Future Reflections Fall 1994, Vol. 13 No. 3

(back)(contents)(next)

FITTING IN SOCIALLY

by Doris M. Willoughby

     Editor's Note: The following article is a reprint of most of chapter 42 from the Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students, by Doris M. Willoughby and Sharon L. M. Duffy. The Handbook is possibly the single most valuable book a parent of a blind child could ever read. As the article below demonstrates, the book is full of practical suggestions and is very readable-no esoteric, confusing professional jargon. All 533 pages, 54 chapters, and 7 appendices are packed with valuable information about every aspect of educating blind children from kindergarten through high school. The book is available in print, cassette tape, and Braille. For your convenience an order form has been included at the end of this article.

Ann is painfully shy. She has hardly any friends, and has never been asked for a date.

Louise has many friends, and is always elected as a class officer. However, she looks down on everyone who is not "popular." Gradually, even her friends are beginning to feel that Louise is aloof and bossy.

Tom has a pleasing personality and tries hard to make friends. Most of his classmates, however, are repelled by his dirty clothes and unpleasant odor.

All three of these teen-agers are sighted. None has any disability, visual or otherwise. These instances show that all youngsters have problems, sometimes serious ones. Had these teen-agers been blind, many people would have assumed their social problems were due to blindness:

; "Poor Ann-it must be very frightening not to be able to see."
; "Louise can't see how people frown when she acts bossy."
; "It must be hard to keep clean if you are blind."

Development of social skills is the same for the blind as for the sighted. The blind person will use different methods on occasion, such as making more use of the sense of touch in applying makeup; but the young blind person needs to learn the same things as the young sighted person.

ATTITUDES ARE THE KEY
It is unfortunately true, however, that the blind person is sometimes behind in social skills-due not to inability to learn, but due to the belief that he/she cannot learn, or to mistaken sheltering from social experience. Individual help should be provided if a specific technique is lacking; in general the blind youngster who is behind in social skills will be helped by the same general approach as any other youngster with such a problem.

One young woman said, "When I was in high school I never mentioned my blindness. My friends never mentioned it either. When I joined the NFB, I learned to be frank and positive about blindness. Several of my friends said to me later, `You know, in high school we were always afraid we would offend you by saying something about your vision. We were always nervous about it. We feel so much more comfortable now that you are comfortable.'"

THE PRESCHOOL CHILD
The social development of a preschool child is a part of his general development and maturity level. Learning to talk, feed oneself, and use the toilet are skills that come with physical maturation and proper guidance. The chapters on "Early Childhood" and "Home Economics and Daily Living Skills" include practical suggestions for this age group. It is vital that (a) blind children are not deprived of regular guidance, and (b) when the blind child really does need some different or additional help, he gets it.

All children need to be taught how to play, but with sighted children this often occurs without much thought. While encouraging children to think up ways to use play equipment, we also should demonstrate the standard use. For example, a child may enjoy pushing an empty tricycle, but he should also be taught how to get on and ride it.

When a child plays with other children, he learns many things besides the obvious matter of sharing toys. He learns to enjoy other children's company, and how to participate in structured games and unstructured play. He learns how to react when another child annoys him, and what to expect if he does the annoying. He even learns how other children talk-some blind youngsters sound quite stilted in their speech because they have talked mostly with adults.

Very young children usually need little guidance in accepting a blind playmate. They quickly learn to take his hand to show him a toy, for example. The preschool teachers may, however, need considerable support. Also, parents often find that playmates never seem to be available in the neighborhood. Suggest to parents that they specifically invite other children over to play, perhaps sharing some especially interesting toys, and perhaps inviting the mother over as well. This usually results in return invitations to play elsewhere. Avoid the extremes of pushing too hard, on the one hand, and passively letting the blind child be left out, on the other hand.

PREVENTING UNDESIRABLE HABITS
Teaching standard play is a vital part of minimizing mannerisms. The child who has a suitable construction set (one which will stay together when he examines the construction by touch), and is taught how to use it, is unlikely to simply tap the pieces on the floor. Watch for overly repetitive or stereotyped motions, even when the motion would be acceptable or desirable in moderation. If a child spends great amounts of time on a rocking horse, climbing up and down the same jungle gym, etc., insist that he vary his activity. Remind parents that it is especially important to provide something to do if the child must sit still for a long time; examples include playing with a toy while waiting for the doctor, and reading or conversing in the car or bus.

Some blind children tend to poke or press the eyes-a very undesirable habit. As with other habits, physically move the child into better positions with something else for the hands to do. Nip this habit early before it becomes ingrained.

