staff would not
know, just assuming that if I couldn't see, I couldn't do much of
anything else. This was in a small town where r4we were stared at a lot
and socialization with the "town kids" was difficult, though Mom tried
several techniques like summer vacation Bible school, a Saturday class in
another church, our church's youth fellowship, inviting kids over for a
big party one time, etc. But we did have a couple good sighted friends
who were kids of close friends of the family.

It was hard for me to be the first to go and I was terrified of the old
firetrap school building. I missed my family more than I could ever
express--especially my sister! I think that subconsciously I may have
thought that there was more wrong with me than other kids because I
needed to be sent away. Being told that my sister would join me the next
year really didn't make sense because that was too far ahead and kids
just don't think that far ahead much of the time. Life goes slower when
you're a young kid.

Well, she did join me and this was neat for us except we were too close
together in years and grades and had many of the same friends. I wonder
if things would have been better if there'd been more of an age
difference but that's water under the bridge as so many like to cliche
these days.

I think I got an excellent academic education and certainly had the
experience of being popular and included in the middle of things at the
residential school. Problem was, I had a culture shock in college not
only by the large number of humans around but suddenly becoming "nobody"
in a sighted world except to a few who thought I was "amazing" which I
didn't like. The few friends I did make were good ones. I realize that
I would have had culture shock maybe in a similar way going from a small
town school to the university so this is not merely the "fault" of the
residential school. I am glad I went to the residential school because
not only did I receive a good education, I found many members of my
"family" there. Though I've grown away from some I am still close to a
few of them. I also have met people from other schools for the blind as
a young person who showed up in the Federation, and other places who wee
pen pals and such and this has been neat!!

I also attended some public school classes and did fine in them except
for the amount of reading was much heavier. Good thing I got used to
that before college!! But I've never had the support system in my
adulthood that I had when I was young and this has been difficult at
times. Thanks to computers at least I'm getting more informational
resources than I used to have.

I apologize if this is full of errors. I'm in the process of moving and
very busy but I wanted to reply to this THOUGHT-PROVOKER and am in a big
hurry. Thanks for this one. It's a good one. I think that people
arguing over which is better or not are missing a lot of points which
other people are covering here just fine. There's a good case for both.”

Laurie Merryfield (Washington, USA)

**30. “This is an interesting, but rather complicated topic for discussion.
I attended a residential school for the blind in Worcester - a town in the
Western Cape Province of South Africa. There were certainly advantages, as
well as disadvantages to attending a special school for the blind.
Some of the advantages could be as follows:
I obtained the quality of open-mindedness because I met my peers who
belonged to different church- and language groups.
Because there were also mentally disabled pupils with us in residence I
learned to appreciate them for what they were capable of doing. For
example: one of them always helped me out with the knitting I had to do for
homework. I detested knitting and always made a mess. Molly was always
willing to keep me out of trouble! Nowadays I love knitting. Why? I don't
know. Another advantage is the strong bond amongst people who attended the school in Worcester. It is like a family. Of course there are also disadvantages. Most of our teachers were sighted -
of course no problem with that! However, they were terribly prescriptive.
I was told that I had to follow the career of a switchboard operator. I did
that for five years and started studying part-time at the University of
South Africa doing my B.A. Degree. I am now a language instructor in the
South African Defense Force. I had to learn to fight my way open in life!
Be it against prescriptive teachers, or uneducated people who are reluctant
to learn. I went home only twice a year - every six months. Consequently I became estranged from my relatives. It is very sad, especially as one grows older.
Enough of that one!

All in all I would like to thank the teachers who were responsible for my
good education. The standards were high and we were taught to do our
utmost! "If a thing is worth doing it's worth doing well," my grade 6
teacher taught me.
Have a good day, everybody!”

Janie Fourie (Pretoria, South Africa

**31. “The public vs. residential school debate has been going on for many,
many years. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

In residential schools it is more likely that blind students will take
part in activities such as sports, drama, pep and glee clubs, and so
on, and it is more likely blind students will be chosen as Prom
royalty, royalty for local festivals, class officers, and so on. By
being around other blind students each has a better feeling of
acceptance for this major difference from the mainstream, and usually
enjoys a better self-image. Such students usually receive better
grounding in adaptive skills than those who have to rely in itinerant
teachers to provide instruction and training.

On the other hand, such kids are all too often treated as less capable
than their sighted peers, and are likely to be denied normal
experiences such as dating, the chance to cruise with friends, chances
to develop independence skills, and so on. There is a good chance that
if parents didn't teach the child how to tie his shoes before he
started at the school or similar self-help skills such as how to do
laundry, etc., that most kids are expected to learn within the family,
that the blind student will never have the chance to learn such skills
until he or she enters a rehab program as a young adult. This leaves
the blind individual from the residential school at a distinct
disadvantage as he or she enters college or seeks to set up an
independent household. It is also likely that residential school
graduates are going to feel at a loss when they find themselves
entering the mainstream and trying to blend in and compete with sighted
peers. In many residential schools there is a distinct pecking order
based on amount of extant vision, and those who are high partials are
more likely to be allowed privileges denied to the totally blind
students. Such kids are usually given more autonomy and more
responsibility, and are more likely to be allowed to mainstream part or
full time in the local "normal" high school. Those with little usable
sight may find themselves being forced to be dependent on the high
partials to leave campus, do chores, and so on. By not having
encouragement to socialize with the sighted community, the residential
school student and graduate may feel cut off from sighted peers and
have no idea how to socialize, communicate, and so on.

A classmate at the university I attended was a high partial who had
attended our state residential school all through public school years.
He was highly intelligent and had a wonderful personality, and had been
able to attend the local normal public school part time all through
high school; but once he got into college he felt totally at a loss.
Even though he had been partially mainstreamed, he had not made any
serious friends at the regular school--all his social contacts were at
the school for the blind. He felt totally out of his element, and
dropped out after two quarters. He went back to the residential school
and worked and lived there as a college aide while attending the local
community college. Once he was done with the community college he
returned to the university and finished there, but he told me he needed
those two years in the more familiar environment to make the
transition. None of the blind students at the university who had
attended regular public schools felt similarly out of touch, and none
of them dropped out of school.

Blind students attending regular schools often feel cut off from other
kids, especially the more elite cliques at the top of the school social
structure. Oftentimes neither classmates nor teachers feel comfortable
around them or seek to make friends or have any idea how to make
appropriate accommodations. They may find acceptance in music programs
and activities, but are not likely to be accepted in drama club. It's
unlikely any notably disabled student will be likely to be elected to
student offices, much less for flashier activities such as Prom or
festival royalty--hey, it's only relatively recently that blacks have
had a chance to become Miss America or that deaf individuals have been
able to gain acceptance as actors and such.

