Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Inspiration

My mom came to visit a few weeks ago and we had a great visit. It provided so much insight and reflection for me. If you didn't read my side bar, let me get you up to speed. I was raised by a single mom who has total vision loss. She was born with toxoplasmosis. She had low vision as a child and then lost the rest of her remaining vision in her teenage years. She was totally blind by the time she had me. She is, of course, the reason why I'm in this field and why I have great passion for it.

I learned a lot from my mom but not because of what she taught me directly. It's what I learned from being part of her world. As I have said in other posts, it never occured to me that it was hard because my mom was blind when I was growing up. It was just a way of life for me. I learned early on what I needed to do in order for her to understand what I was talking about.

As a professional, I sit back and observe my mom with my teacher eye. She put her cane on our dinner table and I told her to put it on the floor because I don't like "cane bogies" on my table (it's the exact same thing I tell my students!) It's not that I treat her like my students. It's just now as I have had time to learn, I realize what a hero my mom truly is.

My mom had limited skills and even more limited resources when I was a child and a teenager. We relied on good friends to help. We had limited financial resources. We didn't have a phone or nice furniture. And despite a long list of negatives, my mom was a mom first and a blind person second.

I always knew that even though she physically couldn't see my JROTC uniform or watch me at my softball games, she thought I was the best. Again, I am humbled, proud and amazed to see what she continually accomplished with such limited resources. I thought about this constantly as she was with me this last visit. I was proud that my sweet daughter chose to stay at home with her and play with her. I laughed with love when my mom reported that it was my daughter who got the step stool and helped cook lunch, washed the dishes and took care of things. I looked at my daughter and saw myself as a child standing next to my mom doing the exact same things.

I learned a lot that week. I learned about how visual memories fade. I was reminded again how different the world is for my students with total vision loss. But how brilliant my mom and my students are to have figured out how a visual world works. I am reminded to look at each step of a sequence in order to understand the whole concept when teaching. Sometimes I don't think I can articulate it for my education teams how to look at each and every tiny step in a concept. It just makes sense to me. My mom taught me.

My other favorite moment of my mom's visit was watching my almost-5 year old guide grandma and her little brother across the street. I told my girl to hold on to both of them as tight as she could! It has always been my hope to share with my children the love I have for my students. They come to several of my student events and play with my students. But I think this visit and this moment I'm writing about built a new bridge.

They played in the big yard at our apartment complex after they crossed the street. I have to admit, I was reluctant at first to let my mom take care of the kids alone. I feel ashamed but I couldn't help but wonder, what if something happens? But then I stood up, reviewed everything with my kids and mom and let them go. I watched them play from my apartment. My mom held her cane up and let them run under it. I remember this game with such tenderness. I played this very game with my mom, too. Then I watched her play freeze tag and my kids circled around her with excitement; just like I had when I was a kid. And to make me proud again, they didn't run away or take advantage of her blindness. They played with her as if she could see them. But then again, she can.

I know that it is hard for my parents at times as they learn to navigate the unique needs of their children who are blind or visually impaired. Blindness is a unique disability. It cannot be compared to Autism or cognitive impairments or deafness or anything. I'm in this field to make a difference because blindness is not about what you cannot see, it's about what you can do. There are wonderful, brilliant strategies for teaching all children with a visual impairment. It doesn't matter if it is a child that is a Braille or large print reader, deafblind , CVI or has autism spectrum disorder/visual impairment. As professionals, we are constantly learning from our students (and our families).

I hope as you follow my blog you will feel empowered. I hope we learn together. I am thankful for my students, my colleagues and most importantly, my mom. I'm proud to be her daughter.


  1. I can NOT put into words how incredible this blog entry is. =)

  2. was it your goal to make me cry this morning? tears of joy, Robbin, tears of joy :)

  3. Robin, really neat! great post , tell your mom i said hi

  4. Hi Robin, I met you a few years ago at Shirley & Tom. Great read. I will be the first to stand in line when you get published. Keep those beautiful words coming. Troy