A few children develop a very unfortunate way of showing excitement: they clasp their hands together, tense all their muscles, tremble, and make squeaking noises. One father said, "Son, when you feel excited, show it! Put your arms up over your head and jump up and down! Yell `Yea' or `Wahoo!'" He was helping his son to substitute a more socially acceptable way of expressing emotion. He was also encouraging more physical movement. Increased physical activity makes this kind of mannerism less likely. When this boy complained that he could not jump up and shout in school, his father said, "Well, at school you might just raise your arms a little bit and whisper `Yea! Wahoo!'"

PERSISTENT MANNERISMS
However, as with sighted children, undesirable habits sometimes persist in spite of our best efforts. Gentle reminders are usually more effective than scolding, since the latter tend to make the child still more tense and prone to mannerisms. Vary verbal reminders with physical ones-as, simply move the child's hand out of his mouth and onto a toy. Another idea is to replace an objectionable habit with a more socially acceptable one. A child who continually twists her hair might carry a plush toy and stroke that instead. One three-year-old always picked up toy cars and dangled them by the wheels, jiggling them instead of really playing. His parents phased out this habit by saying, "You may twiddle only the little wooden cement mixer. All other cars and trucks must be played with in the regular way or not at all." Then they gradually reduced the time he was permitted to have the cement mixer.

Blind children (even those with useful sight) often do not realize exactly what others are doing. They hear adults say, "Quit scratching your head!" and "Quit fiddling with your shoe!" and so on, and may not realize that these positions are inappropriate only in excess. The child may think he or she is expected to keep the hands rigidly in place on top of the desk, never moving or stretching at all; but to attempt this causes great strain. Recently I asked a girl to show me ten different positions in which it would be OK to place her hands for a short while. I had to help her after the third one. "I'm teaching her to fidget in class," I said jokingly as I told the classroom teacher about my efforts to help the child relax normally and keep her fingers out of her eye. Later I sat beside this child in class for a few minutes, and quietly described how other children stretched slightly, jiggled their feet, placed their hands on their knees, etc.

As another idea, eyeglasses (with plain glass if no correction is possible-even if the youngster is totally blind) may serve as a physical reminder to prevent eye-poking.

; Keeping the child busy and happy, with plenty of appropriate physical activity, is the best way to prevent and counteract mannerisms.

; An older child may respond well to rewards for avoiding the habit. If the habit is well-established, start by working on it only part of the time. Avoid making the child extremely nervous by expecting perfect control immediately.

; All youngsters chafe at repeated verbal reminders. Older youngsters, in addition, often are very sensitive about personal corrections in front of their peers. A secret signal, therefore, is often the best approach to an undesirable habit. Talk privately and agree that, for example, the teacher will touch the youngster's shoulder if she is twisting her hair or rocking. The adult agrees not to mention this aloud, and the youngster in turn agrees to respond to the secret signal. A euphemism can work in a similar way-instead of "Ellen, don't rock back and forth," we can say, "Ellen, please sit up straight," and thus make a more socially-acceptable comment.

; A speech therapist once told me that when a child first began to use a new speech sound, it was unwise to say, "Now use your good sound all the time." The child would continually forget, feel overwhelmed, and give up. Instead, she explained, the child might first be told, "Be sure to use your good sound when you read aloud in class." Gradually more and more time spans would be included, until eventually the child was expected to remember all the time.

; Gina, in fourth grade, was not conquering her habit of eye-poking, despite all the conventional approaches. Indeed, it was growing worse. Suddenly remembering the speech therapist's advice, we instituted the limited-time approach. During a 30-minute reading group (a good choice because her hands were especially busy) we made it clear that Gina would remember to keep her hands away from her eyes. (A small reward was given each day, and a negative consequence was available if needed.) At other times we reminded her frequently but did not expect perfection. One month later (having had good success) a 30- minute period in the afternoon was added. Gradually (reminding ourselves not to botch things by moving too fast) we expanded the time.

INFORMAL PLAY
; "But the others all just run around and play ball."   Sometimes it seems that way. How do we integrate a blind grade-school child (especially a boy) into play groups?

; In the first place, let's not assume he couldn't possibly play ball. He certainly can in a supervised situation with appropriate adaptations; and his friends may be willing to include those adaptations during informal play. He can bat a ball from a tee which holds it stationary at the right height, or use a beeper ball. Batting in a kickball game can be even easier, especially if the pitcher stands close in, rolls the ball carefully, and calls out when he releases the ball. The blind player can run to a voice calling him on each base, or run with a friend.

