THOUGHT PROVOKER 40
Taking Out the Garbage and More
Last Updated December 18, 2002
To Provoke Thought Is The First Step To Beyond
"Got your toys picked up?" The young mother asked the small child who had just appeared in the kitchen doorway.
"Good girl. You’re my best helper. Now come in and meet my friend, Jane. I haven’t seen her since we graduated from high school."
"Hi little one." Jane said, her arms encircling the small body for a quick hug. "You are so pretty." Then looking up at the girl’s mother, she said, "She doesn’t look blind."
"Sometimes Suzanne and I use eyesight tricks and sometimes we use our
no-eyes tricks. She can see colors, objects, and like that." She spoke to
her daughter, "Right, Suzanne? I think you'd like Jane’s pretty skirt. What
color is it?" They were working on the basic colors to help her prepare for
entrance into the local kindergarten.
Nose up to the fabric, the little girl smiled, "Pink. It's just like
Barbie's sundress! I like it.”
"Okay, Suzanne. Garbage time, then you can play with your Barbie until we
start making supper for Daddy." The mother smiled at her child. "Go on, now.
You know what to do.
Extracting herself from the lingering embrace of her mother’s friend,
Suzanne went behind the kitchen door, right hand out to find the plastic
container. Struggling to lift out the liner, then pulling, she dragged it
toward the outside door.
"OOooOOOH!" Jane all but sang out the one word, its meaning clear, “Dear me, you are going to make her do this thing!"
"Of course." Suzanne’s mother looked her old friend in the eye and said. "Jane, what do you expect her to grow up and be?"
**1. “I heartily applaud the mother in this story. She is beginning to encourage this child's full functionality at a very early age.
This thought provoker, along with the previous one, have reopened some wounds that have never really healed. My parents were wonderful in many ways, supporting me in my educational pursuits and always encouraging me to work hard. However, when it came to the cultivation of independent living skills, they dropped the ball. I was never expected to take out the trash, and I was asked to do household chores less than ten times while growing up. Oh, part of me thought it was great at the time, but another part of me longed to have to do things around the house. I think my parents thought it easier to do things themselves. Besides, they wanted to keep me from making a mess or getting hurt. I never cut my own meat until I left for college, nor did I pour my first glass of milk until then. You see, I was a very compliant child and never really rocked the boat.
In the dormitory setting at college, I did very little in terms of household duties. I did well academically (I now have two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree), but I never learned most of the skills of daily living that are essential to high quality of life.
I married a wonderful woman in 1980, and four children have come along since then. I went to work almost immediately, never taking the time to attend a rehabilitation center for the blind. And now, twenty years after my marriage, I still struggle with independent living skills. My wife has to do many things around the house that she shouldn't have to do, because I've chosen to be too busy with work, etc. I have worked in the blindness field, and, believe me, I strongly, strongly encourage the acquisition of independent living skills. Yet there is a part of me, deep down inside, that grieves because I may never gain the skills I want to have. I currently am employed in two very responsible positions, and what spare time I have is given to a wonderful wife and four very special, and very independent, boys. Yet what about me? Am I relegated to feeling useless around the house for life?
I have learned much, and when I talk with parents of blind children or with family members of blind adults, I emphasize the need for mastering those independent living skills as soon as possible.
By the way, I am an excellent Braille reader, an excellent computer user and instructor, and a good traveler. It's just the household things that I've missed out on, and that I long for. I'm trying harder than ever now to gain skills, but it's an uphill, and often discouraging, battle.”
Keith Bundy (USA)
**2. “Well right off the bat, I commend the mother for instilling independence in a child so young. I think the friend, Jane is a bit *tactless* though, as she spoke of Suzanne as if she were deaf and not blind. However, "mom" squelched that faux paus for she spoke *TO* Suzanne with dignity.
I think the mother's "eyesight tricks and no eyes tricks" are inventive games to help teach Suzanne even more independence and self confidence as she grows up.
Dignity is an honor that, I feel, should be bestowed to all. How do we teach our children this? We give them chores to do, even menial ones such as taking out the trash. And in praising their accomplishments in the tasks they complete, we ultimately foster their sense of pride and dignity. Obviously the friend, Jane thinks Suzanne should have everything done for her and not taught how to assert her independence.
Suzanne is a very lucky little girl for having to take out the trash, of course when she's a teenager she'll think differently (big grin) and when she's an adult she'll realize all that her mother DIDN'T do for her, was out of love.”
Laurie Steffee (Overland Park, Kansas USA)
**3. “Good Mamma! I especially like the line about eyesight tricks and no eyes tricks. She isn't a good girl only when she can see and she doesn't have to fake sight to win Mamma's approval. The alternative techniques of blindness seem to be on a par with the alternative techniques of sight. There seems to be a time and place for both and I'll bet the parents don't spend a lot of time flitting from eye doctor to eye doctor anymore. I get excited whenever I hear about parents doing the right thing. It means we really are changing what it means to be blind. It is the trademark of every distinguishable group of humans that they want their children to have a
better life than they had. We really are making it better. As bad as it may be in one area, remember the changes already made foreshadow the changes to come.”
Jane Lansaw (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)
FROM ME: “Here we do have a child that can see, some. So tell me, how important do you think it is to address this concept of ‘eyesight tricks and no-eyes tricks’ with a child of this age? And second, and explaining it to a friend?”
**4. “I would like to comment on one part in particular of this thought provoker, where the guest says the little girl doesn't look blind. There are some ideas out there among the sighted that blind
people have a certain look about them and they find it hard to get beyond those stereotypes. As a blind person, I don't know what we are "supposed" to look like. Some of us can walk, for instance, with as much grace and care as the sighted, if not more. The fact we use a cane or guide dog is sometimes wrongly interpreted as showing incompetence, but we know better. Just my thought.”
Michael Alvarez (Monmouth, Oregon USA)
FROM ME: “I personally see the use of a travel aid or any tool as a sign of strength in that you won’t let the loss of sight stop you. Also a sign of smarts, of knowing how to carry on and learning a new technique in order to do it. Additionally, I feel it shows flexibility or the willingness to try a new way. Another would be and this one I’ll speak in ‘MANLEY TERMS,’ but it takes a man to pick up and go on. And yet another one, is pride; pride in yourself, in your capability to carry on and live a successful life to the best of your ability. What other qualities do you see that adjustment will require?”
**5. Hi all, I am going to put in my two cents. Jane said " she doesn't look blind" Once after performing at a choral festable I was told by my teacher a complement some one made about me. "she has such a cute figure, you could hardly tell she was blind" I said thanks at the time, but the compliment made me think. What is wrong with looking blind? If one of the compliments given to a person who is blind is that they don't look or act like other blind people, then we are saying it is not ok to be blind. I think that the greatest thing a person who is disabled can do for themselves is to except not ignore, or be ashamed of there disability.”
Tara Wiseman (Utah USA)
**6. “I think it's great that Suzanne's mother gave her a chore to do. By Jane's reaction to Suzanne's taking out the garbage, I got the feeling that Jane would not expect a blind child to do such a chore. Building on that, I got the impression that Jane would not have high expectations for her friend's blind child. Suzanne's mother seems to be working hard to help Suzanne adjust to her blindness and be an active member of the family and society. If Jane had the blind child, I think she wouldn't have the child do chores. All children, blind or sighted, should play an active part in their household.
From as far back as I can remember, my parents gave me chores to do such as cleaning up my room, washing dishes or dusting. Pampering, (and I don't mean the diapers) a blind child isn't doing her/him a service. This child will eventually grow up and will need to be able to do things for himself.”
Janet Ingber (Queens, New York USA)
**7. “I applaud the mother who is giving the training her child needs to succeed in this world. It has been said many times that "we live in a visual world". What we see influences us on many levels. Most people are not in touch with "seeing" with anything else but their eyes. In today's world how a person appears, if they appear "normal" or not, determines how they will be dealt with. Sad but true, many people fail to look beyond the physical. The true character of a person cannot be seen by how they look physically. The idea that people who have physical handicaps are "less" than a person who has no physical handicap is ridiculous. However, the "programming" in our society tells us something else. To move past that programming takes a lot of work and a deeper awareness than most people wish to learn. The loss of my eyesight has not changed who I am as a person. It has added one more facet to what makes up who I am, therefore I am more. You cannot change a person's way of thinking by talking to them, the change comes by example. We adults who are blind have a responsibility to change how people experience us. We can do this by changing how we view ourselves, therefore our interaction with others will change. It doesn't mean we don't make adjustments or accept help, however, it does mean we can still do all things with pride in who we are.”
Sandra Oliveira (Long Beach, California USA, email@example.com)
FROM ME: “This lady brought up something about vision loss that I hadn’t ever thought of, ‘…has added one more facet to what makes up who I am…’ then, for those of us who have seen and lost much or all of our sight, we could see this change in our lives in this fashion. The fight then, is to make it a positive facet. I think that is possible, what do any of the rest of you say?”
**8. Quite a contrast from the last thought provoker. If the parents in the last thought provoker would have done that with Jack, it would have been a total reversal. Treat the blind child as you would treat the sighted child.”
Tom Rash (Yucaipa, California USA)
**9. “Taking out the garbage reminds me of my childhood. So I had glasses that would make a half a dozen coke bottles I was treated like everyone else in the family. The mother in this story is doing right by her child in teaching her child independents and responsibility. The friend reaction is the normal reaction from most sighted people. The shame is this reaction is normal for many sighted people including parents.”
RJ (Franklin, Pennsylvania USA)
**10. “I don't have a problem with this, if the mother would get a sighted child of a similar age etc to do the chore. I wondered whether the mother was sighted or not. Either way, I don't see this as a big deal.”
Alex Stone London, England)
**11. It is really quite simple, the family (parents) are teaching the child ( in this case a little child who is blind) responsibility and accountability for herself and her actions. This is something that all parents should do for their children to help them grow up. It really doesn't have anything to do with a disability, it is simply good parenting.
It is really quite simple, the family (parents) are teaching the child
in this case a little child who is blind) responsibility and accountability for herself and her actions. This is something that all parents should do for their children to help them grow up. It really doesn't have anything to do with a disability, it is simply good parenting.”
Jeffrey Pledger (Brustonsville, Maryland USA)
**12. “Three cheers for mom because she is not overprotecting her daughter. When I was attending the re habilitation center for the blind in 1975; I met a young man 33 years old. This young man could not care for himself. He had someone comb his hair and literally feed him all his life. His parents were ashamed of his blindness. I guess his mom thought she would be around forever to care for him.”
