Adorable Blind Kid Syndrome
by David Ferland, COMS
As an orientation and mobility instructor, I’m often asked a question like, “What is keeping Johnny from being more independent in school?” Let’s go through the list: Is he using his cane properly? Techniques can always be taught and refined, especially with good support in the school. Is the paraprofessional allowing the student to make mistakes? This usually requires some work since the paraprofessional wants the student to be safe and look good. But a good paraprofessional usually comes around and gives the space and opportunity for Johnny to solve mobility problems. Is he using his landmarks, clues, and routes? Working on routes and staying oriented can be an ongoing process as kids get older and there are more travel expectations in the school. But, in my experience, there is another less concrete factor affecting the mobility of younger school-age students.
There is a teensy bit of exaggeration in the above scenario but I think all of us working with blind students will recognize some truth in there. Rule of thumb: look around. If other kids are not being fawned over, then blind students should not be fawned over either. When he’s walking, he’s working, especially in school. When he becomes disoriented, give information and ask questions. “That’s the rug near the gym.” “Someone’s walking up the stairs.” “Do you hear Mrs. Smith talking to her class?” Encourage other students to let Johnny know when he is about to barge into them so he can make his own adjustment. Of course Johnny’s cute. All kids are cute and special (mostly). But mobility expectations should not be lowered because of cuteness. And they definitely should not be lowered because of blindness. Give that Adorable Blind Kid some space and watch him thrive like just another kid.