Don't Look

THOUGHT PROVOKER 147

Don't Look

     "Ohhh..." a faint cry of concern squeezed out from where Meagan pressed the back of her hand against her mouth. Sitting at the kitchen table, she watched her ten year old blind daughter, Carrie standing at the stove with her Rehabilitation Teacher, learning to fry her first pancake. Meagan couldn't stand it, her remaining hand flew up to cover her eyes (one bright green pupil peeking through parted fingers).

     "I think it's ready to turn over --- it slides when I touch it with the spatula." Carrie's tone suggesting both self-talk and an open question to the adult at her side.

     Pam responded with a question. "What do you think? How might you tell?"

     "Well, it's all one piece and --- when I put the spatula just a little under it, it has that special feel of not bending --- if I can catch up with it again." The sounds of a spatula tapping and scraping sounded as the young cook worked to flip the cake over, before it burned.

     "You're doing great." Pam's calming voice was intended for both Carrie and Meagan. She wasn't worried about her student. However in working with this family, it hadn't taken long to recognize the over protectiveness of the mother. And from the get-go, she had encouraged Meagan to be an observer of all lessons; though she hadn't yet noticed any major revelation on Meagan's part that blindness in and of itself wasn't a major handicapping feature to Carrie's abilities.

     Meagan, still tense, sat as quietly as she could. It always took an effort to not step in and help her daughter; watching Carrie searching for things or hesitating or fumbling with something new always pulled Meagan's heartstrings. Having Pam come in once a week to work with Carrie had been a solution to a problem that Meagan hadn't thought could be answered, until she had joined a parents group and learned that there were professionals who could teach independent living skills.

     Later, cooking and follow-up cleaning successfully completed, teacher gone, the exultant Carrie was in her room looking for an outfit that she would wear the next day for a special outing. "Oh fudge buckets --- where did that new top go?" She hurriedly fingered one hanging garment after another, sliding them sharply to the side, reaching for the next.

     "Darling, here, let me help you." Meagan stood behind her daughter, reaching out. "Is it the fuzzy purple with the square buttons, that you want?"

     "Mom, please. I can find it."

     "Oh I know, darling. I'll just be faster."

     "Mom! Pam wants me to practice more, doing stuff for myself. Okay."

     "Oh --- you're right. I'll go and start supper. So if you need me, yell." Meagan walked out of the room, making a show of leaving. However, she silently paused, aligning one eye to peek around the corner of the open doorway.

     The next day- "Meagan, hi, coming in?" Said the woman walking up to where Meagan stood waiting and watching at the corner of a lighted, moderately busy intersection. Melinda and Meagan were both members of a local chapter of Parents of blind children. The parents had agreed to wait for their children in side a coffee shop across the street from where the kids were to be dropped off. The idea being, the students would de-bus, cross the street, find the shop, come in and find their parent.

     "Oh --- I'll be in before they get to the shop --- I just worry --- oh, it's silly." Meagan knew her answer hadn't come across well; it hadn't even made her, feel better.

     "Meagan," said Melinda, lightly touching her friend's arm. "The kids will be fine. They've had training. These outings are to give them experience and as they work to learn and perfect their blindness skills, they will struggle. It's how all of us learn." Pausing, reflecting, Melinda finished with, "Meagan, may I share with you the best piece of advice I have ever been given?"

     Seeing the acceptance, the need in Meagan's eyes, Melinda said, "It was --- don't look."

RESPONSES

e-mail responses to newmanrl@cox.net

**1. I believe that this thought provoker is about common ground, finding balance, and making the playing field more even for people who are blind. Whether we are sighted parents of children who are blind, or, like myself, blind parents of children who have vision, we all want the best for our kids, and of course we want them to be safe. All children learn by falling down and getting back up again to try a new skill.
As an instructor of activities of daily living for thirty years, sadly I saw young people who were blind struggle with life skills because a caregiver was too overprotective. I've seen adults who were blind from birth ask for help because they were never taught how to even take care of their personal grooming needs. Caregivers and over protective parents are not doing their kids any favors by not letting their children learn to be independent. As parents grow older, if their children are not independent enough to problem-solve, or take care of themselves, who will do it for them? As this continues to happen, we create a culture of people who are blind that are not employable, and who depend on society for their needs. There is dignity in being as independent as one can, no matter how severe the disability. Everyone deserves to find the best life they can.

Those of us who are blind should be good mentors to parents, and more support groups are needed to help them understand that vision loss is not the end of the world.
Another good lesson to learn for those of us who are blind however, is being able to ask for help when it is needed. Everyone needs it now and then, even those who are sighted. Sometimes those of us who are blind either are extremely codependent, or way over the top with our independence. We all need to just find that healthy balance in our lives, and relax. The title, "Don't look" is a great motto to follow.

