Attitude

Quotes and Questions When Raising/Teaching Students With a Vision Impairment

A couple of quotes that have stood out for me, over the years I have been raising my children who are bright, loving, independent, unique and blind. Also some questions to be continually asking ourselves.

A number of Early Childhood Educators working with children who have a vision impairment used to tell me they did a lot of “hand-sitting” (as with teenagers one does a lot of “tongue-biting”).

Hand over hand manipulation, and too much information without experiencing, fosters an environment of little or no learning; the information or experience is not assimilated into the life of the learner.

A couple of teachers for students with a vision impairment have said that a good integration aide will “do themselves out of a job”.

The object is not to integrate the aide/assistant into the life of the student, but to have the student integrated into their own community of peers; thereby no longer having any need to be present, the student having become independent, and interdependent with their own group of peers.

A past presenter at the South Pacific Educators In Vision Impairment (SPEVI) said that the two skills he used every day of his life were orientation and mobility, and social skills. These were the two neglected for his entire schooling!

All the information in the world, and even access to it, will mean nothing if I cannot move about in, and interact with the world…my world. If I cannot belong, I will have no purpose or hope.

Some questions to leave in a personally prominent, but nevertheless private, place to foster a regular consideration of one’s motives and interactions.

Am I interacting with (name) in ways that make me an indispensible attachment to him/her?

…or…

 Am I interacting with (name) in ways that make my constant presence redundant?

 

 Are my interactions with (name) moving her/him toward independence, and interdependence within his/her peer group?

 

 Who can and will I talk with about resources, ideas that have worked already, suggestions and my own accountability in these things?

I would suggest that the student/child be named (whether this is for school or home) as one is then considering the particular person one is interacting with.

10/8/2015

I Choose…

I Choose

I choose to be seen, heard, accepted, loved and chosen…I commit to do the same (coloured words, written on black background)

So, International Women’s Day has been and gone. Lots of articles and videos on great women leaders, carers, adventurers and survivors – which I didn’t read. Of the myriad offerings, I watched one video and read one article on domestic violence. I have a very few observations to share from that which I have either witnessed or experienced:

1. I agree with those who tell us that emotional, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse, are abuse. Also that one or all of the above are pre-cursors to physical and sexual abuse.

2. I agree with health care professionals, researchers and survivors that violence of any kind, including those above which you may think aren’t really violence, escalates without intervention and doesn’t ever get better by itself. (For Christians reading this, a ‘God moment’ is intervention…by God!)

3. Domestic violence isn’t just from spouses (of whatever genre you have) or parents of children and teens. Extended family, their friends and parents of adults abuse too, that includes emotional and verbal.

4. Both spouses can be abusing each other, including physically – and both are abusers, and both are victims. Look up co-dependancy.

5. Emotional and psychological abuse of woman over man, is abuse.

And finally a few insights from Brene BrownDaring Greatly – How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.

When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies.

Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust.

Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.

Vulnerability without boundaries leads to disconnection, distrust and disengagement.

We need to feel trust to be vulnerable and we need to be vulnerable in order to trust.

The result of this mutually respectful vulnerability is increased connection, trust, and engagement.

Thanks for your time.

 

Guest Post – Child Number 3

*prepare for a random rant that probably goes all over the place and makes hardly any sense*

So in English we are currently studying a unit on protest songs and poems. The other day as we were analysing a song by Archie Roach about the stolen generation, our teacher was explaining the meaning of the word ‘prejudice’. She said it is when a person has misconceptions about another person because they are from another country, and that was all.

I understand that we didn’t have time to go into a lot of detail, and maybe she does think it can be for other things as well as a person’s nationality, but I personally thought that was a bit too narrow. The definition in the Oxford Dictionary says: “A preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. Unjust behaviour formed from such a basis”. If someone has a prejudice it could be because someone has a disability, or because they have a different religious belief to another person, or perhaps even because they were educated differently to somebody else or absolutely anything. She made it sound like a synonym for racism which I don’t believe is quite right. I think the other problem when someone has a prejudice is they don’t tend to realise they have one.

I guess this got to me a little because of past personal experiences where people have made assumptions and tried to help/teach in a way that was actually quite unhelpful or inappropriate. Please realise I’m not asking for sympathy and I understand I’ll get this kind of thing practically all my life, but if people presume they know what they’re doing all the time or aren’t happy to change their ways then how is that helping the future generation of adults (as in my age level and below) to be socially acceptable and treat everyone equally?

There. I’m done now! If you have any thoughts on the topic and feel like commenting please don’t hesitate as I’d be interested to hear what others have to say. Also note that I’m not trying to have ago at the teacher mentioned above.

