Taking a Stand...

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?

Best Regards,


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!


Anonymous said...

Wow so does all of that apply to adults who get the blindfold treatment during O&M training? Talk about a paternalistic response.

Shandra said...

Deja, you amaze me! I wish I had your stamina and ethics and integrity! I would be all over this individual for daring to compare me to a kidnapper, not to mention all of the other things that she said to you. Those are completely baseless accusations, as you and many of your other co-workers know. I would hope that if I were ever to have a child in a similar situation that I would be able to find a teacher for he/she that is as wonderful as you are! You obviously have the ability to make these children feel comfortable in what could be, potentially, an uncomfortable or even frightening situation. You've taught them to understand that you know what they will face as they grow up because you've been there. This person has absolutely no right to tear you down in this way and I'm incredibly proud of you for standing your ground and continuing to be the amazing example that you've always been. You're fantastic and don't let any other "professionals" try to tell you otherwise!

SassaFrass Photography said...

I'm not blind or know nothing about what goes into teaching about it, but the shades make sense to me. It reminds me of Mr. Holland's Opus when they tell them there son will just have to learn to read lips, and to not let him use hand gestures. All in all the mother disagrees and put him in school to learn sign language where they are taught by other deaf individuals. What a thought! Let those who have had the actual experience teach! I know you are doing a great job, there are always going to be haters, just don't let them get to you :)

Natalia Mino said...

When I saw all those postings I couldn't believe it!!! You would never guess this is a professional talking. What really irritates me the most is that there is NO WAY these people,as you said Deja, would stop just a second to give other ideas AT LEAST A TINY THOUGHT!! Like: "what if...?" just that!! Also, this person justified that sleep shades are harmful for kids by giving a bunch of reasons that have NO scientific basis... an expert in the medical/cognitive psychology field would laugh really hard reading these postings. What in the world the use of sleep shades has to do with the Stockholm Syndrome????? Just hilarious!! That's way I like some of Daniel Kish'S comments (BTW, I think he was one of those LOL ;) ), because he provides proven scientific data to support his statements. He could be wrong, but he has a strong theoretical support. So, now the discussion can turn into what we call the "professional" field.
This is were I see a main flaw in our field: we trust in experience and common sense, which is one of the most important resources that we have, but, on the other hand, we lack some scientific results to support what we know from some being blind themselves and some from their work experience. It's obvious that these people won't listen thousands and thousands of blind individuals saying: "sleep shades worked for me!!! helloooo!!!??? Is somebody there???" "I wish I could've learned braille since I was little". What about if we, the professionals, could add to this strong research studies that say so too? What about if we can statistically prove that sleep shades work? I'm sure they wouldn't listen either, but maybe parents, teachers, administrators would give it a thought. I'm aware that conducting these studies is really complicated and there are many factors involved that have made this not to be happening right now... that's why we need you, Deja, to go for a Ph. D. and start kicking some buts!!! do yo imagine YOU with a Doctorate??? OMG!! I wouldn't like to be one of those who attacked you!!! GO FOR IT DEJA!!!

Erin J said...

First let me say that I agree with you on the value of sleepshade training.

But... people really don't get it. They need explanations and somehow they need it without all the emotions. (Not criticizing your post, criticizing their comments!)

On the blind homeschool listserv I read, a mom recently said the school district was using sleepshades with her daughter and she was so confused and put off by it. She obviously did not understand its value, especially for a child with deteriorating vision. It's important that people get explanations, especially like the ones in your post that explain the benefit it was to you personally. Keep writing and word will get out there.

Erin J said...

My husband and I were talking about this tonight regarding our soon-to-be-adopted daughter who is blind. He said it makes total sense to train under a sleep shade. Like musicians who practice the piece at a bit faster tempo than they plan to perform or weight trainers who lift heavier weights to build strength, it makes sense to practice cane technique or other skill under a blindfold so when you add in the 25% sight she does have, her skill and confidence will be that much greater.

Anonymous said...

Sorry my comment wasn't clear. I was calling the crazy over the top reply to your initial email paternalistic. "blindfolding children with low vision is ethically and morally wrong" and then to compare it to stockholm syndrome and cult brainwashing. I can only imagine what it would be like to know this person in real life, over the top hyperbole to random and unknowing comments.

Me: Ya know I really don't like walnuts in cookies
Her: Why do you hate me?

Dance Biz said...

I thought "It made my blood boil" was only a figure of speech. Oh no it's not. This mama is on FIRE!!!!!
Deja don't you ever stop standing up for what you believe!!! I know you won't!!! And Lord please I hope I don't ever run into this thing face to face!!!
Deja loves her students as if they were her own children! To call her an abuser, brainwasher, kidnapper, cult, ect. makes this lady one of the most pathedic people ever placed on this Earth! I (almost) feel sorry for her that she is that scrwed up in her thoughts! Maybe instead of being angry at her I should be praying that she learns how to treat people with the respest they deserve before she not only ends up with just a lot of enemies but also lands herself in legal trouble! What she said is actual SLANDER!!!!! I need to be done before my head blows off! Deja I love you with all my heart and could not be prouder of what you do! Please continue to change lifes!!! You make a difference!!!

Treva Olivero said...

Keep standing up for what we know works! We need more professionals like you.