Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


 

You can find all of my articles including those on the now-closed Homeschool Mosaics site at Tactile View.org . The adventures of my life in the Dark Silence continues there with a few surprises, too. Follow along! I would love to see there.

Read Full Post »


This month on Home and School Mosaics I talk about culture. Most people know that there is a Deaf culture with that capital “D”, but many ask if there is such as thing as DeafBlind culture. I have always said no because there aren’t that many of us, and we seldom meet. A random happening on my Facebook newsfeed got me wondering if that is changing. We all search for our identities. For some, it is easy to find. For others, we go through life not quite fitting in anywhere. For the DeafBlind like me, we seem to be building something new, our own identity. It is a lifestyle based on touch. It is being called Pro-tactile. Come explore with me.

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/deafblind-culture-finding-our-identity-by-touch/

Read Full Post »

2014 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Read Full Post »


I saw a blog post today from a friend that reviewed a book about Helen Keller. Because of my friend’s wonderfully worded description of the pictures I can tell you that the book is a great resource for understanding DeafBlindness. You might just start to “Get it” that DeafBlindness isn’t just adding deaf and blind. It is exponentially multiplied. So, I am going to give a little link love to my friend. Please check it out. There is no way, being DeafBlind, that I could have written a review with the descriptions of the illustrations and intent of this book so well. So, this post is to my friend at Mom’s Musings, http://hexwit.blogspot.com/2013/07/concept-building-and-coolest-book-on.html

Read Full Post »


Homeschool Mosaics is my newest writing venture and connects in topic to my posts here at DeafBlind Hope: The Journey. I will be writing there about my journey in the Dark Silence as I teach children and help other DeafBlind people. There are many other readers at Mosaics, all from different aspects of life and homeschooling. Come check it out. We are also having a Facebook Launch Party tonight at 8:00 pm EDT with lots of prizes including those from DeafBlind Hope involving braille and ASL. Definitely show up for that! We have lots of big name sponsors for this events. You don’t want to miss it. Oh, and my column’s name is Homeschool Touches: Living and Schooling Through the Dark Silence.
Ok, here are the links: http://www.homeschoolmosaics.com
and https://www.facebook.com/events/230738350358421/
The Homeschool Mosaics Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/HomeschoolMosaics. Stop by and LIKE us!

I will be there. I hope you will be, too.

Read Full Post »


A few months ago I was asked to post my journals from my training times in 2006 at Southeastern Guide Dogs in Florida and 2007 at Helen Keller National Center for the Deaf-Blind in New York. I did post the training from SEGDI, but then reviews began to come in, so I took a break. Today, I will start again with the second training journal which is for my time at HKNC in New York.

The first two weeks were evaluation time. I didn’t write a post for much of that time. I was without a computer for several days when I first got there and then we had trouble get a good internet connection. They actually moved me from one room to another, so my internet needs would be better met. You see, I was there for many months for training, but due to my responsibilities as Principal and teacher at my school, I would still have to work while I doing my training. HKNC was very helpful to me in that respect.

In addition, I was also a basket case for at least a week. I literally gained 30 lbs from Friday to Sunday as I traveled by plane to New York. My weight among many other things was checked Friday afternoon by a doctor. It was checked again by a doctor at HKNC. I had gained 30 lbs. Frustratingly, despite intense exercise, I never lost that weight. Other than extreme stress, we still don’t know the cause of my strange weight issues, but that is a story for another day.

The trip from Atlanta to New York was also rife with stress as the security people at the Atlanta Airport were threatening to me and my guide dog. By the time, I arrived, all I wanted to do was turn around and go home and hide in my house forever. Then I got the first look at what I was to become. Before this time, I had never met anyone deaf and blind before. I had met few who were deaf or few who were blind, but none who were both. I had been trying to keep myself together and imagine myself being normal when I finally lost all of my sight and hearing. When I arrived, I saw people who were totally deaf and blind and many didn’t seem like functioning adults. Many could not get around a room without falling over something or running into someone. Others would get frustrated with other people because they couldn’t understand them and would scream and push and throw things. I was terrified out of my mind because I thought I would become just like them. I sobbed. In fact, I sobbed heavily for most of the days and all of the nights for about a week. God was with me, and He eventually showed me that I could learn and I could be independent again. It would just take time and effort. This is the beginning of that tale back to independence. I learned a lot of lessons. Come along and you might learn a few, too, as my look back in Time continues:

