This past weekend, I had one of those opportunities I cherish: a chance to talk to parents of children who are blind or visually impaired. I love these opportunities, partly because I get to talk about all the things my parents got right in helping me achieve independence as a blind person. A lot of it they did on instinct and good judgment, following a few good words of advice from, believe it or not, the surgeon who removed my eyes as an infant. His parting advice was direct and profound. After the surgery, when my parents asked him if they should keep me in a playpen, he responded with, "Absolutely not. Treat him just like his older brothers and it'll be fine."
Simple and profound advice.
I love to tell that story because it reflects well on my young ophthalmologist and my parents. It also had a lot to do with my success. Sometimes it is the simple straightforward advice that really matters.
At last weekend’s Families Connecting with Families Conference in Boston, I spoke with parents about the importance of letting their kids be kids—letting them be curious and open to risks, even the risk of injury. Kids naturally take risks and blind kids should too (albeit not foolish ones, to be sure). I told them that there are remarkable blind people that have climbed mountains and run in the Olympics, but the important steps are really the ones that their kids take in going to the mall, the movies, sporting events and the graduation stage.
I told them there were others things they could do to support their children. I encouraged them to support video description and the Anne Sullivan Macy Act, and to connect with each other via FamilyConnect.
Oh, and one other thing. A lot of us get questions about how to best help someone who is blind. I like the approach of Tommy Edison, better known as the Blind Film Critic. He's got a pretty good take on life. I was pleased to see this commentary— the "PSA of the Day"— show up in Thursday's "Morning Pixels" Sports Blog on the Washington Post. It's a fine description of what to do when you see a blind person crossing the street. Again, direct and straightforward advice, wait before offering to help to see if it is wanted or needed.
Father and son photo courtesy of Shutterstock.