Best Wishes
Linda Samulski

**2. I am a legally blind mother. I have two sons. They are perfectly sighted. I am a mother hen. I want to do everything for them. Sometimes, I have to remind myself to step back. Perhaps mothers of blind/VI children are overprotective. But, I think, for the most part, lots of mothers want to do things for their children. They want to help them, if they could. We just have to remember that they have to fly solo at some point.

Growing up in a large family, before my RP was diagnosed, I was always being "rushed" to do things. I didn't wash the dishes fast enough, make beds fast enough, fold laundry fast enough, sweep the floor fast enough. I was constantly harangued by my older siblings to get a move on. I remember getting slapped in the back of the head if I didn't move quickly enough. I never saw it coming. I was grounded and often had my allowance taken from me. I was told I was lazy and looking to get out of chores. This left a mark on me. When I did try to hurry, I broke things, or did them entirely "wrong", inadequate or not up to their standards. Sometimes, someone would wrench something from my hands, take it out of my control, just to get it done. If my siblings didn't put things away where I "KNEW" they belonged, I often could not "SEE" to find what I was looking for. I was accused of being manipulative and looking to get out of work. I was scolded and pushed aside so that the job could get done quickly. When I became an adult and went to work, I found others in the world with the same attitude, get it done NOW. I became more and more nervous and anxious. I felt guilty as if I was constantly doing something wrong. I started to shrink away and hide from people. I was considered not have leadership abilities or to be a team player. As I was given assignments, my head told me I was going to mess it up before I even began. That was my mantra, my loop. Failure, failure, failure.

In school, I would be nervous and anxious, which gave teachers and instructors the idea that I was silly, and incapable and stupid. It just took me a little bit longer to, for example, to see the blackboard to copy assignments. I often could not finish on time to acquire material for homework. My report cards said I could be a good student if I applied myself and wasn't so lazy. If we had to solve a math problem from the blackboard, sighted students saw the problem and the solution before I even had a chance to figure out the hieroglyphics on the wall. If the teacher called on me, I would feel a rush in my belly and want to vomit. I knew I was one of the odd kids. I thought everyone saw they way I did. I didn't know I had a vision problem.

Later, when I was diagnosed with RP, it all came together. I just had difficulty seeing, but that didn't mean I couldn't do the work. I couldn't see well. But, I also realized I was afraid to do the work. I knew the criticism would be there anyway.

I still have the stigma of being slow and the fear of the judgement. I have to catch myself, to remind myself, that it is OK to do things at my own pace. Not that I want to be slower, but the reminder tells me that I am more likely to get the job done properly. I find I am quicker when I am not anxious about hurrying to get it done and messing it up altogether. There are sighted people who are slower than me.

Psychologically, some people can mess with your head pretty badly. Then, when you find out that there was a legitimate reason, you have to deal with your screwed up head as well as the blindness.

When I became a nurse, I was so proud. I kept up with the other students through sheer dint of will.

When, my mother became ill with cancer, she was a hospice patient. Medications were administered to her at home. One day, my sisters and I were caring for her and she asked for something. I got up to help her, but I was not fast enough. She told me to get away and yelled for someone to get in to her who could see what they were doing. I know she was sick, I know she was dying, I know she probably didn't realize what she was saying, but that hurt me nonetheless.

So, you see, some mothers want to help and some want to hurt. Will we ever find a balance? I guess it is up to the person who is blind to ultimately decide if the ties that bind are literally ties that bind.

When a person, any person, can do something to their optimum potential, they feel good. They can experience the exhilaration of accomplishment. A human being enjoys a proper pride, ability to function well, and the feeling that they are OK no matter what.

I believe, if this mom would "NOT LOOK," she essentialy was asking her daughter to be blinder. She was asking her daughter to "NOT LOOK" at her potential, to remain blind and locked in darkness. But, maybe this mom is taking little steps, too. She is learning to overcome her own stuff at the same time her daughter is. Perhaps they will not walk parallel lines much longer, but meet somewhere down the road. Thankfully, there are resources out there that can get past the obstacles for everyone.

Virginia Sblendorio Barnegat, NJ

**3. What a good and accurate piece! For over 30 years, I've belonged to consumer groups and worked in the rehabilitation field. During those 30 plus years, I've had students and friends who were products of their parent's actions or inactions. I'm sure that parents, other family members and the public at large frequently react in a similar manner to Megan. Whether a person, child or adult, has a disability or not, we're all concerned about safety and doing what's easiest. I imagine that stepping back and allowing someone to learn how to be more independent, is difficult. The advice to "don't look" just might be a good way for someone to deal with the concerns. In fact, we've seen many blind students who come from homes where they are overprotected and unwittingly denied the opportunity to develop positive self-confidence. Once the blind person leaves home to attend a residential center, he/she is away from the influences and limitations of well-meaning, but sometimes overprotective family and acquaintances. The student is expected to acquire independent living skills and given plenty of opportunity to acquire confidence. If a young man or woman has excellent academic and computer knowledge, but has poor orientation and mobility skills or depends on others for personal, financial and home management, that person is not truly independent. Megan's participation in a parental support group is a great step in the right direction. In many ways, she is in as much need of awareness, education and support as her daughter.

