Like a lot of people in this world, I have spent a great amount of time being annoyed about my parents, but in the recent years, I am so grateful to them I almost wish I could have given them some kind of medal.
The reason being that I consider myself to be extremely lucky and that I would have never come so far in life if it hadn’t been for them.
Having a blind child is not exactly anyone’s dream and very few people know little or nothing about this affliction before having it dumped on them in the form of a cute “bundle of joy” or baby in case you don’t like fancy phrasings. And everybody deals with it differently. Some parents, and mine are definitely among them, want their child to be just like all the other Jacks and Jills in the street. Playing on bikes, climbing trees learn to do housework to earn pocket money and one day live independently and gets a good education and work.
But that’s not all a blind child needs to learn in order to be as like his/her sighted peers as possible. There are things like posture (some blind people hold their head down and have a bent back) how to talk politely to someone by turning their head in the direction of the person they’re talking to, colours and how to dress acceptably, how to trust the other senses and use them while moving about confidently, and get rid of blindisms. That’s when a blind person makes strange movements by for example rocking for no reason, or spinning their body, head or both randomly around, which a blind child also has to learn. Trust me that is not at all fun. There are many theories as to why they do this, but I think it’s partly got to do with the energy blind people never use and sighted people use seeing.
Unfortunately though, not all parents think this way. Not really because they don’t want the best for their children, but because they just don’t know any better and my heart has recently started crying out to those children.
I used to bully them when I was younger. Being bullied in a mainstream environment because I was different, made me enjoy bullying those who were weaker and more different than me.
But recently, I have been looking at some of the blind people I have met and really taken the time to observe their character. And I find that although many have additional learning difficulties and can never be independent, a surprising number of those I would have written off as stupid only five or six years ago are pretty capable. Intelligent, not bad looking and with the same hopes and dreams as myself, but lacking in many skills they need in order to achieve a truly adult satisfying life. Just because they didn’t have a good start from home and as life goes on, they get stuck in their patterns and often fail to see how to change things.
Society also makes being blind much more impractical than it need be. And so support and encouragement from family is extremely important and especially early in life.
Singing and writing are the two things closest to my heart, but I am feeling an increasingly strong desire to help blind children and teens and parents who get blind children. I am no expert in pedagogy, and I don’t intend to re-educate, neither am I perfect, but I have good baggage from my upbringing and having lived by myself for 7 years and managed really well, getting a degree and job, I have an idea what needs to be done in other cases. I would be so happy if I was a person parents or younger blind people could call if they had simple questions or just wanted some quick advice or pep talk.
This may sound rather patronising and self righteous, but it is not meant like that. I would only want to offer those who are insecure the option of the knowledge which has made me who I am today. And perhaps indirectly help someone blind like me escape a life of dependence and/or a life they never use the full potential. But I also want to be that cool older sister figure, a little bit like a partially sighted girl I used to know, was to me when it came to boys, relationships, sex, dancing and fashion. So important in the world of teenagers. And a fully sighted person would not be able to give advice on how to try and look cool at someone’s party when everyone runs around; you are 16 and not entirely sure whether your outfit is not as cool as all the ones around you. At least not in the same way someone visually impaired could.