; Let's not assume, either, that the blind child cannot "just run around" during very informal play. He can be flexible, take someone's arm when they are actually running, ask questions, and figure out what is being played. Sometimes it does seem, however, that informal play is the hardest to join, and it may take some time and guidance before he is able to do so. Watch the other children awhile and see what different things they actually do. Do they stop to play in a sandbox? Play catch? Jump rope? Swing? If the youngster participates in some specific informal activities at first, he can gradually come to be included in more and more.

; Actually, of course, other children do many other things besides "run around and play ball." Swimming, skating, and other non-team sports are popular. Playground equipment usually presents no real problems. As with preschoolers, the blind elementary student needs to know the standard uses of playground equipment and other devices. Provide table games which are suitably adapted, and be sure he knows how to play. Offer to attach Braille labels to games.

; Sometimes it is desirable to structure an otherwise informal situation. A buddy might accompany the blind child at recess-with the responsibility rotated among various willing children, and perhaps only part of the time. During an indoor playtime, all children might be assigned to specific activities for the first few minutes, thus inconspicuously assuring the blind child an appropriate place. Sometimes an aide might accompany the child at play. Usually a combination approach of various types of guidance is best. Avoid the extremes of constantly hovering vs. always letting the child fend for himself.

; Show parents how informal play is handled at school and encourage them to give some similar guidance at home.

; See also the chapter on "Physical Education and Recreation.”

CONVENTIONAL BEHAVIOR
; School-aged children notice when others ignore social conventions, even if they themselves rebel at society's standards. A child who always eats with a spoon, sits in strange positions, and constantly speaks out of turn will be viewed as quite different.

; Since a blind child will not see a frown, and since many people will think he cannot learn social conventions, it is necessary to give specific attention to matters such as these. Take the child's hand and show her how to hold her fork. Teach her conventional posture. If she speaks out of turn, belches audibly, etc., correct her tactfully. Show her various gestures and motions such as raising her hand or waving, and be sure she understands when and how they are used. A blind kindergartner may not understand just when to raise her hand and when to take it down and that if one arm gets tired she can use the other one. Show the child where the movie screen is and see that she faces it.

; Talk with the student about what looks good or bad visually. Describe other people's appearance. Include descriptions of other people's errors and problems, whenever it can be done tactfully and appropriately. (Encourage parents to do this too, since they are particularly in a position where they can talk confidentially about other people's personal appearance.) Often a blind child feels that he/she is the only one who makes mistakes. Suggest to aides, parents, and others that they look for chances to mention (quietly and appropriately, of course) various things which a sighted child would notice about others' problems: "Billy dropped his pencil." "Annette has her head on her desk." "Mark is crying because he skinned his knee." With a teen-ager we might mention: "Josh forgot the answer, and looks really upset." "Two girls over there haven't ever been asked to dance and look like they're about to leave."

; Because blind children are often singled out-partly to meet their special needs and partly because other people feel sorry for them-often they are allowed to get away with unacceptable behavior at home and elsewhere. For example, a bus driver said that a blind student was rude and disruptive on his bus, but that he didn't want to discipline him as he would any other child who did the same thing. When this kind of thing occurs, the child does not learn what is acceptable.

GENERAL APPEARANCE
; With proper guidance, blind students can achieve good grooming and normal appearance as part of their peer group.

; Sue, age 15, had never carried a purse. At school she kept things in her notebook or her pockets; but her teachers observed that personal items were often visible to others. A sensitive inquiry revealed that Sue did not own a purse of any kind. "What do you do at church?" asked the homeroom teacher. "Some clothes don't have pockets. Suppose you need a Kleenex?"

; "I borrow one from my father," replied Sue.

; Sue had no idea what to keep in a purse, or how to carry one. At the age of 15, she was dependent on others to manage her personal items when she had no notebook or pocket.

; Watch for things like this, and seek the parents' help. Another example is a girl who never wore a skirt (not even to church, where her peers often wore them) and had no idea how to put on a dress. Even if the student and her family say they have personal preferences against something such as skirts, explain that you are trying to make the normal choices available to the blind student. If a sighted girl grows up wearing jeans and then decides to include dresses in her wardrobe, she simply does so immediately. If the blind girl has never worn skirts, she may have a major hurdle to overcome in knowing how to put them on, and also how to walk and sit appropriately.