Very mature response from one’s child. Very proud mother. ‘Nuff said!

 

Navigation

Navigating through myriad outward expressions of a person, community or program can be exhausting and daunting in the quest to respond, interact and relate appropriately; or according to our values and beliefs; or in a healthy way; or in the best interests of the other.

Parenting, of course, provides so much ‘opportunity’ to navigate and respond!

When our children were young we were regularly asked if we wanted to use melatonin to assist with their sleeping, as many parents of children who are blind are – or wish they had been. We declined as two of our children were good sleepers (relatively speaking) and we determined that the other child’s continued sleep issues were more person-specific. As a teen one child required meds during ‘tween’ years for seizures, on top of  being one who needs sleep, and the normal vague, weary, distance of being a teenager. Life is affected by all these, how to navigate through all experiences and choose a response is a mammoth ask.

Hindsight indicates to me that the need for routine and life management was, thankfully, the best response to attitude, sleeplessness and character development for one child. Unfortunately, a more boundary-setting and less leave-it-to-your-own-consequences response to the teen years of another would have been a more productive response.

Each family is different from another. Each individual within that family is different from another. The culture and background of each of us is going to be different one from another in every community or program we are a part of. Enjoy the journey of learning, and seeking, and responding. I have learned much about the body, the mind, the emotions, cultures, seasons of life, ideas I would never have come up with on my own from inviting input from others. I have not necessarily embraced or agreed with all I have learned, but some I certainly have, and all I have grown from. Consider as many option as you can, or are able to consider at any one time in your life – and then choose. It’ll be ok, even when hindsight shows you the choice wasn’t the best one or it was even the wrong one. Start again, as Anne Shirley (of Green Gables) said, “Tomorrow is fresh, with no mistakes in it.”

I fear choosing wrong, but I like to learn and be the other side of a growth opportunity more. So, I choose to learn and grow. Will you learn and grow with me?

 

From Stuart McDonald

I dedicate these sentiments I wrote (see below) to the people I know who find that they, too, may be beset by doubts, fears and anxieties beyond number, and who find themselves in a place of darkness, shadow and a woefully uncertain future. We live in our present because it is the only now we have.
__________________________________________________
Don’t Think That of Me (Stuart McDonald)

You cannot for a moment think of me as this person,
This man,
This wretch or this weakened idiot and fool you think me to be.
For in me, inside of me, as a man of this earth, as torn as the next and as sunken beneath the weight of my own heart as the next,
I am something else.
I am the thing you fear the most,
The faithful one
The determined and recklessly hopeful one.
Yes, quite possibly the most to be feared am I —
He who hopes even when he has none left to himself.
Emptied.
All self gone, all hope gone,
Empty.
Hollowed.
Hardly an echo of hope remains.
Hollow.
And yet I choose to still have something,
Something,
Some foreign and familiar thing
Drifting, floating and sinking within me.
Most to be feared am I.
This shell,
And this husk,
And this body burnt to a crisp.
For you would have me believe that
My fragile shell
Hollowed like a tree trunk carven an eternity ago
Struck down by lightening’s gleeful potency,
Is impotent.
And yet.
And yet, I hope.
My tears stream down my face and I hope.
In spite of my sunken soul and
This withered hand that reaches for someone else’s strength,
And wrapped in the cold blankets of the longest of winters,
I somehow choose some kind of hope.
It is not the kind I am use to.
Not me, my richest of dreams scattered in the winds like ticker tape in days gone by.
No, not like that.
And you think you can crush me?
Perhaps you can.
And perhaps even until the very last minute
I can look outside, beyond the claws
Beyond the mighty pressing weight you claim to possess
And which I certainly feel,
And perhaps even then … When all is fire and heat, and ice and stone all at once,
Even then,
I can gaze beyond this here
Beyond this now.
Even the hopeless can hope.
And I am that man.

The Crocodile Farm

There once was a crocodile farm that had two swamps for the crocodiles to enjoy; one great big one, and one teeny tiny one (that a frog barely fit into).

The crocodile farmer had two beautiful crocodiles who loved to lay in the sun beside the great big swamp to get warm. When they got too warm the two beautiful crocodiles would slide down the bank and into the cool murky water to cool off.

The two beautiful crocodiles loved their great big swamp; they loved sharing it together; they loved it when visitors to the crocodile farm came to look at them from over the fence.

One morning a truck drove up to the gate in the fence, which kept the crocodiles in and the people out. The two beautiful crocodiles, lying in the sun, didn’t move, but kept watch to see what would happen.