HKNC Residence Hall

HKNC Training Building
My first week at Helen Keller:
I arrived Sunday afternoon about 3:00 pm. I tried to talk to my husband and couldn’t get a good connection, so homesickness set in pretty quickly after I saw and met some of the residents. There are many residents here. Some with more sight and hearing than me and some who are totally deaf and blind. The deafblind ones have no clue who or what is around them. You have to gently touch them to let them know you are near. You talk to them with sign language, but they place their hands over yours and feel your movements. I have to admit that my previous image of what I am to become was shattered. At first, I wanted to run and hide. I didn’t want to accept that at all. I don’t remember a lot of the first two days. I tried not to cry, but it didn’t take much to set me off. I could see nothing, but dim, fuzzy shapes around me and nothing was familiar. I kept walking into things and people. The staff had to guide me around every step of the way. This did not help me at all to feel more at home or secure. Every class I went to was started with talking and asking me questions. As I shared my feelings and explained the reasons behind me coming to HKNC, my plan of action changed rather quickly. I was taken out of the regular assessment cycle since I have a job and wish to stay with it. Now it is about seeing how they can help me carry out my day to day tasks and duties as a principal and teacher. That will help shorten my stay some since the first 8 weeks will now include mostly training rather than full evaluations.
To address my feelings about becoming totally deafblind, I thought the best way to handle that would be to try and talk to the deafblind residents here. Since I already have some basic sign knowledge, I tactilely started a conversation with a few of the residents over the next few days. They went quite well. I met one in particular named Steffie who is about my age, is married and has three children. She lost most of sight while the children were still young. Steffie is very intelligent and takes care of herself very well. She is here to improve her Braille skills and learn some more independent living skills. She is trying to find some type of work. These conversations help to reassure me that there is a real thinking and intelligent person in that body still. I know it probably sounds silly, but facing this really scared me.
The last couple of days have been increasingly better. Of course, getting my computer and X-box 360 helped to lift my spirits considerably, so I can do some work for the school and talk to my husband at night. In addition, I have begun my Braille training and sign and tactile sign training. My instructor was extremely surprised and pleased at what I already knew. The Ga Council for the Hearing Impaired rep, Marianne, and my deaf friends at church are responsible for that. I greatly appreciate it. I also began cooking, not just any cooking. I am cooking blindfolded. Most of my training here is being done as a totally deaf and blind person. It is definitely challenging, but it will keep me from having to return here as more of my vision and hearing decrease. I cooked a cheese omelet the first day and grilled chicken today. Both tasted very good. I also began learning and practicing chopping food and using a tray to do all my cooking in, so I will know where everything is and won’t be spilling food on the floor. They have a lot of devices and tips that even a sighted person would love to have and know. This weekend I won’t have class, but I will practice Braille and sign. I will also take little Joe to the dog run and walk the track. I finally got oriented and given permission to go alone over there. It is supposed to be nice tomorrow. Joey really needs it. No matter what I do he keeps getting stepped on, hit with canes, etc. I try to put him under a table wherever I go. These blind people aren’t cautious and aren’t trained in being considerate of others. They walk fast, clumsily, and continuous until they run into someone or a wall. Joey is often in the way. I will tell you more about the place, its schedule, and some of the people I’ve met next time. My schedule will be changing quite a bit over the next week or two as they finish testing me and placing me in my actual training classes. Until then, keep praying for me.
Renee’

Read Full Post »


One of the many problems facing some students in learning math is that they have trouble reasoning or thinking logically. The student may have been presented facts previously that they memorized for a tentative period, but they didn’t learn how to use those facts to reason or think logically about problems given to them. Thus, the student tends to forget many of the math facts shortly after the test. One problem with teaching a student to think logically is creating problem samples that are interesting and suitable for applying facts learned to deeper levels. The Critical Thinking Company has long established that they can produce materials designed to teach a student to think mathematically and apply the math facts to useful and interesting problems. Their newest edition to the Mathematical Reasoning series, Mathematical Reasoning: Middle School Supplement continues that tradition beautifully. My high school and middle school-aged students have been using this product recently in order for me to review. Let me tell you about our experience.