; Matt's schoolbooks were in an old, tattered bag which looked vaguely feminine and was often slung carelessly about his neck. "But how am I going to carry stuff?" he protested when the counselor talked with him about personal appearance. "I need one hand free for my cane!" The counselor helped Matt get a back-pack like many other boys used. He also advised, "When you're grown and working in an office, you'll want a briefcase."

GUIDING ACCEPTANCE BY PEERS
; Classroom teachers often ask how to help sighted youngsters accept a blind classmate. It is best to speak openly about the disability (without dwelling on it unduly), and to encourage the student to do the same. The new student can introduce herself to the class in the normal manner, including other characteristics as well as blindness, and explain study methods. It is usually better not to discuss blindness with the class before the student arrives. Unless the subject comes up naturally (as when Braille materials arrive before the student does), a preparatory discussion seems to say that blindness is such a special situation as to require a great deal of preparation, and that we should avoid discussing it in front of the blind person. It is better to be open and matter-of-fact.

; You and the classroom teachers will, however, need to guide classmates in including the blind student as an equal. Often this can be done publicly, as when a new student is introduced, or when someone speaks to the class about blindness in general. When specific problems arise, it is sometimes best to talk to the individuals privately.

; Emphasize to teachers that, while overt rejection is usually easy to recognize, it may be harder to note and deal with the opposite problem-namely, overprotection. The latter is, in my experience, the more common problem and the harder to solve. Do little girls mother-hen the blind child's play at recess? Does someone always carry his tray even though he could do it? Do classmates jump to pick up dropped objects? Deal directly and tactfully with things like this, and be firm. To allow overprotection is to interfere with education.

JOINING OTHERS
CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS
; Teach children to face the other person during a conversation. Urge sighted people to say things like "Please reach over here," rather than moving to accommodate the blind child. Help the blind youngster to be flexible and attentive, noting other people's needs and actions. See that voice volume is appropriate to the situation. If a child consistently talks too loudly or too softly, despite reminders, have his hearing checked. If he talks too much or too little, give him feedback and guidance.

; Some children need extra guidance in what to say during conversations. The younger child may remain in a stage of self-centered questions, constantly asking "Who is he talking about?" or "What do you mean?" The child needs to learn to listen awhile and see what can be learned without asking questions. Textbooks sometimes have exercises on "Making Inferences." Besides reducing annoying questions, such exercises should improve general incidental learning-that is, learning things without their being formally taught. Too many blind children wait passively for someone to teach them the names of their classmates, for example, rather than listening attentively to conversation.

; Many young people converse in a very self-centered way. For example, one boy always expounds about his own musical interests, without ever encouraging a friend to describe his interests. The student may need to practice thinking of open-ended questions to draw people out, and consciously using them. He may also need to broaden his own interests and experience.

; Another type of self-centered conversation is the self-putdown. No one enjoys talking with a constant complainer. The counselor may be able to help direct thoughts and speech in a more positive, outward direction.

; Teach alternative techniques for personal contact, and the confidence and assertiveness to use them. If Alicia finds the counselor's office open but silent, she can ask, "Mr. Brown, are you there?" or simply, "Mr. Brown?" If she is waiting to buy tickets and is uncertain whether she is being spoken to, she can ask, "Did you mean me?" or "Am I next?"

; Encourage the blind youngster to be good-natured to people who say, "Do you know who this is?" but, if necessary, to refuse a guessing game politely but firmly. At the same time, you as a teacher can discourage others (including adults) from this practice, which is really annoying and unnecessary.

PARTICIPATION
; All young people need guidance-some more than others-in making and keeping friends. A school counselor should be able to provide suggestions appropriate for all children, including books for teachers and for students.

; When various students are standing around, the blind student can orient herself by the voices and join a group as anyone else would do. See that your students learn how to join a group in a conversation or activity: look for a natural pause in the conversation, and say something to indicate interest. Join into what is already being said or done. Avoid changing the subject abruptly or for no reason.

; Some youngsters may need coaching on what to say during informal chatting. ("What's for lunch?- What did you think of that assembly?- That test sure was hard- Only three days till vacation.")

; All children need to learn how to take turns, and how to be good losers/winners. Overt crying is not the only way to be a bad loser-it is also bad for the older youngster to stalk away in silent gloom.

; It is important to look attentive when others are talking, even when not saying anything oneself. A person should be sensitive to others' moods-i.e., judging whether or not a friend wishes to talk about something bothering her.

