Marley and Me Musical Chairs

Photo of Marley and me

I feel like I’m in a real life game of musical chairs.  First I was the blind child, then the blind student, then the blind parent, and now I’m sitting in the seat as the parent of a blind child.

This blog has been a draft in progress, and I’m finally ready to share it with you all.

About 2.5 years ago, we brought my daughter into see the pediatrician for a double ear infection.  This was when it was first brought to our attention that she had a nystagmus.  After a few trips to the eye doctor, we were given the diagnosis of Spasmus Nutans.  This is the combination of the Nystagmus, Amblyopia (lazy eye), and a head tilt in response to the other two symptoms.  We were told that this was common in eye development in toddlers and it should correct itself by school age.

Over the next 2 years it looked as if it was somewhat getting better, only showing when she was really tired or concentrating to see something at a distance.  But  as her fourth birthday came around, we noticed more and more signs that perhaps we were just looking for it to get better because the doctor said it would

I noticed that she was having difficulty seeing the letters in her books while we were working on reading and writing.  My husband noticed she was having difficulty tracking things at a distance.  Some of my close friends noticed that when she went to grab an object, it looked as if she wasn’t reaching directly for that object but more feeling for it.

I couldn’t believe I let two years go by since her last eye check up.  When I called to make an appointment in January, the first available appointment wasn’t until May.  This wasn’t acceptable, especially to a worried parent.  After asking around, I found another ophthalmologist who came very highly recommended in my network of moms.  I also decided to contact the school district to see if she would qualify to get into their preschool program, because if she would be needing any services I wanted to start the process sooner than later.

After a series of assessments with the school nurse, psychologist, vision test, and hearing test, we sat down to our first IEP (Independent Education Plan) this last Tuesday.  It was determined that my daughter qualifies to start preschool under the fact that she would be a blind/low vision student.  Keep in mind that we hadn’t yet seen the new eye doctor.  There was much discussion about what accommodations and services she would be given  As I’d expected, there was much disagreement on the topic of Braille.  The low vision specialist claimed she felt my daughter has too much vision to learn Braille, that it would slow her down and confuse her.  Knowing the IEP process, and knowing that I was able to ammend it if I felt need be, I simply told them that if they didn’t want to teach her Braille in preschool, that was fine with me.  I am already teaching her Braille, and by the time the school district is ready to approve Braille instruction, she’ll already be fully reading uncontracted Braille, and far ahead of her peers.

A few days later, on this last Friday we visited her new eye doctor.  It turns out that she doesn’t just have the three sypmtons that make up Spasmus Nutans.  She’s got Optic Atrophy just like her mama.  It’s very possible it was a dormant gene that appeared in me, then I passed to her.  It could be that since we weighted two years without treating the Amblyopia, it caused the atrophy in the eye.  It could be a fluke coincidence.  However, all that matters is, she’s got the same eye condition as me.  The doctor also told us that her vision loss is severe enough that Braille would be best for her. Forcing her to read print would only strain and stress her eyes thus possibly making things worse.

I’ll be honest.  This weekend consisted of a whole lot of tears, a whole lot of guilt, a whole lot of grief, a whole lot of anger, but also a whole lot of of inpouring of love and support.  It also consisted of a whole lot of pride.  On sunday morning, I heard my daughter chatting away while she was eating her pancakes.  My mommy ears perked up when I heard her say, “X is 1 3 4 6.”  I then asked her to show it to me, which she did on the little wooden Braille block that we play with.  She then told me that X was her favorite letter in Braille.  I was overwhelmed by the comforting feeling that no matter what, everything will be fine.  She is a happy, healthy, beautiful, bright, and strong little girl that will succeed in whatever her heart desires.

With my own personal experiences, with the resources and support through the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Federation of the Blind, with the love of family and friends who will treat her like every other little girl out there and not like a child that needs to be tended to or coddled, I plan to surround her with nothing but positivity and make sure that she grows up to be a confident young lady doing whatever she wants to in life.

So…to my dear sweet Marley, this song is for you, because you’re amazing just the way you are.

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First Day of School, Not Here in Our House Though.

Today was the first day of school for most kids in Las Vegas.  Both parents and kids were full of excitement and maybe just a little bit of anxiety this morning.  Alarm clocks buzzing, lunch bags and backpacks getting double checked so that nothing is forgotten, new shoes laced, tied, and double tied for plenty of playground fun, and we can’t forget about those first day photos getting posted to Instagram, Facebook , Twitter, and texted to grandparents.

But none of that happened here in our house.  The kids and I slept in until 8:30am.  My husband and I enjoyed a big breakfast and coffee out on the patio while the kids ran around in their bathing suits splashing in the rain and the kiddy pool water slide.  Now Jackson is napping, Marley is watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, hubby working in the garage, and I’m cranking out this blog.

Why isn’t Marley starting school today?  Well…here’s what I told my next door neighbor when she asked me this morning.

Marley is still only three, and not turning four until November.  This means she won’t be starting Kindergarten until fall of 2015 because of the age cut off here in Nevada.  As a stay at home mom, I don’t think it is necessary to send her to two years of preschool.  We spend a few hours each day working on preschool activities, and also incorporate learning into everything we do; from trips to the grocery store, gardening in the backyard, or strolls through the park.  I run a neighborhood mommy meet up group so the kids get plenty of socialization.  My husband’s work schedule gives him quite a bit of time home, making it easy for us to go camping, hiking, to museums, visit local orchards and farms, and take countless road trips exposing the kids to hands on learning opportunities like our upcoming trip to the Astronomy Festival at Great Basin National Park.  We are even giving a little bit of thought about homeschooling our kids completely.

I go back and forth on homeschooling.  There are so many pros and cons  to consider.  As a blind parent I will definitely have a few more challenges with home schooling than a sighted parent.  I can’t read handwriting, so I will have a tough time teaching my kids how to write.  I am not very tech savvy, and a lot of the curriculum comes from online sources, including PDF format which aren’t screen reader friendly.  However, homeschooling would mean we would have more control over our children’s education.  Nevada has one of the worst public school systems in the nation.  We can continue to incorporate learning in our frequent family trips.  We won’t need to worry about things like bullying, unhealthy school lunches, transportation, etc.  Like I said, so many pros and cons.

So for the next two years, at least until I need to make a decision about Kindergarten, my kids will be getting their education here at home.  I’ll talk to more parents who have chosen to homeschool and do the research so that we can make the best decision for our family.  For the next two years we won’t need to worry about alarm clocks on Monday morning delegating the start of another week.  I am going to suck up every moment of our family quality time.  Whether those moments may be adorable, annoying, or aggravating, they’ll be gone before I no it.