First of all, Mathematical Reasoning: Middle School Supplement has fifty problem sets covering topics typical of Middle School level from 2D Geometry to Probability to Per Cents to Statistics to 3D Geometry along with some higher level thinking practice on miscellaneous topics. There are a hundred pages of actual content with fifty-four remaining pages of detailed answers. Each lesson comes with a list for review of any math facts needed to solve the problems for review. In the answers section, strategy tips are also listed for each lesson if the student needs a little help finding the process to solve.  Each problem was developed to stimulate mathematical reasoning and provide enrichment and practice for specific skills. The problems are not particularly real-life oriented, though, so if you are looking for that kind of problem set predominantly, you won’t find it here. The author might provide more of that in the future, though, if needed by many. While the answers provided are detailed and comprehensive, many problems do have more than one solution method, so students can be encouraged to be creative in the process. The publisher suggests that the book can be used for enrichment, but also as an overall assessment tool of how well a student learned middle school concepts.

I found Mathematical Reasoning: Middle School Supplement useful with my gifted Sixth graders and for my lower level Ninth graders. The Sixth graders were excited by the idea of doing middle school math problems, and also found them challenging and interesting. The 9th graders needed to revisit the math facts and practice using them and focusing on the thinking process of working the problems designed for a specific skill. Many found the work in their own books too challenging. These problems were just the right fit.

The Critical Thinking Company has its Mathematical Reasoning series in nine levels from Pre-K to 8all focusing on the strategies need for solving a wide variety of math problems. Other workbooks covering other subjects and topics are also available on their web site. You will find Mathematical Reasoning: Middle School Supplement on their site at http://www.criticalthinking.com for $19.99. The series will be a great step to improved math reasoning preparing students for upper level math courses, as well as improved test scores.

I also recently reviewed The Critical Thinking Company’s Editor In Chief: Beginning 1. Please check it out, too, here.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Read Full Post »