; Giving compliments is an important part of relationships. The blind girl or boy cannot easily use one of the most common, namely, complimenting a person on what he/she is wearing. Nevertheless, there are many kinds of compliments that can easily be used-about athletic or personal achievements, about clever ideas, etc. Also, sometimes an article can be examined by touch and admired (if, and only if, the social situation makes this appropriate.)

; Jon depended heavily on Ken, his close friend. When Ken had the flu, Jon asked the counselor about finding a place at lunch, carrying books, etc. The counselor helped Jon get better acquainted with Brad, another friendly and compatible boy, and also took the opportunity to help in developing friendships.

; "You're making a new friend here," she said. "I can see you're really enjoying Brad's company, and he likes you. It's good for a person to have more than one friend, for lots of reasons. When Ken gets back you'll want to socialize with him again, but I do hope you don't just drop Brad cold. Keep both of them as friends-you can spend some time with each, and maybe some with both together. And also-I think we all have realized that you were awfully dependent on Ken. Let's work on how you can find a seat yourself when you want to, and how to organize your things so that nobody needs to carry your books."

; Remember that many well-adjusted youngsters (disabled or not) have only one or two best friends and that recreational interests vary greatly. Look for many different types of activities as you help your student select those which he or she enjoys most-chess, swimming, bowling, ham radio, etc. Joining structured groups such as Scouts, religious organizations, etc., can be very helpful. Offer to help parents confer with leaders of such groups. Although laws covering private groups may not be the same as for public school activities, often there will be a legal or organizational requirement for equal opportunity. Even if there is not, you can help the parent use persuasion and education (possibly with help from others such as the National Federation of the Blind) to build equal opportunity.

PROTECTING ONESELF
; Unfortunately, today it is also necessary to coach youngsters about when they should not be friendly. On a city street, it is usually unwise to converse at length with a stranger; invitations to ride in a car are totally unacceptable.

; Parents may fear that blind youngsters cannot handle such problems. Talk about ways to identify persons reliably without using sight. A student old enough to walk alone on the street should be able to prevent most problems, and also to shout and go for help in case of emergency.

; Learning to avoid harmful strangers is sometimes undermined by a seemingly innocent practice-the tendency for people to give blind youngsters things. This practice is undesirable enough because of its implications of pity, but it can confuse the child's safety training as well. Recently I have observed:
- a cab driver deliberately leaving change on the seat so that a young blind passenger will find it
- a high school principal giving a homecoming corsage to the blind girl
-a sixth grader bringing several art projects to a blind first-grader

; Examine situations like this, and apply a test recommended by booklets on child molestation: Does the role of this person make the action appropriate? Ask also, "Would it be considered appropriate if the child were not blind?" and note that blindness should not change one's general role in life.

; A different dilemma about friendliness may occur in a play situation. The child who has been coached to cooperate may not realize that she too has rights.

; Denise found herself being chased by several boys and girls at recess. It was not even a real game of tag, but a form of unkind teasing. Wanting to be friendly, Denise ran here and there for ten minutes. When the bell rescued her, she was near tears.

; The playground supervisor, who had sympathized but hesitated to intervene, described this to Denise's resource teacher, who then coached her about ways to leave a really undesirable situation. "You can say, `I'm tired-I don't want to play this any more,'" he counseled. "Just go and do what you want. Now, they might call you a `chicken' or something, but just ignore them. And remember, if they really scare you, you should get help from the playground supervisor."

THE TEEN YEARS
; New to the public middle school, Paula very much wanted to be part of Charlene's crowd. However, Paula's mother became very concerned about the way these girls seemed to treat Paula when they came home with her. They played Paula's records and ate the food she offered, but they talked to one another instead of with her. Never did they invite Paula to join them elsewhere.

; Finally Paula's mother decided that the arrangement was harmful. She insisted that her daughter invite only one or two girls at a time. Although some girls declined the individual invitations, eventually two girls (one who was part of Charlene's crowd and one who was not) became Paula's close friends.

; As this example illustrates, it is usually easier to get acquainted in a smaller group than in a large one. Informality is usually better than fancy entertaining. It is helpful to have equipment or skills which are valued by the other young people-cooking skill, a guitar, an interesting collection, a tandem bike, etc. However, the youngster must not let others lose respect for her and treat her like a doormat.

DEVELOPING ONE'S OWN RESOURCES
; As we consider the free-time activities popular with teen-agers, we see all the more the importance of good travel and other skills of independence. Can the young woman shop independently, or must she constantly cling to a friend? Does the young man use various alternative methods of transportation, or does he feel helpless if his parents cannot take him? Are skills like table manners, dialing a telephone, etc., routine matters or causes of embarrassment?

