Future Reflections                                                                                       Convention, 2002

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Blind Kids Play, Too

by Elizabeth Jacobson, John Pastorius, and Amy Herstein

Editor’s Note: Adults aren’t the only ones who can be role models. Children and youth can be role models, too. Elizabeth Jacobson, age 10; John Pastorius, age 11; and Amy Herstein, age 14; didn’t know it, but that was the real reason they were asked to be on the agenda of the 2002 NOPBC parents seminar. Their panel topic was Blind Kids Play, Too; their secret mission was to be an inspiration and model to the 100 plus families attending The Serious Work of Play seminar at the NFB convention in Louisville. In less than an hour, these three dynamic youngsters laid to rest the myth that blind children are necessarily passive and inactive. They informed, impressed, and entertained a large, mixed audience of adults and kids with sometimes humorous accounts of their numerous, varied, and age-appropriate play activities. They also wowed the audience with their literacy skills. All three had composed their own speeches, and read them with ease and expression—John and Amy from Braille notes, and Elizabeth (who is a print/Braille user) from print notes. Here, now, is what Elizabeth, John, and Amy had to say about blind kids and play:

Blind Kids Play, Too

by Elizabeth Jacobson
Speech given at
“The Serious Work of Play” Seminar
2002 NFB Convention

Elizabeth Jacobson
Elizabeth Jacobson

Hi, my name is Elizabeth Jacobson. My dad’s name is Steve and my mom’s name is Nadine Jacobson. I live in Edina, Minnesota. I’m going into fifth grade and this is my tenth NFB national convention. I’m-ten-years old and go to Concord Elementary School.

I like to pretend a lot. I like to pretend house and school. When I play house I like to pretend I’m the mom and my sister, Catherine, is my daughter. Sometimes I make a car out of chairs. I like to do this because I won’t be able to drive a car.

I also like to play school. I usually play this with my old school supplies and workbooks, too. I like to play this because I want to be a teacher when I grow up and teach at Concord Elementary School.

I also like to play store. When I play store I like to be the cashier. Sometimes I also like to play camping. I play this with my sleeping bag and play tent. When I was younger I liked to play restaurant.

There are a lot of things to do outside like playing basketball. Our family has balls that have bells inside them. I also like to do switch board, which means it turns from a scooter to a skateboard. We got a volleyball net just a few months ago. There’s also a park nearby. It’s great to hang out at. My next door neighbor has a trampoline that they let me jump on. They have a swing set my sister and I can play on, too.

Inside I use my karaoke machine that I got at Christmas. My sister and I do puppet shows and plays for my mom and dad. I’ve had sleepovers. One time we played hospital. Another time we watched movies and made the sounds we heard in the movie. My mom and I play scrabble. One time I beat her.

At school we play kickball. I used to have somebody kick for me because I didn’t like to have balls come at me. But that all changed when I tried to kick it by myself. I kicked it hard and high. I was proud of myself.

Sometimes when we’re on the bus my dad thinks of a character from  TV, a movie, or a book and we try to guess it.

Thank you for letting me talk at the Parents Division meeting. I hope you like my report and that it is helpful.

 Blind Kids Play, Too

by John Pastorius
Speech given at
“The Serious Work of Play” Seminar
2002 NFB Convention

John Pastorius
John Pastorius

Hello, my name is John Pastorius and I live in Smithfield, Virginia. Did you know that Smithfield is the Ham Capitol of the world? I am glad it is because I love ham. Oink Oink!

I’m eleven-years-old and I’m going to the sixth grade. One of my favorite things to do is play. What playing means to me is to have fun. We should play a lot so we can stay healthy and happy and sleep well at night. When I am getting ready to play I feel like I have made the right decision and I feel excited. There are a lot of different ways you can play, but you have to pick what you want to do and that can be hard. I decided to do a lot of things. I started Cub Scouts as a Tiger, and was in the Cub Scouts for four years. I loved it when we used drills, saws, nails, hammers, and wood to build a pinewood derby box, a toolbox, and a CD rack. The smell of the wood and the sound of the hammers were cool. My favorite song we sang was “I don’t know, but I’ve been told, we look good in blue and gold.”

When I went to Webelos camp we made some things that the Indians used. Some of those things were medicine wheels, medicine bags, an eagle necklace, and a talking feather. It was so cool making those things that I’ll never forget. Cub Scouts was a great way to play, but when I started to get older I decided to try new activities as well.

I rode horses and took lessons for awhile. I like to do galloping position when the horse is trotting, and I also like to post while the horse trots. I plan to go horseback riding when I’m on my summer vacation in Colorado.

Playing with my Dad has always been a lot of fun. One thing I used to do with my Dad was Civil War reenacting. I always enjoyed bringing a harmonica with me so I could play it at the campsite. The smell of the uniforms and the campfire, the sound of the fife and drum, and the guns and canons made me think that I was going back in time.

Another thing I like to do with my Dad is work on his old cars and motorcycles, and ride them. My favorite one is his motorcycle with a sidecar. The bike is a 1974 Motoguzzi with a Russian sidecar. In case you didn’t know what a Motoguzzi is, it’s an Italian motorcycle. Right now my Dad is trying to teach me how to drive it. The only problem I have is letting the clutch out, but that just takes time.

I know the perfect place to go if you want to play all day—Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. I like the rides there because I can feel the wind in my face; the rides there go fast, and I like fast rides. My favorite roller coaster is the Loch Ness Monster. I like the Loch Ness Monster because it has drops and you go upside-down. The coolest part on the ride is when you go in a cave and then when you come out you get sprayed by a mist.