Wayne Jolin (Saginaw, Michigan USA)
**13. “I don't care whether a child is blind or not, if they have the ability to carry the trash, children should be expected to do far more chores than they seem to be expected to do today.
Blind children need to do all the activities that the other kids do, if for no other reason but that they need to get the exercise.”
B. Alan Mattison (New Mexico USA)
**14. Hi, First I'd like to say I love reading peoples responses to these PROVOKERS! My mother has always had me to do things such as this mother, and I know have my own apartment and attend college and work daily. We too worked on my colors and shapes as a normal child would although my vision is extremely limited to the point of reading Braille I use what I have to the best of my ability, and although I moaned and complained about chores as must children do I can't thank my mom enough now! I c all mothers out there to have there young disabled children to do things to the best of there ability for a disability only disables the ones that allow it to do so.”
Brandy Wojcik (Austin, Texas USA)
**15. “Robert. Isn't RP and losing vision a very personal issue between family members and people you share your life with enough to care about how they make your loved ones feel?
I would never associate with anyone callous enough to say in front of my child "She/He doesn't look blind."
FROM ME: “Might this friend be, in her unlighted state, trying to bestow a compliment? If so, when is a compliment not a compliment. We covered this issue in PROVOKER 32, “What is in a Compliment?” Check that one out!”
>>I would never associate with anyone callous enough
to say in front of my child "she/he doesn't look
“People can be so... oblivious! But I think it's
better to educate first, before cutting someone off.
In my experience, people just don't "get" anything
that is not in their personal experience.
I deal with this all the time with my severe food
allergy, being vegetarian, and being adopted (and
adopting a teen). People just say stupid stuff,
without a clue! And some of it can be hurtful and
rude, or at least bad form.
I usually try humor first, because it tends to work,
or at least return their comment with my own question
like "oh, what does someone who's blind look like?"
But people who are adopted deal ALL the time with
questions about your REAL parents. Believe me, any
parents --adopted, birth, foster, or rented!-- are as
REAL as it gets. And I did not want to adopt because
I couldn't have REAL kids or even my OWN kids.
Frankly, fake kids who belong to someone else sound
pretty good right now!
People even ask things like, "Why didn't your real
parents want you?" (Just makes me roll my eyes....)
And people do make these comments to your face or in
front of your kids. Anyway, yes, you are right. What
an insensitive comment. Yet, I think it a worth while
investment to try humor and education before cutting
off a friendship.
I have a friend who has a whippet (similarly to a very
petite greyhound). People used to come up to her on
the street, when she was walking her dog, and demand
to know why she wasn't feeding her dog enough or ask
"what's wrong with your dog!" Let's see... the breed
looks like this... this is a perfect example of the
breed... she never stops eating...
Diane (RPlist, Austin, Texas USA)
**17. “I think two things. First, I agree with Linda's comment. Anyone rude enough to say what we all know they're thinking deserves to be taken to task for it. Raising awareness is what keeps us all from hearing things like that.
Second, the obvious continuation of the conversation.
>"Of course." Suzanne's mother looked her old friend in the eye and
>said. "Jane, what do you expect her to grow up and be?"
Jane pondered for a moment, then said, "Don't you want her to aspire to
being more than a trash collector?"
Not all thoughts have to be serious... *grin”
Jim Dorman (RPlist)
FROM ME: “I wondered if some one would come up with that. Any other funny ones out there?”
**18. “This mother is getting it right. Giving a blind child responsibility for household chores at an early age is the first step to making that blind child grow up to be a responsible adult. Too frequently parents expect very little from their blind children. If parents expect excellence and responsibility from their blind kids like their sighted kids, they will receive excellence. Expect nothing and you will receive nothing. The little girl was doing her chore. She was taking out the garbage. Nobody likes to take out the garbage, but we all have to do it. I hope the friend of the mother visited frequently and was educated both by the mother and her child.”
Joyce Porter (Houston, Texas USA)
FROM ME: “Would you agree with this- The mother is teaching in this scene. Is she teaching one person or two? If two, which one is gaining the most?”
**19. “boy! I can think of too many blind friends who never had household chores growing up! As I continued to know them into adulthood, some of them really turned out to be spoiled brats, or had no idea how to handle the everyday tasks we are barraged with from the time we wake up until the time we go to bed.
I had chores, but once I grew up and got out on my own, I realized that they were not nearly the magnitude of those of my sighted siblings. I was kind of resentful, and it took getting together with good and faithful friends, even 5 years into my marriage to be enlightened about some of those "out of sight, out of mind" tasks which need to be done.
I would never have thought to scrub around light switches and door knobs with a little more elbow grease than the rest of the walls and doors. I would not have thought that dust could collect on the blades of the ceiling fans--after all, they are in motion most of the time. Wouldn't that stuff blow off?
I neither would I have ever thought to clean the under side of shelves--such as the one right under the bathroom mirror--the one that held all the shampoo, toothpaste, soap, etc and got long drippy lines of soap film running down and around. . Oh well, plain to see that I think childhood training is valuable--or,
an invaluable exercise for successful adulthood.
PS. I'm not saying that you can't hire household help for those more intense tasks or for your spring and fall cleaning, but the day to day stuff, people should be able to do or be expected to know about so that they can delegate it to other family members, like their own kids. *smile!*”
Laura Collins (Rapid City, South Dakota USA)
**20. “The mother was exactly correct in giving her child such a responsibility and believing that her child should learn how to accept responsibility and not allow her to just sit in the corner while someone else does it instead. Making her aware and treating her like perhaps another child is a real important concept.”
FROM ME: “The learning of responsibility is one key concept which has been underscored in response after response. What are some of the other major character concepts being presented?”
Randie Sheppherd (NFB-talk)
**22. “We have a straight thinking mother here, encouraging her daughters independence, even playing games to help her learn for kindergarten Then there is a visitor who had without meeting the child put a negative spin on her, "she doesn't look blind" followed by a false expectation of a helpless child, not being capable of doing chores. The child is lucky to have a mother who will encourage her to grow with dignity .What a wonderful PROVOKER!”
Diane Dobson (Victoria, British Columbia Canada)
FROM ME: “Dignity is another key character concept being taught! Right?”
**23. “Personally, I don't like the idea, because I don't like the idea of having to clean up the trash should the bag break. However, the mother has the right idea by having the child perform simple chores.”
Sarah Lanier (Alabama USA)
**24. “There is a little reluctance to deal with the blindness here. There is a hint, to my way of thinking, to try to make the child less blind than she is. So she's going to develop hats of the "sniff out" routine. I know someone who used it at a salad bar once, and the staff of the place admonished her for doing so. Colors (how things look in general) are important. We need to know colors. From the outset, though, if we can't see any better than the little girl can, she needs to learn how to deal with them totally as a blind person. Chances are, she will be totally blind one day. You can learn about colors and objects without sniffing them.
Then the mother had her taking out the garbage. Aside from the fact that it sounded as if the bag of garbage might be too large for a small child, it seems a double standard. On the one hand, they were working on not being quite so blind, on the other hand, she has to be expected to be normal, to pull her equal share. Yet with that double standard and with the friend's obvious horror at the expectations, the child has to become a little confused about her capabilities, especially if it is something that would happen very often. The more she learns as a young child to believe it is OK to be blind, the easier it will be for her to deal with the negative attitudes of blindness when she's out in the "real world" where people's expectations of her are like Jane's.”
Cindy Ray (Leon, Iowa USA)
**25. “I can't imagine why not? if the child is physically capable of carrying the bag of garbage, then there should be no question as to whether she should do the job. my only question might be is the garbage too heavy for a 4 year old? being blind shouldn't enter into the decision whether Susan should take out the garbage. I don't believe anyone that is blind, or familiar with blindness would question this, only outsiders that are uncomfortable with blindness and what it means. it was good that Jane was exposed to a normal situation where the mother expected her child to do some basic household chores as a contributing family member.”
merrilee hill-kennedy (big rapids Minnesota USA)
**26. “I found several points interesting about this story. First
was the remark about the girl not looking blind. It would have been interesting to have the same story with the friend not knowing the child is blind and then hearing her reaction. If the child had performed her tasks and then the friend was informed about the blindness, the story may have been one of "inspirational child".
I think this passage is an extension of an attitude we have about disabled and non disabled children alike in taking responsibility and also in what they learn. I once had a teacher friend who said
that children should be given "the right to fail". We are as a society both too protective and also not protective enough in certain areas - such as the media and poor values we expose children to. All children need to be taught to be empowered and independent -it is the greatest gift adults can bestow on children. By the same token, we also should
not rob them of their childhood or disrespect them as people = whether disabled or not. The methods and routes to independence may differ for each child, but it behooves us to help and guide them on their journeys there.
The mother in the story should probably talk to the friend and the child alike at a time when they are apart about the remark that the child didn't look blind. The friend should be made aware of how this may make the child feel and the message it gives the child and any potential audience to the remark. The child should also be taught how to respond to such remarks and how to cope with the feelings engendered by such a remark. There are advantages and disadvantages of "looking blind", In looking blind at least there is a modicum of understanding about what is going on and why a person may do things differently. The disadvantage is that one may look or seem "different" to others and thus put them off. The advantage of not looking blind is that one can
"pass" as "normal" - whatever that is. The disadvantage is that when one does something differently or makes an error it may be ascribed to another cause - being a substance abuser, less than intelligent, etc.. That also can cause problems. Thanks for an excellent story.”
Catherine Alfieri (Pittsford, New York USA)
**27. “I think the girl's mother is right on target. The mother's friend is learning that the stereotypes she has about blindness are wrong.”
Angela Farmer (Dothan Alabama USA.)
FROM ME: “Yes, this PROVOKER has as much to do with the dispelling of blindness stereo typing. So my question is, what do you think happened in the next paragraph of the story; what might Jane have answered back?”
**28. “This is definitely a contrast to last month's story, in which Jack, who is getting ready to start college, is apparently being
overprotected by his parents. I think Suzanne's mother has the right idea. Just because Suzanne has a visual impairment doesn't mean that
she should be exempt from such chores as picking up her toys and taking out the garbage. I wish my mother had given me responsibilities like that when I was Suzanne's age.”
Abbie Johnson (Sheridan, Wyoming, USA firstname.lastname@example.org )
FROM ME: “How many blind adults might feel the same way? Do you think there is a higher percentage of blind adults who would say this verses sighted adults?”
