Future Reflections Summer 1992, Vol. 11 No. 3

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BLINDNESS: FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF SIGHTED CHILDREN

Editor's Note: The following two items--an article by Lauren L. Eckery and a school essay by Rochella Cook--give us a peek into the minds of two sighted children who have a special relationship with someone who is blind. Lynden Eckery's mother, Lauren, is blind, and Rochella has a younger sister who is blind. The article by Lauren Eckery is reprinted from the November, 1991, Braille Monitor; the essay by Rochella Cook was a school assignment, and was mailed to Future Reflections by her mother, Esky Cook.

 

       Blindness: From the Perspective of Children
                      by Lauren L. Eckery

[PICTURE] Lynden (center) is about to get some hands-on experience in how to use a white cane. This NFB Parents Division-sponsored activity reinforces healthy attitudes about blindness and gives sighted children of blind parents, sighted siblings, and blind kids a chance to have fun while making friends with others their age who share a common relationship with someone who’s blind.
[PICTURE] Sora Mindy Cook (Rochelle’s sister)isn’t much interested in the esthetics of this outside dividing wall- she just wants to know how far down it is!

We have said many times throughout the years that children are the hope for the future of the National Federation of the Blind. We do not limit our hope to blind children, since sighted children will also grow up either to help or to hinder our cause as we progress. The children who will help us most will be those who have learned early in life to recognize the real issues surrounding blindness. If they carry this knowledge with them for the rest of their lives and put it into useful practice, they will stand beside us, constantly aware and totally convinced that sight is not everything.

We often speak, particularly among ourselves, of the many incidents in our lives which reek of unintended discrimination against the blind and of the ways in which these words and actions bother us. I think it is important that we do this. Discrimination and oppression are an integral part of our reality. However, our hope and enthusiasm in our Federation work and play can be greatly enhanced by the wisdom and humor which come from children who have given our blindness a second thought. I have shared examples of this nature with you in the past. I have some more recent examples, which I would now like to share with you.  

Not long ago I was walking home from work, traveling up Webster Street. I heard the squeals and the roar of several small children in joyful play with their wagons, cars, Big Wheels, and tricycles. They were playing on the sidewalk. Suddenly, I heard a mother's shriek of terror, "Watch out! Take those toys off the sidewalk right now so she won't trip over them!" It sounded like a matter of life and death. As I continued walking toward the children, I heard them scurry to remove their toys from the sidewalk.  

One little boy didn't make it. As he was tugging away at his vehicle, I approached him, saying "Hi" to him as I quickly maneuvered around him and his vehicle by using my long white cane.

Immediately he asked, "What's that?" As I explained to him how and why I used my cane, I discovered other toys still on the sidewalk. I remarked to him that it might be a good idea to take the rest of the toys off the sidewalk since somebody might come along and trip over them. I was astonished by his response.  
"But you finded 'em." Obviously he saw no need for panic since he had just witnessed a demonstration that one did not have to see to find the toys on the sidewalk.

Then there is my daughter Lynden. She seems to go through phases of pretending her father and I are not really blind; being angry about our blindness, complete with insulting behavior; and occasionally being unusually realistic about our blindness.

One day this past winter, when I was ill, Lynden wanted one of her school papers signed. My signature guide was not easily at hand. Neither of us wanted to go get it. In the past, in a situation like this, Lynden might have said, "Why can't I just sign it for you?" I have explained to her that this is never a good idea. As her mother, I can and will sign anything needing a parent's signature. Her father will do the same. On this particular day, Lynden left the room, busying herself in some mysterious activity. Returning, she presented me with a paper signature guide which she had fashioned herself. The accuracy of the shaping of this guide assured me that she had indeed noticed and accepted the tool I have used all these years to facilitate the independent signing of my name. This was not an act of shame and anger, but one of consideration, love, and respect.

Finally, I would like to share a poem which Lynden wrote. Her third-grade class was given an assignment to write a poem about the color green. Each poem was placed on a large green paper shamrock for St. Patrick's Day.

Most of the references to color I hear from sighted people come in predominantly visual terms. Although green is not Lynden's favorite color, I think her description of green, with its inclusion of other bodily senses--the good, the bad, and the fun of life--demonstrates an open, wholesome, and heathy perspective on the color green. With Lynden's permission, it is with a mother's pride and with an editor's pleasure that I now share this poem:

                              Green
                 by Lynden Eckery (Spring, 1990)

Green is Spring
And a four-leaf clover,
And the feeling of running.
Green is the taste of mints.
Grass and fresh air smell green.
Green is the sound of a bird and a cricket.
Mouldy bread and a headache are green.
Green is camping.
--The End

Editor's Note: Everything is relative, so they say. Certainly it is true that what is precocious behavior in a 2-year-old would be childishly immature behavior in a 7-year-old. The deep insight of a 10-year-old old is shallow thinking in a 21-year-old. Understanding blindness is also relative to age and maturity. As parents we need to understand this and encourage our children when they express thoughts that are basically sound and appropriate for their age level. Consider the following school essay. The young girl who wrote it is attempting to demonstrate how wrong the public is about what it believes about blindness. It is not a denial of blindness (as the last sentence seems to imply), only a denial that blindness necessarily means deprivation of all the small pleasures and beauties of life. Here is Rochella's essay.

Essay Question: If you had the power to give anything to anyone, what would it be and to whom would you give it?
Rochella Cook, Baltimore, Maryland.

My sister is blind. She is seven. She has black, curly hair and a few freckles. I would give her sight. I would show her all those pretty colors. Bright, glaring red; soft, soothing pink; grassy, shiny green; and light, sky blue. I would show her the striking sky during a sunset. I would show her the gorgeous rainbow after a rainstorm. I would show her flowers beginning to bloom and flashing traffic lights. I would show her smoke as it curls and wiggles away into the sky. I would show her a little, red balloon as it climbs higher and higher into the sky. I would show her all the photographs she never saw before. I would show her and show her until there was nothing left to show her. But someone already beat me to this present. My sister can see. She can see by feeling, by smelling, by hearing, and by tasting. When she eats a fireball, she says, "This is red!" When she hears rain pouring and thunder booming she says, "It's grey outside!" When she smells burning, she says, "Oh no! It's black!" My sister is not really blind.

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