Doug Hall Daytona Beach, FL

**4. Telling a parent of a blind child not to look, while their child is doing something they consider dangerous for a blind child, is definitely the easy answer. But, I don't agree with that approach.

When I was growing up, I was fortunate to have parents who were very encouraging. They let me try things, at home, that I learned in school. My mother helped me, when I was cooking, and encouraged me to try everything.
The only thing she couldn't watch was when I used the sewing machine. She said she was sure I'd get the needle through my finger. Even though she didn't want to watch, she never kept me from using the sewing machine. (I never caught my finger with the needle!)

I'm sure my parents were frightened, sometimes, when I wanted to try something new...something they didn't think I could do, or know how I'd do it. But, they learned, by watching what I learned, and became much more comfortable.

So, I don't think it's a good idea to tell a parent not to watch. If they never watch, they'll keep their insecurities and fears. They'll never learn about the alternative techniques their blind child has been taught. If the parent constantly hovers and won't allow the child to use the skills he/she has been taught, the child will learn to be unsure and insecure, from the parent, and begin to allow the parent, or someone else, to do things for them. Soon, they'll lose the skills they've been taught, and this won't be good for anyone.

I think the initial fear and apprehension the parent feels will be short-lived. As they witness the successes of their blind child, they'll gain confidence in the child and their instructors.

So, I don't believe it's a good thing to tell a parent not to look.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, Pa.

**5. First I will begin by saying that a parent will forever be protective of their child whether or not they have a disability. Whether a child is grown or little a parent wants what is best and wants to keep them safe and healthy. All parents must learn to let go and allow a child to not only grow, but become the individual they should and must be.
With blindness, however, society, including parents, have this idea that we are in more danger and are less capable. Even with training we are still viewed as less efficient and less capable. The problem is not in accepting that the blind can learn and engage, but it is accepting that we are equal and no different. We can flip pancakes just as well and efficiently as anyone else, at least those of us who enjoy cooking!
Being blind does not equate to being slower or less efficient. We can compete with the rest of the world whether it be a job, school or parenting and we are not doing things less quickly or productively. The mother thought she could find the top quicker than her daughter, but not only is she taking independence away from her daughter, but she is giving into the stereotype that the blind do things slower.
Whether or not one is dealing with a child or an adult they must realize that those who are blind do not necessarily need extra help. I usually tell people that if they would not offer certain assistance to others then they do not need to offer it to me. We are not just getting by the best we can we are living life like everyone else we just may use different tools or methods. People so often tell me that it is so great I can smile as though it must be difficult to do so living my life without vision, but I don't understand this because I am very content and happy with my life.
I have met children and adults who were blind and their parents were over protective and did way to many things for them. Most of them lack social skills and are not able to be independent and self functioning. Any parent who allows their child to shirk responsibility needs a swift kick to the donkey, but especially parents of blind children. We are not special, incapable beings who need sheltering. I may not articulate this properly, but independence is so much more than reading Braille and working for minimum wage. Please do not misunderstand me because I am an avid advocator of Braille and their is nothing wrong with minimum wage employment, but do we hold ourselves back? Do we realize our full potential? Parents should nurture and cultivate this potential in blind children, not supress it.
Children are like flowers and they need to be nurtured and watered to grow and prosper, but if we do not nurture them they wilt and fade. With blind children parents hold the power to do so.

Bridgit Pollpeter, NFB

**6. Many people have been caught up in the issue of trying to overdo the assistance role, be it a parent, teacher, friend or priest. However, my situation was unique in that my grandparents raised me in a sheltered environment. I attended a school for the blind in Philadelphia where other kids were like me, blind, of course, and some of them were sheltered as well.

There were people who attended the school who were more advanced in their daily living skills at an earlier age, where parents or guardians did not shelter their children, and they instructed those of us who were less fortunate in the experience category to explore, get hurt and be made aware of the bumps and bruises we'd get on the road to finding freedom in the dark world of the blind. Did I just say that? Excuse me, but that's how one feels if one is sheltered and then comes to the realization that this is not normal and that there are other things out there besides rocking, playing the radio and sitting around.

When my grandparents decided that they could no longer provide me what I needed in terms of educational opportunities and opportunities to grow and mature, I was adopted out to a foster family whose mission it was to break me away from the stigmas of the blind and allow me to associate rather freely with sighted people, attend mainstream schools and to get mobility and typing training so that I could function more normally.

I didn't ride a two wheeled bike until age 12, because my grandmother thought I would hurt myself or something. I didn't know about proper social graces until that time as well, because it was felt by my grandparents that what I didn't know wouldn't hurt me. And, that wouldn't stand me in good ranks for the rest of my life.

Sheltering a child or an adult who happens to be blind by either ignoring situations and hoping that they'll go away, or by doing for one instead of allowing that person to do for him or herself tends to keep the cocoon living at a premium.