**29. “Well, I see nothing wrong with this picture!! It thrills, myself, that this PROVOKER; shows a Mother treated the blind or visually impaired child like a normal child.
That being having house chores and expected to do them. As the, Mother/Dad, has equipped the child with the right tools! This means the child will grow up with strong self worth & esteem!! Will not be afraid to face the challenges ahead of this child!
My neighbors tell, myself, " Gene, you don't look blind.... you are working out side mowing, raking, working in your flower bed, shoveling snow or running your snow blower or even shoveling the snow...." I say, " Why not, If I can do the job safely, then why not!" All one has to do is have the right tools and be shown how it can be done. Might be a little different; yet the job gets done!!
Living independently! There is nothing like it!!”
Gene Stone (Portland, Maine USA
**30. “One of the things that bugs me most is for two sighted persons to discuss me as if I was just an object, not a person.”
Jesse Johnson (Huntsville, Alabama USA)
FROM ME: “This is not the first person nor probably the last to bring up this point. So what is this a sign of? I mean, on the side of the friend for saying it and on the side of the respondent, Jesse?”
**31. “Good for the mom! I was responsible for drying the silverware while my two sighted sisters washed the dishes and dried the dishes. This friend definitely needed an education in blindness. But, half the time, the public can look right at you and unless you have a "blind tag" on you, they don't really see you. My eyes are not normal in being able to look or turn toward someone. But, how many times do people just hand you the change in a pile or give you a print menu, even if a Braille one is available?”
**32. “This story resounded in me. When I was adopted by my grandmother, she already knew I was visually impaired, blind in one eye. She told me later that the week before she took me in, she wore a patch on one eye and went without her glasses to try to understand how I saw. She never coddled me or made me feel different. When I was seven or so, a dear friend of hers, who did not know I was listening, asked my grandmother "what do you plan to do with her? She will end up in an institution ro something!" My grandmother answered with some spirit "When we adopted her, the judge told us that while we were considered too old to take a child, that with her eyes, who would want her? Well, WE DO, and we love her and she will lead a normal life! She has brains and she's capable and nobody is going to hold her back!" While I may have had my problems in childhood, my grandmother was always on my side. She insisted that I have a perfectly normal childhood, doing chores and keeping up with sighted children. While there wasn't much in the fifties and sixties for visually impaired kids, what there was, she took advantage of. Everything I am, I owe to her. That girl in the story is one lucky kid.”
Sylvia Stevens (USA)
**33. “Parents are often put in the dubious position of having to educate the whole world about their child's disability. This Mom has it together but she is going to need support in maintaining these attitudes in the face of many other adults with the attitudes of her friend. This is just one reason why having a support group for parents of blind children is so important. We have a local pre-school for the visually impaired that has an excellent parent group and I have parents that continue to support that group even when their kids are in middle school and high school. It really provides a vital link in the education of visually impaired kids in this area.”
Linda Ray (Kansas USA)
FROM ME: “do seek out parent groups. Here where I live the local school district has one and in the state at large, there is the NFB Parents of Blind Children. Is there anyone else out there that would like to tell more about what parent groups can do for an individual or family?”
**34. “I like the way the mother is 1) teaching the child to do the things that need to be done, and 2) teaching her friend that blind children need to learn to do things like all other children. (Of course, these days, many people are amazed at what my sighted kids do--like garbage take out, much less what my blind child can do.) As long as it's age-appropriate, sighted or blind, they should learn all the living skills. I think this was good, maybe even a little challenge to mom's friend to rethink her opinion of blind kids.”
Debby Brackett (Florida USA)
**35. “This story makes me think of my mother so much. She was a stickler for me doing my share of the chores. I had to wash the dishes, learn to do the laundry, make beds etc. all along side my sighted sister and brother. She encouraged me to be as independent as possible. She didn't allow my brother and sister to do for me anything that I could do for myself. She told me she wanted me to have a better life than she had.
You see she is also blind. Her mother and father did everything for her. They didn't allow her to learn any mobility skills. She always had somebody to go with her until about ten years ago. She sneaked in the kitchen when her parents weren't around to beg the household help to show her how to do things in the kitchen.
She made up her mind that I wasn't going to be treated that way. I remember when I first came to the "states" I wanted to go to my first NFB convention. My grandmother wasn't allowing me because she said it was too far for me to travel on my own. I complained to my mother and I guess They had it out. After that my grandmother pretty much gave me my freedom. Phew that was a relief. It sure cut down on the arguments my grandmother and I used to have over the things I was doing. Independently taking the New York subway, riding horses. rock climbing etc.
Today I am very grateful to her for the independence she gave me. Not just in mobility but in spirit as well. It is because of her why I am not reluctant to stand up for myself.
I admire the mother in this story for teaching her daughter self reliance.”
Janet (Nampa, Idaho USA)
**36. “The attitude of the mother's friend is found to often, both with people who have little contact with blind children, and with parents of blind children, as well. People want blind children (and people in general) to be "normal” (not looking blind), but they don't expect us to do "normal" tasks. Many parents of sighted children would expect them to pick up toys and take out trash. But, for some reason, they don't expect that of a blind child. I'm not even sure if it's because they don't think the blind child can't do it. It's just not expected, so it's not taught and the child grows up believing they can't do things, or shouldn't be expected to do them. So, this mother's expectation of her blind daughter is a very good thing. It's no more or less than what would be expected of a sighted sibling of the same age. The friend had to learn that, and maybe she'll leave the home with a better attitude of blindness than she came with.”
Cindy Handel (Willow Street, Pennsylvania USA)
FROM ME: “EXPECTATION is another key concept being high-lighted in this THOUGHT PROVOKER, RIGHT? Does it only apply to the daughter?”
**37. “this case with the young person with a visual impairment/ disability is one heard so often.. Moms friend Jane needs to get off the pity trip and wake up and smell the reality of positive input.. Imagine the thoughts running through the young persons mind as she listens to moms so called friend comment with pity regarding a child's ability to function in everyday life.. Can the child take out the garbage? I believe so as there was no description of a physical disability in this Thought Provoker . alarms instantly goof in my mind as to what mom could say to her friend Jane. Such as "Jane, what a thing to say or ask.. Sure she can take out the garbage as I did when I washer age.. In this house we are all equal in doing family chores.." Again folks I stress to the public educate and educate ...”
Lee A. Stone (Hudson, New York USA..
FROM ME: “Education, Education, Education! Just think about the education that is going on in this THOUGHT PROVOKER, who all is getting it?”
**38. “I have only a few words. Bravo! She'll grow up to be a courageous, strong-willed, independent woman. As I often say of my fiancée, she's no wilting flower--and I'd not have it any other way!”
John D. Coveleski (New York, New York USA
FROM ME: “Courageous, strong-willed, independent all major concepts/traits a blind kid may grow into. How about these as a potential outcome from early parenting as seen in this PROVOKER?”
**39. “2 bits worth:
Mom is instilling a good sense of responsibility in Suzanne. Even if the bag may be a little bulky for her, how can one grow if one is not challenged little. If Suzanne truly needed help, she more than likely would ask for help. Disability or no disability I grew up with chores. When I went off to college I cooked, cleaned, did laundry, took care of pets and taught other males how to do the same thing. Some of my chores were challenging, some were easy. Yet I was expected to get them done. Not only did this teach me responsibility, but also instilled a sense of pride in the home and to take care of my own.
Jane's reaction can be interpreted several ways, there is no emotional or vocal tones to indicate the mood or atmosphere of the conversation. Having a child with a visible disability and being a person with a visible disability myself, I have friends of a decade who look at her and see that she is not as affected, physically or symptomatically as myself; and therefore have made comments my child doesn't look like s/he has a disability. They are not "in the dark", but their experiences are with me and how I am affected, then they see my child and see a less severity of the disability. Jane may despise taken out the trash. Jane may be beaming with joy that a small child is actually doing chores. Jane may be concerned for Suzanne due to size of the bag and her own size or because Suzanne has a vision impairment. In short there are too many X-factors to speculate the next few comments as has already been shown by previous responses to this PROVOKER.”
Geoff Kettling (Texas, USA)
**40. “As for blind children doing chores, I had to do them when I was growing up. I was the eldest of three daughters, and because of some family circumstances, I had to assume far more responsibilities than many others. My blindness never entered into it. It was just understood that I was the oldest, the most responsible, and therefore, the one to do whatever it was that had to be done. I must say, however, that when I was young, there was one particular chore which I abhorred! I swore that when I was grown, I would never cut up another chicken, and except for just a number of times
I can count on my hand, I have not done this disgusting task since. However, I was given the experience, like it or not. I can now freely make the choice!
As for the uninformed friend in the thought provoker, she is just that-uninformed. The mother in the piece was able to explain things to her in an unthreatening
way. The friend felt able to speak her mind about the way in which the child was treated, and about her appearance. If that had not been the case, the friend would have continued in her ignorance. We don't need to beat people over the heads, we just show them the right way by doing the right things and explaining respectfully.”
Karen Smith (Glendora, California USA)
**41. “Y'all have shared lots of wonderful insights into the current thought provoker. Many were also my first thoughts ... so I had to look again to see if there was anything else I could contribute.... I haven't checked the website since the last digest, but I don't remember reading the following comment so far:
Jane's comment that the little girl doesn't look blind implies Suzanne's mother described her daughter as "blind" and not "visually impaired", "hard of seeing", etc. (BTW, I found it interesting that Jane tells Suzanne she's pretty before making this comment to her mother) This is important because of how Suzanne will see herself & how others will see her as well as which skills she will be taught. Ultimately, this should be a good thing, but as long as society as a whole has negative stereotypes about blindness & blind people, it may initially be harder than it needs to he. I say "initially" because I believe once Suzanne, those closest to her & those who interact regularly with her come to understand that it's OK to be blind & that alternative techniques don't necessarily have to be inferior--that they can be just as efficient or, sometimes, more efficient than sighted techniques--they will see her as a human being.
My family knew from the time I was born that I had a hard time seeing, but none of us heard the phrase "legally blind" applied to me until I was fifteen (after I took the driver's permit test). Thus, my family treated me as a sighted child with a hard time seeing as opposed to a blind child with some sight. This led to some interesting contradictions in what I was & was not allowed and/or expected to do & learn. On the one hand, I was expected to do well in school, help with some cleaning, watch my younger cousins and little brother (when I was old enough), participate in extracurricular activities & so on (i.e., I had rights and responsibilities comparable to my sighted counterparts wherever my family's limited finances would allow). On the flip side, despite the fact that we knew from about the time I was 8 that my eye condition was progressive, I was not taught any blindness skills until I started college and, even then, only on a limited basis. It wasn't until I attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) that I received intensive & comprehensive training under blindfolds (or, as we called them, sleepshades).
