Since when I have not been totally real on this blog?!? Today is certainly no exceptions.
I feel about a hundred-ish things right now. Everything from bitter, to angry, to aggravated, to disappointed, to livid, to out-right off my rocker crazy!
Come with me on a little journey going back about a week ago. I was working with 2 little first grade girls on O&M. They grabbed their canes and slapped their blindfolds on like any other day of the week. They NEVER complained about why I ask them to wear a blindfold and they KNOW why they are wearing one. We talk about it on a weekly basis and our little conversations go a little something like this:
Me: So ladies, why do we wear a blindfold during our cane travel lessons?
Girls: Because we are learning to use our hearing and we can learn to trust our cane quicker.
Simple as that. And NO, I have not BRAINWASHED them as I've been accused! I'm not that powerful!
So after our short conversation I couldn't help but get a little chuckle because there shades nearly cover their entire faces, they are tiny ones. So I mention to them that I am going to check it out and see if I can find a smaller blindfold for them to wear, they think this is a good idea. But we drop it there and move on with our lesson...
After the lesson and returning to work. I very casually, and with little thought to the matter, shoot an e-mail out over two ListServ's, which are email groups full of other professionals in the field, many times information is exchanged through these ListServ's and they can be quite helpful. So I sent out the following e-mail:
Hello Fellow O&M Instructors!
Has anyone found a good pair of sleep shades/blindfold that work well for kids. I normally use the MindFold shades because you can keep your eyes open and it blocks out light well. However, for my little ones (preschool-1st grade), they are a bit big and bulky for their little heads. Has anyone encountered this problem? How was it resolved? And are there Sleepshades out there that would work better for the little ones but still let them keep their eyes open like the MindFolds?
That's it. That was the e-mail. I honestly, without much thought, thought nothing of the firestorm this would begin.
I did NOT write it to enrage people by any stretch of the imagination. I did NOT ask for advice on best teaching practice or on whether or not I SHOULD be putting sleep shades on my kids. But let me tell you this, I got a LOT of these questions answered for me anyway. It doesn't bother me so much that this simple email caused a massive discussion/brawl/hair-pulling fest, in fact, I enjoy a good hearty discussion.
However, what I do NOT like, nor appreciate, is when so-called professional's in the blindness field ATTACK! And to say I was attacked is an understatement . This is the immediate response I got from an Director of a university training program that trains teachers of the blind:
“Why on earth are you blindfolding children? All questions are not equally OK in my book and are especially offensive on AER O&M list-NFB has its own list. As a certified O&Mer I feel responsible to voice concerns related to ethics. In my book, blindfolding children with low vision is ethically and morally wrong. Blindfolding individuals with low vision is abusive.
I don't care how many people with low vision buy into it; just ask those kidnapped victims who buy into their kidnappers claims- it is called Stockholm syndrome. Or cult victims who gave away their livelihoods and their familial relationships because they have been brainwashed.
There are issues upon which I must speak. This is one of them.
Do we bind the hands of those who lost a finger?
Do we put tape over the mouths of those who have a speech impediment?
Do we put ear muffs on children who are hard of hearing?
Do we put gloves on those with reduced tactile sensitivity?
Give me a good example of another sense - ability that is removed in order to improve that person's functioning."
Now, I chose not to respond to this uncouth comment on the ListServ, in fact I have not commented at all, I don't choose to step down the this level. But guess what, I have this blog all to myself so I'm about to tell you how I really feel…(well a watered down version anyway)…
Frankly, I am disgusted with so-called-professional and her entirely classless statement above, that in my opinion, verges on slander. I couldn't possibly be more appalled to be compared to a kidnapper, an abuser, brainwasher... It makes me irate!
I have always, always, always wanted what is best for the kids I teach. I was NEVER brainwashed to believe the way I do about giving kids (and adults) proper training to improve their lives. My students show me the upmost respect, they are ALWAYS able to express their thoughts and concerns to me and I have, nor never will I ever do anything to put them in a harmful or hurtful situation.
There’s certainly no cult I ask them to join. My motivation has ALWAYS been to give them the life I didn't have when I was young...not to brainwash them!
I also find so-called-professional tactless in her efforts to compare the use of sleep shades with other disabilities. If she could only really sit down and think for two minutes she would realize that my objective is NOT to take away anyone's vision, I use mine everyday and so will my kids. Instead, I use sleep shades to enhance what vision they already have. When those shades come off they will know when to trust their vision and when to trust their cane. You know how I know this so-called-professional because it worked for me and hundreds of other blind people I know!
In further posts, so-called professional makes statements to I and other blind O&M instructors that basically, we couldn't POSSIBLY know what we are talking about. My hell, ever think that maybe because I was the kid with ginormous glasses, tripping and stumbling and not participating socially because I had NO skills in blindness and because my O&M instructor told me I had enough vision I might know something about the topic. For a very long time I thought that if I just tried a little harder I'd be able to see things. That there must be something wrong with me if I should be able to see, because I just couldn't. My story is the same as hundreds of other blind people.
I've received training on both ends of the spectrum visual training and training with sleep shades. I can tell you that I have had way more non sleep shade training throughout my life and I learned very little; I can also tell you that as soon as I put on sleep shades and REALLY learned independence I saw a million doors open for me!
So to tell me I, and other blind O&M instructors who are national renowned, don't really know what's best is just a pathetic attempt to make me and other blind persons feel in adequate. I hope you're proud of that!
I will never back down from what I believe is best and I couldn’t care less when so called big-wigs in the field think about my character or reasoning for being a teacher. I will forever battle to do what’s best for blind kids. And I hope, someday, so called professional and those like her will learn to stop putting their giant ego first and start thinking about what really works.
It's fine if you disagree with me, but grow up and learn to show respect or you will never gain respect. You have none from me!