The parent here, is always doing, thinking about doing, getting in the way of progress, and has to be reassured by others that things will be fine, and this is how it seems to have been in my younger days, because back then, this is how it was done.

I would hope that the parents of blind children or otherwise disabled children or caregivers to adults would have reformulated their thought processes so that people could learn to perform even the simplest tasks, and that could be allowed too make mistakes and to learn from their missteps so that they could improve and be self reliant.

Unless walls are broken down by educators, by persons who work with the various state and local blindness agencies, and people who are disabled and perhaps blind come to realize that there is a greater world out there to explore, this type of story will reoccur. In time, I can see progress if people do not mother or smother by allow people to grow and learn, and in doing so, the myth of the helpless blind person will be defeated.

Thanks.
Mike Townsend Dunellen, New Jersey

**7. I have never born or raised children but as a woman who has been blind since birth I watched my mother and learned a lot about her attitudes toward me. We became very close after I grew up and she told me many things that most blind people don't get to hear from their parents. She told me about being a mother, whether the child is blind or sighted.

I believe that this is the story of a mom just being a mom. She might have treated a sighted daughter in a similar manner as that child took risks doing gymnastics or taking a long bus trip through a crowded city. The difference is that the mother in this story didn't expect her blind child to use a stove or find things for herself in her closet as a mom would expect a sighted girl to do.

Chris Coulter Edmonds, Washington

**8. Overprotective parents is not new in this day and age; they have been around for ages. It is worse when the parents are from Europe, but it is shocking also that there are many American parents, born and raised in this country, who cannot let go and won't let go. I know a blind man still living with his mommy, who never lived on his own, and wonder what will happen when she dies. He is in his mid-fifties, never married, never had kids, etc. So many overprotected blind never develop their blindness skills and are sheltered to the point where they never get out on their own. My mother did it to me. She did not want me to grow up. Even after I came of age in the late 1970's, she did not want me to date anyone, did not even approve of the blind friends my age that I had. After they would leave from their visits with me, she would tell me what she found wrong with them in their manners and such. I got so frustrated that I gave up. I finally moved to California in 1980 to get out from under her wings. Of course, life has not always been easy; I never expected a bed of roses and such unrealistic stuff. I faced it head-on. I certainly did not want to end up in an institution somewhere in the states after Mom passed away in 1991. The relatives would have seen to that if I had not moved out on my own and so far away. Their old-school Euro beliefs is that blind people should not be seen or heard but hidden away in some state-run home. They cannot imagine cooking or keeping house without sight. If you can't see, you can't take care of yourself. Of course, I disagree with them. But, then, there is another side of the coin: What about those blind people who never learn the proper life skills and blunder their way through life, living in run-down housing left by grandparents who raised them because their own parents did not want them as children? There's another one to think about. They continue to blunder and don't know that they can do better, and when you tell them they can, they say they don't want to go to the city to a blind center to learn the proper way of doing stuff. Oh, dear, I know I am stepping into a gray area, and I apologize, but really, my friendship ended with one of these uneducated blind when I told him that you are judged by how you behave in public and he told me to go and blank myself. That hurt; this reaction is not OK with me. Mouth off to the wrong person, and friendship ends faster than you can say your own name. Well, the county where he lives won't step in and he has no family and no one knows what to do with him. that is just how it is. Overprotective parents and uneducated grandparents do more harm than good.

Marie, Sacramento, CA

**9. Is this really how a portion of blind people grow up? Or how a portion of blind parents socialize? I grew up in rural Vermont, and while I did have a state worker who tried to teach me things like Optacon and basic kitchen/domestic stuff, and I must have had *some* mobility training to know how to use a cane ... My parents never had any sort of peer group, nor did I socialize with any other blind kids-- there were none my age, and those my age and I violently did not get along.

I had overprotective parents, especially my mother, but even my father- son bond was seriously retarded because of Dad's underestimation of me. It never occurred to me to ask for help looking for something, or walking somewhere, or making a meal; kids did it, my parents wouldn't like it, those were givens and I had to work with those facts. Rather than fix the problem, it made things worse; people resented me for not coming to them for help, for not needing or recognizing help offered
to me, and for succeeding where they swore up and down I could not.
Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Poor Carrie will end up running away from home by the time she's 16; she'll either alienate her mother or succumb to the pressure to be passive and thus become a burden, if she doesn't get out from between the two opposing dynamics.

Mark BurningHawk

**10. Great story. Fortunately, I did not lose my sight until adulthood, and I had the further good fortune of going through rehab as a resident at a VA facility; however, I have experienced a great willingness by un-knowing people to be overly accommodating at times. The really fun one is visiting a stranger's home and asking to use the bathroom. You can feel the concern fill the room, but I think this would be a great line to use in those instances, i.e. "Don't look. I'll be fine. My aim is great!" Keep 'em coming.