At the same time, a mainstreamed blind student is more likely to have
an accurate self-evaluation as to how he or she stacks up alongside
sighted peers as far as skills go. Such kids are more likely to have
made good friends with at least a small number of sighted kids and are
usually better able to network to find ways to attend social activities
and games and so on. As they are more likely to have solid rather than
superficial friendships with sighted peers, they are usually better set
to be able to brainstorm through perceived problems and to find
appropriate support. They are usually better versed at self-advocacy
and instructing new acquaintances on how to make appropriate
accommodations. They are more likely to have good independence skills
and to feel more free when moving through the neighborhood than those
whose boundaries have been defined by the campus of a residential

One of my biggest gripes toward residential schools is the politicking
and dictatorial policies that appear to be supported by such closed
systems. When I did my September experience at our state school there
were three or four individuals on staff who had made themselves the
core of school policy. The definite leader was the housing director,
who was as arrogant and spiteful an individual as you can imagine. She
and her cronies set social policy for the school, and God help the poor
kids caught holding hands on their watch! At the high school I had
attended hugs and even rather passionate kisses were fairly common in
accepted couples, but at the state school students were warned that if
couples were caught walking hand in hand they would be punished by
being denied attendance at school functions, and even evening study
time would be restricted. When a girl actually got pregnant the
excrement struck the turning blades of the air-cooling implement! The
screaming was heard three counties away! And any person who didn't
meet their image of propriety or social acceptability, whether it was
fellow staff member or student, could expect to be harassed

As more and more blind students have been partially or completely
mainstreamed, more and more residential schools find themselves being
marginalized. More and more of residents are multiply handicapped with
increasingly serious conditions such as major cerebral palsy, brain
damage, retardation, and serious social deficits. Many have lost their
accreditation to issue proper high school diplomas, so their students
must either mainstream at a local school sufficiently to earn their
diplomas there or they are issued only a certificate of completion of

Our state school's superintendent has sought to strengthen the position
of his school by drawing all child and family services for blind
children under the school's authority. The state instructional
resource center for the blind is now at the state school, and most
supplemental programs for counties and districts which have no
qualified teachers of the visually impaired and other rehabilitation
services are administered by the state school. The director of
outreach services has a difficult personality, and has managed to make
some of those he has come into contact with highly critical of the
program. And as the teachers sponsored by the state school vary in
ability from very marginal to excellent and many have no real classroom
experience, schools dealing with them often find themselves not knowing
from one year to the next what quality of services they can expect. As
the outreach director has a distinct prejudice that those without
proper certification cannot do the job, no matter what their experience
levels, he often manages to cut services by denying those who have been
giving service appropriate autonomy or respect.

Residential schools can definitely be helpful for those kids who need
concentrated instruction in Braille and adaptive equipment, and may
serve as a haven for those whose families are not mentally or
emotionally equipped to deal with a blind child in the home; but
pressure is put on most families to mainstream their children as much
as possible and that is where the matter stands. Unless other schools
follow the lead of our state and concentrate state programs for
children and families under their control, many will either close or
find themselves unofficial institutions for those who are unlikely to
ever live independently due to serious multiple disabilities.”

Bonnie L. Sherrell Teacher at Large (Port Townsen, Washington USA)

**32. “I embrace the opportunity to jump into this very impassioned debate. I am currently a Rehabilitation Instructor at Blind Industries and Services of
Maryland where I have the chance to see the results of both students
graduating from the Maryland Public School System as well as those served
by the Maryland School for the Blind. I should also state here that I, am
a product of the public school or mainstreaming program except for a brief
stint at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. I often half jokingly
say that I am a perfect example of the failure of the public school system.
I, nonetheless, adamantly defend it as a most fundamental right of every
child in a free society.

I think that a couple of things need to be asserted here. Many of my friends
who were educated at a school for the blind are of a generation before the
steep deterioration of the residential schools' stated mission. It is
often argued by some that at the very least one learned Braille among other important blindness skills at the schools for the blind. It can also be said that the public schools fall abysmally short
of meeting the basic educational needs of many of its students, not the
least of whom are blind. Finally, the question often comes inevitably down
to one of financial resources.

Based on my very cursory personal observations the schools for the blind in
most states have so deteriorated over the years as to fail to meet the most
rudimentary educational needs of its blind students. The rationale, of
course, is that they must serve a more diverse group of disabled children
with very different needs. This is due largely to the closing down of
disgracefully inhumane institutions reserved for those whom society simply
did not know how to integrate, the mentally ill, emotionally disturbed,
mentally retarded, epileptic, or otherwise generically deemed multiply
handicapped. While the demise of these appalling dungeons was a
progressive step, many schools for the deaf and blind have become merely
"dumping grounds" for those children who cannot or will not be served by
the public school system. Consequently these state institutions harbor
horrible practices such as reinforcing reward structures based on
hierarchical levels of vision and for those who are simply "visually
impaired," not "blind" are not even taught Braille or travel with the long
white cane.

As to the question of resources it is often argued that scarce funds in,
for example, rural areas of the country are better spent sending blind
children to schools where they will be among others of their own peers who
have similar needs. Since most schools for the blind do not even meet the
basic literacy criteria for these unfortunate children I would submit that
rather than quibbling over which inadequate school system to fund, shut
down the worthless schools for the blind and let's focus our efforts on
bettering the system of free, compulsory, and universal quality public
school education for all including Braille, cane travel, and computer
accessibility instruction for its blind students!”

Maurice Peret Computer Technology Instructor
(Rehabilitation Department Blind Industries and Services of Maryland

FROM ME: “In your state or providence or country, that school that served those around you who experience vision loss, how many of you have lost your educational institution for the blind and visually impaired? How many of you have seen a degrading, a lessening in the quality and/or quantity of services? How many of you have seen services improve? Either way, why?)

**33. “I keep putting off my response because I feel so deeply about this
subject. I am afraid I can't say what I want clearly or constructively
enough. Obviously, we come to our thoughts through our own life experiences.
I don't want to write my autobiography here, but I feel I have a certain
outlook on residential schools because of it.

Because of the RLF, now ROP outbreak a lot of metropolitan areas started
special programs for blind kids. I attended one in Detroit at a very young
age, maybe three. I was, by the way, taught Braille right away using a
wooden board and nails.

Many problems occurred in my family and when I was five I was sent to
The Michigan school for the blind. In my unprejudiced view, smile, our school was the best in the country.
At that time kids could stay at school on weekends but not on holidays or
Vacations. When I could not be at school, my father found some one to care for me. So this was not monitored by the state or anything. I experienced various
kinds of abuse at these times. That's my background, so for me, the residential school was a secure place
for me, the only secure place.

