Here’s a tiny anecdote that I think captures the essence of helping children who can’t see, understanding how to succeed when we can’t see, and most everything we’ll ever need to know about how to do when we can’t see.
I was six years old and in the first grade. My mother had come to pick me up after school and was talking to my teacher, Miss Icenogle. I was playing near by and dropped the pencil I was using. My mother immediately started to pick it up and hand it to me. Miss Icenogle said, “No, let him look for it. He needs to learn to listen to those types of things. If he looks and still can’t find it, then you can hand it too him, making sure to mention where you found it.” And thus, a long journey of learning to do it for myself was underway.
With “I’ll learn to do it myself,” as our mantra, here’s the message, in short.
• Good communication skills matter a lot. Start by looking at whoever is talking, whether he or she is talking to you or to someone else.
• Stand or sit up straight, look up at others when you or they are talking and speak up so others can hear you without needing to make any special effort.
• The single best way to be taken seriously in any conversation is to make it clear that you are taking other people and what they say seriously. If you first attend to taking the other person seriously, he or she will be more apt to take you and what you say seriously. The more seriously they take you and what you say, the more your not seeing moves into the background, the less likely they are to put you into their blind box.
• There is a critical difference between can’t and haven’t yet figured out how. When we put BATS (Best Alternative To Seeing) first, “I can’t see” is never the end of it. Any time there is something we need to do or just want to do, the challenge is to figure out what our best alternative to seeing is, while still being able to do whatever it is we need or want.
Here’s the thing. It’s far too easy for many of us to play our blind card. We either wait for someone who can see to help us with the activity or do the task for us, or we simply avoid the activity. Can’t or at least won’t wins. The outcome is cumulative: we gradually do less and less, avoiding more and more.
Here it is in the proverbial nutshell. The best alternative to not seeing is to figure out how to do whatever you want done, by yourself, without depending on sighted assistance, unless necessary.
But how do we who can’t see do that, how do we do what we want to do, get what we want? I know of three general approaches that usually cover the challenge for me. First, I can get someone who can see to do it for me or get it for me. Second, I can enlist the help of someone who can see to assist me with doing it myself or getting it myself. Third, I can develop the skills and strategies I need to do it myself or to get it by myself.
Not seeing is a nuisance, inconvenient, frustrating, but is what it is. Doing without looking requires a skill set and resources that are neither easy to acquire nor simple to maintain. If you want a quick and easy solution, sit back, relax and hope that someone takes pity and waits on you. Otherwise, here’s the deal:
• If it is to be, it’s up to me, despite my not being able to see.
Were you expecting some secret tricks or magic techniques? There aren’t any, or at least, I don’t know them and haven’t found anyone who has.
Work on your social and communication skills and then set off on the long and difficult journey to doing things you want and need for yourself. I think the key is staying out of other people’s blind boxes, while developing and expanding your skill set for doing without seeing.
Doing without seeing is like becoming a good ball player. It requires motivation and determination, good coaches and playing opportunities, concentrated study, and from there, it’s all practice, practice, practice.