Future Reflections Special Issue 2004
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What Freedom Means to Me
by Nicole White
The following address was delivered to the Parents of Blind Children Seminar at the 2001 NFB Annual Convention.
Good morning, everyone. My name is Nicole White. I am 14 years old and I will be in the ninth grade this fall. I am blind and have a hearing impairment. I also have Aspergerís Syndrome. Thatís a kind of autism. I used to have seizures a lot, but now only once in a while. I have mild cerebral palsy, but itís not very noticeable anymore. When I was sent to public school years ago, my teachers said I am retarded and have a learning disability, too; but I disagree.
When I was about 9 months old, my family joined the NFB. They have helped us through the years to learn about blindness and to get the things I needed. Now my mom does things with the NFB to help other kids, too.
Iím pretty independent now, but not totally, at least not yet. Independence means doing things on your own without help. Sometimes it can be fun being independent, like making cookies. I also like going out to play whenever I choose, making my own meals, taking care of my sister when she is sick, and going into the store by myself to buy milk and stuff. My favorite thing to buy is Pringles. Sometimes being independent can be tiring and boring. Some examples of that are making beds, unloading the dishwasher, doing laundry, washing dishes, raking and bagging leaves in the fall, and taking care of my little brother (heís so irritating). One of my jobs is to fold the towels and put them in the closet. My mother gets furious if I make a mess out of the closet and she makes me take all the towels out and refold them.
My mom homeschools me and two of my sisters. These days, I get to do my work independently. In the morning she gives me my lessons and assignments, and then I go to my room or the dining room and spend the rest of the day getting the work done. I have to get everything I need for my work by myself and then put it away, too. That includes my notebooks, textbooks, dictionaries, and computer. Also other stuff, like a math compass, grid paper, the pushpins and rubber bands to make geometry figures, my slate and stylus, Brailler, paper, and such. Of course, everyone should have to do that. I usually make my own breakfast and lunch. I fix bagels, toast, sometimes eggs, frozen waffles; stuff like that. I donít fix cereal much because I donít like it, especially Trix. During the school year, it is my job to make breakfast for my younger sister and brother. I make them cereal, because they like it. I also make instant oatmeal, doughnuts, bagels, toast, fruit, and eggs for them.
For lunch, I like to make spicy food, like a sandwich with hot peppers. I also heat up leftovers, but theyíre not my favorite. I like the spicy meals from Lean Cuisine. I enjoy cooking. Sometimes I cook dinner for my family. My favorite thing to cook is Hamburger Helper. Canned vegetables are easy. All you have to do is open the can, put them in a pot, and heat them up. The hardest part is the can opener. I wish we had an electric can opener.
Sometimes people try to take over and do things for me that I can do myself. Sometimes when Iím in a hurry, thatís ok. But most of the time it angers me and I wish they would stop. But since I am not a grown-up yet, that is often hard to tell them. My family are the most supportive people in my life. Most of the time, they help me and know that I can be independent. Mr. Tom is the greatest mobility teacher. Mr. Tom really knows what heís doing because heís blind, too. We turn mobility into fun. We go to the mall, we take buses, light-rail, and all kinds of fun things. When I am an adult, I plan to travel a lot. I want to go to Illinois, Japan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas. And I will take these trips by myself.
This summer I am going to the Colorado Center for the Blind program for middle schoolers. I went last year too. They teach me how to be independent. Even though I have multiple handicaps, and I sometimes have a lot of trouble understanding the world, Iím sure I can be what I wish to be if I have help and try hard enough. I am thankful for the help my friends and family have given me. I am glad I am growing up in the National Federation of the Blind. I am glad they believe in me, and I know I can succeed in my life.
Nicole wrote and delivered her speech in Braille. Her parents, Joe and Loretta White, have been active members and leaders in the Maryland affiliate of the NFB since Nicole was an infant.