I have met and worked closely with many wonderful caring parents in our
time who have blind children. They are always there to advocate for what
their kids need in their public school. Even then, the going can be tough.
Now, my husband Fred worked tirelessly for over three years to keep our
state from moving our residential school from Lansing to co-locate on the
campus of the school for the deaf in Flint. I will not go into all the
politics of it. I will say that parents of blind kids today who are
involved with their kids' education do not, for the most part, want to send
their kids away to school. My deep concern was always the kids like me who
had or have no parents advocating for them. What is their fate in the
present system? We lost, and during this past year I was a part of a
strategic planning task force to look at the future of special ed for blind
kids in our state.
I have put my own emotions aside about my own past in a residential school
as best as I can. We have no kids who will stay at or graduate from our
school any longer. Now my focus is on some preservation of the school's
I think that there are kids who are bright and talented who will make it
wherever they are planted. I am concerned about what is happening to many
other kids. I will do all I can to make inclusion work because I care
about blind kids.
I guess In my personal opinion there is still a role for a residential
school, and the present system can't be fixed enough to give kids what I
had. On the other hand, I think it would be best to have a combination of
both systems as I think there were some negatives of the old system.
Let me end this epistle by saying that I would not in any way have been
able to achieve what I have if my home environment was all there was. I am
an emotional person, and cannot walk on our old campus which is just a
couple of miles from my house. It is now a charter public school.
Thanks for patience. I know I didn't write this with the clarity I could

Mary Wurtzel (Michigan USA)

**34. “Residential school versus public school for educating the Visually impaired

The best possible education is one of the basic needs for all of us, and for us with added challenges, it is even more so. For children with visual problems
some feel that placing them in a "real world" setting, such as a public school classroom, early in life is the best place for them. Yet, others think that
a residential school for the blind is where they should be educated. Is it possible for us to make a blanket statement that will suffice in providing the
best educational potential for all visually challenged children?

Of course not, because children, like adults, are individuals with differing needs and abilities. Among these needs is the opportunity to build self-esteem
and dignity. Without these qualities an education, regardless of where it is obtained, is to no avail. If a child can receive the understanding and support
needed for building these qualities in his/her home environment and the hometown public school system, then the best possible education may be available
there. If, however, the parents, siblings, teachers and schoolmates are stand-offish, inconsiderate or uncommunicative, the visually impaired child will
feel isolated and inadequate. Such circumstances breed low self-worth and impede the growth of motivation and the desire to learn. The feeling of "always
being different" from all of the other kids can be devastating.

On the other hand, when a visually impaired child attends school with other children who have the same problem, they can learn to feel at ease with themselves
and those around them. Until we learn to feel at ease with ourselves, we can never learn to feel at ease with others. This is a definite advantage received
when attending a residential school for the blind. Interaction with peers at an early age is important for normal emotional, mental and physical development.
This interaction is much easier and more profitable when the peers are experiencing the same type of challenges. You might say that a residential school
setting allows children to take part in a "support group" at a very early age.

Instead of being forced into activities of a non-physical nature, children who attend a residential school feel free to pursue sports activities and other
activities that would be less accessible to them when attending a public school. Even though these activities are limited to those who, like themselves,
are visually impaired, they still have the opportunity to experience these normal activities of life without being afraid of unfair and unequal competition.

By participating in such activities and becoming comfortable with the procedures and their own limitations, other challenges that must be faced later in
life will not loom so monstrously high in their mind’s eyes. But, if a child spends his/her entire childhood trying to compete with children who have normal
vision, they expend the energy needed to develop the techniques required to compensate for their lack of it.

Hence, unless a child is blessed with a very unique home situation and an exceptional public school setting, a residential school for the blind is much
more conducive for learning and development than is that of a public school setting. After getting a grounded start in a residential school at an early
age, many children have been able to mainstream into the public school setting and to finish their education with honors there.

I guess I’m saying that the decision should be made according to the child’s circumstance and that it should be readjusted as needed. I attended both public
and residential schools. My education was good at both places, but I must say that I felt more comfortable in the residential school situation. My four
children were mainstreamed into the public school setting in our hometown, and they felt left out and spent more time and energy just trying to cope with
being different than they did in learning. I regret that I sent them to public school. It has definitely had a negative effect on their entire adult lives.”

Freda Trusty (Dallas, Texas USA

FROM ME: “I’m getting a sense from this response and several others, some very similar to this specific one and others having the same general conclusion (the mix of the two) yet coming from a different point of view, but they all suggest a blend of the two settings/experiences is best. Then with that in mind, what do you think would be the best combination/blend; like which one first and how much of it before moving into the other?”

**35. “This thought provoker threw me for awhile. Until I realized there was
nothing to ponder. The question of the women's school is not an issue here.
Everyone on this earth has a handicap of one kind or another. Some of them
are vanity, weight, attitudes, anxiety and like the such. Others stick out a
little farther than others like blindness, deafness, missing limbs and such.
So everyone there should have been ask if they had benefited from the
experience of their own schools.”

Rhonda Hutson (Oklahoma USA)

**36. “A very interesting topic, indeed! I attended public schools my entire life
and consider that a mixed blessing. I grew up legally blind and used my
residual vision to do my class work without resource intervention. I'm sure
that large print textbooks and mobility training could have enhanced my
education and independence. However, my parents, teachers and I did not
fully understand the extent to which my blindness was affecting my work. No
one knew that I was struggling, and as for myself, holding a book an inch
from my face was normal. During my junior year of high school, I broke down
emotionally. I confided in a trusted friend and could no longer deny what
was really going on. Being totally blind himself, I knew he'd understand.
He told me about talking books. The next day, I told my teachers about them
and they were just as excited and curious as I was! The sad part about it
is that no one, not my teachers, my parents, nor myself, knew how to help
me deal effectively with my blindness. At the age of 19, I lost my vision
completely and had to learn the adaptive skills of blindness. That's
something I should have learned years ago! If I had been in a residential
or public school setting with appropriate services, my blindness would not
have seemed like it was the end of the world.”

Lisa (deafblind list, Wisconsin USA)

**37. “I am writing to give my opinion about the residential or public school.
I attended a residential school. I wish I would have attended a public school, but my parents wouldn't hear of it. I feel I missed out of many things such
as getting better social skills. The sooner a blind person can be with the real world, the better. Segregation sure is not the answer. I feel that a blind
child should get their communication skills at a residential school, but as soon as they have them, they should be in a public school.

When I was in school, several of the kids went to public high school. I never got that chance though.
I graduated in 1946 from the Nebraska school.”

