Do’s and Don’ts to Remember When Meeting a Blind Person.

October isn’t just for wearing pink and Brest Cancer Awareness. It’s also Meet the Blind Month, so we’re accessorizing with canes, a positive attitude about blindness, and getting out there doing everyday things like everybody else. Here’s Marley with her long purple cane, and me with my long white cane as we leave Town Square after a fun story time and magic show before school today.

Marley with her purple cane and me with my long white cane

Here are just a few friendly reminders of do’s and don’ts when meeting a blind person.

Do; say hello instead of standing around waiting for us to expect to know you’re there.

Don’t; point when we are asking for directions, we are asking because we actually need directions.

Do; ask if we might need assistance.

Don’t; grab us by the arm and drag us to where you think we might be going or across the intersection.

Do; ask us about our blindness if you are curious.  We are more than happy to talk.

Don’t; point and stare, jump over our canes, or pull your children across the street.  Blindness isn’t a contagious disease.

Do; tell us which bills are which when giving us change.

Don’t; say, “Here are your bills, and here are your coins.”  I think we can figure that one out for ourselves.

Do; engage us in conversation.  Some of us actually might have some pretty interesting, intelligent, or hilarious anecdotes to share.

Don’t; yel or speak slowly to us.  We are blind, not deaf.

 

To my blind friends reading this who have your own do’s and don’ts to share, please feel free to comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

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Think Love, Be Love

I saw this photo on Facebook this morning and just had to share it.  This week threw me a few curveballs that could have left me angry or discouraged. Instead of letting those initial emotions take charge of my reaction to the situations, I interpreted the situations as a chance to turn my passionate personality into a powerful one with action instead of reaction. I choose to live life with love in my heart, create and emanate positivity, and shun away all things related to anger and hate.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer also shared this photo saying,

“Think of the people you know who give love in response to negative energy that’s directed their way. There aren’t many people who respond lovingly in that situation. The ones who do are able to because they have love to give away. They know that it’s impossible to give away what they don’t have, and they’ve gone that extra mile to acquire what it is that they want to both attract and give away. If love and joy are what you want to give and receive, then begin by taking stock. What have you got to give away? What are you giving out to the universe, and thus, what are you attracting? Remember that you can’t give away what you don’t have, but you can change your life by changing what’s going on inside.

Low energy attracts low energy. Low energy thoughts, such as anger, hate, shame, guilt, and fear, weaken you. And they attract more of the same. By changing your inner thoughts to the higher frequencies of love, harmony, kindness, peace, and joy, you’ll attract more of the same, and you’ll have those higher energies to give away.

To begin to change what’s inside you, become more loving toward yourself. In your thoughts, cultivate an inner voice and attitude that’s 100 percent on your team. Imagine an inner self that only supports and loves you. You might schedule a certain time of day when that’s the only thought that you allow yourself to pay attention to. Gradually this loving attitude will extend to other people. You’ll begin to receive this energy back and ultimately be able to send thoughts of love and joy to everyone and everything in your world.

Make a pact to remind yourself often of this secret of not being able to give away anything that you don’t have. Then work on your personal program of self-love, self-respect, and self-empowerment, and create a huge inventory of what you wish to give away. If what you give is self-respect and self-love, the universe will return the love and respect you’ve been radiating. It’s really so simple. As the Beatles said: “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”

“WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS”

As we continue on through our Marley and Me saga, I make it a point to make blindness and the word blind something Marley will relate to with proud and possitive feelings, not ugly or negative ones.

So often in the world blindness is accompanied with sadness, pity, shame, grief.  It is my goal to abolish any negative ties to blindness in my daughter’s world.

If the world could only view things through the eyes of an innocent child, it would be a much more beautiful place.

During one of our discussions about the word blind, I had explained to Marley how people who need to read Braille and use canes are called blind.  Marley’s response, “And we’re all human beings!”

One of my favorite photos from this summer.  Even with reaching around with both My cane and Marley's cane, we still barely manage to make it halfway around that giant redwood tree.

One of my favorite photos from this summer. Even with reaching around with both My cane and Marley’s cane, we still barely manage to make it halfway around that giant redwood tree.

 

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.

October Reflections

As I looked at myself in the mirror this morning while I was brushing my teeth, it really hit me how much my life has changed.  I was slightly hung over from the margaritas I had at the concert the night before.  I had dark circles around my eyes, thanks to the lack of sleep that accompanies motherhood.  My husband was stretching on the bedroom floor, son babbling in his room down the hall, and daughter snoring in my bed.  I couldn’t help but smile and thank my lucky stars for such a wonderful way to start a day.

My first time in Las Vegas was in October of 2005.  My then boyfriend, now husband of five years, was moving here for work and I decided to keep him company on his drive out.  I was still in college, doing the clubbing, shopping, cramming, and sleeping in until noon on weekends lifestyle.  As he decided to leave Sacramento, I too decided that I was ready for a change.  I had just attended my first NFB of California State Convention and realized that my, “Fake it till you make it,” philosophy was not working as well as I wanted it too.  I decided that I was going to put the rest of college on hold and learn Braille, and did so by becoming a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind just a few months later.

In October of 2006, I left LCB and my safe bubble of friends who lived just a few doors away with positive blindness philosophy oozing out of my pores, and stepped off the plane into the next three years which would be filled with depression, denial, and distancing.

If you know me at all, then you know that I am a social butterfly.  I thrive with the company of others.  I am always smiling and love to share it with just about anyone.  But, I had know idea what moving to Las Vegas was going to be like.  I didn’t know anyone besides my husband and his twenty year old sister, who had her own social life that I had rather not tag along on.  All of the confidence that I’d gained in Louisiana seemed to disappear after a month or so.  I started to sink more and more into depression the more and more I allowed myself to stay isolated.  This is probably why I volunteered so much time and energy with the NFB.  So much time and energy that it started to take a real strain on my marriage.  I was gone all of the time.  I jumped at any chance to hop on a plane taking me to events all over the country.  I even left for a summer internship in Baltimore right after we got back from our honeymoon.

Then in October of 2009, I was just weeks from having a baby, house hunting, putting together a state convention, and feeling like I was the ball in the pinball machine getting tossed all over the place.  I didn’t realize how much having a baby would change my life, she was the anchor to steady me and keep me grounded,

On October 8, 2011 the last piece of the puzzle was put into place when my son was born.  Yes, exactly one year ago, I was holding my brand new baby boy wishing that time would stand still.

But of course it didn’t, and it is now October 2012.  My son has just turned one and tonight his big sister helped him blow out his candle on a mini cheesecake.  He is now walking, actually running all over the house chasing his sister and our dog, sometimes going so fast he forgets how to slow down or stop and runs into walls.  I have made so many incredible friends whom I love and consider like family.  And we will all be celebrating Jackson’s first birthday this Saturday in the form of a pirate party complete with bounce house and all.

I might not have a killer body, six digit pay check, drive a fancy car, or wear designer clothes, but this is the  life.  I could never possibly ask for anything more.  And I am so thankful for everything and everyone that I have in my life.