I just found out about a project Bartiméus has been hosting for several years that allows blind and visually impaired children to do their HAVO, a medium level high school, at special education. Children used to be able only to do a low level high school at the schools for the blind and if they wanted to do any higher level, they would have to transfer to a normal school. Children in this project, the Newton Project, can do seventh till ninth grade at Bartiméus and then transfer to regular education or they can complete their HAVO (graduation after eleventh grade) at Bartiméus. The school is not certified to do examinations at this level, but children can do their exams for a national examination commission.
The level of education used to be my parents’ official reason to insist I transfer to normal school in 1999. I have always known it was not the whole story, since at one school in Amsterdam I could’ve done my VMBO (the low level education) in three years instead of four and then moved up through the higher levels. Cause of deficiency plans and the like, this way I would also have been able to complete the high level high school I’m on by this year. My parents entertained this possiblity for a while in 1998, but the fact that at this school, it was not common for children to transfer to normal school before graduation, my probably having to be a boarding student, and the school’s lack of modern computer technology were reasons for them not to move me to that school. Another possiblity, which Sensis (my seventh grade special school) mentioned was my going to a school mostly teaching students with physical disabilities in Nijmegen, where I would be able to complete my high level high school education. Last year I met a student of that school’s, a boy who was visually impaired, hard of hearing and had a physical impairment and some social/communicative issues (don’t know if they were labelled but they were “official”, unlike mine). I know that the school only mentioned this possibility cause they didn’t want me to go to normal school and my parents only turned it down cause they wanted me to go to normal school. I don’t think anyone even considered it.
I know that it was not only the level of academics that made my parents insist I go to normal school, although they’ve made it seem that way all of the time. That was a very important reason for me. I know that my parents wanted me to normal school, no matter what. I understand that. One girl who attends the Newton Project said she wanted to go to normal school after ninth grade cause one couldn’t always remain in a protective environment. I have been thinking that this is an important factor in all that I’ve been experieincing over the past couple of years: I want to live successfully, but I also have to learn the compensatory skills to achieve this. One is always seen as more successful if one is at normal school, lives at home (instead of in a living facility) when one is young and on one’s own or with a family as an adult, and is involved with all “mainstream” activities, but one also needs to learn the specific skills of blindness, and how do you learn these if your only relatives and acquaintances are sighted? I’m sort of troubled with this issue now that I’m going to rehab to learn compensatory skills (that’s the word they use): I’m still feeling that I’m less successful cause I won’t just move on to college, and yet the reason that I’m going to rehab is to learn to be more prepared for my actual move to college next year. It still seems like a contradictio in terminis and I have trouble seeing that it isn’t.