by Carol Castellano
Carol Castellano and her husband Bill are leaders in the
National Federation of the Blind's organization for parents of
blind children. They live in New Jersey with their children
Serena and John. Serena is blind and John is sighted. For both
of these children, the future is filled with exhilarating
possibilities. With sparkle, pride, and belief Carol shares
some of them with us. Here is what she has to say:
It took my daughter Serena a long time to decide just
what she wanted to be when she grew up. Whereas my son was
only four when he decided that he would be a dinosaur
scientist, it wasn't until she was seven that Serena realized
that her destiny in life was to be a folksinger. Happily she
played the chords to her favorite song, "Michael Row the Boat
Ashore," on my guitar.
Then came the Presidential campaign of 1992. Serena was
eight. She sat rapt before the television listening intently
to the speeches of both parties. After the summer's two
national conventions, she realized that it wasn't a folksinger
that she wanted to be after all--it was a folksinging Senator.
By late fall, having heard all three Presidential debates,
Serena was going to be President.
Her barrage of questions about how she could learn to be
President and conversations about what politicians do kept up
for so long that my husband and I were convinced she really
might go into politics when she was older.
In the late spring of this year, Serena went out with her
father to pick early snow peas from the garden. Coming inside
with her basket of peas, she told me she was very interested
in gardening. "That's wonderful," I replied. "You'll be a big
help to Daddy."
Overnight Serena's interest must really have taken root,
because the next day she asked me if I thought the gardens at
the White House were too big for the President to tend, since
the President is such a busy person. "Yes," I replied. "I'm
sure there's a staff of people who take care of the White
House gardens." "Well then, I won't be a gardening President,"
she told me. "I'll just be a gardener."
The desire to be a gardener was still but a tender shoot
when Serena took a piano lesson--just a few weeks after
picking those peas--and realized it was a pianist she wanted
Serena is at such a wonderful stage of life! Interested
in everything, trying everything out, she sees the world as
her plum, ripe for the picking. She believes in herself, as we
believe in her. And since what people believe largely
determines what they do, it is critically important for
parents of blind children (and other adults in the child's
life) to have positive beliefs about blindness and what blind
people can do.
If we are told (in a journal article or by a teacher of
the blind, say) that blind children usually do not or cannot
learn how to do a certain task, and if we come to believe
this, chances are we will not give our child the experience or
opportunity anyone would need in order to do this task. And
chances are the child won't learn to do it.
Imagine, though, if we--and our blind children--were
never told that blind people couldn't accomplish a certain
thing. Imagine what the results might be if everyone believed
that blind people could do anything they wanted to! Well, I
believe this--and attending NFB National Conventions has
solidified this belief for me. It is this belief which guides
the way I bring up my daughter.
My husband and I know personally or have heard speak a
blind high school teacher, college professor, mathematician,
scientist, car body mechanic, industrial arts teacher, Foreign
Service officer, engineer, a high-performance engine builder,
and a man who has sailed solo in races from San Francisco to
Hawaii. This makes it possible for us to glory in the
exhilarating feeling of watching a child look toward the
future and see only possibilities.