Future Reflections Fall 1992, Vol. 11 No. 4
FUN, FRIENDS, AND FITTING IN
[PICTURE] The 1992 Convention was Adam Emerson's 4th National NFB Convention. He is 12 years old.
[PICTURE] Brian Watts shows off the new cane he purchased at the convention exhibit hall.
[PICTURE] Noel Romey shares a book with a friend during a quiet moment at the 1992 NFB Convention.
From the Editor: One of the agenda items at the 1992 NFB Convention parents seminar this past July was a panel of five blind youngsters speaking on the topic, "Fun, Friends, and Fitting In." The kids, as you may guess, stole the show. They were articulate, personable, bubbly, funny, and self-assured. It was easy to see that these children's self-confidence was grounded in healthy attitudes about blindness and a good grasp of alternative techniques. For example, all of them spoke from their own Braille notes. The smooth, confident delivery of each panelistincluding the second grader (Brian Watts) and the partially sighted print/Braille reader (Adam Emerson)was an eloquent testimony to the effectiveness of Braille.
The panel speeches were also a testament to the effectiveness of the National Federation of the Blind and to those parents who put the Federation philosophy into practice. These kids, including two panelists with multiple impairments (Lauren Hunter is hearing impaired and Noel Romey has a brittle bone disease which severely limits physical activity), have grown up with parents who have told them and demonstrated to them in a thousand different ways that it is respectable to be blind. Through their parents they have had opportunities (such as attendance at state and National NFB Conventions) to meet blind adults who are successful, productive, and independent. All of this has had an impact on these young lives.
Here, in their own words, is what five blind youngsters have to say about "Fun, Friends, and Fitting In."
ADAM EMERSON Michigan
Hello, my name is Adam Emerson. I come from a large family, and I am the youngest of four boys and one girl. We live in Michigan, "The Warm Weather State". Some of the things I do for fun are messing around with computers (some people call it programming), reading, using chemistry sets, and traveling. Personally, I don't like sports, the only really physical things I do like are swimming and the kind of wrestling you might do if you ever go to sports camp. I really don't like goal ball.
I really think it is fun to come to the NFB conventions. I get to see old friends and meet new people, see new developments, see new places, and other things. It's a new learning experience, and I get to travel. Some of the best seminars are the computer seminar, the Research and Development seminar, and the Braille`n Speak seminar. I usually carry a book around with me wherever I go (except when my parents tell me to "Leave it in the car") in case I get bored, like when someone starts giving a one-hour lecture on the IBM-PC (the reason is that I like the Apple IIGS).
It really isn't that hard to fit in. I'm not really sure how; I just do it.
I enjoy getting textbooks on tape from RFB, and I can also get interesting books from Talking Book. Some of the books I like are: Abraham Lincoln's World, Asimov on Chemistry, From Quarks to Quasars, Great Expectations, and This Present Darkness. I appreciate all the people who donate their time to record books.
I have many friends from the NFB. There are many friendly people. Most of them, if not all, are very nice. I also have friends from church and my old school. I like to go rollerskating and on field trips with a home school support group. Also the young people at our church have many activities.
When this session is over I plan on having a lot of fun with my friends here, and I know I fit in.
BRIAN WATTS North Carolina/Arkansas
Hello, my name is Brian Watts. I'm 8 years old. I will be in the 3rd grade next year. Some of the things I do for fun are goal ball and beepball. I also like movies, Cub Scouts, bowling, and reading books on tape.
I invite my friends over to spend the night. We like to skate. I'm always very friendly to them. We talk and laugh and have a good time. My friends are very nice to me.
Some of the things I do to fit in are using my cane whenever possible and trying to use a sighted guide as little as possible. At home I do many things for myself. I do my homework; I help my Mom with dinner; I cook in the microwave and on the stove; I help babysit my little brother; and I sometimes stay at home by myself.
I try to face my fears. The first time I rode my bicycle, I rode it straight into a rose bush. But I got right back up on it and tried again. I went water skiing (even though I was a little afraid, I tried anyway).
When I first started roller skating I fell down a lot, but I kept on practicing until I got pretty good. So, I guess what it boils down to is that I fit in basically the same way that all kids fit in.
JENNIFER R. ESPINOZA New Mexico
Hi! my name is Jennifer Espinoza, and I'm from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I'm 11 years old, and I'm going to be in 5th grade next year. One of my favorite things is racing down the street during mobility with my friend Louise and leaving Mr. Binder [the mobility instructor] in the dust. Last year we kept saying we were going to send him to Saudi Arabia!
