Future Reflections         Fall 2008

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My Moment of Liberation

by Jennifer Hu

Editor’s Note: Here is what one Virginia mother says about her “A-ha,” moment of liberation and empowerment at the 2008 Junior Science Academy:

Joy Hu at the 2008 NFB Junior Science Academy.I am happy to have this opportunity to share with other parents what I have learned from attending NFB’s Junior Science Academy (JSA) from July 23 to July 27, 2008.

Although my daughter Joy is twelve and has been blind since age five, I had never worn a blindfold to experience what it feels like to be “in the dark,” or to experience doing things Joy’s way. Thinking back over all those years, I can still hear myself impatiently saying, “Watch out, be careful!” or “Let me do it, it’ll be faster,” or “How come you can’t remember there’s a chair over here?” or other similar remarks--and always in such an impatient tone. In addition to not understanding what it feels like to be treated this way, I have also struggled with a strong sense of incompetence. I deferred teaching her how to do things “the blind-people way” to the professionals because I thought, as a sighted mother, that I was not qualified to teach her.

Jennifer Hu (VA), far right, listens carefully to instructions as she gets ready for her sleepshade cane travel experience.During our “Cooking without Looking” workshop at the JSA, I put sleepshades on for the first time. I remember feeling panicky and scared, and wanting to yank them away from my face. Using my hands to feel around to figure things out was also very unnatural for me. But after those initial moments of apprehension, I calmed down and started to follow the instructor’s directions to explore the kitchen with my other senses. While exploring, I realized it was so easy to miss essential information if I didn’t explore in a systematic way or did not use my entire hand. In addition, I also learned that I needed to use common sense to know where to retrieve needed items. For example, it made sense for the kitchen mittens to be stored in a drawer close to the stove and for mixing bowls to be found in the cupboard near the sink. After the hour-long workshop, our team successfully created a delicious Jell-O dessert with chopped fresh fruits in it. This experience gave me such confidence that I couldn’t wait to go home and cook with my daughter. No longer did I feel incompetent and incapable to work with my daughter, and no longer did I feel I needed to rely solely upon the professionals to teach my daughter important daily living skills. It was truly a liberating moment for me.

I also appreciated the opportunity to bond with other parents who struggle with the same issues I struggle with, and who understand my fears. All these years, I have lived under the fear that Joy may lose her eyes one day and would have to wear glass eyes. I just couldn’t bear the thought of her not having eyeballs. But during JSA, I met people, adults and children, who wear glass eyes and they really helped alleviate my unfounded fears.

I want to sincerely thank NFB for providing this wonderful opportunity to educate and empower the parents and to rekindle the love of science for all these children.

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