We are delighted to welcome Greg Botting as a guest blogger today, writing a tribute to his mom in honor of Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all of our wonderful FamilyConnect moms!
By Gregory P. Botting
If there ever would be an award for “best mother of a child with a visual impairment,” I believe my mother would qualify as a top contender. However, before I say why my mother in particular would be a top candidate for said award, I should probably go into a little background about myself and the remarkable woman who is my mother.
My name is Gregory (preferably Greg) Botting, a blind college student from Ionia, a small town in southwest lower Michigan . . . Sort of. (I was never very good with pointing out where I live on my palm.) Born in 1994, my blindness was primarily caused by my premature birth. My mother, Gwen Botting—rather predictably—needed time to come to terms with my being blind, but very quickly decided that the best course of action was to be as supportive as she could be. By October of ’94, I was being visited by the local teacher consultant, and he would often tell my parents things off the record he technically should not have.
I rapidly progressed in learning, once I started school; in fact, my mother has said that my elementary school teachers had never seen a child as eager to learn as I was. This, perhaps, was motivated by my parents, particularly my mother. She was somewhat of a Renaissance woman, good at almost anything she put her mind to—gardening, baking, teaching music or informing myself and my sister about worlds impossible to reach except in books. At the same time, she presided over MAPVI, the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments. This continued through elementary, middle, and most of high school; my mother left her post in September of 2011.
All throughout my time in K-12 education, my mother was a constant advocate, both for myself and for other students. In particular, she advocated for me NOT to waste my time taking lessons from an Art teacher who clearly did not want me in his class. She also advocated for me to be able to attend my Physical Education classes while in elementary school-and actually be involved. So many times, blind and visually impaired students are made to remain on the sidelines of the gymnasium because teachers do not believe they can do what the other students can. True, there must be adaptations made to some things, and some sports are not very practical—tennis or badminton for example—but that does not mean blind and visually impaired students are incapable of being physically active.
As I got older, my mother began to advocate for other students; telling parents about her advocacy with me, going to IEPs and the like. In addition, by my entry into seventh or eighth grade, she had begun to become heavily involved with Camp Tuhsmeheta, an overnight camp for blind and visually impaired children about 30 to 40 minutes via car from our house. The camp had provided a way for me and other students to maintain our skills during the months we were not in school, and it was very near and dear to my family.
Though I had by this point taken on responsibility for a good portion of what I needed, my mother tirelessly continued to advocate for me.
She advocated for me to take French all through high school—an endeavor which was not as successful as we hoped because of the machinations of the school board. She also kept advocating for students in districts which were being particularly difficult. I can clearly remember her helping a student in the Upper Peninsula at one point.
As I entered my Junior year of high school, my mother felt it was time for her to move on. By this point, Camp T (as we called Camp Tuhsmeheta) had fallen on hard times. Also, she, my mother, was tired. For over a decade, my mother had been advocating on behalf of parents and blind children, and now she needed rest. At the MAPVI retreat that year, she resigned, passing the torch to a parent from Ann Arbor on the east side of the state.
Yet, six months later, my mother ascended to the directorship of Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind, the organization that had been running Camp T for a number of years. She strove indefatigably to gain funding for camp sessions, hire excellent staff, and justify to the state of Michigan what the value of this camp was and is. In this endeavor, she has been engaged nearly fourteen months.
She is tenacious, tireless, indefatigable and iron-willed in her advocacy for the blind and visually impaired children of Michigan, particularly Camp T, which has helped so many. Despite all the challenges she has, does, and will face, she does not give up. She is, in my opinion, the best mother that any blind or visually impaired person could wish to have.