I now have the confidence of knowing I can function as a contributing member of society no matter how much sight I lose. The alternative I'd been given before was to receive training on how to use my remaining
sight to its fullest & return for more training every time my eyesight got worse. I decided I didn't like that alternative because it would
make me dependent, not independent.
However, there are some blindness skills that I would have been much more efficient in had I been taught from the time I was a child. One example of this is Braille. As a child, I read normal sized print between 150 and 200 words per minute (WPM) depending on my age. Around my junior year in college, my speed dropped dramatically to the point that I can now read Braille (about 100 WPM) much faster than print. Had I been taught Braille as a child, though, when I had more time to practice and my brain was wired for learning to read & write, I could be reading (according to studies) between 400 & 500+ WPM, which is about as fast as the average sighted college student.
Well, I better close for now before this gets too long. Thanks again for all your insightful observations! ;)
Take Care! ;)
Ronalene, Fayetteville, Arkansas USA)
P.S. Despite many O&M teachers believing in "pre-cane" devices, I (and
others) feel children can learn to use a cane from a young age. For
example, Suzanne has to put her hand out to find the trash, but if she
had a cane, should could locate it more efficiently....
**42. “This PROVOKER made me think of many things, but I will only write about a few of them, and even now, I can tell you that this will be a fairly lengthy response. The first that caught my attention was the mother's comment about "eyesight, and no eyes tricks." I am totally blind, so I have never had to deal with this, but I have many friends with varying degrees of remaining vision. It seems that they are under tremendous pressure to either do nearly everything with their vision, or to never use their vision at all. I do not agree with either of those lines of thinking, and am glad Suzanne is being taught how to do both.
However, that brings my next point. I agree that Suzanne should work on her colors, but she did something that I didn't know if I liked. The mother asked what color Jane's skirt was, and Suzanne had to put her nose to the fabric to tell. In my mind, that creates two problems. First, many people would not like a child putting their face so close to them to see things. In the case of a family friend, that may not apply, but the person may not always be so close. Secondly, that seems to feed right into the stereotype of what a person with residual vision should do.. Have their face pressed to everything to see it. This may contribute to Jane's ideas about "Looking blind," whatever that is.
The second thing I thought of is a point which nearly everyone has
raised...Applauding the mother for having Suzanne do various household chores. I, like others have expressed, am more lacking than I should be in independent living skills. However, neither myself or my sighted sisters were asked to do very much in the way of household chores, etc, as we grew up, so I don't really attribute this to my blindness. however, I am learning more and more independent living skills as I go on, and am confident that I will be up to speed very soon."
Alicia Richards (Lincoln, Illinois USA)
FROM ME: “Putting your nose real close to something to see it… Well, when is that right/wrong?”
**43. “I must also commend the mother. In many ways she reminds me of my mom, in that she had me doing household chores just as much, if not more, than my siblings. I consider myself lucky to have her, although I'm not saying she is perfect. It took some convincing on my part for her to let me burn the garbage.
As far as this Jane, well.....lets just say she has a lot of learning to do.”
Brent Heyen (Chadron, Nebraska USA)
**44. “A very good provoker as usual Robert. I was lucky in that this mother could have been mine. I had to do every chore in the household that my siblings did. And since I couldn't do yard care chores (Mowing, weeding, edging, etc) on the days when the rest of the family did those things I was expected to pick up the slack in doors. You can bet I grumbled at the time but hey, I was a kid. LAUGH
As far as people saying things that still surprise me: I was told just two weeks ago, "You handle your disability very well. I couldn't even tell you were blind." I say to this "Thank you." simply because I don't really know what to say. Does he mean the more you can disguise a disability the better you are? I admit to being puzzled by this. But then I always have been and it probably won't change. That may sound cynical but that's the way it is. I've
seen plenty of people rethink their attitudes and change their thinking, and also plenty of people who only see what they expect to see.”
Wendy McCurley (Fort Worth, Texas USA
Fort Worth, TX
FROM ME: “This lady bringing up a very puzzling question, ‘Does he mean the more you can disguise a disability the better you are?’ What about this? Isn’t there something going on, on different levels in this type of question?”
**45. “I am the youngest of four children and I was always expected to carry my load of family chores and my mother although she was sighted could think like a blind person so rearranging the house while I was at school and then telling me where the furniture now was became one topic of conversation on the way home from school for vacation times. My mother never told me where the furniture had been, she gave me the dignity of knowing that I remembered but then told me north, south, east and west walls as directions for whatever rooms had been changed. Responsibilities and learning how to tackle them are life-skills that we all need and doing is the best way of learning. I now have a daughter of my own and this way of learning has been something I've never forgotten so my daughter, even though she is sighted, will not be life-skilled handicapped as she gets ready to go out to college
and the beyond.”
Sally Baird (Nebraska USA)
FROM ME: “Isn’t this what is THOUGHT PROVOKER is all about? ’I now have a daughter of my own and this way of learning has been something I've never forgotten so my daughter, even though she is sighted, will not be life-skilled handicapped as she gets ready to go out to college and the beyond.’”
**46. “This mother may be expecting a lot of a very young child, but since self-esteem comes partly from feeling confident about being able to do for oneself, this child will, hopefully, develop self-esteem and a sense of confidence. In addition, this mother was obviously affectionate and caring, so that this child will also feel she is a lovable person worthy of positive relationships. Love them and let them go are the most important jobs of a parent.”
Jeanne Smith (Amesbury, Massachusetts USA)
**47. “Occasionally when my wife and I are in a store, she'll direct me to pick up something heavy and she gets these angry looks from some of the customers. Once she was so sick she could just barely make it to the store, and I went inside, asked for help, and purchased the few items we needed. When the counter person helped me to the car and saw my wife, he got really mad. He didn't say anything, but she said his look could kill. The expectations of others can have a baring on how those connected with us are treated too.”
Albert Griffith (NFB-talk)
FROM ME: “Take a good look at this man’s story. Isn’t it a adult form or version of my PROVOKER?”
**48. “I know a couple of blind people (local) who were overprotected all their lives. Most of them, come to think of it! There was Ms Friend 1, who told me she couldn't get married because she had never been permitted to grow up. She had a boyfriend who got tired of waiting for her, and married someone else. She wrote a devastating poem that I printed some years back in Slate & Style (NFB Writers Division newsletter). It still gives me the chills.
Then there's Mr. Friend 2, who in his 40s is still accompanied by his parents when he goes to state conventions. It kind of defeats the purpose. I like his parents, but do the math. How much longer can they keep him a child?
Then there's Ms Friend 3, whose mobility skills are very limited. I took her to the mall once, and we worked on running, and climbing up and down steps. No one had ever taught her how! I think she took a cab once in her life. Her mother is 80 years old, give or take. The math is easy here.
There's also Ms Friend 4, who had an uphill battle. Considered retarded, she never received much education, and refuses to read books, even on tape. She was redeemed somewhat by her boyfriend, Mr. X, who likewise was considered retarded, and went to the Louisiana center. They are both employed right now. It's a good thing, because MS Friend 4’s father has lung cancer. When he dies, she'll probably marry Mr. S. They've been going out for sixteen years, finally got engaged. Till he dies, though, she'll consider herself his baby.
Then there's Ms Friend 5. I read for her once. She never received services from the commission, and kept advertising for someone to read for her, and for someone to take her to dinner on Saturday night, cut her food and take her to the bathroom, until I told the editor of the paper not to take her ads any more. What a downer! We had to live in the same town, and couldn't take the negative impression of blindness she was giving.”
Lori Stayer (Merrick, New York USA)
FROM ME: “What is wrong with this picture? Might the above adults, as children have been asked to take out the garbage and more?”
**50. “I read through a portion of the responses. Of those I read, I think folks missed my initial reaction. The friend's comment, "She doesn't look blind" is too often what children with low vision hear. It signals that to "look blind" is bad and that she is to be appreciated because she doesn't have this look about her. Then when children tease, the child may believe her appearance or how she looks at things (e.g., looking close to the friend's skirt) is a true negative that she will internalize.
Just adding my two cents' worth.”
Anne Corn (USA)
FROM ME: “Another response dealing with looking blind. How using low vision can be both a blessing and a curse. Did you ever in your life think that you would be teased, labeled and discriminated against for using your sight? Do you think that for this type of person, that they would also be given a hard time for not using their vision?”
**51. “Hmm, how interesting. I often wonder if my parents simply feel that things are easier being done by them. Unlike the person in this story, I feel comfortable with poring milk, but with cutting meat and sometimes even styling my own hair, I'm quite self conscious. I've gone on trips with others, and just wonder sometimes if things really look right. I hope this gets better. I highly commend this mother for allowing her child the freedom to start independent skills early in life.
Being spoken to as if I'm deaf is also one of my biggest pet pieves. People will often speak to me as if I'm not there when I'm standing there. They pretty much use the third person narrative in the context of their sentences. Some people, that I know really well, I've commented to, and they have since stopped.”
Stacy (Wisconsin USA
**52. “My name is Jannel Morris and I have been visually impaired since birth.
This short story is a very good story. I personally feel that kids who
have a disAbility of any kind should grow up as normal as possible, but as is to everything there is a negative side to this idea. As a parent you need to listen to your child and realize the child's capabilities and limitations. Now you are probably wondering why I say this when I am not even a parent.
I say this because when I was growing up my parents treated me like I was just a normal kid. I look back on this and it was a positive experience but it also had its negative aspects. My parents were not the kind of people who would keep things organized and in the same place you just had to look to find what you wanted. Now I am not saying that our house was trashed I am just saying that things were not always in the same place. Anyway I was treated so much like a kid who could see that when I was asked to go get something for my mom, like a screw driver or whatever, I would always get into trouble because I could not find it or I took to long to get it. When I got old enough my mom would send me into the grocery store and expect me
to find whatever she wanted in five minutes of less. Of course someone with good vision probably would have not had any problems doing this.
Parents should listen to their kids because we know our bodies better than anyone parent or not. Sorry for the long message but this is a very important topic.”
