by Carol Castellano
Carol Castellano and her husband Bill are leaders in the National Federation of the Blind's organization for parents of blind children. They live in New Jersey with their children Serena and John. Serena is blind and John is sighted. For both of these children, the future is filled with exhilarating possibilities. With sparkle, pride, and belief Carol shares some of them with us. Here is what she has to say:
It took my daughter Serena a long time to decide just what she wanted to be when she grew up. Whereas my son was only four when he decided that he would be a dinosaur scientist, it wasn't until she was seven that Serena realized that her destiny in life was to be a folksinger. Happily she played the chords to her favorite song, "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," on my guitar.
Then came the Presidential campaign of 1992. Serena was eight. She sat rapt before the television listening intently to the speeches of both parties. After the summer's two national conventions, she realized that it wasn't a folksinger that she wanted to be after allit was a folksinging Senator. By late fall, having heard all three Presidential debates, Serena was going to be President.
Her barrage of questions about how she could learn to be President and conversations about what politicians do kept up for so long that my husband and I were convinced she really might go into politics when she was older.
In the late spring of this year, Serena went out with her father to pick early snow peas from the garden. Coming inside with her basket of peas, she told me she was very interested in gardening. "That's wonderful," I replied. "You'll be a big help to Daddy."
Overnight Serena's interest must really have taken root, because the next day she asked me if I thought the gardens at the White House were too big for the President to tend, since the President is such a busy person. "Yes," I replied. "I'm sure there's a staff of people who take care of the White House gardens." "Well then, I won't be a gardening President," she told me. "I'll just be a gardener."
The desire to be a gardener was still but a tender shoot when Serena took a piano lessonjust a few weeks after picking those peasand realized it was a pianist she wanted to be!
Serena is at such a wonderful stage of life! Interested in everything, trying everything out, she sees the world as her plum, ripe for the picking. She believes in herself, as we believe in her. And since what people believe largely determines what they do, it is critically important for parents of blind children (and other adults in the child's life) to have positive beliefs about blindness and what blind people can do.
If we are told (in a journal article or by a teacher of the blind, say) that blind children usually do not or cannot learn how to do a certain task, and if we come to believe this, chances are we will not give our child the experience or opportunity anyone would need in order to do this task. And chances are the child won't learn to do it.
Imagine, though, if weand our blind childrenwere never told that blind people couldn't accomplish a certain thing. Imagine what the results might be if everyone believed that blind people could do anything they wanted to! Well, I believe thisand attending NFB National Conventions has solidified this belief for me. It is this belief which guides the way I bring up my daughter.
My husband and I know personally or have heard speak a blind high school teacher, college professor, mathematician, scientist, car body mechanic, industrial arts teacher, Foreign Service officer, engineer, a high-performance engine builder, and a man who has sailed solo in races from San Francisco to Hawaii. This makes it possible for us to glory in the exhilarating feeling of watching a child look toward the future and see only possibilities.