Recently, my ten-year-old daughter’s class read the story of Louis Braille in their reading textbook. Naturally, being a teacher of the visually impaired, and a parent of a blind child, I really wanted to talk to her class. Luckily, my daughter didn’t mind that her brother would inevitably come up. She asked her teacher if I could come in, and her teacher willingly agreed…seemingly excited to have me as a guest.
My first question to this fourth grade class was, “Does anybody here know somebody who is blind?” Most of the twenty or so kids raised their hands. I then said, “Please put your hand down if you’re thinking of Eddie.” All but two kids put down their hands…no surprise there. One legitimately did have a grandfather who was blind, and one girl knew somebody who spoke sign language…common mistake, as we all know.
I then asked the kids, “What are some things that blind people can’t do?” I heard all kinds of remarks and to each one I had a rebuttal. My point was to teach them that there really are no barriers when it comes to blindness, and that it truly is only a physical difference. This is when I had to describe a little about Eddie, and why his actions are not related to blindness, but instead to autism.
Some may think this is an unnecessary lesson, to distinguish between disabilities, but I wholeheartedly disagree. If Eddie’s peers grow up thinking all people who are blind throw public tantrums, have significant developmental delays, and swing their canes wildly in the air…well, that paints an unfair picture for every other person who is visually impaired. The correlation may not matter now, but someday it might matter a lot. It also gave us a chance to discuss that people who are blind can have other disabilities as well.
The highlight for me was of course talking about the braille cell, showing off a brailler, bringing up a picture of an eye on my iPad, and explaining a little bit about a cane. Actually, it was all a highlight. I love talking about blindness and informing people of all ages. It matters to me on a very personal level, because I happen to love somebody who is blind an awful lot.
The day after my visit, I received a stack of thank you notes; two are displayed in this posting. It was awesome to feel so appreciated, and to see so many cards displaying accurate braille, drawings of people who are blind, and even detailed brailler graphics. To my surprise, I was asked to come back next week and talk to another class. I’m sure you already know that I cannot wait.