American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections Special Issue: Early Childhood
by Deborah Kent Stein
"Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclin'd," wrote the English poet Alexander Pope in 1732. The formation of young minds is not unlike the shaping of young trees; early influences set the tone for what is to follow throughout a person's lifetime. In the National Federation of the Blind we recognize the tremendous importance of early experiences and opportunities in the lives of blind children.
In 2004 Future Reflections published a special issue called The Early Years. For more than a decade the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) have distributed The Early Years to new parents, providing them with practical suggestions and a positive philosophy about the potential of blind children. By no means is this new special issue on early childhood intended to make The Early Years obsolete. Instead, this issue is meant to expand and enhance the resources available to new parents and to teachers who work with blind babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.
This special issue gathers some of the best articles on young blind children that have been published in Future Reflections during the fourteen years since The Early Years appeared. Several of these, such as Heather Field's "Learn to Play and Play to Learn" and Carla McQuillan's "The Conquest of Independence," are based on presentations that were given at NOPBC conferences. Some articles included here, such as Melissa Riccobono's "My Body Belongs to Me" and Michelle Murrey’s “Scrambled Eggs and New Perspectives,” are brand new. Carol Castellano's "Possibilities" and "Parents: Blind Children's First Mobility Teachers" by Joe Cutter first appeared in The Early Years. They are classics in our NFB literature, and they cannot be reprinted and reread often enough.
Taken separately or together, the articles in this special issue are filled with encouragement and hope. Whether suggesting games or simple science experiments, ways to spark exploration or methods of teaching, they are based on the premise that blind children have the same needs and capabilities as children with sight. They encourage parents and teachers to foster curiosity and movement in young blind children, supporting our supple twigs to grow straight and strong.