Eddie was able to briefly attend a camp for kids who are blind this summer. The camp is meant to teach independence, recreation, social skills, and other parts of the expanded core curriculum, which is specific to children who are blind or visually impaired. Although his involvement was limited due to some health factors, it was important for us to have this opportunity.
All summer Eddie had joined our family as we took his sisters to camps, watched their final camp performances, and sat nearby as they connected with their friends so they could make the most of summer. Eddie didn’t really have any social outings for himself, and although he was nearby as other kids played and participated in summer fun, he had little means to participate himself.
So, when we had a chance to take him to a summer program for kids more like him, we jumped on it. Although even at this camp, he wanted to do his own thing, he had the opportunity to play just like the other kids, and we encouraged him to do so. There was equipment adapted for him, kids with canes like him, and teachers that understood him, so there was no reason for him to sit to the side.
As we near the start of another school year, this is the thing I fear the most. I fear that he will be put in classrooms with peers, that he’ll sit near them at lunch, that he’ll share schedules with them, but he won’t participate. The fact that he’s in the room, or part of the crowd, simply isn’t good enough for Eddie or his education. He has to be pushed to take an active role in his day.
Children who are blind can easily be content when left alone… in fact, many prefer it. So, the perception is that they are learning just because they are present and because they are quiet. This is not the case for many kids and certainly not the case for Eddie. However, it is certainly the easiest road. He doesn’t want to be pushed or challenged, so he will be quietly content when left alone.
This is why we have to get him out of his comfort zone. We have to expect participation in all things, which leads to greater independence. We have to make sure he’s in classes that have meaning to him, that support his growth, and that also engage him with peers. No, this isn’t an easy task, but the effort will always be worth it.
I challenge all of us this year, parents and teachers, to make sure our kids are participating. Make sure they aren’t just close to where learning happens, but that they are right in the middle of it. Proximity does not equal participation… it only equals the easy way out. I’m sure "easy" is Eddie’s preferred method, but it won’t help him learn, and we can’t accept that.