Touch Points
By Renée Walker

Finding Release from Isolation

As I contemplated the topic of my column for this issue, I kept being drawn back to a statement made by a friend in response to my last column on the issue of a national SSP for the DeafBlind. Her comment had been a positive one about the article, but a statement that support at home from family and friends is needed the most. This refrain I hear from many DeafBlind and actually find myself repeating often. I really felt the need to probe more deeply this issue and these feelings that are the source of this refrain. Drawing from my own experiences and statements from others, we will be exploring the feelings of isolation and loneliness of DeafBlind people and the fears of the unknown and of helplessness of many hearing/sighted as they deal with a DeafBlind loved one. Be mindful that no one is to blame for the situation we, DeafBlind, find ourselves in. Together, we and our circle of loved ones must learn to cope and enrich each other’s lives.
I can only tell you for certain of my feelings as a person who was deaf by late childhood with growing, but uncertain vision problems who seemed to suddenly become blind around age 40. My experiences and those of whom have shared the most with me are from a blinded later in life perspective. Some have more hearing than I have ever had though most would not have known the extent of my hearing loss before I lost the vast majority of my vision seemingly at once. Our experiences now come with some perception of sight and sound from earlier in life. There is an expression that goes, “Ignorance is bliss.” I have wondered if it is easier to be DeafBlind if you were so from birth or earlier in life without any memory of sight and sound. I can’t fully answer that, but I think the challenges are very different, and some such as education are even more difficult, but the feelings of isolation and loneliness can be the same. For me, I am glad that I have a perception of sounds and visual memories. As far as sound, I truly only miss the sound of music, but I still feel it and now in ways deeper than ever before. For me, the loss of vision is what seemed to be the diverted path leading to invisibility. Being deaf didn’t affect me as much possibly as part of that ignorance is bliss theory because I lost my hearing progressively beginning shortly after birth. I think more of the reason was that I could still gain so much information from the world around me visually. I was oral because there were no other deaf people in the places I grew up. My mother was deaf, and so was an uncle, but I lived far from him and saw him only on occasion. My mother and uncle grew up in a different time where being deaf was not a good thing and even a feared thing, so they hid their deafness. They were excellent lip readers and with aids could hear some environmental sounds and possibly learned to decode words although early childhood found them as hard of hearing. As with me, early hearing allowed me to develop speech with a normal tone. My lip reading skill is also excellent if I can see a person’s lips, but I only feel comfortable getting that close to my husband. In the past, people thought I could hear more than I could. With my vision decreasing slowly, I was able to go many years without facing the issue at all. At 40, I could no longer do that. Spiritually, I was prepared. God led me on a journey in the years prior that brought me so close to Him that the coming and unknown blow of being DeafBlind was dulled. I took the changes in stride and got to work learning new ways to be as independent as possible. I learned braille and ASL. I learned new ways to make sure I could take care of myself. What I didn’t expect was that those around me wouldn’t be as strong in learning to deal with me differently. I soon found myself with none of the friends I had before from my active life as a mother, teacher, Boy Scoutmaster (I had sons), church member, American Red Cross volunteer, and more. The only connection to my former life was my family and Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. (SEGDI) where we had volunteered as puppy raisers for many years as a homeschool project. The family struggled to deal with my changes, but they were there. The members of SEGDI and especially one, Julie, rallied around me and encouraged me as I stepped out in faith to learn new skills including getting my guide dog partner, Joey, who is a great help to my sanity. This connection helped in the initial years, but as the residual vision decreased taking away that imagined hearing everyone thought I had and the sudden death of my biggest advocate, Julie, this connection grew fainter because they truly only understood the loss of one sense, vision.
Although I lost all other connections and the seeming invisibility was almost complete, my family was still there, but they desperately wanted to pretend that I was the same and wanted me to act and do for them the same as before. My inability to do that despite my efforts led to frustration for us all. Communication is the most difficult especially now that there is no vision or hearing. The immediate family has struggled to remember many signs, so the limited communication comes from the internet-connected computer as we type to each other on chat programs that are somewhat braille friendly. Other more meaningful conversations seldom take place. I miss the closeness that I once had with my children and even with my husband. Our relationship is more based on silent care giving. We talk through the chat program about day to day issues like when the pest control man is coming, doctors’ appointments, and what technology I need. Deep conversations are few and far between. This isn’t from my husband not trying. It stems from lack of good braille skills and chat programs not being very braille friendly. My braille skills are fairly good and improving for someone who has only known braille for about three years, and I practice every day; but it will take some time before my speed and comprehension equals someone who has read braille since a child and will never reach the speed I had as a visual reader of print. Books are my love, though, so I will never give up trying. If I fault my husband and my immediate family for anything, it is for not trying to remember they live with a DeafBlind person now. You can’t leave the dishwasher door down or a pile of books on the floor or a cabinet door open. Safety in my own home should not be a worry that I have to deal with daily. For the most part though, the growing invisibility I feel and have felt is not anyone’s fault. It is certainly not mine as I have worked hard to stay independent and learn the skills to communicate with others in many ways. I don’t fault my family who are just grieving the loss of their wife and mother as I once was and who are just coping in the best way they know how with the difficulties we all face. I don’t even fault those friends, extended family, and acquaintances who have faded from view because they were too uncomfortable or afraid and feeling hopeless to know how to push through the dark silence that had engulfed and walled me in.
There is no one to blame for my isolation and loneliness, and I feel that is probably the case for many DeafBlind. Despite the new skills and technology, it is still ever present. I am not without hope for many reasons, as there are family and new friends who do try to break through the barrier. I socialize with DeafBlind friends over the internet and at the occasional social event or camp that I can attend. New sighted friends, both hearing and Deaf, in the area try to help as they can. The communication barrier is eased by those who know ASL or even some who try to fingerspell or type on my keyboard as I read on my braille display. This is support that I can use and enjoy. The ability to have a friend who can sign or type to me and take me shopping with them or go with me to a park or a local festival does wonders. The first step needed for true support is to have someone care enough to reach out. Yes, my differences can make you uncomfortable at first, but the person I am inside is just as real and human as I was before I lost my sight and hearing. This is true for all DeafBlind no matter how much they have lost in vision and hearing. The first step really is just making an effort.
Family and friends would do well to try to learn some signs or Fingerspelling. Communication is easier and faster in tactile ASL or even Fingerspelling with me because I am fast in processing. I can talk most of the time unless my asthma is triggered. That helps some people feel more comfortable with me, but learning to understand another’s Fingerspelling or sign isn’t really any more difficult than learning to express. In time with patience, communication will come easier. It is the first few steps that are the hardest. You just have to try. If you never try, you will never do. Regardless of the method, communication can happen. Ignoring or pretending I am not there is not helpful. Others will talk about me, but they will not try to engage me. Worse, some people will try to force me to respond by yelling or nudging me. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen often. Most often, I am just invisible. By just trying to communicate in some way even by printing letters with your index finger slowly on my palm, you will get the message across even if clumsily. There is no shame in that, and you will go a long way in helping to include a DeafBlind person.
Truthfully, a simple touch on the shoulder or pat on the hand goes a long way toward helping me to feel less invisible. Touch is more important than words at times, so try that first. Hugs are good, too, after a bit of time or if we know each other. We do have to do some things differently now, and family and loved ones have to, at least at first, consciously think about their activities and objects and how they might affect a DeafBlind person. People can’t just expect us to find a chair on our own in an unfamiliar place, or find the proper bathroom door in the restaurant. We need a little guidance now even with our cane skills and guide dog partners. With effort and in time, family and friends can support us in the ways we need, but allow us to be as independent as possible, too. We certainly do not want you to do everything for us. We want to do for ourselves when we can. We just need you to try to understand how we need you to support us, and we need you to be patient. Most often, we can tell you how you can help us if you will take the time to listen. Especially in the beginning, but even after time, there will be moments when we become frustrated with ourselves and our situations. We might lose our tempers, or throw a small pity party. We need you to be kind and gentle as you try to deal with our frustrations. Most of us try to deal with our dual loss of senses with some dignity, but at times, it can get to the best of us. At times, you might feel frustrated, too. We will be patient with you if you just don’t give up on us. With the supportive attitudes of family and friends, everyone’s frustrations will lessen more quickly. With a little effort toward understanding and communication, the isolation and loneliness can disappear or at least be minimal.
Proper understanding and support from family and friends is the key. DeafBlind have to learn the skills to be independent and to communicate and have access to technology, but none of the skills, technology, or state support can be fully put to use without those close to us reaching out in ways that will support our needs and differences. The dark silence that engulfs us doesn’t have to be a void. We don’t have to be invisible. It just takes true understanding and a little concentrated effort to help release us from isolation.