Jim Theall, Longmont, CO

**11. I've often wondered what I would do if I had a blind child. And that's assuming that
she had no other disabilities. I wouldn't dare say that it's easy. In many cases, the
family is caught completely off-guard, such as an accident, and they have to learn
everything from scratch. (Which sounds like your case, Mister Newman.)

On the other hand, if blindness is hereditary, the family might be better prepared.
Even then, it depends on the attitude of the family. As long as they're not freaked
out by disability, they could deal with it rationally.

"Acceptance" is not just an attitude for the blind: sighted people have to accept
the blindness of others before any progress can take place.

Because Megan has accepted her daughter's blindness, she now has to take an even
bigger step: she must allow Carrie to learn. And Carrie must learn by being allowed to
make mistakes, and even getting a few bumps and scratches in the process. As the
saying goes, "Smooth seas make sissy sailors."

Megan needs to see this logically. ALL children need to learn how to cook, whether
they can see or not. In Carrie's case, she has to learn by touch, sound and smell.
("Cooking without looking," so to speak.) It's just another form of orientation and
mobility.

I hope I would have the courage to deal with it if I had a kid like Carrie. If she gets
hurt, or makes mistakes, I would want to encourage her to get right back on the horse.
Keep practicing, and you'll get it. That's what I had in mind when I wrote Thought
Provoker #137 ("Follow the Leader"). But that was only a story. Rhoda is not a real
person. So would I step up and do the right thing at crunch time if I had to teach a
blind child in real life? I hope so.

David Lafleche RI

**12. This TP suggests to me a premise I've tried to maintain and share with
others: that being, if we do a good job teaching the kids self help and self advocacy, we'll have less to worry about with over protective parents, as the kids will walk the talk of independence and self reliance. It sounds as though the student in this TP is well on her way to helping her mom accept that a well trained blind student will be well prepared for the world that awaits.

kat Guam

**13. As Rehabilitation Teachers working with older blind and vision impaired people, Cathy and I must constantly work equally hard with family members of our clients. Children of blind adults are as overprotective as are parents of blind children. It's what we do when we fear for the well-being of our loved ones. It is a far stretch to think that we can educate the entire world about blind people's capacity to learn and to live full, productive lives. But before we can successfully integrate a blind person as equal partners in their community, we need to involve their family and close friends . Finding ways to gain their support, understanding and belief in their loved one is critical to that person's rehabilitation.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L

**14. I had a marriage that ended over this issue. If only he'd taken that advice. My ex couldn't bear to watch me do things like open boxes with a sharp knife. I'd tell him "don't look", but he never turned his attention away from me until either I, or he, completed the task at hand. It's not like us being able to do things independently makes parents or spouses useless, is it?

Abby ACB-L

**15. Oh, I have to respond to this one. I haven't had time in a while but this one is really close to home. My parents were really over protective. I was afraid of little, quiet streets like the one in front of your house, Robert. Now I play in the traffic for a living. When I was working at the orientation center in Lincoln, my mom came up to see me and, since I was working part of the day before I took off to be with her, she watched me teach. She swore she would never watch again. I made her so nervous out on 48 and O street that she sat in her car chewing on her nails. I can't remember after all these years what the lesson was but I assume her overall feelings were the typical ones that uninformed sighted people have when they watch us in the street. Add to that the fact of her being my mother and never learning not to be protective, I'm rather surprised she didn't interfere. Maybe by then she was wise enough to know I would have killed her on the spot. It wasn't long after that day that she did something remarkable. I was living in an old building with a manual freight elevator. I had to hold the button down and get the inside door even with the outer gate. I did this by putting my hand through the gate and feeling the outer gate until it was even. A furniture mover had the audacity to reach up and pull my hand out without so much as a by your leave. Well, we have come to expect such treatment from such people haven't we. My mom was standing in the back holding a --- lamp, table, box or something. She just laughed and said something to the effect that if I got my hand hurt I would learn. I was so impressed with my mom that I forgot all about being insulted by the mover. And needless to say, I was still the one who controlled the elevator and determined when the gates were level.

Jane Lansaw TX

**16. I once heard my mother tell someone that she would leave the room in order to not help me do something and it always got done successfully.

Shelley J. Alongi CA

**17. I think that Carrie's at the right age of learning how to cook and do a lot of things independently. Meahan just has to learn and accept the fact that blind people, including her daughter, are no different than sighted people. Like sighted people, blind people learn and struggle a little as they learn. All of us--sighted and blind--fall and skin our knees, and we learn to get up, brush ourselves off, and continue on with what we're doing. It's one thing for Meagan to ask, "May I help you look for something, Carrie?", but it's another to say, :"Here, Carrie, let me help you look for whatever you're looking for because I can do it faster." Sure, Meagan may be able to do it faster, but Carrie has to learn her own way of looking for things. Besides, she may get to a point where it might be faster for Carrie to find something than it would be for Meagan. That sometimes happens when I'm helping John look for something.