Henry Vetter (Omaha, Nebraska USA

FROM ME: “Here it was the parents who directed where the child would be a student. Let’s say the school district would have been okay with the child being placed within their system. What might be some of the reasons why parents would not want their child in the home district?”

**38. “I went blind between my sophomore and junior years of high school. It was one of those accidents in life, the actual instrument or cause really doesn’t matter, it was just one of those things that happens. Another thing about this, it was also true to that point in my life that I really hadn’t learned much about blindness, not any more than what I had seen on the Boob-tube, in books and on the streets; most of it was negative. Oh yes, I had seen at least three people that were what I would call “making it.” The first was a kid in my elementary school, not in my class, but he was there among us. Later as a teenager I became aware of an elderly gentleman who lived in my home town, lived alone, went to the store by himself, took care of his yard and all that. Then after I was blinded, there was a blind lady in a near by community who was a retired osteopath, guess the powers at be wanted me to see someone who was smart, ambitious and had made some thing of her self. So, what I’m saying so far was that going into blindness I didn’t have a real good idea of what could be, other than it was for the most part a negative thing.

My blindness came in the summer, shortly after summer vacation had started. At first my friends viewed it as not much more than the notion that “the guy got hurt.” Then it became known, after seeing me, that I was not just hurt, but disabled. And when I didn’t come back to “their” school, our relationship took a dramatic turn and not a good one. My message here is, we all needed some counseling, some reality therapy that could show how we were still more similar than different. But no, it was not to be.

Getting back into school, I attended the state school for the visually handicapped. I knew these places existed, but here it was in reality. And the straight of what I learned there was that educationally the pace was slow, expectations not real high though there was this talk of “you can do anything you want,” but then there was these other messages too. For example, kids with vision had more privileges and demands made of them. Like, they could leave the campus, they were asked to do chores around the school, they lead the totals when we went any where off the school ground for an activity, etc. Also, we were not to date one another and I was told “you could do better, needed better.” So what I’m saying here is that these were the “experts” and this was what they were programming me to feel, believe and act. I mean, I was hurt from the loss and needing counseling and guidance of a positive rebuilding nature and wasn’t getting it. A scene I remember to this day was being out at the school’s farm (we didn’t do anything there but play), being depressed, sitting in the house refusing to go out and join the others. The house mother came back in and said, “we thought you were different, but you don’t want to play along.”

And then there were the kid things or peer rules of reality we all lived under, the higher arky of vision stuff. Like what I mentioned above, they who had vision were the chosen. It didn’t take long who to learn that those who could see, had us who didn’t see to lord it over. Sometimes the “pecking” was suttle and other times open, but not always real mean. I was some what lucky having seen before and coming from a station in life where I had been “just one of the boys;” socially experienced, toughish, but still and alas, hurt and vulnerable.

If you haven’t understood me yet, my experience in a residential school was a negative one. Going blind was bad, but being submerged into the world of blindness in that type of setting was worse! Here I was, the world had hurt me badly, no one was there who understood and could help me, I had taken away from all I knew and was put in a place, a environment out of the main stream to learn about my new status . Needless to say, when I came out I no longer fit into the sighted world and also felt resentment and confusion on my status as a blind person within the blind community.

So all this didn’t work for me. Looking back I’m thinking there was a way, just as I think there is a way for those who are born blind/visually impaired. It’s a combination of both residential and public experiences and maybe not so much a residential setting, but possibly a resource room that allows the blind kid to concentrate on learning the essential tools and competencies ended for him/her to function (Braille or low vision, travel like the long white cane or dog and all that). But above all, there has to be support services for all the family. Also, it all has to happen under the right philosophy; progressive, seldom accepting “no,” pushing kids to take risks, generally high expectations to meet social norms and educational standards, responsibilities to work in the home or school or community, and in general build character and good morals.”

**39. “I Echo Bonnie's comments (below). Although I believe that, had I spent my
entire elementary and secondary educational time in public schools, I
could have done well, I am certain that my time at a residential school --
the Washington State School for the Blind -- was of tremendous value in
sharpening my alternative skills of blindness -- most especially Braille
(including proficiency with Braille music). Yet public schools sharpened
my social skills (such as they are).

We must remember that the situation isn't static: when I went to a school
for blind, many such institutions were, socially-speaking, not much better
than English "public schools" -- with all the attendant cruelty and
insensitivity portrayed in novels such as "Oliver Twist". But the
academics were, for the most part, good (although many schools did not
handle the first RLF wave as well as they might have and academics went
downhill somewhat). So public schools seemed like a wonderful freeing
experience and the academics were still good then.

But schools for the blind -- some of them -- have gotten much better (in
particular, the Washington State School for the Blind is a much kinder and
more benevolent place and the academics are quite good). And public
school programs are suffering, often, from chronic under-funding. So it's
difficult to make a blanket statement. In fact, a case can be made that
some in the blindness field used the supposed dichotomy between the
experiences of residential schools and public schools to divide parents
and make them easily bent to Big Ed's will.

IMHO there's no one "right" experience -- it depends upon the person, the
residential school(s) s/he might attend, what the public school programs
in the area are like and, above all, what the philosophy of blindness
espoused by the special educators running both is.”

Mike Freeman (NFB-talk,

**40. “I think both my experiences at the residential school and public school did me a lot of good. I learned to be more independent, and that being away
from my parents wasn't as difficult as it would have been if I had been at
home and had to be sent away later in life. My experience was very good,
and I feel that I became stronger academically.

My public school experience has taught me that I can be as involved in
different activities as I wanted to be. I was very active in band and choir
which I truly believe I never would have been if I had been in the
residential school. Public school also allowed me to have a wide variety of
friends and acquaintances. Besides, my parents tended to be very
overprotective of me when I was home as a youngster. In public school, I
feel that I've had some wonderful opportunities, but in the residential
school in South Dakota, I developed the "coping" skills I needed to survive.”

Bonnie Ainsworth (Laramie, Wyoming USA

**41. “I went to public school. Of course I had some teachers who dealt very well with my visual impairment while others were total idiots. It's my opinion
that a public school education helped me to learn and interact in a sighted
world. Since I was the only blind student in my schools, my friends were
all sighted. I had many friends, some of whom remain my closest friends.

Although I could not compete in sports, I had other interests. I was a big
N.Y. Mets fan and I also was a good musician. I learned how to ice skate,
roller skate, bowl and ride a tandem bike from my parents and friends.

