Ever since I was a small child, I have never known how to really answer questions like,
“What can you see?”
“Is your vision blurry?””
The one I hated the most growing up was, “How many fingers am I holding up?” Thinking back now, I wish I would have always responded to that one with my middle finger and saying, “This many.”
You see, I can’t answer those questions the way you would. For someone like me, and my Marley, we have never had perfect 20/20 vision like yours to compare it to. What we see isn’t blurry. What we see is normal to us. We function quite well with the vision that we do have, and we function even better if we don’t rely on just our residual vision, but instead with that and our non-visual techniques.
In a discussion with a family member about Marley’s night terrors, I was thrown the theory that perhaps she cries so much in her sleep is because she is distressed from her lack of eyesight while she is awake. Perhaps, her flailing around, swiping her arms through the air are attempts to clear the fog blurring her vision. In the case of someone going blind who previously had 20/20 eyesight, that theory might stand. In our case, this is not the reasons behind her restless sleep.
All throughout my school years, I told my teachers I could see the handouts they’d worked so hard to enlarge. I’d pretend to do the work, take it home, stick it under a CCTV, and spend the rest of the night redoing it the right way. At each one of my visits with the ophthalmologist, when asked to identify the letters on the eye chart, I’d answer as automatically, “I couldn’t see anything below the big E.” Around the age of 20 or 21, I finally fessed up that I couldn’t remember the last time I could actually see that big E. I can’t even see the fact that there is an eye chart across the room.
I’ve heard from concerned parents of blind/low vision kids worrying about why their children lie to teachers about what they can or cannot see. Parents, it is important to remember, your child might be able to see the object. The question is, how does that child see the object, not whether or not they see it. This can be one reason to so many misdiagnoses of acuity.
Children are eager to please. If you want them to see something, they will most likely tell you they can see it. It is up to you as a parent or educator to make sure that child knows it’s ok to not see.
I suppose the next time someone asks me, “Do you see what I see?” I’ll answer with,”No, I see what I see, not what you see.”