Due to the unforeseen gift of having a son who is blind, I was provided yet another opportunity this last weekend that I probably never would have had otherwise. I recently completed a graduate program for teaching students with visual impairments, and my graduation was on Sunday. I had applied, auditioned, and was accepted as one of two student commencement speakers. An honor that I think requires a person to have a unique circumstance, and a story they are willing to share.
Obviously, my unique situation is that I have a son who is blind, and because of that sought a degree to help him. What makes me appear unique to a general audience, doesn’t feel very out-of-the-norm to me. How I feel about myself, is that I am just a mom like millions of other moms. In general, mothers will do whatever it takes to care for their children and to have their needs met. In my case, that simply required going back to school.
In my speech, I was hoping to get across a few things. First, I wanted to mention that children who are blind are still just children. Second, that there is a large need for more teachers of the visually impaired, and by stating that, maybe I brought light to a profession that is not widely known. Third, I was hoping to inspire graduates to pursue opportunities to help others whenever possible. I originally went back to school simply for my family, and for Eddie. Luckily, I am now able to help other children that wouldn’t have access to appropriate educational services.
Due to my brief public appearance, I was able to spend the weekend discussing children who are blind, and the need for greater services. I brought light to the fact that many leave high school illiterate because they didn’t learn to read braille, or how to use low vision aides. Also, that the unemployment rate for adults who are visually impaired is much greater if they are not able to read and write. I was asked many times if technology has made braille obsolete. As I avoided rolling my eyes, I stated that we would never consider to stop teaching print to the sighted child, so why would we stop teaching braille to those that need it.
This experience was so rewarding because I was able to speak for myself, parents, and other educators that may or may not agree with me. However, I had a chance to reach an audience of greater than twenty thousand, and if they had given me all day, I would have spoken for hours in the hopes of improving the education of visually impaired students everywhere. I felt like I was given this moment for a reason, and even though I may never know whose life it affected, I hope that it did positively affect at least one.
The day after graduation, I was brought down to earth with a giant thud. I had to rush out of town to get Eddie to a doctor appointment halfway across the state. Not only did I have my three kids, but also two of our nieces. On top of that, my husband stayed behind to visit family. A ten hour road trip, with an appointment in the middle, and five children under the age of ten, quickly put me back in my place. I was again reminded that I am blessed with simply being a mom, which above all is my most important job.