I was thinking over my opinion on expectations of blind children this afternoon. Well, I’ve been thinking it over a lot over the past few months, but still. I found myself criticising the NFB philosophy to Sigrid last Saturday when we were going to the mall. I told her that blind people aren’t poor, helpless people, as many charities seem to think, but that they aren’t just sighted people, as the NFB seems to think.
This afternoon I was thinking over this statement: why would so many blind adults be members of the NFB and hold this philosophy, if it weren’t true? Then this evening I read over a statement I made on the BVI Bridge message board. I can’t find it, but it stated that blind children are children first, and blind second. This is what many blind adults and parents of blind children say, but I seem to interpret this somewhat different than many folks. Others define it as that blind kids are just like sighted kids. I feel that some blind/VI kids may be just like their sighted peers but some may actually have more difficulties.
Often, as I’ve stated before, this is said to be caused by either too low expectations or an additional disability. As for the expectations thing, I’ve always said and thought that if too little is expected of me, I’m happy my parents don’t know. In some ways those folks may be right – for instance, I’ve done very few household activities over the past years, most that I did being on my own initiative cause I wanted to practice ADL skills -, but in many ways my parents (at least, that’s how I feel) expect me to do the things the articles say they should (which is, treating the child equally you would a sighted kid the same age, which is sooo frustrating at times…).
And as for the additonal disabilities: do the folks want every blind child who’s more difficulty than the so-called average blind child to search for explanatory labels, like I did? The first months of my search for info on autism spectrum disorders my feelings about the topic had nothing to do with blindness – I just was called autistic by my Dad and it appeared I recognised the symptoms of mainly Asperger’s Syndrome. I didn’t think of the issues surrounding its comorbidity with blindness until much later, when indeed I started thinking I must have an additonal disability (AS?) because I apparently didn’t understand the things normal blind kids were supposed to (the social skills things, mainly, but also other issues).
I can’t say the repetitive statements on blind kids being just like sighted kids made me wonder if I had an additional disability – well, they did make me wonder about that, but I already suspected an ASD and those definitions only made the search for labels worse. I don’t say other blind folks like me will get to search for labels (I don’t even know if there exist blind folks with my difficulties, and probably they don’t read Future Reflections).
What I do want to say, is that these rigid statements about blind kids being normal kids except they don’t have sight and otherwise being over-protected or having multiple disabilities (boy, and those that actually have multiple labels are poor, little children!!!), totally ignore the “blind children are children first, and blind second” statement, cause a child will be defined by her labels and not by who she is!!! I wish folks wouldn’t be so rigid: this child is only blind, so she must be able of… while if the child’s difficulties got a name, she suddenly was multi-handicapped and sooo poor… I’ve wondered aboutt this along my way to finding info on the impact of blindness on development, my participation on blind-related mailing lists and in relation to my AS suspections…
A few months ago, someone at the BlindKid listserv asked what one could expect of a blind former preemie. What a stupid question!!! She cited a situation in which a girl had refused to pour with some can, because she couldn’t carry it cause she was a preemie. Well, such a statement would be bad because one shouldn’t use one’s labels as an excuse for one’s difficulties (although those rigid statements make it VERY attractive!), but it absolutely made no sense to think “a blind preemie” should be able to pour with such a can. (By the way, the whole discussion was in response to an article featuring a blind, former preemie boy who had a musical talent, but also had some dev delays, on which everyone immediately focussed, ignoring his abilities!)
Hmmm… am I ever rambling! But it sometimes is sooo frustrating… I know I’m doing the exact same I say one shouldn’t do – on looking for info on difficulties blind kids may have and on looking for info on disabilities like AS, I’m actually using my blindness or a possible additional label as an excuse for these difficulties -, but it’s sooo frustrating to have everyone state how able blind folks are (and by the way the BlindKid folks always look to the difficulties kids, featured in articles have: I’ve seen no article being discussed about which the folks were content), while I’m not… and there seems to be nothing that could explain these difficulties…