The gate opened…and two more crocodiles were taken out of the truck and left inside the fence, with the farmer’s two beautiful crocodiles. One of the new crocodiles was very similar to the two beautiful crocodiles, almost the same size even. The other of the two new crocodiles was HUGE! ENORMOUS! Very Impressive!

The two beautiful crocodiles thought it would be great to have the HUGE! ENORMOUS! Very Impressive! crocodile in their great big swamp with them. They thought that visitors to the farm would love looking at them even more with this HUGE! ENORMOUS! Very Impressive! crocodile sharing their swamp.

But the first-of-the-new-crocodiles was a bit skinny. The two beautiful crocodiles thought he didn’t look strong at all and also thought it was best if this one shared the teeny tiny swamp with the frog.

The HUGE! ENORMOUS! Very Impressive! crocodile enjoyed sunning himself on the bank of the great big swamp and sliding into the water when he got too warm. The two beautiful crocodiles were very glad he was in their swamp, surely the visitors to the farm would love seeing two beautiful crocodiles and one HUGE! ENORMOUS! Very Impressive! crocodile all together.

The first-of-the-new-crocodiles enjoyed being with the frog. They became great friends. But this crocodile couldn’t enjoy the teeny tiny swamp. There wasn’t even enough room or water for the frog and definitely not enough room or water for the crocodile. Some times the first-of-the-new-crocodiles became so hot that he got sick because he couldn’t slide into the murky water of the swamp to cool off. But the frog would sit beside him and they would share stories together about all the swamps and farms they had lived on and about their families. They were very great friends.

One day the crocodile farmer brought some visitors to look over the fence at his crocodiles. The visitors watched the two beautiful crocodiles and the HUGE! ENORMOUS! Very Impressive! crocodile sunning themselves on the bank and sliding into the murky water. These three crocodiles heard them saying how much they liked being able to see them there.

Not many visitors looked over the fence at the first-of-the-new-crocodiles and the frog. But they were happy being friends and the first-of-the-new-crocodiles began to sing while the frog jumped a dance to his song.

When the visitors to the farm heard the first-of-the-new-crocodiles sing they moved to his end of the fence to listen. They loved hearing the song and watching the frog dance.

After the farmer and the visitors left, the two beautiful crocodiles had a think.

They thought that the visitors liked seeing that they were beautiful; and seeing the HUGE! ENORMOUS! Very Impressive! crocodile; and enjoyed hearing the first-of-the-new-crocodiles’ song; and were amused watching the frog dance.

So, the crocodiles and the frog all decided that they would share the great big swamp because they each were special – beautiful, HUGE!, musical and funny.

They all became friends and they all had visitors come to see and hear them at the crocodile farm. Which made the farmer very pleased.

 

6/7/2014

Gina Marie

 

 

Adversity, What’s yours?

My middle and third children have a friend who has included a quote with her photo online. The quote is by Neil Marcus…

Disability is not a brave struggle or courage in the face of adversity. Disability is an art.

Now, I’ve not yet met a person who has a ‘disability’ and loves to be told that they’re amazing or brave or special or beautiful or clever or…because they can’t do some of the things someone else can. I am a parent who doesn’t really get much of a boost from being told I’m great at it just because I happen to have children who can’t see, especially by strangers. Having said that, if a person who has lived with me in some form of close relationship and/or observed my parenting as it occurs, and then says that it’s great, I may be a little chuffed. My children, likewise, will be encouraged by acknowledgement of their work and achievements; but if all the speaker knows of them is that they exist but can’t see…not much to be enraptured with there.

My children don’t see being blind as an adversity. I don’t see having children who are blind as being an adversity. In my case of course, it was not what I had imagined or knew much about, but my children have never known any different. So, what is adversity? My dictionary search suggests that the origins of the word (from French and Latin) meant to turn towards, be opposite (adverse) and the like. Being a person who can’t see or having children who can’t see isn’t adverse to us, opposing us, turning towards us; it is how we are, how it is, the direction we are travelling already.

So, what is our/my adversity?

I remember some years ago talking to a friend who gets around in a wheelchair. I was discussing with her the fact that the hazard and directional tiles that are installed to encourage independent travel (and possibly more safe travel) for those who are blind are often not placed correctly as those installing them don’t realise there is a particular way they are used, and don’t seek to be informed. During the course of the conversation though, she mentioned that they are often a risk to her as she can be thrown from her chair as she travels over them (like corrugation on a gravel road, I imagine!). I was sharing my new learning about her sometime-experience-in-life when child number one mentioned that the phone boxes installed to encourage independent use of a public phone for chair users can be a hazard for those who use a cane, as they don’t reach the ground where the tip is (bump of head, shoulder, face). What do I see in these things? Environmental and societal adversity or disability.