Jannel Morris (NABS-l)
FROM ME: “ A good point! The task asked must be reasonable. But tell me this, is it okay to ask a person to do the more unreasonable task?”
**53. “I lost my sight seven years ago...over night success...I am a student, parent, world class alpine ski racer, and play
on the world champion beep ball team...west coast dawgs...there is always the question asked...born blind or become blind...losing my sight after years of seeing...I can really visualize things in my head and have a good imagination...one thing I have noticed while attending school, is that children born blind, total that is, are sheltered and not allowed to have a " normal" life...I see this all the time while trying to get parents to let their children play ball, and learn to ski...I will probably be attacked for my statement, but it is only my opinion and not always the case...just my little input..and
I think , if parents allow their children to grow up with the expectations that are put on all children growing up...that much the better for mature, functioning Adults respectfully,”
Vic Allen (NABS-L)
**54. “Well, great story, but I was waiting for the rest of it. . . .
I'm blind due to ROP, (retinopathy of prematurely.) My parents were career military, and I grew up an "Air Force brat," moving to different locations, sometimes overseas.
Neither of my parents had ever seen a blind person before--well, my mom had seen a blind guy around the small town in Kansas her family had moved from in the thirties, but that was the extent of their contact.
Being a parent myself, I believe my folks may have been more worried about me than they let on, but maybe not, because they were not prone to be worriers, and taught us kids not to be.
Anyway, the way my mom told the story, since they didn't know what a blind person could or couldn't do, they assumed I would be able to do anything any other kid could until proven otherwise. I will be eternally grateful for the posture they took toward blindness. I was expected to do my share of the chores around the house. I remember the thing that really made me angry is when they said I couldn't participate in activities with my older sister because I was "too little." I thought I would SCREAM if I heard that phrase one more time! In having said all this, my folks didn't deny my blindness. If you could feel something rather than see it, they made sure I was first in line to "feel.” I remember when I was a pre-schooler, my dad took me to the town's local Kiddy Carnival. I got to "look" at a clown's costume. I remember Dad pointing out the big shoes Mr. Clown wore. I saw my first guide dog about that time. A blind man was walking through the neighborhood. Mom stopped him, explained
the situation, and I got to pet the dog. I remember the harness being about collarbone level. That was very impressive to me.
They made sure I had Braille access, and when I learned to use a white cane at 13, I ran errands for Mom at the nearby shopping center. I know now, that as a parent, you have to make things happen for your kids so they will have opportunities for growth.
When I was older, I got to baby-sit, something I'm sure my parents arranged for me. When I was fifteen, I had my first "job," doing phone calling for a co-worker of mom's. A year later, I cleaned house one summer for another co-worker, (probably arranged by mom.)
They made sure I knew how many lines and spaces to count to type a check from my bank account they helped me set up. Mom also made sure I had a legible signature, and would make me practice while in Junior high.
My first year out of college, I had a teaching job in another state, and for Christmas, Dad gave me a tool kit, with my name in raised dimo-tape letters on top. It was outfitted with every kind of nail, screw, and tack he thought would be useful; along with screw drivers, hammer, and a hand drill with a full set of bits. This was in 1975, and I still have those same tools, even though the tool collection has far outgrown the box.
After having said all this, I would advise parents on one hand to intercede for their kids, make opportunities happen for them, but on the other hand, expect them to get the job done, whether sighted or blind.”
Judy Jones (Tacoma, Washington USA)
**55. “This thought provoker brought many things to my mind.
When the friend commented about the child being pretty, that seemed typical to me. Most children no matter what the appearance, are
thought to be cute, pretty and the like.
Is the mother visually impaired? Perhaps when she was asking her
daughter about the color of the friend's skirt she was not only having
the child practice colors (which is not a top priority for a functionally blind preschool child to master) but was possibly helping her daughter become aware of her visual limitations. Many children (myself included) have not digested the impact of blindness or any difference in their vision as opposed to that of others until they are around 6 or 7 years of age. How would a preschool child know that others can see better than what he or she is seeing? Quite often it is when a child begins to read that this difference becomes more apparent.
Isn't taking out the garbage an "age appropriate" skill for any healthy 5 year old child? If the mother felt that the trash bag was too large for her daughter to handle, she would have helped take it out of the
container. As for using a cane indoors, don't most blind and visually
impaired people, young or old, know the way around their own home?
Although I have limited vision, my cane resides beside the apartment
door and my hand is often extended to locate walls or furniture before my body plows into those objects.
From the sound of the article, the guest has probably not been around many blind people in her life and did not know what to expect. I have
met many people like that. The most natural thing for me to do is to go about my business and to quietly "educate the public" while doing it. Perhaps that is this mother's motive too.
The Mother has an especially obedient and cooperative child. I wish
there were more children like that.”
Carol Tomis (Tallahassee, Florida USA)
FROM ME: “An interesting thought! Getting the child to use the vision he or she has in order to help them realize the limitations of their vision. What do you think? When should it happen? How should it happen?”
**56. This is an interesting scenario. The friend does not understand the importance of not only dignity and respect for blind children and how expectations , responsibility and proper training will shape a child's future. The mom is great in her approach, not only with normalization with her daughter but also the friend. I think the eyesight tricks are interesting. These are healthy eyesight tricks, however. They are not the "eyesight tricks" that most often are played on us as kids and adults . I am speaking of the trick about sight , that any vision is better than being "blind". You know, the trick of what I call "vision dependence" played on us by society, family members, educators, employers, rehab professionals and
even ourselves. This child will likely grow up to be employed, literate and confident with a positive attitude about herself as a blind person.
I wanted to also respond to and commend the first respondent to this TP. He has the basic skills and competencies in literacy, travel, and all of those things needed to be successful in the world of work. And yet he is acknowledging a limitation and trying to work on it. I was interested that he did not attend a Center. Many persons who need and can benefit from comprehensive and proper training in an adjustment center do not go for one reason or another. They may not want to be away from home for 6 months or so. They may have good literacy and other skills and decide or it is decided that they will go to school and work. Many do not go because either they or a professional feel that they "have too much vision". So many of our adult blind these days have been denied the respect and dignity of responsibility as a child and throughout adolescence. Quite often they go to college and then are put to work by an agency for the blind despite the fact that they have no or little work experience and no experience as a blind individual
insofar as training is concerned.
In Austin, I am aware of a situation where we are being asked to assist a person at a job at the Attorney General's office. Apparently, someone in his church found out he needed a job and due to their influence come hell or high water he was going to get a job! He has no computer Braille or travel skills and needs "some training using a scanner" to read. We are trying to tactfully but clearly help him understand his need for comprehensive training to be a long term successful and productive employee. I'll bet as a kid he never had to take out the garbage. I know of and know persons who are
blind and who I like. Many had no expectations as kids or adults once they became blind. Because of others doing for them they did not learn or have the opportunity to learn and did not get proper training . Because of this they are now unemployed or employed in entry level positions with no potential for upward mobility due to lacking skills. They were not allowed to "take out the garbage" and insofar as employment is concerned, rather than having potential to design waste management plants or manage a crew, they may or may not get to handle the "garbage".”
Edwin Kunz (Austin, Texas USA)
**57. “What struck me about this story was not that the child had the chore of taking out the garbage, but that her mother, and therefore, of course, the child, simply accepted the comment of the mother's friend that the child didn't look blind. I grew up partly in a residential school, and certainly the message was drilled into us that for heaven's sake we mustn't, shouldn't, ever look blind; and that if we did, we were somehow shameful. Looking blind; not looking
blind - whatever those things exactly mean, I'm not sure. something are obvious, but there's a lot of subtle stuff that's not so clear.”
Carol Ashland (In Eugene, Organ USA
**58. “I enjoyed your "Thought Provoker". I agree with most of the responses, but there was one point that bothered me.
I think that it is wonderful that the child is learning to do chores just like her sighted counterparts. But, I wonder if the mother wasn't showing off?
I am blind, and I have always done chores around the house. Now that I am grown and married, I do even more. (grin) I have my sighted daughters do them also, but when there is someone visiting, we don't do the house cleaning.
I always felt growing up that I had to prove that I was as good as or better than my sighted counterparts in everything. I wonder if, unconsciously, the mother is trying to prove that her daughter is as good as a sighted child, to this so called friend? Perhaps, I'm just being picky?”
Sara Dina (Alexandria, Virginia USA)
FROM ME: “Anyone else feel the mother is working too hard to prove her daughter is normal?”
**59. “I'm surprised at the comments suggesting that having the little girl look at a skirt up close is a negative thing. When I could see light, dark and colors, that's how I saw most things, close up, often with my nose into whatever it was. So it made me look blind, I saw better that way. I would go up to friends, close up, to see what I could of the color of their clothes, etc, and if someone handed me an object, I quite often put it up near my right eye to look at it. I don't remember anyone reprimanding me for this or teasing me about it;
they seemed to understand. Now if I'd tried and tried, until I was in Headache City, to see something I didn't have enough vision to see, that would have been another matter. Usually when I was looking up close at something it was not of dire consequences if I could see it or not; mostly just out of curiosity, which I was full of.
The vision I had was not all that useful as far as sighted persons might think, but seeing what I did added something interesting to my life, but it didn't make or break it. I still find myself putting things up to my face to look at them even though my eyes were enucleated quite a number of years ago. Old
habit, I guess. Lots of people think I can see a slight bit because my right eye is still a little more open and I still sometimes look like I'm looking at things, especially in stores etc.”
Laurie Merryfield (Washington USA)
FROM ME: “So how about using one’s vision to the extent it is functional? Will knowing colors help a severely visually impaired person like Suzanne? When would the use of vision such as Suzanne’s be a problem?”
**60. “I too would like to applaud the mother. In my instance, although my parents wanted me to be independent, it was hard to actually learn because I was never shown how to do things. It was almost assumed that I knew and then I would get told off when I didn't do it right. I also found that even though I would ask for help, and to help with family chores I wasn't allowed to do so.
This impacted my self-esteem, and I have a lot of trouble getting the
skills, because deep down I actually wonder if I'm able to do this?
I think she is one lucky kid who will have a great start in life. Pity many parents don't do this. But much of this I think is due to lack of support for them. They don't know themselves how to treat a blind person, and no one has taken to time to show them.”