I am very happy with the education I received. Yes, sometimes it was
difficult to have teachers who did not understand my limitations, but on
the whole my public school education helped me adjust to life as a blind

Janet Ingber (Queens, New York, New York USA)

**42. “I was educated at a public school as well as a parochial school. My brother was educated at both residential and public school and his wife was educated at a residential school only. We all have very different experiences but we are all 40+ years old. Today I work in a public school setting as a speech language pathologist and I see many different students being educated
together-ethnic minorities, students with disabilities learning and
physical-and, in general, I think everyone benefits from being exposed to
other populations whether the differences are skin color, learning style or
ability to see, hear, or walk. I've seen students who are sensitive to the
needs of others including mine as well as students who try to take advantage
of a person's limited abilities whatever they might be. Having been educated
in a time when people who were even the slightest bit different were hidden
away, I think our exposure people who are different than ourselves and
others' exposure to us as people who are different then they are is a good
thing-a change for the better.

One last thought-one of the messages I read stated that she was glad to get
out of the school for the blind after a visit. She felt uncomfortable. Maybe
I'm being overly sensitive, but if those with disabilities feel we can be
this insensitive to those with disabilities more severe or different than our own, how can we expect others to be sensitive to our needs.”

Sheila DeRose (Waukegan, Illinois USA)

**43. “Well, I truly agree with one of the members who said she always
tried to humor students and or staff members in her public school setting. I
often humor students and staff at my high school, and they all love it! In
fact, my band director in particular, even forgets I'm blind some of the time!
(smiles to him) I have many people tell me that I should take that as a compliment, and it

Stacy (Wisconsin USA)

**44. “AS for your latest PROVOKER, I was a product of both school environs.
From kindergarten to 6th grade I attended the Iowa school at Vinton.
From 7th grade through high school I attended my local schools.
I feel the residential school for kids whose main problem is blindness
is outmoded and should be sent to the dark ages where it belongs.
However, most resource teachers aren't adequately trained in Braille,
therefore cannot teach it adequately. WE must remedy this situation.
I see too many kids who can't read.

The schools for the blind often did no better with their asinine
"sight saver" programs. I know too many blind adults who are
illiterate who were beneficiaries of this so called sight-saving plan.

Richard Webb (USA)

FROM ME: “This gentleman feels/states- ‘…However, most resource teachers aren't adequately trained in Braille, therefore cannot teach it adequately. WE must remedy this situation.’ So how do we do this? In fact, is there an initial question that needs to be asked first? Like are school districts making sure kids needing Braille Skills are getting the chance to learn it? Like, do you all in your country or state or province and local school have the philosophy or rule that Braille is taught, if print is not or soon will not be an efficient method of reading and writing?”

**45. “I was brought up with a family of four sisters, all around my same age.
Mom was a true believer in not sending me away to a residential school.
I started Kindergarten with a fully sighted class, and continued all the
way through my other 12 years in public school.

Granted, I was blessed to have a wonderful resource program at the school
I attended through the sixth grade. Academically, it wasn't too bad, but
not that good, either.

In seventh grade through 12th grade, I attended the same schools as my
sisters, and there was a lot of competition between us. By then had an
itinerate teacher that would come once a week, if I was lucky, usually
about once a month. I had to learn to advocate for myself very early.

I'm not sorry that I went through public school, but I do think that
residential schools have their place. Back when my multiple- disabled
child started school, the push was to "mainstream". I until that time
believed in nothing but public school. However, I have learned that it
is up to the individual child, and individual issues.

I did miss out on some things that were important in the sighted world
that I did not learn, because they were not addressed, such as
handwriting, etc. However, because I was a strong over achiever, I
fought my way up through the ranks in drama, music, and other groups and
was able to graduate with scholarships, which none of my sisters were
able to do.

I have had to since, as I said, re-evaluate my opinions about residential
schools versus public. I feel that residential schools can have their
place, but the sooner a child can be mainstreamed, the better.”

Judith August

**46. “I attended both a residential and a public school. Apparently, there
are some residential schools which provide positive learning
experiences but thirty years ago, the Arizona State School for the
Deaf and Blind was not one of them.

For the first five and a half years of my education, I was a day
student at this residential school, since my family lived in Tucson,
where the school is located. Although the school had an excellent
library and music department and I had a few good teachers, there were
a couple of things I did not like about it.

First of all, the school did not teach daily living skills, except
for home economics classes for junior high and high school students.
However, we younger students were expected to learn these skills. My
mother, who was actually a teacher, had no idea how to teach a
visually impaired child how to perform such simple tasks as making a
bed or buttering a piece of bread, although she did somehow manage to
teach me how to dress and feed myself.

When I was ten years old and I still hadn't learned these skills,
the school sent my mother a note, saying that if she did not teach me
these skills by the beginning of the following school year, I would
have to live in the dormitory. Fortunately, my mother somehow
managed to teach me these things and I passed an evaluation of my
ability to perform these skills with flying colors.

Another thing I did not like about this school was that students were
taught that it was wrong to ask for help when you did not know how to
or were unable to do something on your own. One day, when I was in
the fifth grade, my teacher, whom I'll call Mrs. Jones, told me that
there was a button on the back of my dress which was not buttoned. I
tried to button it but had trouble reaching it and asked for
assistance. Instead of buttoning it for me, Mrs. Jones made me stay
after school until I had buttoned the button. After several numerous
unsuccessful attempts, Mrs. Jones left the classroom, saying that she
was going to write a letter to my mother about my behavior.

In frustration, I left too, and since school was out for the day,
there was nobody around to see me sneak out of the school building
and head for the dormitory, where the day students waited to be
picked up. There, I found another student to button the button for
me. When Mrs. Jones soon showed up, fit to be tied, I calmly pointed
out that I had buttoned the button. Of course, she didn't believe
me, and she said she would write even more negative things about me
to my mother, which wasn't much of a threat, since my mother was my
ally in this battle against the system.

I was held back a year in fifth grade and Mrs. Jones once told my
mother that if she complained about the way I was being treated, I
would be placed in a special class for visually impaired students who
were also developmentally disabled. It was at that time, or perhaps
before, that my mother, along with other parents, formed an
organization to remove students from the residential school and place
them in public schools. I was one of the first students to be
mainstreamed. Half a year later, we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming,
where I have lived ever since.

Although there has never been a state school for the blind in
Wyoming, the state department of education had, and still has, an
excellent division of services for the visually impaired. Over the
years, these people made my life in Wyoming public schools a lot
easier. They not only provided textbooks in Braille and on cassette
but also arranged for a typing tutor and other assistance.
Educational consultants from the department even went into classrooms
and educated my classmates about my visual impairment. As a result
of all this, although I had a few bad teachers, my overall
educational experience in Wyoming was a lot more positive than it was
in Arizona. One important thing I've learned since moving here is
that it's all right to ask for help.”