My friends and I like to play pretend games, and make music lots of different ways. We really like wild pajama parties. I've been playing piano for 5 years and this year competed in the New Mexico Junior Music Festival. I love to read Braille, and have won prizes twice in Braille Readers are Leaders [contests]. I really like to type in the talking computer at school and wish I had one at home. At school my favorite subjects are English and reading. In the summer, Parents of Blind Children has a summer program taught by my teacher, Mrs. Gail Sweich [which I attend]. My friend Ernie and I wanted to make a deal where I'd do his academics and he'd do my cooking, but Mrs. Sweich wouldn't go for it.
I like playing board games, softball, and riding bikes and camping with my family. I'm not much for helping around the house, but I do it anyway. I am really happy that this convention is in North Carolina, since my aunt, uncle, and grandparents live here.
Thank you for inviting me to speak to all of you and I hope you enjoy the convention.
NOEL ROMEY Arizona
Hello. My name is Noel Romey, and I am 12 years old. I am from Phoenix, Arizona. I will be in seventh grade next year. Today I will be talking about "Fun, Friends, and Fitting In."
I have fun in many ways. One of the ways that I have fun is playing on the computer. I enjoy the computer because I can make noise and music. I also like to program the computer, play computer games, and make it do things. Computers are an important part of my life. I have a Braille 'n Speak and a Kurzweil Personal Reader that not only make my life easier but make it more fun to communicate using these items. It is also fun to play in the yard and other places. I also have fun doing bus travel because you can go many places that you have never been. I also have fun in the NFB convention shopping and looking at all the technology. My favorite things to do are reading and playing computers with friends.
There are many ways that blind people can make friends. One is to strike up a conversation instead of just waiting for a person to talk to you. For instance, when I went to Alaska, a man sat by me on the train. I started to talk to him, and we became friends. Also, you should come up to a person instead of letting them always come up to you. You can have much more success and have many more friends this way.
I met my friend in Phoenix, Fred, who is sighted, at a summer camp. He and I enjoy talking about science and computers. Those things are my interests and because of my interests, Fred and I are everlasting friends. Because of this, you need to pick a friend with the same interests as you.
The next thing that I am going to talk about is fitting in.
One thing you can do to fit in is to do things that other people are doing. My Mom or my sister helps me pick the color of my clothes and what hair style most of the kids in my school wear. Even though it is hard, I think that if I try I can fit in easily. I think that I am normal even if I am blind. I think that I can do anything that other kids can do. If I think I cannot do something, I try it. Sometimes I fail to do it, but sometimes I surprise myself and do it.
The National Federation of the Blind is important to me because I have been to the conventions and been in the Braille reading contest. I have met [blind] role models who told me that being blind is not a big deal. That is how I am successful.
LAUREN HUNTER Colorado
I am in my sophomore year of high school. Basically, I have been blind all my life. Right now I am the only blind student in my high school, and I have been using an itinerant teacher for my freshman year. She comes and works with me at my school. At this time in my life I don't have much problem making friends, but when I was younger it was difficult for me. There weren't many children in my neighborhood. Also, I was shy. When I went into elementary school the other kids treated me like I was helpless, and I let them because I didn't know any better. I didn't know how to deal with that. In my fifth-grade year our teacher worked with the whole class on communications skills. I started to be more outgoing. Then in my middle school I started moving from class to class. I also had to start informing my teachers of what I needed. There were still some people who treated me like I couldn't do anything, but I was getting better at letting people know that I didn't need to be taken care of.
The more skills I developed, and the more outgoing I became, the easier it was to make good friends. In class I find that I talk more to the people around me. I ask them their names. I try to get to know them first, so that it is not always they who have to try to know me. The more they see me and get to know me, the more comfortable they become. It takes work on my part as well [as theirs]. I don't expect people to always come up to me and talk to me. I try to talk to them and make them comfortable.
The NFB has had a big part in this. In fact, the NFB gave me my first lessons in cane travel when I was about eight years old. Since then I have been involved in the Parents of Blind Children Division of Colorado. Last year I was in the NFB Colorado Center for the Blind junior high program, and I also became part of the Student Division in Colorado. This summer I am in the NFB high school program. All these experiences have helped me become more self-confident. Self-confidence and independence are needed to make sighted friends. It's also important to have other blind people to talk to about your frustrations and to get advice.
In conclusion, even though I am not the most popular person in school, I stay optimistic and observe myself so that I can make changes and improve.