Another form of over-protectiveness, or hindrance, I've experienced was when my adopted mother suggested that I cook the family breakfast. Of course, I was thrilled over this because I could practice my cooking skills. I was twelve years old when this happened. However, I never got to do that again because it took me two hours to get the meal together. Moreover, she wouldn't let me help her in the kitchen. But, beyond learning techniques in cooking classes, I acquired other techniques from watching my adopted mother cook. So, once I moved out on my own, I put all that I'd learned into one mental package to teach myself as I fine-tuned my cooking skills.
With the teaching of friends and other people outside the family, I've learned how to sew, drive a car, etc. The only family member who let me learn side-by-side with them as they fixed things was my adopted dad. He taught me how engines worked and the different sounds as he fixed his car. So, when John and I bought our home, I was able, and still able, to help him with a lot of things. I helped him fix our lawn mower, start the chain saw, and when he wasn't able to walk to push the lawn mower either, I took over with him giving me directions via walkie-talkie. Unfortunately, I now suffer from arthritis and mild fibromyalgia to cut the grass, but there are still a lot of other things I'm able to do that require a lot of walking or standing. Of course, what we're able to do never ceases to amaze our neighbors.

Linda MN

**18. Over protectiveness does not only exist among parents of blind children, but it is the natural instinct of most parents. I remember reading an article once about a woman who put her kindergarten child on a school bus for the first time. It devastated her to cut that umbilical cord for the second time in her daughter's life. You can imagine the emotions that ran through her that day. Being the parent of a child impaired in any way those emotions are intensified. Don't demonize the over protective parent, get them help like this child's teacher and let them learn along with their son or daughter. There are plenty of parents that can be demonized now days, and their kids aren't necessarily handicapped.

Judith Bron NFB Writers' Division mailing list

**19. I love this provoker. I sometimes have to deal with an impatient mom, but I find my dad to be pretty patient. But working with both parents is kind of fun when it comes to cooking. But I don't get to do outings much because there is no chapter of NOBPC here in Brevard County Florida. We just have FFCVI, and Mom probably doesn't join it much because I'm too old or something. That's all. And even then, my poor mom and I are never patient with each other in the kitchen, but patience I have learned is important. Looking is fine when you absolutely can't find something, but my mom's advice is: it'll turn up.

Beth NFB Blind Educators mailing list

**20. Capabilities of what a blind person can accomplish are what this essay is about. We the blind community are conscious of what we can achieve either independently, or collectively.

A blind individual without the tools needed to perform daily tasks, is like a stagnant puddle of water. People see that useless puddle, then quickly move on, forgetting about the existence of that worthless fragment of water.

A blind person who lacks the skills is a pitiful sight, and soon will be forgotten about, and will be swept away into the cracks of society.

Now this essay has a ten year old girl who is blind learning the skills to function independently. We are viewing this young girl through the eyes of her mother. Obviously the parent loves her daughter dearly, and is concerned for her welfare. However all the unease Meagan has won't change the fact that Kerrie is blind.

This article isn't so much about Kerrie as it is about her mother.

This commentary doesn't furbish us with the information of whether Kerrie lost her vision from birth, what ever medical explanation has no significant value to this commentary. Perhaps Meagan recently lost her vision; I believe this is a vital piece of information that was ignored

If Meagan learned Kerrie was blind from birth, she needed to locate organizations that could facilitate her with the answers she needs to raise a blind child. Interrelating with others who have a blind child isn't an option, it is a necessity. Being an active member of the NFB I'm aware that there is a dynamic group of parents of blind children. If the ACB or any other blind related organization has a corresponding faction of parents of blind children I'll freely admit I am ignorant of this.

If Megan was conversant that Kerrie was blind from birth, then the responsibility for her daughter's welfare can't wait until she is older. No: rehabilitation must take place immediately!

Even if Kerrie lost her vision, the burden of responsibility to enroll Kerrie where she can gain rehabilitation is Meagan's responsibility.

Being over protective towards Kerrie or any blind child will directly infringe upon the development in both a social and the purposeful growth of a blind child.

I can directly relate to this commentary. When I lost my vision my family did everything for me from cutting my food, to laying out my clothes. When my mother told me one early morning to do it myself I was both shocked, and angry. However those three words impelled me to seek out rehabilitation. Thirty two years later thanks to my mother I'm an independent person who views blindness not as a handicap, rather a way of life.

PETER POLIEY JR

**21. This story is very reminiscent of how it was with my mother and father. However, my mother was quite tough on me, making sure I learned how to do things on my own. When I was a child, I was expected to do everything my siblings did, including to play outside and keep my room clean.

However, my mother did look to make sure I was able to do what I said I could do; then, she walked away. She went into another room and watched TV or cleaned when I was cooking dinner so she did not step in unnecessarily. When I told her I could iron and scrub the floor after going to an ADL skills program, she sat and watched out of amazement -- even for she who had tried to make sure I could do everything as much as possible.

