Future Reflections April 1982, Vol. 1 No. 3

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THE JOY OF SUMMER

By: Gary Wunder

As I begin to write this article it is Mid-February and the weather is uncharacteristically warm. The feeling of freedom is hard to express in
words after the long weeks of cold winds and snows that kept many of us bundled in too much clothing to appreciate the out of doors.

At the same time there is this wonderful glimpse of spring that reminds me of my summertime days, and that in turn reminds me that I promised our editor an article about summer activities for blind children.

There are two risks in writing an article of this type: the first is that any list of activities I can write will be incomplete at best, and the
second is that we often tend to restrict ourselves by concentrating on "what the blind can do", when our real orientation should assume that blind children can participate in almost all the summer activities available to sighted children. Therefore, I will suggest only a few of the possibilities here.

When I was a youngster, baseball was second only to apple pie. Playing the game required a few simple modifications: (1) we would use my ball which had a bell inside, (2) I would pitch to myself, and (3) the players from the opposing team had to yell when I hit the ball if they were standing on or near the appropriate base. A player from ones own team can do this if there are enough people on the team to allow for someone to be placed at first.

Making a rule at the outset to the effect that failing to yell from your base means the runner is automatically safe should ensure that one always knows where he or she is to run.

As I grew a bit older, baseball began to give way to football. An audio football is available although I have never used one. The stipulation
that the person with the ball is to yell when his hands touch the pig skin will give the guidance one needs on defense. A specific word to indicate when the ball is being snapped is appropriate.

On offense the blind player should be given the line up of players. In this way he can decide whether to run up the middle, believing that he can run over the opposition, or decide to go around the outside in the hope of outrunning his opponents.

My favorite position was always playing quarterback which required me to do some passing. Since I wanted some options, each pass receiver was to yell when he was open and I could then decide who was to get the ball. Having all eligible receivers yell also prevented the opposing team from isolating the person who was to get the ball.

While sports are fun, summer is also for other things such as swimming, fishing, and hiking. None of these require any special comment, though they are likely activities which are restricted to times when adults are available to supervise.

Some of my fondest memories of summer center around scouting and the camping trips which were the high point of our scouting year. For me the experience of building a fire and cooking my own breakfast was the first brush with independently preparing a meal. Pitching a tent provided my first glimpse of how important good workmanship could be (the first night my tent came down in the wind).

During days when I wanted to get away from it all, the bicycle was a tremendous way to get off by myself and have a good time. Since my home was located in the country on a paved county road, bicycling was relatively safe provided that I was mindful of the sounds made by approaching vehicles. Highway traffic moves at a high speed, but in the country sounds carry a long distance allowing for time to pull to the side of the road and await the passing of the car or cars.

In cases where I desired to go into the small town located about a half mile from my home, my brothers and sisters were usually available to assist with the trip. One of the clan would take the lead and keep up some kind of chatter to point the way. This was important, for trailing along the side of the road is not a viable option in towns where these areas are used in parking cars. In time we developed a better system for guidance which freed the person in the lead from the need to always be making noise. A small radio provides an excellent sound source for one to follow, and as you know, dead air on the radio costs money so constant noise is a way of life on the broadcast band.

Like other children, I would often wait with anticipation for the day when we would all travel to the amusement park. I don't recall employing any special techniques in these trips, although I do recall relying rather heavily on Mom and Dad for money to buy tickets.

Perhaps the most exciting summer project I ever had was when our family decided to build a tree-house. The structure was never very fancy, but having a tree-house lead to the formation of countless clubs and secret meetings which passed a good deal of time.

I suppose that one could go on and on about summer, but the real point here is to illustrate that a little creativity goes a long, long way. When considering a given activity, assume that any problems will give way when assaulted by reason and good faith. Encourage children to assume some of the responsibility for creative solutions to games and other activities. In doing this you will teach a skill which the blind child will later call on again and again in functioning as a happy and successful adult.

(Gary Wunder, blind from birth, is the president of The Missouri affiliate of The National Federation of the Blind, and a Senior
Analyst Programmer at the University of Missouri Hospital.)

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