Shifting Focus

This week, I was able to shift the “blind” focus away from Eddie a little bit and move it to his older sister, Molly. Typically, when it comes to Eddie’s disabilities and significant needs, his sister isn’t too involved. She is aware of his needs to an extent, but has her own life and her own hierarchy of needs that don’t have much to do with Eddie, which I think is healthy and appropriate. However, this week she got immersed into his world, via indirect routes.

April 25th was “Bring Your Child to Work Day,” and I opted to bring Molly along with me. As I’ve mentioned, I’m a teacher of the visually impaired. I work as an itinerant, meaning I travel between a variety of schools and districts on any given day. I thought it would be great for Molly to tag along to see what it is I do all day, but also to see other kids that have visual impairments.

On that particular day, Molly was able to meet four of my students. She helped plan lessons, and participated in every activity. She was amazing. She was attentive to these kids in ways I’ve never seen at home. She enjoyed every student, regardless of their vision loss or whatever additional disabilities they may have. The surprising thing was, that it translated to her life in ways much greater than I expected.

Since that day, she is more interested in the braille in our house; she’s even trying to learn braille. She pays more attention to her interactions with her brother. She’s showing him greater affection and consideration. It’s like she realized he is just like all the other students she met on her day with me, and he isn’t as intimidating as she thought.

We had so much fun spending the day together, and it really was mostly about her and including her in my life. However, it also was a sneaky way for her to learn more about kids with special needs. To add on to that great day, I added another outing into her week that seems to have paid off. Yet another way to help her understand that Eddie is unique, but that he also makes her unique.

There was a day camp near us specifically for children who had a sibling with a disability. Molly has a buddy that also fits that description, so I carted the two of them off for the day. They got to interact with each other, and kids that have families like ours. They made crafts, and talked about their siblings. Even though Molly was there because of Eddie, the day was about her, which was as it should be. The girls had so much fun and hope to go again next year. I believe they are making connections that will support them now and in the future.

I do think it is important that Molly can understand her brother as much as anyone can. I think she should be able to tell others about him, and be confident in how to interact with him. I think she needs to have an understanding that because of him, our family will be different, but that isn’t a bad thing. Just because there are days when he is all-consuming for me, every day of her life shouldn’t be consumed by Eddie.

Yes, she has a brother with special needs, but that isn’t the only thing that makes her unique. She is an individual herself and the most unique 9-year-old in the world as far as I’m concerned. We always say we are blessed to have Eddie, but I believe with equal resolve that we are just as blessed to have Molly. I only hope I can remember to tell her that every day.