Abbie Johnson (Sheridan, Wyoming, U.S.A.

FROM ME: “Having both schooling experiences and coming out on the positive or negative side does not mean the person has had a positive or negative experience in both settings. As we see in this woman’s case, it was negative in regards to the residential school and positive for her final public schooling. It would be further interesting to get enough of the “both” schooling responses and see what the results would be for all combinations; with an eye for the best mix.”


SAM GIBILISCO (Omaha, Nebraska USA)

FROM ME: “Both again, ended positive, yet started in a home-town school setting and was negative, then went to a residential school and it turned out positive; just the opposite from the one above.”

**48. “As with anything else, our perspective emanates from our experience. I was born with only limited vision in one eye. My parents were told that I would
need to learn Braille and that I would not be accepted into the public school
near our home. As a result of my parents' perseverance, I was mainstreamed
at a school across town and learned to read using a magnifying glass that I
would move across each line of text. In 2nd grade, the magnifying glass was
mounted on a pair of glasses and I was allowed to attend the neighborhood
school. I could not see the blackboard, could not recognize people from more
than a few feet away and could not drive. I could read and write only with
my nose literally touching the page, which required me to sit bent awkwardly
over my desk. I suspect that even today there would be some who would
chastise my parents, considering my attendance at a public school a recipe
for failure.

Despite the logistics, I developed better handwriting than most
and enjoyed reading for pleasure more than many of my peers. In addition I
participated, with some ingenuity at times, rather seamlessly in the world
around me. I graduated in the top 15% of my high school class, obtained my
business degree and moved up to a middle management position with a Fortune
500 company.

I am now in my mid 30s and my vision has begun to deteriorate further. As a
result, I am acutely aware that my experiences may have been dramatically
different if my vision clarity/field/level had been worse.

I suppose that I have taken a rather circuitous route to why I decided to
participate in the forum which is to hopefully pass along to parents and
children in similar situations the lessons that I have learned.
1) I would assist my child in formulating an introduction that should be
used when joining any new group to directly address the vision constraints
thus minimizing on going apprehension. During my first day of class and even
into adulthood I had feelings of extreme dread when the situation compelled
me to utilize my glasses for the first time.
2) I would seek out the resources of the blind to gain support and ensure
that I was utilizing All the information and tools at my disposal. Although
my parents were proactive in this regard when I was young and encouraged such
behavior when I was older, I was resistant.
3) I am absolutely convinced that using print as my primary method for
reading and writing was the best decision. However, I certainly would have
benefited if I had become proficient in Braille for improving my presentation
skills, let alone as a back up as my vision changed.
4) Use your head and follow your heart even if the experts say it cannot be



**50. “My daughter (Ayiba, now 24 years old) went to a mainstream
school. I believe that in Ayiba's unique circumstances
mainstream education was the best thing but there were many
problems and I tend to think a residential school would be
preferable for many blind/visually impaired children.

Ayiba's education was poor. Ayiba was forced to follow a very
narrow curriculum. For instance she could not join in sport
(this was mostly because of her visual impairment but also
partly because she also has a neuromuscular disability); the
school would not allow her to do practical work in science,
design and cookery (largely because of her visual impairment
but also partly because of her neuromuscular disability and
she is epileptic). Additionally Ayiba was withdrawn from
French lessons for extra work on reading. I believe Ayiba
would have been given more opportunity to do a variety of
subjects more fully in a special school.

It took years for us to convince the school and others that
Ayiba's difficulties were due to sensory and physical
disabilities and not due to learning disabilities. Once we did
eventually prove this we had to fight every step of the way to
get her needs met. The teacher for the visually impaired
visited Ayiba for an hour a week to try to teach her Braille.
Because of her neuromuscular disability Ayiba cannot feel well
enough to read Braille. We had to fight to prove that Ayiba's
inability to learn Braille was due to this tactile perception
problem and not due to learning disabilities. When we did
prove it the teacher said Ayiba would have to rely on tape and
large print. But Ayiba is now deaf and at that time had a mild
hearing impairment. So we were not happy about tapes. We
eventually discovered moon and we taught this to Ayiba and she
used this throughout school. We had to transcribe endless
material in to moon for her (and anyone who is familiar with
the difficulties of producing moon will no how tedious this

Socialization was a big problem. At primary school (up to age
11 years) Ayiba did have friends. But when they moved up to
secondary Ayiba was bullied. We believe that this was at least
in part due to the school insisting on over protecting Ayiba
and not allowing her to hang around with other students at
break time and lunch time and to the negative attitudes of
teachers rubbing off on students.

For maths Ayiba used large print. The maths teacher that Ayiba
had for most of secondary school had a particular attitude
problem. He could not understand that Ayiba could with
difficulty read large print close up but had no chance of
reading what he wrote on the board. Ayiba was in the bottom
set for maths. But fortunately a year before the GCSE exam
this teacher left. The new teacher was very good and put in a
lot of work outside of lessons to get Ayiba through the exam.

I could go on for ever talking about the problems we faced.
But despite all of these difficulties I think for Ayiba it was
best. Particularly for the first couple of years at school
Ayiba had significant language difficulties (English being one
of four languages we speak at home). She needed lots of
support from an English as a foreign language teacher (EFLT).
The school Ayiba went to had a high proportion of children
from ethnic minorities so there was ready access to the EFLT.
At a residential school this probably would not have been the
case. Ayiba like many of the other non-British children faced
a lot of racism, even in a school where racism is very
actively discouraged. I believe this would have been an issue
at a residential school. I believe Ayiba needed the security
of coming home at the end of each day to people who understood
these cultural problems.

There were also many issues around Ayiba's history that meant
at times she needed a great deal of care. Enabling Ayiba to be
a happy pleasant person have always been far more important to
us as a family than her achieving in school. Because of the
circumstances only we could effectively work towards this a
residential school could not have overcome many of the hurdles
we had to. Looking on the school situation with hind sight we
feel this is especially important with now we know what has
happened since. Because of massive deterioration in Ayiba's
disabilities (sensory and physical) qualifications are never
going to be of use to Ayiba. What is vital to her is
determination, patience, the ability to love and the ability
to understand that she is loved, even if it is just by her
family. Plus, her father, sister and I would hate to look back
and think that Ayiba had been away from home at school for
most of her active life. We knew when Ayiba was young that
things could deteriorate. It would be awful for a family who
sent a child to residential school so the child could get good
qualifications but then that child becomes so severely
disabled that they will never use those qualifications and
that they and the family know their time in this world is

So I think it depends what you believe to be important. If
education in terms of academic study and qualifications is
important then residential schools are best. If the happiness
and closeness of the family is important then mainstream
schools are best.