Stephanie Franklin (Australia)
**61. “I've been trying to mull this one over a bit. My first reaction was to get annoyed at the friend, Jane. Why is it people think that blind people either shouldn't or aren't capable of doing anything? Then to delve further into it, you see that Jane, like most other non handicapped people, is acting out of fear that the child may get hurt if she embarks upon a 'sighted' activity. Well meaning in a sense, yes, but wrong and highly frustrating. So let the kid get hurt (not to be nasty). That's how she's going to learn. Ever hear the old saying if you fall off a horse your best bet is to get right up and try it again. When I was a kid I loved to do everything I could do. My father called me his favorite little helper. He had a cabin up in the Catskill mountains. I used to carry firewood up the hill from the wood pile to the house and go back down it again. I can't tell you how many times I fell in the process, did a roll through the dirt down the hill, smacking myself up a bit. My father always wanted to run outside and stop me from carrying the wood, afraid the I was really bruising myself up. But my step mom never let him, always telling him I had to do what I had to do. If he got out there and stopped me and made me sit in the corner I would have never learned or tried. Nobody has the right to decide what another person is capable of doing simply because they are handicapped.”
Patricia Hubschman (Levittown, New York, USA)
**62. “Good for Mom! Suzan is a lucky little girl. This story can be looked at several ways.
First, The story indicates that Suzanne's mom has not seen her friend, Jane, for several years. I expect that Jane has no experience being
around blind people and has no idea how to react to the situation. Her
reaction is common and usual, an indication that she needs education.
Speaking about Suzan like she is not there or cannot hear what is being
said is also common, whether the object of conversation is disabled or
not. I think that this unfortunate habit is true when many adults are
speaking about children in general. Second, what are Jane's ideas about making any small child do chores such as taking out the garbage? Is she reacting to the fact that Suzan is blind or does she just see the task as too harsh for any small child? In my own case, my mother never expected my brother, who is blind, or me, also blind, to take out the garbage or do many other chores around the house, but neither did she expect my other five sighted brothers to do them. Regardless, I think that Jane is getting some much needed awareness.
On the topics of expectations and a child's emotional and behavioral
development, I am a strong believer that people will usually try to
perform as expected. If we expect someone to be helpless, an do
everything for him/her, the result may be dependence. This is especially a problem when the "someone" is a child who is learning life skills. Even more important than learning to perform a task is the positive self-esteem and determination that is achieved.”
Doug Hall (Daytona, Florida USA)
**63. “Your wonderful metaphor was not lost on me.......you could have chosen any one of a number of household chores for that little girl to do. Children, sighted or not, are capable of many tasks around the house, but your choice of taking out the garbage also pertains to the stuff the guest was saying. Mentioning that someone doesn't look blind is very rude, and her attitude about the child doing a job was as outdated as yesterday's trash. Yes, indeed, this was a good thought provoker.
One of the respondents (I don't know which number) compared this situation with what adopted kids go through a lot, and for once, I can totally relate. People do say some really dumb things sometimes, and instead of letting things like that bother me, I prefer to try to remember how it feels, so that I might think twice before saying something similarly insensitive. I might make pc mistakes now and then, but I do know that I'll never tell someone that they don't look adopted, or blind, or Jewish, deaf, constipated, whatever. I will lie, however, if someone asks if they look fat, and would appreciate
it if people would do the same for me. To be honest, though, people who are adopted or deaf or of certain religious beliefs can get away with being anonymous, but a blind person is so visually obvious, I would think, since most people do not require assistance to navigate themselves, but a person who cannot see
is bound to require either a cane or a dog or a person to help them.”
K (Florida USA)
FROM ME: “Using the taking out of garbage as the chore is this PROVOKER was a conscious choice. I liked what it might, could mean in the readers head/mind. In addition, ‘and More’ was also a calculated choice. So, thinking along the path that this lady has broached, then if the task of the disposal of the household’s garbage brought up what it did, what might have the story meant if I were to use washing the dishes?”
**64. “Talking right in front of that little girl as though she weren't in the room - or as if she didn't matter - and I suspect the latter to be true. How very rude of this Jane.
And I'm sure Jane didn't expect Suzanne to grow up to be anything.
Certainly not self-sufficient enough to take out the garbage or even keep her room picked up. She's blind, after all, so what COULD she possibly grow up to be????
Excuse my sarcasm, but doesn't that just frost the cherries in your
Carolyn Gold (Clearwater, Florida USA
**65. “I have to finally respond to this one! I have been reading all the comments so far, and I really like several, but the one that jumped out at me today was 56! The idea that all children need respect and dignity. I was a spoiled brat as a youngster, and never required to do a thing! I was "taken care of"! My parents were insistent I could do things but never allowed it. They divorced and my father gained custody of me. My stepmom's children had chores, and I had to fit in, so offered to help, but got criticized for not doing things right or well! So I stopped trying to help so much. I was never taught to take responsibility for my messes, knowing that grandmother, or someone would get rid of them or pick them up! I went to rehab centers too, but there "were" rules, you had to follow them,...and I did well because I knew what was expected of me. I attended the school for the blind and after the divorce, had to stay in the dorm, so followed their rules too! I just never developed those rules for me, for my own home, and for life!! I somehow, still expect that "somebody" or "something" will happen that will do this stuff for me!! This is painful for me, today!! I own my home, but I am not a good housekeeper,....I don't always do "what has to be done," much less what needs doing, nor cleaning up my messes! I have a bunch of animals, whom I love dearly, yet I still have this problem. Add intelligence to the mix and you have a person who will always find another way to keep from learning a very difficult lesson: You, and only you, are responsible for the impression you make on others and a part of that is the way your home looks to others!! This is truly a thought provoker that dug deep into my major difficulty in life right now!! I am making a start, but I
feel so very defeated!! I did not learn respect, dignity, nor
responsibility from my family, and am having to teach myself these things. I am not doing so good with it, but I am at least, trying, at
the moment to start!! I am 51 years old, for heaven's sake!! I should
have learned these lessons a long long time ago; I should have grown up with them; they should have been basic to everything else to instill in
a child, yet here am I, unable to grasp this concept. People say that
qualities such as respect are from within you, but they must be implanted first!
I admire those of you who have this and I applaud Susan's mother for the efforts to bring her up with these concepts of self worth and
responsibility! It is so hard to get this, as I know, later in life!!
Please forgive my post. I know it's sad, and I know it's on the negative side, but I am learning, just now, to try being more
positive,...that if I do things, and make an effort, things will get done, and people will be more willing and able to help me to eventually
organize my life and really I will for the first time, gain that respect and dignity I so desperately need.”
Phyllis Stevens (USA)
**66. “I really like the thought of using one's vision to determine it's limits. It's like when my girls take the SAT tests--they are testing to see how far children can successfully answer test questions. I think the harm comes when people either ignore the limits, or don't explore other possibilities.
As far as taking out the garbage when company is there--good point, but story is to isolated. Maybe the little one was getting ready to take out said garbage when the phone call came, or the doorbell rang--especially when Mom says, "You know what to do." A three-year-old may not pick up on that hint . . . Who
I applaud the gentleman who acknowledges his lack of daily skills training. When you think about it, there are many sighted men who don't have those skills, either. Acknowledgement is half the battle. The rest is in the doing. Although I was given chores to do, there are several things I've taken as a homemaker I never did as a kid. I felt very self-conscious the first time I had to mow the lawn. My dad had shown me how to use the family mower, but he always did that. But, as my husband always says, there's nothing to it but to do it. It's okay”
Judy Jones (Tacoma, Washington USA)
**67. “I think the question of "is the mother working too
hard to prove her daughter is normal" is interesting. I have observed before that when a child is not normal according to the standards of society some people feel like they must overcompensate so the child (or parent themselves) doesn't feel left out, separate from the
rest of the world. I don't, however, feel that is what this mother was doing.
As I have mentioned before, my mom knew before I was born there was a chance I could be born with a rare genetic eye disease. When that did happen my mom's mother's reaction was basically a bad one, she thought
it was the worst thing on earth that could've happened. But when she saw me for the first time on my first Christmas, I was 5 months old, my mom handed me to her all wrapped up in a blanket to protect me
from the cold. Grandma unwrapped it and looked very surprised, I guess she thought I was going to look like an alien or something. So for some strange reason many people have this perception built up in
their heads of what a blind person looks like. Maybe it comes from the pictures of blind people we are shown on TV and in magazines, which aren't always very kind. I think the best reaction in that situation is a silent one. Let the actions speak for themselves.
I am told frequently that I don't appear blind or visually impaired but the fact remains I only have partial sight. It doesn't bother me, I take it more as a compliment that I am well adjusted.
When I was a child my mother watched over me, wanted to protect me as most mothers do, but she also let me learn my world and make mistakes. She wanted me to experience my surroundings in my own way. From being
disabled herself, she knew that if I found out I couldn't do something the way most people did it I would find a way that worked for me. I also knew that if I needed guidance my mom was there for me. I am
glad that was the way things were because I am a more independent adult.
I think the mother in this story was doing a good job.
It would've been awful if the mother had babied the child. This way the little girl will grow up to know responsibility and will feel like she can make it in the world on her own.”
Wendalyn (university student, Nebraska USA)
**68. “Hi there, I think that parents should have high expectations for their kids who are blind. It is what will make them have high expectations for themselves. As a blind adult, I'm glad my mom expected me to do things around the house. It made me feel like I was normal.
The girl in the story will probably grow up and appreciate her mother's expectations.
Finally, you know that society doesn't have high expectations for people who are blind or suffer from some kind of other disability. The woman's reaction to having the little girl take out the garbage is exactly what happens in society.
This is why education is important.
Just my thoughts.”
Melissa R. Green (NFB-talk, Greeley, Colorado USA)
**69. “ I strongly agree with you Melissa, but I still think that parents need to be careful how much they expect out of their kids. It is kind of like having a child that is really smart if you push them and push them to get straight A's and you do not listen to them when they say I need a break then you can do real harm to them just like a child who has a disability. If you push a child who has a disability to act like they are totally normal then they can have a real problem when it comes to a situation where they really do need help. For example, as you read in an earlier post, My mom pushed me to be totally normal and I do appreciate the fact that she cared enough to push me to be normal, but it hindered me as well. After my mom died I was at college by myself I did not know the area and she was not around to ask for help. Now for me I had been raised as totally normal and part of that was that you did not ask questions you do things on your own. For a school project I had to go to the YWCA and do an interview well on the way there I got lost. I was scared to ask any one to help me because then that would make me not normal. Why you ask? Because when I finally did get the courage to ask I was right across the street from the building and there was a sign out front that read "YWCA of St. Joseph.”
