Expectation

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

Cane Verses Guide Dog

By Christine Casey…Teacher, musician, friend

Since I received Lainie, a number of people have asked me how using a guide dog is better than using a cane. I’m still not sure that I can explain it well, but here is a comparison of how I felt the other week, walking along Swanston street with Lainie compared to how I have felt doing it with a cane earlier in the year.
With a cane:
I must listen carefully as concentrating to hear voices, footsteps, traffic and the echoes off buildings, posts and pedestrians helps me to keep myself orientated. Despite my careful listening resulting in a greatly reduced number of collisions with objects and people, my cane is constantly becoming entangled in signs, seats and legs. Every thirty seconds I seem to be muttering an apology. My speed varies considerably as I focus my concentration on dodging things and people and listening for clear paths. The appearance of a street sweeper or similar constant and loud noise causes frustration as it reduces my ability to hear potential obstacles. I secretly wish the Melbourne City Council would ban all buskers as they attract crowds which block my way and require careful negotiation. While I realise that my fellow humans are probably not paying me any attention, I feel incredibly conspicuous and somewhat awkward. By the time I make it to my destination, I’m longing for a rest and some quiet.
With a guide dog:
As the dog picks a path through the crowds, I am able to relax and appreciate the sounds of the city. I hear the tram bells, and notice music drifting out from doorways and I catch snippets of conversation from passing people. A wide variety of scents waft on the air. There is a gentle sun, and a slight breeze. I feel the dog’s movements through the harness handle and follow where she guides, only paying enough attention to ensure that she continues in an overall straight direction and to detect if she should become distracted or uncertain and require encouragement or instruction. My steps flow and there is little need to vary speed, except for especially crowded patches. The music of the buskers adds something special to the atmosphere and I feel a great fondness for them and this city which I now call home. The free-flowing nature of the journey makes me feel equal to my fellow pedestrians and, while I do overhear the occasional comment on the clever dog, I feel as though I blend into the crowd. When I reach my destination, I am somehow both energised and relaxed: ready for the next task of the day.

International Day Of People With A Disability

Please

Please don’t make uninformed assumptions about my needs or requirements.

My peers and I will learn prejudice from good-intentioned ignorance.

 

Please don’t demand my independence without teaching it.

My peers and I will learn dis-ability.

 

Please don’t demand I ask for or receive help at your demand.

My peers and I will learn that I’ve no right to my own life and choices.

 

Please don’t decide my contribution based on your time constraints, energy level, prejudices, fears, and assumptions.

My peers and I will learn my only right is to live by another’s leave.

 

Please don’t decide what provision you can offer me after the funding’s been spent on everyone else’s needs first.

My peers and I will learn that my needs are wants, and not necessity.

 

Please don’t decide to ‘do for me’ what would make you feel good, important, needed, helpful.

My peers and I will learn that how you make me feel is irrelevant.

 


 

Please ask me what my needs or requirements are, or someone who has already found out what my needs are.

You can then meet the ones you are equipped and/or employed to.

 

Please ask me what independence means to me, or someone who has already found out what independence could mean and how it can be achieved for me.

You can then make informed choices about teaching it.

 

Please ask if I want/need help, and what help that might be.

You can then ‘help’ instead of hinder me.

 

Please ask me what contribution I would like to make.

You and I together can then negotiate and problem-solve our mutual contributions.

 

Please ask yourself and/or us all how our funds will best meet the needs of the group, school, community, family, country…

You and I will then each be acknowledging and meeting each other’s needs.

 

Please ask me how I feel.

You may develop:

empathy more so than sympathy

compassion more so than frustration

growth more so than ignorance

community more so than isolation

 

3/12/2014

The Opportunity of Adversity – Aimee Mullins

Aimee Mullins speaking at TED.

Aimee says it all, need I say more?

“Adversity isn’t an obstacle that we need to get around in order to resume living our life. It’s part of of our life.”

“Our responsibility is not simply shielding those we care for from adversity, but preparing them too meet it well.”

“There’s an important difference, and distinction, between the objective medical fact of my being and amputee, and the subjective societal opinion of whether or not I’m disabled.”

“We have to be careful that we don’t put the first brick in a wall that will actually disable somebody.”

“By not treating the wholeness of a person, by not acknowledging their potency, we are creating another ill on top of whatever natural struggle they might have. We are effectively grading someone’s worth to our community. So, we need to see through the pathology and into the range of human capability.”

“Adversity is just change that we haven’t adapted ourselves to yet.”

“No prognosis can account for how powerful (could be) the determinant of the quality of someone’s life.”

…And, as others have said…

“I think that the only true disability, is a crushed spirit.”

 

Sibling Issues

So, all of my three children are blind. Are there sibling issues? Yes, but not the kind that families experiencing disabilities usually have.