A number of you have commented that schools for the blind are
often accepting a majority of multiply disabled children. I
would like to put this question:
Are such children best served by schools for the blind? Are
these schools adequately equipped with the facilities and
expertise to deal with their complex needs? Would a mainstream
school be any less able to meet these needs?
If Ayiba had been as severely multiply disabled whilst at
school I do not believe her needs could have been met by any
school and quite honestly what would the point be in
attempting to get her through the curriculum? What Ayiba would
have needed then, and needs now, is 100 % care simply to help
her through each day. Reading back through this I am aware
that I perhaps sound very negative about Ayiba's current
abilities. On the contrary, I know Ayiba is a very bright,
determined and hard working person. But as Ayiba's mother and
carer I know that getting through the day is a massive
challenge and that she would have not time and no energy for

Yawa (lucky mum of two wonderful daughters. Ayiba, aged 24,
deafblind, epileptic, quadriplegic, trached 24/7 vent
dependent, tube fed. Al, age 20.)”

Ayiba Peters (Der by, England)

**51. “I attended public schools for my whole school career. I lost my central vision at six years old. My mother had taught me to read prior to this and it was
to my advantage.
No special facilities at all were provided for me except that one of my classmates was allowed to dictate to me what was written on the blackboard or in
the textbooks. The school principal must have had quite a job convincing the Transvaal Education Department that it was possible to mainstream a legally
blind child. I was allowed extra time and a private invigilator in my matriculation exams.

I had a good education including maths and science. None of my success would have been possible without my mother who was willing and able to lend me her
eyes. The bulk of my learning took place after school when my mother would read to me, write out notes in very large high contrast bold print and draw
large diagrams for me. I had enlarged logarinth tables the size of posters, which I struggled to read with very strong glasses.

I was the only visually impaired child in the schools I attended. I was always the odd one out and I always felt different. Children are very cruel to those
who are different. My life was full of incidents where I felt foolish and humiliated, far too numerous to describe here. My blindness was something I did
not talk about to anyone. I developed the attitude that not being able to see was my guilty secret and spent so much effort compensating for it by remembering
things I had heard and picking up clues along the way so that I could successfully bluff my way through.

Extramural activities I participated in included chess, choir, piano playing, horse riding, ballet and ballroom dancing. Competition in sport was fierce
and there were so many children so that if no special talent was visible, one did not get a turn. I once played net-ball but it was a total disaster because
aside from not being able to see the ball, I could not see enough to identify who was on my side!
My education was very good but psychologically I was scarred. At home, there were problems because my younger sister was jealous of the attention my mother
gave me. She had a vicious tongue, which she was not shy to use on me. I was glad to leave home to study physiotherapy in Pretoria some distance from home.

Perhaps I would have been a happier person had I gone to Worcester School for the Blind. My sight problem was a source of pain and I grew to dislike myself.
People who did not know me regarded me at best as being shy, sometimes as shifty and sometimes as mentally retarded because I always looked away from
them having only peripheral vision. When my sight failed and I did long cane training there were those who thought I was putting on an act.

These days mainstreaming is easier with TV readers and computers, but when I went to school even reel to reel tape recorders were not run of the mill objects.

I learnt Braille and typing during my teens teaching myself. At school, I could write albeit very large and untidy and I often had an ink-stained nose
because it was on the paper.

At the valedictory assembly, my final humiliation happened when I had to go on the stage and be presented with a special badge on which was inscribed "For
courage" after squirming in embarrassment throughout the little build-up about my struggle
Educationally, I benefited from going to a school for sighted children, but socially and emotionally I felt I neither belonged there nor with blind people
whom I wanted nothing to do with.”

Lorna, South Africa

**52. "I attended public schools where at the time the only restrictions on me were
that I sit at the front of the class where I could see the blackboard. It
hasn't been till the last few years that my vision has deteriorated in the
one eye I have sight in. After my classmates and teachers knew I was blind
on my left side they all started addressing me from the right side where they
could be seen as a courtesy to me. It was a bit of a shock when I was moved
by my family to North Carolina and the educational scale was so much lower
than in Iowa but I managed to get through it without being too bored
*smile. Now, however, I have to start learning Braille and cane travel so I
can remain independent. This is a new set of lessons that frightens me in a
way but yet challenges me to learn something new which I've always liked
doing. For me public school was a positive experience, although I don't know
if mine helps you get any insight to your query.

Nita (Manchester, New Hampshire USA)

**53. "I hope you have not concluded your thought provoker about residential and public schools yet, as I have something to say. I am currently a high school student in a public school in Toronto, Ontario. My experience with residential schools has been limited to attending one for one year in early childhood.
There are a few reasons why I feel that the course I have taken, that of public school, is a good one for me. First, I have done a great deal academically. From my remembrance of the school for the blind, the academic work we were given was minimal. I have also met certain very wonderful people. Perhaps I have been lucky. Most of my teachers have been more than supportive. The exceptions have been few and far between. These exceptions have come mainly from ignorance, and it has been relatively easy to get over them. Let me say that I can only remember one teacher who was impossible to work with. This small number of teachers have made me into a rather good self-advocate, and I think I will have the ability to fight for myself in the real world. My TVIs have been good on the whole, though they have been too protective at times. For the past two years, I have had one who is as close to perfection as I could ask, and she has helped me enormously. I have learned Braille and am relatively good with all types of adaptive technology, and most of my blindness skills are in place.

There are also some unfortunate things about being in a public system. First, I am somewhat hearing impaired, and was not given good O&M for many years. I am just beginning to develop my cane skills now. Second, I have heard others say that socialization is better in public school. This has not been true in my case. I am, and have always been, a loner, and I see nothing wrong with it. I was pushed to try and mix socially years ago, but it never went well, partly because I resisted it vigorously. Is this a bad thing? Only time will tell. The last fact about public school that is somewhat unfortunate is that I didn't get to know many blind people. Last year, I had a blind person in my school and we were in two classes together. It was a wonderful experience. Although I like being a loner, it was a great thing to share the trials and tribulations of dealing with teachers, getting work in Braille, and generally living in the school environment. Perhaps it would have been a good thing had I had this experience earlier. I am glad to have had it now.

Finally, it is a question of results. Will I do better than those who went to schools for the blind? That is the real question. Education is a preparation for the outside world. How it is gotten is irrelevant as long as the result, a happy and contributing member of society, is achieved. I do not feel that one method is inherently worse than the other.”


**54. “I think that a regular public school is better for a normal, blind child
because they get to see what the sighted world is like. I went to a school
for the blind in Iowa and when I went to a regular school in California, it
was hard to get adjusted, especially friends, who didn't want to play with
me. I guess, they didn't know how to deal with someone who was blind.”