Similar adversity occurs in the school ground, within the education ‘system’ (teaching method, delivery, reception and learning difference, work production, submission method etc.); in the health and medical environment; in the myriad sporting genres. I guess I needn’t go on.

In all honesty, my adversity is those who see me as their adversity! And I am the adversity that someone else faces.

Realising who we are averse to and who is averse to us, or realising what is adverse to us or another is not enough though. If, in adversity, we (person, family, culture, environment, system…) only recognise that we are in a ‘face-off’, we may do battle; we may control/conform; we may add programs, equipment, beliefs etc. to others, compounding responsibility and requirements. Alternatively, if after recognising that we’re facing adversity we communicate our desires and needs and goals and experience and expertise each with the other, perhaps we can unlock a new pathway we walk together, facing the same direction. Not turned toward each other in opposition, but together turned toward a common goal, destination; an agreed path; by a new or negotiated and amalgamated system.

I think that I’m not opposed to adversity, mine or yours (but I don’t like it!). I am opposed to remaining averse to each other on all things. If we must walk or desire to walk together, we will most likely need a new mode of walking and possibly a new route or even goal to walk along and towards. Continuing along our familiar but separate paths, in our familiar but separate ways, attempting to impose these ways and paths onto those we are averse to will exacerbate not relieve adversity.

We each have adversities in life. Perhaps the question is not what they are so much as what will I do when they are revealed. Am I a heel-digger or a malleable, teachable listener and adapter and path-turner? Independently individualistic or a community-minded team player.

Permanent and persistent adversity may not live well in community, but it can be a trigger for turning towards it.

 

Today

The sun came up today and…

Showers fell around and…

Children ate their meals and…

They’re tucked in bed just now.

 

Today we all stayed dry and…

Today we all are warm and…

Today we all kept company and…

Not all alone and scorned.

 

I thought, today, that I had needs and…

Desires, today, which must be filled and…

How, today, might show a spotless house and…

Today, I and family, appear as billed.

 

But, today, we’re fed and watered and…

Today, have family and home and…

We’ve air to breathe, plans to conceive and…

Heart and mind and soul.

 

I may not be whom I imagined and…

Life may not be as I had prayed and…

I may wish for something different but…

I am who I am TODAY.

 

 

 

 

Positive Educational Experiences

So, thought I would share some of the positive experiences we have had with the formal education of our children. From local school, education department, and/or blind-specific educators and instructors. Not all-encompassing by any means, but a taste of some of the good stuff.

When child number one began life in formal education, the school accessed funding and attended to every recommendation of the Orientation and Mobility Instructor in regard to making sure the grounds of the school were reasonably suitable and safe (to the best of my knowledge).

When child number two began school, the teacher approached a local group and spoke to them in request of funds to make up a short-fall enabling the purchase of a particular piece of equipment; mentioning that for our children to share in one of these pieces of equipment was the equivalent of asking sighted siblings to share one pencil. Brilliant.

Child number three had a role in the last school production before heading to secondary school. The staff worked with this child to ensure that this one would be able to enter and exit the stage independently throughout the show. So well was this accomplished, that another member of the local community commented to someone that they had thought there was a blind student in the play, which one?

When child number one began secondary school and the art class were drawing around their shoes/feet, the teacher had prepared for our child to wrap wire around this one’s foot making a sculpture of it. This staff member also sought out and purchased equipment that would enable safe but more independent use of some equipment (bringing grateful tears to my eyes at my first parent/teacher interview).

A secondary school teacher sought out equipment that would make for a smoother road in the production of the curriculum in our children’s preferred format. Another secondary school teacher automatically produced comments on corrected work in a format independently accessible to our eldest (eliminating the need to rely on an aide or parent to read them), without being asked. One teacher also sought input from another teacher, who had previously taught our children, for ideas – without being instructed to.

We have had instructors and teachers from ‘blindness agencies’ go out of their way to serve our family. Working at providing time with male instructors in a female-dominated environment. Sacrificing time to, not equal but, provide somewhat more time than we had been receiving as ‘country/rural clients’. Phone instruction for our children and debriefing for me, the parent, on occasion. Time for conversation and incidental learning for me as a parent, and the validation of seeking my input into the services provided.

There is much to be thankful for, and which has been appreciated by our family. No one and no system is perfect (which may be reflected on in the near future also). But imperfections and mishaps, though they need to be addressed, do not take away from times of great provision, consideration and even excelling.

I am indeed grateful.