; Often a teen-age brother, sister, or friend can provide transportation or reader service. Avoid, however, a situation where the blind teen-ager is smothered by too much help and attention, or the sighted teen-ager resents constant duties. Encourage reciprocal arrangements. Perhaps the blind brother or sister can do an extra stint of dishwashing in return for articles read aloud. A friend who provides transportation might be invited for dinner. As the student gets older, it is more and more desirable that readers and drivers be paid on a businesslike basis.

; A great many teen-agers have part-time jobs, with benefit both financially and socially. Blind teen-agers, too, need to have this opportunity.

ADULTS SHOULD BE SENSITIVE AND CONSIDERATE
; Teachers and parents should watch what they say to teen-agers in front of peers. Be discreet about mentioning personal mannerisms, clothing, etc. Work on eating skills in privacy.  

; Always phrase remarks in a careful and dignified way, such as, "Parking meters are next to the street rather than close to the building. Consciously think about where the parking meters are and use that as a clue to where you are." Matter-of-fact words and tone are important even if no one overhears, since it helps the student not to feel belittled. It is especially important if you are teaching something which peers have learned at an earlier age.

; The chapter on "Dating, Marriage, and the Family" is actually an extension of this chapter. It contains many things which might otherwise have been said here.

;As always, the teen-ager's problems in regard to blindness boil down to a matter of attitudes.-; 

DEALING WITH PROBLEMS OF ACCEPTANCE
; Generally, when their natural curiosity has been satisfied, youngsters respect the blind student's methods and accept them as a matter of course. If anything, young people accept a disability better than adults do. To prevent or minimize those problems which do occur, the following ideas are helpful:

; 1. Help the blind student to improve his/her own individual skills and general self-confidence, and to contribute to the group.
; 2. Help him/her to determine when help is needed, and to accept or refuse help pleasantly.
; 3. Help all youngsters understand that we are all different, and that it is rude to overemphasize any characteristic (such as freckles, height, etc.). School counselors should be able to suggest many structured and unstructured ways to help students realize the universality of differences and the hurt caused by misplaced emphasis.
; 4. Explain the physical cause of the disability in appropriate terms, and help the blind child do so also.
; 5. Emphasize that blindness is a physical limitation and nothing more.
; 6. Encourage other students' interest in such aids as Braille, and point out their value. A few students may be seriously interested in learning Braille.
; 7. Help the blind youngster not to be oversensitive. He/she should be willing to answer friendly questions, and to be objective about tactless questions. He/she should also realize that some teasing and arguing are unavoidable, and learn to ignore it in most cases.
; 8. Teach the blind youngster to be reasonably assertive rather than passive. He/She can speak up and say, "How about my turn next?"
; 9. Look for possible problems apart from blindness. Is the group a tight clique, rejecting all outsiders? Do health problems seriously curtail the blind child's energy?
; 10. Insist that the disability never be used to escape work or responsibility.

SPECIAL PROBLEMS
; Conspicuous physical characteristics tend to magnify problems of acceptance, but the same principles apply nevertheless. Stress that we all have our own individual strengths and make our own particular contributions. The child may also want to meet others, if possible, with his particular physical characteristics.

; When a child has extremely short stature, consult an expert on physical disabilities and architectural barriers. Get desks the right size, and a stepstool for reaching. Especially in junior high and high school, make sure the student can reach things like drinking fountains, sinks, and shelves.

; Albinism also involves physical characteristics which may bring misunderstanding. One boy was teased as a "little old man with white hair." A kindergartner became furious at the many adults who gushed, "What beautiful hair you have!"

; Albino black youngsters face prejudice from both races. A black adult may be especially helpful in discouraging prejudice by black youngsters. I discussed this recently with an albino black man who recalled that his black playmates sometimes teased him and called him White. He advised emphasizing that all characteristics differ among people and explaining albinism in a scientific way. He noted that prejudice decreased as he and his classmates grew older. And, of course, improving the general climate of race relations helps minimize any problem related to racial identity.

ORDER FORM
Handbook for Itinerant Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students

Mail to
National Federation of the Blind, Materials Center,
1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230

Select format: Print ($23.00), Braille ($30.00), 4-track cassette tape ($30.00).
Prices include shipping and handling.

Method of payment: Check, Money Order, Purchase Order (must be attached)
 Credit Card: Discover, MasterCard, Visa.
Credit card #
Expiration date
Signature.

Ship to
 
Telephone.

  (back)(contents)(next)