An Interview with Wendy (Chris’s Mother)
I’m Wendy Nusbaum, and we live in Maryland, and I have an 11-year-old child who has been blind from birth.
What part of the journey with your son has helped him the most to be successful in school?
We’ve been very fortunate to have a really good team. We have a wonderful TVI, and a one-on-one aide, both who truly support Christopher’s need for independence. We have always stayed in touch with his teachers and been very open with them about how we wanted Christopher to be treated, like any of the other students in the classroom. Early on, we got to know the higher-ups in the school system—the principals, the superintendent of special education—and these people got to know us personally, we weren’t just a name. They knew that we knew our rights and what was appropriate for Christopher. We’ve always approached problems within the school system in a “how can we work together as a team to make this better.” With those approaches, we’ve been very fortunate with his education.
What has been the best opportunity for your son to learn about mutual respect for others and self-determination skills?
Mutual respect for others has come from everyday life. First and foremost, Christopher is a child, and he needs to learn his manners like any other child. We’ve always talked very openly with Chris about life. We’ve told him parts of it will stink and parts of it will be great. We’ve told him he can do anything he wants, but it’s going to take some hard work. For self-determination skills, we’ve always taken opportunities to discuss things that we see or hear. We discuss how others have achieved things in their lives and what it’s going to take for Christopher to receive some more things.
What has your son gained by going to sports or enrichment camps for building early confidence with his physical mobility?
Christopher has been attending summer camps since he was six years old. Each year, when he came home, he was much more confident and independent. The camps have always given him the opportunity to do things that he typically wouldn’t get to do. The very first camp that he went to at age six, he did a ropes course, and he got to experience a zip wire. These kinds of opportunities and successes can only boost your confidence. Also, the more chance he has to be successful with his mobility skills, the better they’ll become.
Why would you say it is important for parents and their young adult child who is visually impaired know about and advocate for the inclusion of the expanded core curriculum in the IEP?
Academic skills are very important for all children, but the expanded core curriculum is imperative for visually impaired children. It is great that they can read, write, do arithmetic, but if they cannot operate a computer, get anywhere independently, know how to comb their hair, or how to interact with other people, they will never get a job and have a fulfilling life. The earlier parents get expanded core curriculum goals into their child’s IEP, the better it is for the child and their overall education. These are the goals that help visually impaired students be equal with their peers.