One thing I’m looking forward to is being in the middle school band when I go to sixth grade. I’m looking forward to that because I play the French horn. I plan to play my French horn in the middle school band. I am excited to play my French horn in the middle school band because I get to play it at concerts. I think middle school will be a new challenge in my life and will be a big step for me. But this summer I plan to do a whole lot of playing.

I have a brand new pool in my backyard and I plan to swim in it this summer. I’m on the swim team so I am a very, very excellent swimmer. I plan to play with the toys in the pool. It will be fun when my friends come over.

I think playing is very important because when you have done too much work or homework, playing can get your mind off work. I hope everybody plays a lot so they stay healthy and happy. I want to thank you for letting me make this speech.

Blind Kids Play, Too

by Amy Herstein
Speech given at
“The Serious Work of Play” Seminar
2002 NFB Convention

Hello. I’m Amy Herstein and I’m fourteen-years-old. This is my sixth national convention. Karen Herstein, my mother, is the president of the Maryland Parents Division of the NFB.

Amy Herstein
Amy Herstein

For fun you may listen to or play music, read books, talk with your friends, shop, play games, or go on a family vacation. Any child will do these things—blind or sighted. Now ask a blind child, “Do you always participate in activities that your sighted friends do?” Often you will hear a negative response. Some of the activities they do not do very much are pranking and going to dances.

I first learned about pranking when I was very small, but I had absolutely no interest in it until I attended our NFB of Maryland Teen Retreat for Blind Youth when I was around twelve-years-old. Even then I just helped other kids fill up their water balloons. But I got a good laugh whenever someone got pranked in an extremely funny way. Now I think being pranked is fun, and one of my all-time favorite ones is to explode tons of large water balloons on people (laughter).

At the KIDS Camp and Teen Retreat events sponsored by the Parents Division of the NFB and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM), there is always a traditional prank night. The campers, sometimes aided by the counselors who are also blind, play practical jokes on other people. Pranks can include things like pummeling people with water balloons, blasting them with water guns, tangling them in spider webs of Silly String, putting salt or big marshmallows into their beds, clogging up drains with marshmallows, soaking a bed with lots of cold water, stuffing toothpaste tubes with raisins or Nerds to resemble bugs (laughter), spreading Vaseline over toilet seats, knotting up sheets or clothes, hiding people’s belongings, applying Vaseline to door handles and faucets, and a wealth of other things. The rule on prank night is use your imagination, but keep it safe and reversible.

This year I was a junior counselor at Kids Camp. The prank night was an especially wild and crazy one, to say the least. The leader of the camp, Mrs. Loretta White, planned a joke on Tom Owens, our blind O&M teacher. First, you should know that Mr. Owens was grilling our food for the cookout that night. About half an hour after dinner we were to go to him moaning and say “This burger wasn’t done,” and,  “I feel sick,” or “My hot dog was not cooked enough and it made me get sick,” or something of that nature. Mr. Owens would think that his cooking had made everybody get sick. However, somebody blabbed and told him about it, so that was totally out of the question. That night one of the boys came into the girls’ dormitory and completely trashed it. Mattresses were pulled from the beds and clothes were strewn all over the place. We had to chase the intruders out of the room. One of the girls’ counselors caught two of the boys, Steve and Frank. So, we girls tied Steve to a railing and Frank to a doorframe. (laughter). Everyone present cracked up—letting out great guffaws of unsuppressed laughter. The defeated invaders yelled, “Help, untie us.” The boys were trying to wrap us up in toilet paper even as they screamed and squirmed. That was a true riot. I was not personally targeted by anyone but still, I got my fair share. For example, when I grabbed a spigot to fill up a water balloon, it was all slippery and gooey. “Oh, no,” I thought. The soap dispenser is busted. I started to rinse off what I thought was soap. It wouldn’t come off. It simply would not come off. Turning on the hot water, I scrubbed like a mad woman. The oily stuff stayed on my hands, and then I realized I’d gotten a-hold of a great gob of Vaseline. In fact, every faucet was covered in it. It took me an entire geological age to get all that disgusting gunk off my hands (laughter).

The other prank that happened to me was my own fault. I filled a water balloon to a particularly titanic size. Then, impatiently, I tried to tie it. Of course, my fingers slipped off the top of it. Splash! Water gushed out pouring all over the place like a small Nile river and totally drenching me to the skin. Everything was soaked—my shirt, pants, and all! Worst of all, the water was approximately the temperature of absolute zero. I nearly froze to death. Honestly, one counselor told me later, “You’ve earned the official backfire award.” Playing pranks involves being sneaky, keeping secrets, and working with other people at times. Arguments that blind children might make for not doing it could be “I can’t see,” or “People will see me, so how can I prank them?” By learning how to play jokes, they get more proof that they are like their sighted peers. It also will enable them to understand, and to participate, if their friends discuss pranking. They can volunteer to help and not feel weird doing it. Their friends will most likely want to include them.

Another activity that many blind youths don’t do much is dancing. An excuse may be “I don’t dance because I don’t know how to.” At dances blind teens sometimes won’t know what to do and they feel strange asking for help. At our teen retreat this year, blind youths were shown by other sighted teens how to do dances like the electric slide. The sighted people we worked with—who were members of Mrs. Cheadle’s Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)—were very good at showing us the correct moves and steps. We were taught new dance steps, shown how to dance with others, and learned about slow and fast dances. Through this, we were able to get rid of some of the awkward feelings associated with going to dances, and could just have a great time.

Going to dances won’t be as uncomfortable for blind kids if they are shown how to dance. It is yet another way of showing them that they are just like their friends. Participating will be fun for them, and they’ll act—and be—more confident. Even though we have technology to help us do our schoolwork, blind kids must also be given the chance to understand that they can be like their friends in other respects as well. Thank you.

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