When I got married, I was insecure when others tried to help me to clean my kitchen. After a while, when I had gained confidence, I said, "oh, do you want to clean this (oven, sink, etc.) too? I taught our children how to be good housekeepers, to do their own laundry at a young age, and how to cook. Megan will do the right thing because she will want her daughter to grow up to be independent. It is easier for people to do things for us, and sometimes we need to let them; but sometimes we need to let them see us struggle (or not) in order to take care of our own needs. If we don't, then we will develop a strong case of learned helplessness. That, indeed, is not pretty to watch or experience.

Christy Crespin

**22. This month's Thought Provoker is more than involving parents. I believe it evolves spouses and significant others as well. I understand the protectiveness of our children. However, we must also let the children experience the living experiences to grow. I some times submit myself to the easy way and then find myself losing independence. Even to the point of laziness.

Jack Mindrup Nebraska

**23. When the last surgery to attempt to stem the progress of my congenital glaucoma failed, I was eight years old. The surgeon sat my twenty-five year old mother down and explained that she had a choice to make. She could shelter and protect me, doing everything for me now that I was going to be totally blind. Or, she could allow me to grow up as much like my sighted siblings as possible and not allow her own fears to interfere with my discovery of what I could accomplish. A couple of years ago I wrote about my relationship with this remarkable mother who choose the harder path. I will past it here if you want to use it.

Wind Beneath My Wings

By DeAnna Noriega

My mother was only seventeen when I was born. I was the first of her five children. Six months after my birth, I was diagnosed as suffering from congenital glaucoma. The prognosis was not good. My mother was told that I would probably be totally blind by age ten.

Back then, many of the surgical techniques which are used successfully today, did not exist. The primary treatment then was a course of drugs administered in eye drops to control the pressure inside the eye. With each uncontrolled rise in pressure, irreversible damage was done as the lens within the eye was forced back against the delicate retina, destroying more rods and cones necessary for vision. Unlike the adult onset of glaucoma the congenital form is quite painful.

Three operations to stabilize my condition were attempted between the ages of five and eight. The last of these left me without light perception, totally blind.

By that time, I had two normally sighted brothers, two and four years younger than myself. My mother had no experience to guide her in rearing a visually impaired child. She had never known a blind person, nor were there any experts to turn to for advice. I was a lively child, curious about everything and independent in temperament. Mom decided that since she knew so little; the best plan was to stand back and let me discover for myself, what my limitations might be.

Many years later, my mother admitted that there were often times when she watched fearfully from the kitchen window as I ran full tilt in to a tree or backyard fence. She fought the natural impulse to rush out to the rescue unless I really seemed hurt. She held her breath as I climbed trees, stood on the seat to pump my swing or played rough and tumble games with my younger brothers. Sometimes, she put aside housework to help me learn to roller skate or jump rope. Never did she impose her own fears for my safety on me. She always encouraged me to try new things, understanding that this was the only way I would learn to handle them. She didn't want her fear transmitted to me, burdening me with another handicap to overcome in addition to blindness.

As I grew into a young girl, she taught me how to do housework, sew and cook. This not only gave her an extra pair of hands around the house, but permitted me a sense of competence and usefulness. I never realized that the reason she directed me through the steps of preparing a meal, from another room was because she found it difficult to watch me handling sharp knives or hot pans on the stove or in the oven.

She worked hard to see that I didn't develop any of the blindisms which would single me out as different from my sighted peers. She gently admonished me to look in her direction when I spoke to her and to hold my head up high. She offered advice on which colors went together and looked best on me. She spent a lot of time shopping and sewing for me to make sure I dressed in the latest fashions. She taught me to feel confidence in my appearance and to take pride in good grooming.

She drove miles to take me to special camps and other activities with visually impaired youngsters, so that I could practice such social skills as learning to dance. I could then take these skills and use them confidently back in my sighted community. Most of all, my Mother gave me the gift of freedom to try my wings. She held back from offering me comfort when I fell unless I was actually hurt, gave it freely when I did, and never intimated that she thought I might fall. My wonderful Mom understood that to truly love a handicapped child meant that she must suffer in silence through her own fears and doubts and let me go. She knew instinctively that if she tried to protect and shelter her little wounded chick; I might never learn to reach for my full potential in life.

I am now the mother of three grown children, grandmother of two, married to a fine man and a business woman. I was the first in my family to obtain a college degree. I spent two and a half years serving in the Peace Corps and once climbed a ten thousand foot mountain. All of these accomplishments are mine because my mother was brave enough to let me run and play, to explore and to grow, just like her other four unimpaired children. She was always there to offer a hug or word of encouragement, but never there to teach me her fears. She was the wind beneath my wings.

Published in the Braille Forum Volume xxxvi May 1998.

