Children with visual impairments are often categorized by how much vision they have. Are they totally blind? Can they see light? What can they see? Can they read print…or do they need braille? Everyone wants the answer to the question, “How much vision?” Obviously the parents want to know, but so does every other person we meet…friends, relatives, educators, therapists, etc.
When Eddie was a baby, he was categorized as totally blind. We were even told by his first ophthalmologist (whom we didn’t see very long) that he would never have vision, and we didn’t need to see another eye doctor ever again. Eddie not only was diagnosed as totally blind, but he behaved like he had no vision as well.
As he got older, we began to realize that he seemed to maybe have some vision. He was lifting up his head to see toys. He was reaching for items in his periphery. He was quickly finding the exit in every room…even if he’d never been there before. These were things it didn’t seem like he could do without at least some vision.
However, as his parent, I still clung to the concept of totally blind. I couldn’t assume he had aspects of vision, without any reliable proof. I had already built his life in my mind around a person who was totally blind. Everything had to be tactile, and vision was to be disregarded in my mind.
Now, at the age of eight, he has quite a bit of usable peripheral vision. He avoids obstacles entirely, he willingly explores new rooms, he visually scans the floor when he drops something, and he searches the refrigerator for his favorite foods. Even with all of these skills, I have a hard time seeing him as partially sighted. To me, he is simply blind.
In general, it doesn’t matter how I see him, but it does change what I expect from him. Because I have ignored his visual skills for so long, he may not be using the vision he has as efficiently as he should. I now have a goal for myself to encourage Eddie to “look” as well as tactually explore.
I craved any information about Eddie when he was little, and now, I have a harder time wrapping my brain around new information. I painted a picture of Eddie, and that picture isn’t easily changed. This can make it difficult for me to accept evaluations from professionals that disagree with what I have come to believe.
It took a teacher of the visually impaired updating my son’s functional vision evaluation to change my perspective of him. The amount of sight certainly has nothing to do with how much I value Eddie. I loved him when I thought he was totally blind, and I love him today knowing he does have some functional vision. What does matter is that this may change how he can be educated.
Now myself, and his team, know that we have another sensory mode to tap into. If he isn’t grasping a concept tactually…or auditorially…we can now try visually. It is simply another tool that may benefit him in his life. This potential benefit has reminded me to be open to change. My picture of Eddie should remain fluid, because if I’m not willing to accept change, I’m taking that opportunity away from him as well.