[lv-ottawa] Help! My Baby is Blind!

  • From: Gaston Bedard <gasbedard@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: 'viewpoints list' <viewpoints@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 05 Jun 2014 06:13:49 -0400

Help! My Baby is Blind!

by Michael Hingson, June 4, 2014.

Every expectant or new parent anticipates getting only the most “perfect
baby in the world.”  If the newborn child looks in any way different, or if
the doctors find “something wrong” with the child, all joy and enthusiasm
can come crashing down around the new parents and their families.

A perfect example of this is what happens to any mother who gives birth to a
child which happens to be born blind.  In my case, for example, the
blindness was not diagnosed until four months after I was born, and the
blindness was not technically there at birth, but it was caused by me being
given a pure Oxygen environment right after birth.  You see, I was born two
months prematurely and the Oxygen-rich environment was necessary in order to
keep me alive.  The condition which caused my blindness is known as
Retinopathy O Prematurity.  Blindness is not always the result of a pure
Oxygen environment for newborns, but it can be a condition that results.

I can only imagine how my parents must have felt when they learned in July
of 1950 that I was totally blind.  To make matters worse, the doctors in
Chicago where I was born told my parents to send me away and put me into a
home since all my presence would accomplish would be to destroy the family
dynamic and the relationship my parents had with their older son who was
sighted and normal.  Essentially, the doctors told my parents I was
worthless and that I could never amount to anything simply because I was

My parents were horrified, not as it turned out because I was blind, but
because of the reactions and opinions of the doctors.  They rejected out of
hand the viewpoint that I was worthless and could not grow up “normal”
simply because I was blind.  They told the doctors that they were taking me
home and would raise me to believe that I could do anything I set my mind to
do.  In escense they told the most knowledgeable physicians of the day that
they were going to teach me that it was okay to be blind and that I could
make my way in the world.

I think the results speak for themselves and demonstrate that my parents
were right.  I went to public school and graduated high school at 18 years
of age.  I earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.  I
earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Physics.  I worked successfully
in sales and management positions for 26 years.  I was in my office in the
World Trade Center doing my job when terrorists attacked the building.  I
escaped and my career has continued to evolve as a result of that
experience.   I now travel the world telling my 9-11 personal story and
discussing the life lessons which help others adapt to change and overcome
circumstances.   I still sell, but now I sell attitudes and concepts of
life, while encouraging people to do and be more than they ever thought
possible.  I even run my own consulting company.

The view that blindness is the most disastrous of all “disabilities” is
wrong.  In fact, no “disability” should be considered the end of the world
and a end of dreams and ambitions.  Based on numerous surveys exploring
perceptions and feelings about blindness, we know that many people view
blindness as one of the most horrible things that can happen to anyone.
According to the Gallup Poling organization, 76% of all people in the United
States fear blindness more than any other “disability,” ranking blindness as
one of the top five fears we face.

My parents chose not to fear blindness, but rather to embrace it as one of
the characteristics that were part of my makeup.  They found ways to show me
the world and how to live in it.  At times they were fierce fighters on my
behalf.  While they did not expect the life we encountered together, they
faced it with joy and discovered that they did okay with their efforts.

So, the question is what will parents today do if they find they have given
birth to a blind baby or if their child becomes blind for some other reason?
Here are my suggestions:

Raise your blind child to be the best he or she can be.  Each of us is born
with gifts.  Embrace the gifts you discover in your child.  Blindness can be
one of those gifts if you and your child make it so.

The best way to do so is to find the nearest chapter of the National
Federation of the Blind, www.nfb.org <http://www.nfb.org/> .  Before you
attempt to locate any state, local, or other private “agency for the blind,”
listen to blind people themselves.  Through the NFB you can make the
acquaintance of other parents of blind children.  The federation has a
division called “The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children,”
(NOPBC), https://nfb.org/about-nopbc#main-content with hundreds of couples
who are raising or have successfully raised blind youngsters.

When I was three, or was it four years old, I recall walking with my cousins
and brother to the local candy store.  Sometimes I held someone’s hand to
get there, but once I learned the route I needed no extra help to get to the
store or anywhere else.  When I was seven I was independently riding my own
bike around our town, Palmdale California, where we moved two years before.
Although neighbors chewed out my parents constantly,  I was still given the
freedom to take risks, make mistakes, and also to succeed.  Blindness DOES
NOT mean inability to observe, think, or act.  Allow a blind child to be
part of the world and to make friends like any other kid.  Sure parents
should provide ground rules for a blind child just as with any child, but do
not make those rules more restrictive and hindering simply because of
blindness.  When the child falters make sure the appropriate lesson is
learned and move on.

People will always be telling you and your child what a blind person cannot
do.  I am constantly amazed at how many people think they are experts on
blindness even though they have never tried it or know any blind people.
Perseverance must be the order of the day, especially when raising a blind
child.  The best way to counteract challenges from society is to find good
role models who are blind and who can help show you and your child how to
live, function and succeed.  Again, the National Federation of the Blind is
the best place to find such people.  You must encourage your child and show
him or her that life is a challenge for everyone, not just them.  You can
teach your child the skills he or she will need although you may have to
teach using alternative techniques to sight.  Who knows, you may learn a
thing or two along the way.

There are many technological devices to help blind people read, work,
monitor a computer screen, and do lots of things.  However, technology is a
means to an end only.  The self confidence a blind child learns is first and
foremost what any parent must instill.

In our world many of the so-called experts tell people who have some eye
sight that they do not need to learn Braille.  These “experts” say that so
long as one can see that print is better than Braille and, after all,
Braille is passé.  They encourage blind people to use recorded books and
talking computer software called screen readers, but not Braille.  These
experts are ABSOLUTELY WRONG!  Braille is the only means for true reading
and writing available to any blind person.  If we discourage Braille reading
then we also should discourage the teaching of reading and writing printed
matter for sighted persons.  Blind persons who do not learn Braille tend not
to be able to gain employment as easily as their Braille reading colleagues.
Also, just for the record, Braille is not meant for only people without any
sight.  If a person’s eye sight is diminished to the point that they must
either use enhancements or alternatives to be able to read print then that
person should learn the techniques of blindness.  I have seen hundreds of
persons who were partially blind as children who were not taught Braille,
but instead were taught to read large print characters, or they were given
magnifiers to enlarge standard print fonts.  In almost every case they grew
up not being able to read nearly as well as a child who learned Braille,
regretting as adults their lack of Braille reading and writing skills.  So,
demand that your blind child, totally or partially blind, learn to read and
write with Braille and do all you can to see that your child masters these
skills.  You won’t regret it. 

I could go on with more thoughts, but I hope you get the idea.  If I said
“don’t treat your blind child differently than any other child” I would be
misguiding you.  Instead, you should give equal treatment using whatever
tools are called for depending on the child.  Most of all, hold every child
to the same ethical, educational and life standards.


Copyright Michael Hingson Group

end of article.  

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