DeAnna And Curtis Noriega

**24. We want our children to succeed, but it's hard to know where a line exists between being protective and being overprotective. That line becomes even hazier when a child is blind, no matter what skills he/she has been taught. If a child's attention wanders just a bit, disaster can be the result, and mom knows it. Mom also knows that society will blame her if she fails to protect her child from hurt. It can be a real dilemma.

Carolyn Gold Clearwater, FL

**25. When I first read the TP, my thought was to disagree with the TP's author's advice of “Don't Look.” We do want our parents of blind children to watch and learn. On my second reading of the TP, I noted that the author had the teacher asking the mother to participate by watching. Also, at the TP’s conclusion, the friend who gave the advice, gave it with an explanation, a codicil of "
if, when" (watching the kid is okay, but expect some mistakes during the stage of first learning, so don't get freaked, don't look.). I'm sure there are many a blind person, a youth or an adult, who are out there who on a daily basis think 'don't Look,' this short phrase. Who wants to be watched, judged and interfered with by well meaning family or other observers.

On those occasions when someone may get the urge to perform an act that may warrant being told to, "son't Look," I can see myself responding with, "Please, I rather do it myself!" While possibly thinking other not so polite words.

Marine Koke SD

**26. Something struck me here about parenting in general. One day I was scolding my sixteen year old daughter for the state of her bedroom. I am totally blind and both of my daughters are fully sighted. Angelyn's flippant response was that she only left her room in disarray so I would feel needed. "You know that people with disabilities need to feel they are contributing members of society," she teased. I swatted my brat and said, "You have my permission to need me less and pick up after yourself!" In retrospect, I probably did do too much for my children from time to time. Angelyn called from college to ask me at work how to boil an egg. Kassia is still likely at thirty to ask me to sew on a button or mend a split seam. Not because either girl was or is incapable of figuring it out, but it was just easier to ask mom. I am still the one everyone in the house asks to help when looking for a lost item, this despite the fact that the other five members of the household have good vision. The thing every parent needs to keep in mind is that their children won't always be five, ten or fifteen. Whether they are visually impaired or fully sighted, they will need the skills to take care of themselves someday. A good parent tries to guide and protect, but also to teach and to give a child the tools he or she will need to be a competent contributing member of society.

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega, Missouri

**27. Very interesting thought provoker. One of the things that happens with me when walking with my husband is that I have to not look. When? When he boards a train, and goes over the "Gap". When he goes down stairs I have difficulty with. I know he is perfectly capable of doing these things, because he has done them hundreds if not thousands of times, but I still have to remind myself not to watch his feet, that he can handle it. Maybe it's just built in when you care for someone. But logic and emotion are two different things, and it's often very difficult to let logic govern.

Lori Stayer NY

**28. Oh I can't believe how mean and cruel some people are. I don't know if they know it or not. After ylu learn a skill and can do it fast, then it's time for encouragement to hurry up. You need to learn a skill before you can do it fast. Sometimes people just want to get or keep that problem of having a blind child under the rug, I think. Maybe some of this might be unintelligence. I know a man who works in the same hospital I do. He's deaf and his dad wouldn't let him learn sign language. The poor guy had to communicate, so he sort of made his own signs. He did eventuaally learn it, but he must have been several years behind his peers. Parents should open doors for people, not shut them in their face. There were times when my dad would say that I should wait in the car when he went into the store because he could go quicker. I never could see the point to this because I could walk very fast and we did all the time. There weren't very many times when he did this, thank goodness.I think kids should be allowed to explain to parents how they feel. Sometimes, though it's hard for them to do this when they might not even know. Like the person who couldn't see the blackboard, the problem is there, but the kid doesn't know what it is. I was totally blind from birth and my parents didn't know it until a friend pointed out that I wasn't tracking a pencil as it moved along in front of me. Thank goodness they found out as quick as they did. Mother just took it for granted that I'd do things a little slower because I couldn't see. People should get advice from social workers and other professionals. If they find good ones, it sure does help if they get them early.

Leslie Oldhang99

**29. As I said in my previous response, parents of blind children, or of children of other disabilities, have to learn to stand back while their children learn adaptive independent-living skills. Likewise, they have to allow their children to explore and ask questions. I remember when my adopted mother found out in my late teens that I'd been smoking (cigarettes) secretly for awhile. Naturally, she was angry and gave me the usual lecture about smoking being a bad habit even though she, herself, was smoking like a chimney. I decided to quit then, however, I started up again when I was twenty-one. This time, rather than lecturing me about smoking being a bad habit, she ragged on me about smoking in the house even though my stepdad had been smoking in the house all that time. What it boiled down to by the end of the family argument was that she was afraid that I would start a fire with my cigarettes or burn the table. My argument was that my stepdad could start a fire or burn the table just as easily as I could even though he's sighted. My stepdad's argument was that I was twenty-one years old and was no longer a child, therefore, I should be allowed to smoke in or around the house if I wanted to like he could. So, she dropped the entire issue altogether. Of course, the whole thing was silly, but that's another form of over-protectiveness that parents of disabled children put on their children.

Linda MN