My point is that it is good to teach your kids to act like they do not
have a disability to do things for themselves, but you need to also teach your kids that they do have limitations. Also we need to educate SOCIETY!
We need to teach them that just because we have a disability it does not mean that we can not do things for ourselves it just means that in certain situations we might need a little assistance.”
FROM ME: “So what do you think- To be normal, does it mean not needing to ask for assistance? What is independence? What is inter-dependence?”
**70. “…OF COURSE…” Then she said, “…WHAT DO YOU EXPECT HER TO GROWUP AND BE?…” What an eye-opener!!!! That’s it! Of course all parents of value (being judgmental) have expectation built into their parenting requests, comments, etc. So why be different here?!? Learning abut blindness is the toughest part here, but possible for all. Just join the NFB Parents Division.”
**71. “In response 55, Carol Tomis (Tallahassee, Florida USA) said:
>> ‘As for using a cane indoors, don't most blind and visually
impaired people, young or old, know the way around their own home?’
Although I have limited vision, my cane resides beside the apartment
door and my hand is often extended to locate walls or furniture
before = my body plows into those objects.
First, let me say, I'm not attacking Carol--I just want to clarify
what I'd said.
I, too, don't use a cane in my own home, but Suzanne is at a learning
stage in her life. There are many skills children spend lots of time
practicing until they become second nature--skills like tying
shoelaces, reciting the alphabet, and so on. Suzanne's mother is
preparing her child for preschool by teaching her eyes & no eyes
tricks (like identifying colors), but she could also practice skills
with her daughter that will help her travel more independently in her
I'm not saying Suzanne will be perfect in every aspect of cane travel
by the time she enters school, but she'll be developing basic
techniques as well as learning the usefulness of a cane. For
example, she could practice (in her own home where she's familiar
with the layout) finding toys or other objects on the floor that are
too short for feeling with an outstretch hand, but could trip her if
she isn't aware of them. Suzanne may remember to pick up her toys at
the end of playtime, but some of her classmates may not be as
Another skill Suzanne could practice (again, in her home where she is
familiar with the layout) is locating different objects by how they
sound & feel when they're tapped--a couch gives different feedback
than, say, the trash can would, a wooden coffee table is different
from a metal chair leg, and so on. This type of activity also
fosters a child's natural tendency to want to explore his/her
surroundings--a tendency that is often squelched (often
unintentionally) by people in the child's life through subtle (and
not so subtle) hints.
Obviously, Suzanne's mother is aware of the need for establishing a
good learning foundation at home, but she might not be aware of the
variety of alternative techniques available to Suzanne. This is why
I feel groups like the Parents of Blind Children division of the NFB
are important. Parents can learn from other parents (and educators)
what works & what doesn't work in many aspects of their child's
education (academic, social, etc.). Ultimately, the parent is
responsible for making choices that will shape their child's learning
& growth, but why struggle to re-invent the wheel when you're not the
only person in the world with a blind child?
Again, I'm not saying that Suzanne should use her cane in her own
home for the rest of her life--I'm just saying that good cane travel
can start at an early age and, if it's viewed as just another skill
to help her be independent (like learning to read & write, doing
chores, etc.)--no more, no less--Suzanne will be well on her way to
being an independent, well-adjusted child and, later, adult.
Hope this helps! ;)”
Ronalene White (Fayetteville, Arkansas USA)
**72. “I think that the mother did the right thing by making her child be responsible for doing chores. It seems like some mothers don't expect their blind children to do things. I was always responsible to help with dishes, but it always stressed me out, because my sister always complained that I was too slow. I will help with something as long as the people making me help are patient with me.”
Beth Kats (San Marcos, California USA)
FROM ME: “What say you if I had written this scenario to show a mother stepping in to pickup the blind child’s toys saying, “Here Honey, this will be faster.”
**73. “Let's hear a round of applause for this mother! It is obvious that she is determined to teach her daughter to "grasp the moment," and to "suck the marrow from life." Notice how she says, "Sometimes Suzanne and I use eyesight tricks and sometimes we use our
no-eyes tricks. This wise mother has taught her daughter, Suzanne to use both methods. She has shown her how to take advantage of the limited vision that she has now while preparing her for the time when she may lose it completely. Not only is this child getting a good start in learning life skills, she is developing a sense of responsibility and belonging and allowed to have the dignity that all of us living beings, sighted or blind, need. Many children, yes, even sighted ones, never develop self esteem or a sense of responsibility because they have not been taught to, or made to do things for themselves or for the household while they were young children.
The issue of taking out the trash is especially interesting in this
situation because the child had to go outside to do this task. Young
children with vision limitations need to get outside of the house more. It may be frightening at first, but the more often it is done and with each successful outing, the easier it becomes. This is a good move on the part of the mother. As for Jane, the mother's friend, she is just showing typical ignorance. I've seen children spoken of in this manner, as though they weren't present, even when they did not have any type of problem. I too wonder what she expected a blind child to look like. Maybe she was referring to her eyes. Perhaps they were bright and opened normally. Certain eye diseases do leave the eyes looking distorted. But, this is only in some instances. When this is the case though, what is wrong with "looking blind," if you are blind. It certainly is nothing to be ashamed of!
I'd say that this is definitely a good "thought provoker." We have several good lessons set before us. The good example of a mother teaching her visually impaired child to be organized by picking up her toys, responsible by sharing in household duties, to use the vision she has while training her for the time when she may live without it, and creating in her a sense of belonging of self-esteem and yes, of dignity.
We also have a bad example of the mothers friend who speaks thoughtlessly before thinking of how what she says may affect the little girl.”
Freda Trusty-Dotson (Pensacola, Florida USA
FROM ME: “I like the fullness of this one.”
**74. “I am a prime example of a kid who was not raised like Suzanne. I’m now an adult and am not married, not a parent, not working, not living on my own and not happy. I will not lay all my woes on being raised, but when did my lack of self confidence start? This is all I’ll say for now.”
For all the nameless blind people who would like this said (the author asked that this line to be written)
**75. "I had to add one more thing based on some recent interactions. I get the opportunity every month to meet with new students and what I find is amazing as
well as consistent. Most of the students with some vision at the Center tell me that they did not use the term "blind" did not consider themselves as such
and many never used a white cane. While most did not know Braille, many knew or heard of the word itself. None had been exposed to training that included
blindfold, use of the word blind as acceptable, discussions about attitudes and most did not ever use a cane. Most did use and were exposed to low vision
devices and large print, CCTVS and magnifiers. Most had conditions that were progressive and maybe one out of any group might claim to have adequate vision
to read and travel independently. A
A good number of these folks lost their vision as adults, but many were blind at birth or early childhood, attending public or special schools for the blind.
I am not criticizing them, but I do tell them that I am sorry that no one has told them the truths about blindness and themselves. I tell them that they
are at a rehab center because they are blind and we can give them an opportunity to get proper training, alternate techniques and a positive attitude about
blindness and themselves. It amazes me that even with the Braille bill in many states that there still is such a reluctance or resistance to this "literacy
for blind people" and that "vision dependence" in print and travel are still the default. Of course, its not just the professionals in the schools, but
the University training programs and educators and organized educators who still have or seem to have a strong bent toward vision based training for folks
who are blind. They are usually opposed to strategies of non vision training and required use of cane and do not agree with the word "blind" in reference
to folks like me who have some useable vision. That is they do not agree with these techniques for adults. Most are absolutely adamant against any of this
for blind children.
I get to see some of the products of an educational and rehabilitation system many of whom cannot read , travel and have a self esteem so low because it
is based on value of vision. We do work with adults using non vision training and other positive strategies and I have encountered some staff who not only
do not like that, but are very clear that "you can't do that with children or teenagers because it will damage them...make them think they are blind...
cause trouble with parents...cause trouble with the school...etc.". One professional told us that they do not encourage their students to use a cane because
it is socially unacceptable...". Another talked about use of the term "low vision" and how that term now is more used because it is positive and seems
to reflect more what the person has. Of course, I have always wondered what was so positive about the word "low".
But what about the children and youth and preparation.? If we as professionals and blind persons do not think its okay to use the techniques and language
and require responsibility, what are we saying? It seems to me we are saying that we do not believe blind people can deal with the truth and that we ourselves
do not believe it is respectable to be blind nor the techniques acceptable.
I am not saying that there should not be care taken as to how and when to introduce techniques and strategies to younger people. What I am suggesting is
that educators and professionals need to start early on so that all of a sudden the man-child does not show up at a rehab center with little assets and
skills and only negative attitude , low expectation and setting their value based on vision. In addition to all that has been said about the home situation,
the schools can do more. When I was in school we learned many things through games, guest speakers and other creative means. Scavenger Hunts can be used
to introduce travel training under blindfold with a cane. Braille can be introduced as a different language or better yet a code. There are now books available
which depict stories about what it is like to be blind from the perspective of a blind person.
There is a need for the normalization at home and the basic blindness skills in the school. Braille, Travel and personal awareness as well as some basics
in daily living are important . Additionally, the attitudinal component about being okay to be blind and that kind of discussion can be and needs to be
started too. The battle for the mind and heart needs to start as early as possible by as many as possible, including our educators and rehab staff who
work with children.
One thing that does work well is "special events and outings" for teems...the Camps ". A weekend activity which as high expectations of the students can
be very beneficial. However, these occasional events without the basic skills development and responsibility, along with attitudes that are positive are
not going to be very effective in preparing the blind youth for adulthood.”
Edwin Kunz (Austin, Texas USA)
FROM ME: “Is what the man saying above, that to be a whole person is best?”
**76. "I can think of something that my parents asked me. They would bargain with
me and say that if I didn't poke my eye, they would buy me something. It is
almost like saying, ‘What would it take to make you break this habit?’”
Beth Kats (San Marcos, California USA)
**77. "I like the heading on this 'taking out the garbage' as in taking out the
hoary old chestnuts we have come to associated with legal blindness such as
an inability to do anything because they can't see for example. I enjoyed
the mothers down to earth attitude with her child and the fact that it
would seem the child has light and colour perception and she is using it
efficiently i.e 'pink like my Barbie dress' illustrates relating things to
herself and her world. Her friends attitude I suppose is a bit like most
people who have little or limited contact with visually impaired people. I
would not have been surprised if she had raised her voice to speak to the
child with the hug one would possibly reserve for a younger child as versus
a young lady moving onto education. But there she was discussing the child
in front of her as if she was not there. That is a no-no whilst mum happily
explains incorporating the child into her conversation with so many
positives and using so many understandable words that yes the child can
understand and then use with her peers. The fact is this mother wants her
child to explore, experience, sample all aspects of life. She has age
suitable tasks, age appropriate toys, and all in a structured environment.