Let me explain.

Number two and number three were reminiscing about each time someone’s fingers or feet were jammed in a car door. I added the time I jammed number one’s hand in the hatch door of a new vehicle. I have heard them ask each other to look at something (when they were quite young), expecting the other to see it as a sighted adult in their world would – without hands.

Our issues involved teaching them that, though they could request sighted assistance from their parents, they could not expect the same from their siblings. It may have been insensitive for a sighted person not to inform them that they were closing a car door, but it was insensitive of each of them not to warn each other of the same.

So much is learned by observation, and we are inclined to presume things will be learned automatically.

There are some who don’t get the opportunity to observe much to learn from (or what has been observed is unhealthy or inappropriate).

Teaching, though, doesn’t have to be a complex lesson. It may come in the form of conversation, a shared task, verbal guidance through an experience. Some need this into adulthood because they missed out on it while maturing, others may always need some form of guided instruction, even if just verbal or hands-on information. Not because they’re unable or unwilling to learn, but because the way the world, or me, or you, or we teach and model doesn’t fit with how the other is geared to learn.

Of course, as my children have grown to be young adults (with a much broader knowledge base than as little ones), it’s difficult to ‘switch off’ the teaching talk. Much to their chagrin and/or frustration. Sorry kids!

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!

 

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

 

 

The Seed

A seed was planted in good soil, unseen by anyone, in a personal act of love by one who desired to watch it grow and flourish and become what it was designed and planted to be.

The seed began to shoot and sprout up through the soil that had been prepared by the sower.

The sower then employed a variety of people to feed and nurture and protect and make space for the seed. The seed, once dead, now alive with fresh green growth, full of vibrancy and enthusiasm to become and produce all it was designed and destined to be.

 

The bank manager knew that growth comes from financial investment. So he surrounded and covered the small green shoots with money. But the sun could not break through to give the shoots the vital nourishment they required to continue to grow.

The librarian knew that growth comes from reading and gaining new information. She loved books of good quality so she surrounded and covered the small green shoots and the money with fine leather-bound books full of knowledge. But the rain could not penetrate the beautiful leather to moisten the good soil and nourish the seed with its roots beneath the surface, which was necessary for its growth.

The vermin controller knew that growth comes when protected from predators. So he covered the small green shoots and the money and the books with wire and a baited wooden trap to keep at bay and catch any that would come to devour the shoots or dig up the seed before it could grow to maturity. But the shoots were smothered and had no space to feed and grow.

The agronomist knew that growth comes with the absence of weeds. So she sprayed over the small green shoots and the money and the books and the wire and wooden traps. But the good soil became poisoned and made the roots and shoots sick.

 

And beneath all the good intentions, the new plant began to wither.

 

The sower was watching the seed he planted and those he employed to feed and nurture and protect and make space for the seed to grow…

…and his heart was breaking.

The sower had prepared the soil, the space, and the nourishment for the seed to grow to maturity as it was designed to, but chose to share the joy and fulfillment of contributing to its growth with others.

 

The sower called together the bank manager, the librarian, the vermin controller and the agronomist to discuss the withering of the plant.

To the bank manager, the sower explained the need for sunlight to reach the shoots to nourish them. Though he meant well, the new plant was malnourished.

To the librarian, the sower explained that the beautiful books prevented the rain from moistening the soil. Though she meant well, the new plant was dying of thirst.

To the vermin controller, the sower explained that the protective measures were smothering the plant. Though he meant well, the new plant was suffocating.

To the agronomist, the sower explained that poisoning the weeds in turn poisoned the soil in which the seed was planted. Though she meant well, the new plant was sick with poison.

 

“I chose each of you for the good you might contribute to the growth of this seed I have planted. But you have each been working independently instead of interdependently. The librarian can contribute to an informed approach to vermin and weed control, plant and soil nourishment. The bank manager can contribute to financial provision and management for this education and the necessary resources. The vermin controller and agronomist can use their new education and resources to promote the plant’s growth instead of its demise.”

 

As each one stepped back and observed the tender plant, they were able to recognize what its needs might be. In turn they also enquired each of the other to learn from observations they may not have recognized, or had prior knowledge of to have even been considered.

Most importantly…

…as a team in constant communication , those employed for service to the growth of the new plant – in fact to service of the plant itself – began to listen for and hear what the little plant was telling them. They heard and could see when the plant needed moisture, or sunlight or protection or space; because they were attending to the needs of the seed instead of what they wanted to give or to do.

 

The little plant grew tall and strong and was borne of new seed so that more plants could grow, providing clean air and beauty to enjoy.

 

The workers and the sower lived with much joy and with a profound and unfathomable sense of accomplishment as they witnessed the growth, and maturity, and provision, and beauty of the little seed, which became great.

 

Gina Schmidt 26/6/2014