Beth Kats (California, USA)

**55. “I attended two residentials for the blind: (the Ohio School for the Blind
and the New Mexico for the Visually Handicapped). I must say that I
enjoyed most of my time at both schools. Yes, I too did go through times
where people picked on me at both schools. However I also made some good
friends. I ran track, wrestled, swam, and ran cross country. In 9th
grade I began taking a couple of classes a day in the local public school
system. I felt that this helped me to prepare for college better than if
I had spent all of my time in a residential environment. Finally I love
the sense of camaraderie that I have with others that attended schools
for the blind.”

Shawn Martin (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)

**56. "I went all the way from 1970-1983 to public school, and heard horror stories about what it was lik3 going to Batavia School for the Blind in New York, which was about three hours away from my home town. My parents fought for me to get me and keep me
in public school, so I'm thankful for that, especially as I don't think I was really ready, or would have been, to have gone to a residential school at
that time. My educational experience was very good; my father, at the end of Kindergarten, made me a Braille cell, which was basically a metal block with
six holes drilled into it and six pegs that you could remove and combine to form the different letters of the Braille alphabet. Then I had three wonderful
resource teachers from first grade through ninth, one of whom was legally blind. I had quite a bit more friends when I was in the younger grades, but
junior high and high school were often difficult. I was one of those who became very much a loner and I do sometimes prefer that, as I became a bookworm and disdained my own peer group because when I was nine, I started playing guitar and associating with people who were significantly older than I. By sixth grade, in fact, I was playing in bands and those jobs were in honkytonks around my home town, arguably something I shouldn't have been doing. So I grew up a little faster than I should, and lost some opportunities which I didn't realize I had done until my senior year. Plus I was the only blind student in my school district, and basically knew no other blind teenagers. Then when puberty struck, two things happened. I got a really glorious case of acne, which sprouted everywhere including my back and chest. Needless to say you don't want to take your clothes off for too many people at that point (grin). I like to joke about it now by saying I always had something to read even when I didn't have actual books. Well okay, kinda lame, I'm sure. Anyway,
the second thing I discovered was that not only did I like girls, but boys as well. So I had that whole thing to deal with and keep secret from my friends
and family. I don't think I actually started coming out of my proverbial shell until I went away to college, so socially it wasn't always a positive thing.
But I did learn to be independent, albeit with some minor setbacks. I was about nine when I learned to tie my shoes, but then I used the minuscule amount
of vision I had to ride bikes and terrorize the neighborhood. Laundry was always the exclusive role of my mother, so I learned that pretty late, just
by matter-of-fact asking her how to do it since I had to do it anyway when I went away, and I knew I'd have to. But I learned how to use the wood stove
without burning the house down (at that point I was totally blind). So my verdict on things might be a little different. I don't think for many younger
blind kids, the residential schools are a good idea. I think the public school setting, with a good resource teacher who can teach Braille and other things
for some part of the day, is more appropriate for kids from let's say six to ten. For older kids, it might be better to get more interaction with other blind kids who can be their peer group, because sometimes sighted kids don't have a clue and need a quarter. That having been said, I think it might also remove the stigma of blindness a little bit, because I know that because I was independent, and knew it, and because I was basically the first in my district, I sort of bought into the line that I was somehow more fortunate than those who went to residential schools. Part of this is because I did notice that people who went to residential schools, at least some, did seem more socially reticent. Now I wonder, though, if my own experience did make me more socially reticent for a while--just in a different way. So I'll stop this missive and say goodnight because I have work to do. Cheers!

John D. Coveleski (New York, New York (

**57. "As a person who attended both public schools and schools for the blind,
I feel I can make some observations.

I attended the school for the blind in Washington, considered by
many to be the best in the country, and the Oregon School for the
Blind which is considerably worse. When parents decide to send
their children to a school for the blind, they should check to see
how well the school sees that students meet minimum academic
bench marks. There is also a problem in many schools for the
blind of unqualified or under qualified staff working as teachers. For
instance, the PE teacher at the Oregon School for the Blind
readily admits he's not qualified to teach PE Yet, despite that
shortcoming, he still teaches it at OSB. That's just one example of
some of the problems I have seen.
On the other hand, if a school for the blind is well-run and tries to
treat the students well, it can be a place that students can feel
proud to be part of.. The school may not have been perfect, but
they really tried. Students were encouraged to attend public
school classes part of the day and there are frequent evening
activities and classes. Thanks for putting this nice PROVOKER.”

Michael Alvarez

**58. I attended public school throughout most of my education, but I did go to a residential school for a brief evaluation and then again for a summer camp.
My experience both times at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired was pretty good. I made some friends down there. Some of them had a little bit
of remaining vision, while others had only light perception like me. Still others didn't have any vision at all. We would often hang out together, and
from time to time the dorm parents, as they were called back then, would have parties for us in the lounge.
Back then I had a habit of not handing in my homework. This annoyed the teachers and the social worker who was assigned to work with me. I have since given
up that habit.
I took an English class, activities of daily-living, science, and orientation and mobility. Although I didn't need it, they made me take Braille too. I
also took a history class for part of the time. The teachers were great, and I learned a lot from them. The science teacher eventually retired, and is
now an instructor at The Hadley School for the Blind.
I remember one of the classes I always looked forward to was activities of daily living. There was a mobile home when I attended the school, and we would
often go there for our class. O&M was another favorite of mine. My instructor was a lot of fun, and he would often take me on shopping trips. On these
trips I would practice my cane skills, and he would have me make purchases for the activities of daily living class.
I attended what is considered by many as probably the best high school in the country in many areas. I was in special education there, and my program teacher
had a sister who was blind. So the teacher really understood me and could put herself in my shoes. I had some other great teachers there too.

Jake Joehl, Chicago, Illinois USA

**59. I had the fortune of having mainstream education which as in response 2, also found it prepared me for university in that I had to cope with the variety of attitudes in that some people doubt that being blind one can perform equally in school and in the future working in the chosen field of studies.
lastly, I find that due to my having gone through mainstream education, helps me better in getting along with sighted people in that I find more topics to talk about than with other blind people (at least speaking from the experience of living in a developing country where there are still lots of stereotypes to cope with regarding blindness and our abilities as such) as well as taking the chance to in these conversations with the sighted, doing my task of continuing educating the sighted.

Now as for the only disadvantage of not going to a residential school is that because teachers and peers took for granted that we the blind don't use nonverbal communication, I never learned when the shake of the head means yes or no, how to make eye contact and other body language the sighted take for granted, sometimes feeling that the lack of this nonverbal communication occasionally gives away my blindness.

Gerardo; Tampico, Mexico