The child can explore and tackle tasks safe in the knowledge that if she
does not get it right the first time mum will help her to work out the best
way to do the job giving her independence and self assertiveness and
dignity in her own abilities. I love the oooohhhhhh while mum is watching
so the child is safe from danger and that is such a normal response as they
heave the rubbish out *grin*. Then contrast it with the friends my goodness
itching to take over the task and do it herself faster and efficiently
thereby removing the childs locus of control - herself. What does the
friend envision this child will grow up to be? Possibly not very high in
her expectations whereas the mother sees the wider picture. What is cute at
a young age in doing all for the child by the time they are 10 or 11 can
see a totally dependent child who needs others to help her do things. A
child who holds the belief that unless she is helped she cannot do
anything. This is not the child the mother is raising. She is giving the
child a chance to try. Yes there will be times there are things she cannot
do but this will emerge I feel in natural progression. The mother at all
times does not seem to be asking anything too out of the ordinary or expect
the child to be better than normal. She helps prepare meals, she has
assigned jobs all within her age limits. The mother comes across to me as
being an individual with her own life, name and interests one of which is
the mother of this child who just happens to be legally blind. She has not
become lost in the quagmire of disability devoting her all and every
totally to the child. She is already looking ahead in terms of development
and life and what she is giving her child is freedom. Freedom to be
whatever she decides to be and freedome to try and feel secure okay if I
don't get it right the world will not end I will work out the way I may be
able to do it. Nothing will be seen as a defeat in this childs life but
more as an experience to grow and leanr from. Surely this is what we want
for all our children!”
Julie Robottom (Northern Region - Gresswell Cluster Australia)
**78. " As others who've responded to this thought provoker have already mentioned, blind people should be expected to do age-appropriate chores and gain age-appropriate
skills as sighted children do. In this thought provoker narrative, not only is this teaching the child that they are capable of many things many others
will not credit them for as a person who happens to have a disability, but it's a way of building Suzanne's self-confidence. When Suzanne's mother praised
Suzanne for being a good helper by picking up her toys, she's not only referring to the fact that Suzanne did as expected, but it's her way of encouraging
the idea of taking responsibility for her own belongings. I don't think that the mother was showing Suzanne off to Jane. Since we don't know what kind
of conversations may have taken place between the mother and Jane previous to Jane's visit, we can only presume that not much has transpired in educating
Jane. Even if there was, it's possible that Jane still cannot comprehend the point the mother is making; thus, the mother having Suzanne take out the
garbage in front of Jane to demonstrate.
One of the questions that you asked, Robert, was about who is teaching who in the narrative. I think that all three involved are being taught a lesson.
Not only is the mother teaching Suzanne that she is a capable person just because she's blind, but Suzanne is also learning that, "just because others
may excuse you from a simple task due to your blindness does not mean that you buy into it". Moreover, the way the mother asked Jane what she expected
Suzanne to be like will teach Suzanne to be assertive in telling people, "look, just because I'm blind does not mean that I cannot take out the garbage,
participate in class, etc." As for the mother, she is learning to be assertive with Jane about Suzanne's capabilities and what should be expected of Suzanne
by kindergarten. The mother may have already learned some of this in dealing with strangers previously, but she is, regardless of whether she's learned
this previously or just now, learning that even long-time friends can be just as ignorant as strangers can be. As for Jane, she's learning that, just
because someone has a disability does not mean that they are incapable or that they should be excused from age-appropriate tasks.
I remember many times when my grandmother would try to do things for me or insist that I'm not capable of doing such and such a task because I'm blind.
Upon those instances, my mother would make me do the task in front o my grandmother just to prove my mother's point. Down the road, this helped because
it not only taught me to be assertive with my grandmother and many other people outside of the family, but it taught me that you sometimes have to prove
yourself through demonstration. While my grandmother still continued to treat me like a child, my grandfather, on the other hand, treated me like a human
being--letting me swim in the deep end of the pool while my grandmother would not.
On the same topic of age-appropriate tasks, a couple respondents expressed the concern that the bag of garbage may have been too heavy for a five-year
-old to lift and drag out to the dumpster. in first glance of reading the narrative, we presume that the bag may have been to heavy; thus, the chore possibly
being a very high expectation. If the bag broke, I'm sure that the mother would have intervened in helping Suzanne by helping her clean it up or showing
her what to do to fix the problem. Presuming that the bag was not too heavy, however, perhaps Suzanne was listening to the interaction between her mother
and Jane but was not trying to make it obvious. After all, her mother told her to get going on taking out the garbage. If she grew up in a family like
mine, you tackled the task you were instructed to do immediately, not let one moment go by. in my family, to let one moment go by either meant hesitation
or defiance. To stop to listen to a conversation with someone else was also seen as not minding your own business.
Regardless of whether or not the bag was too heavy, though, there are age-appropriate expectations to be instilled, yet there are also limitations to
be aware of as well. Unfortunately, it's a very thin line. On the one hand, you want your child to realize how capable they are, but you want to make
them aware of their limitations. This is regardless of whether the child is blind or sighted. If it was obvious that Suzanne was truly having difficulty
lifting the bag, then the mother should be helping her rather than sit there and watch her continue struggle just so that she could prove to Jane, herself,
or anybody else that Suzanne's capable. In the same token, Suzanne should be allowed to ask for assistance. Regardless of what disability you have or
that you are sighted and able-bodied, we all need assistance with one thing or another or in finding the location of our destination when we're traveling
from point A. to point B. In the same endeavor to build your child's self-confidence and self-esteem by having your child (Suzanne in this case) take
out a heavy bag of garbage, to not allow for Suzanne to ask for assistance is actually doing Suzanne a disservice. Not only could Suzanne hurt herself
physically--throw her back out--in the process of lifting something too heavy for her, but she would learn to interpret the idea of asking for assistance
as being weak or lowering your expected value as a blind person. Thus, down the road, if she ever had to ask for assistance, she would feel like she was
inept or was lessening her capabilities. While she may not be able to lift a fifty-pound bag of garbage, she would be able to collect smaller bags of
garbage from the different rooms and take them out to the dumpster. There are other chores she could still do--wash dishes, dust, sweep the floor, etc.
They are not only age-appropriate chores, but they are chores she can do as a blind person. When she's a couple years older and is physically stronger,
then she could take out the large bags of garbage. This is, of course, provided that she does not have muscular problems that would hinder her from lifting
heavy things. We may need assistance in placing the appropriate Braille labels on our groceries, but we can still cook our food by ourselves. That does
not mean, though, that we're inept. For her to have to do a different chore than take out a bag of garbage that is much too heavy for her does not mean
that she's incapable. It just cites the fact that she has physical limitations for her age and physical strength.
My parents taught me to be independent as well as how to clean up after myself. Upon learning how to travel with a cane in my neighborhood, my mother
would send me on my own to the corner store two blocks away from our house to buy milk by just simply asking the cashier to get me what my mother sent
me there to buy. In her high expectations for me to be independent and responsible, however, she would not allow me to ask for assistance. The few times
that she would help me, she would tell me that I should have been able to figure it out. The kind of things she expected me to do was on the level of
being able to take a lawn mower apart for the first time and then put it back together in the exact same manner it came apart the way someone who has worked
with lawn mowers for years would be expected to be able to do. If something broke and I could not figure out how to put it back together, she expected
me to be able to fix it on my own; similar to opening up a car hood and fixing it, having never worked with a car in my life. In short, she had appropriately
high expectations of me in most cases, but some of the expectations were far beyond my limitations. Thus, I started to feel inept because I could not
do all she expected me to be able to do.
IN addition to physical expectations of a blind person was the topic of trying to hide your blindness vs. allowing the fact to be openly known that
you're blind. While it normally would not be socially appropriate to go up to people to see what color their clothes are up close in the manner Suzanne
has to, in the narrative, the situation was appropriate, as the mother was demonstrating to Jane how much Suzanne is able to see as well as the fact that
Suzanne is practicing her colors before entering kindergarten. The fact that the mother told Jane how she and Suzanne do eyes and no-eyes games helps
Jane to realize that Suzanne is being taught how to do things with her partial sight as well as with no sight. Moreover, it's a way of assuring Jane and
Suzanne that Suzanne does not always have to hold up objects to her eyes to see the colors to match her clothes down the road or to know what color clothes
people are wearing. I don't think that there's anything wrong with anybody who has partial sight using the little sight they do have so long as the method
is not endangering them. However, they should also learn how to do things as if they have no sight. For example, it's okay to hold objects up to your
eyes to see the colors or have your friends describe to you the colors of the clothes they are wearing, but if the partially sighted person cannot see
traffic lights or steps, then they should learn how to use a cane, listen to traffic, etc. Sooner or later, people will figure out that you're blind,
based on observations of how you do things *different* from the way *normal* people do, so there's no need to hide your blindness. Yes, there are people
who will accept you while there are others who will tease you, but that is regardless of whether you're blind or sighted.
I was mainstreamed in a public school. My friends never teased me about my blindness. In fact, they would ask me what color such and such was not
only to see how much I could really see, but it was their way of being inclusive of me as well as getting to know me as a person. These color and sight
tests were always used in fun--playing hide and seek, chase or tag, kissing the boys, etc. To close my response here, I shall relate a couple such funny
incidents that come to mind in these games; both were in sixth grade. The first was when I got to flirting with the boys by running around in the playground
at recess, chasing after the boys and kissing them. My girlfriends would guide me here and there, saying, "here's a boy" and I would kiss them. One time,
one of my friends told me this and I kissed them, I later found out that I kissed another girl. Though everyone was laughing, I was so embarrassed at
what I had done that I, too, had to laugh. Later that same school year, I bought a spray-paint-filled silver marker that is used for writing small signs
with fancy lettering. Unbeknownst to me, one of my friends took my marker. She, then, came over to me shortly before recess and asked me, "what color
is this?" Thinking that she was handing me an object, she put her hand under my nose. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, as she had colored her hand
silver. Rather than identifying the color, I screeched, "oh my God! You didn't!" Upon that, my friend and I colored on each other's faces and she drew
earring designs on my earlobes at recess."
Linda Minnesota USA