Well, I certainly have had my experience dealing with blind children. When our daughter, Lynne, was born in 1953, within a couple of weeks we realized something was not quite right about her eyes. We took her to the Doctor, and were told he would keep close of her, and he would see her at the six week checkup. At that time, he told us he was not sure if it was a brain problem, or an eye problem. We were referred to a specialist in Worcester, who told us she had cataracts. Starting at three months we took her to the hospital for “needlings.” She got her first pair of glasses at that time, and I will never forget the expression on her little face when the glasses were placed on her. It opened up a whole new world! We were told I probably had German Measles in the first trimester, which I did not, but they said I probably had a mild case and didn’t know it. The chances of it happening again, were practically nil. They were so convincing, I thought about it, but honestly did not worry about it too much. As a precautionary thing, when our son, James, was born over two years later, I had him examined, and was absolutely devastated, when I was told he was blind also.
Now, to go through the same needlings again, and he got his glasses at 9 months old. I might add, as babies, neither child ever removed their glasses, they made such a difference.
Lynne had attended a private Kindergarten, but it wasn’t until she was in first grade, we were told she would have to have a Braille tutor, or we would have to send her to Perkins. I had this friend who had worked at Perkins and knew braille. She tutored her for the first year, and then we got this very dedicated lady from Worcester who went from school to school tutoring blind children in the area.
Lynne, an excellent student, went all through the public school system, and then on to Assumption College, from where she graduated with the highest honors!
Jim, reading large print, unfortunately, never learned braille. He attended public school until the middle of his sophomore year. Jim had many nice friends in school, but academics were difficult for him. Not being able to read text books in fine print, etc., It was suggested that he attend Perkins. So off to Perkins he went in the middle of his sophomore year. What good timing! A small engines course had just been introduced, and Jim, being a hands on person, became a leader! It was right up his alley. He was the first student from Perkins to go out on a paying job in his senior year. I do not recall the name of the company, but Jim continued to work there for 20 years, at which time he got married and moved to Springfield, and got a position at Springfield College on grounds, etc..He worked there for almost 20 years, with a great work record, but what little eye sight he had, has now become practically nil, and after trying to return to work after a broken ankle, and being hit by a car, they could not take him back. He, at 61, is now on SSI. However, he was always a great worker!
As a parent of two blind children, my advice to other parents of blind children is Do Not overprotect your children. Expect the most from them. I have made acquaintances with many parents of blind children over the years, and have seen so many that have overly protected their children, and the kids turned out to be helpless little individuals. Lynne and Jim are both Very independent. Lynne travels all over the country by herself, and it does not faze her one bit. She has one Monoplex eye, and very little sight in her one eye. People say to her, “Lynne, how can you travel all over by yourself when you can’t see?” Her response is, “Well, I have a mouth!”
Jim travels back and forth to Boston and Quincy to visit old Perkins friends. Guess you can tell I am pretty proud of both of them!