When Eddie was born, I am not exaggerating when I say he really was the first blind person I met. To me, our situation was very unique, because I knew absolutely no other person I could talk to that could relate to our new parenting adventure. Not only could I not call up a parent of a child who was blind, I didn’t even know anybody that had a child with special needs. I am sure many of you found yourselves in the same situation.
Now, when I look around my life, I am surrounded by people that have children like mine, or similar to mine. I know people with children that have visual impairments, and we laugh about similar experiences that happen to those in our special club. Even though my education in the world of blindness has grown immensely, I remember when I wasn’t so “worldly.”
There was a time I would have been the annoying stranger that was gawking at your children. I would have seen a little boy or girl with a cane and felt a mixture of sadness and maybe even pity for that child. I think of that person I was, and I was extremely ignorant about the world of special needs. I had no experiences, and therefore could not relate at all to other people raising these unique youngsters.
Now, I have surrounded myself with parents, teachers, and friends like me. Sometimes, when I enter a room and introduce Eddie, and state that he is blind, I will hear, “my child, too.” Suddenly, this kid who used to be extremely unique in my eyes is just like many of the kids I know and work with every day.
Even though I now feel just as comfortable with children that have special needs, as I do with those that do not, I try to remember a time when I was less knowledgeable. When strangers seem to be gawking, or asking too many questions, I remind myself to be friendly and honest about Eddie. Instead of being bitter, which I sometimes am, I decide to be an educator.
If Eddie was the first blind person I ever met, he certainly will be the first blind person many other people meet as well. His blindness may not be unique to me anymore, and those in my circle, but he will always be unique to somebody. Hopefully, the memory he leaves with people, and we as his parents leave with people, will be a positive one. That way, the next time they see another child with a visual impairment they won’t be intimidated, and maybe will be brave enough to simply say, “Hello.”