If you have comments about this topic, you may write a letter in braille or print to Renée Walker, 143 Williamson Dr, Macon, GA 31210; or you may email me at rkwalker@wynfieldca.org. You can also read and comment on my blog at http://www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com.

Read Full Post »


This week’s post is the latest column I wrote for the DeafBlind magazine, Good Cheer. I hope you enjoy it, and maybe it will empower you a little bit, too.

TOUCH POINTS
By Renee Walker

As I get more involved in the DeafBlind community around me, I frequently get asked one important question: what do I feel is the most important thing that the DeafBlind need to be independent? That is a major question and needs plenty of thought and consideration. There are so many things to consider because the DeafBlind are scattered around the country and in any one place there are so few individual members. Their environments are drastically different, as well as, their individual hearing and vision issues. How can you answer that question where the most if not all of the people can be helped by the solution? That consideration has been what I have been trying to do before answering these people.

First, I need to derive the answer for myself, and then maybe, I can expand that answer to others. Communication for me is the biggest issue in general. I can now use ASL and braille, so that helps, but you have to have someone to sign with and have to have equipment to write braille or use it to connect with a computer. I set about finding people to interact with and getting the equipment to use braille for various purposes. Neither was easy, and still aren’t. Interpreters were the only ones I could find who were comfortable signing tactually, but there were very few of those. In fact, there was only one medically certified in the local area. The members of the Deaf community around me weren’t comfortable signing tactually either, so I wasn’t going to get any help from there. Equipment was too expensive for my budget, and for various reasons, the state wasn’t willing to give me an answer. The interpreter I found was kind enough to start a campaign of encouraging interpreters in the area to be willing to try tactual. She even brought a few around to meet me trying to encourage them to try. As far as equipment goes, I began putting away as much money as I could to buy my own equipment. In the three years that I have been working to improve my situation, I have managed to find three or four school level interpreters willing to help me for certain events such as work meetings and events such as graduation which I lead as school principal and at a few family events. Of these, none feel comfortable enough to work as a Support Service Provider (SSP) to take me shopping or help me pay bills or make phone calls. I did find one school level interpreter who is willing to do most anything I need. Other than medical interpreting, she is my primary SSP and interpreter who takes me shopping, helps me with personal and business finances, takes me to doctor appointments, and social events. This interpreter and the medical interpreter have worked hard to help the Deaf community in our area include me to some degree which has opened the door for me to have a little bit of a social life. The hearing interpreters still are the main communication point between me and any of the Deaf who still do not feel comfortable enough to actually allow much touch. They will try to “talk” with me and will let me touch for short messages like “hello” and “how are you?”, but will pull back and ask for an interpreter if more in depth conversation is desired. Many of the Deaf seem happy to have me come to the events, but they merely stand back and stare while never attempting to even say hello. I will take what I can get, and am hopeful that with time, it will improve. Other improvements come with the ability to spend about $2000.00 to get the APH Refreshabraille 18 braille display. I am learning to use this with the hearing family, co-workers, and friends in my life. I have a guide dog that helps me to maneuver somewhat independently within an environment. My skills working with my canine partner are considered to be excellent even after several years have passed since our initial training. I also have excellent cane skills, as well. I began using the cane and the dog with a bit more vision and hearing than I have now, but I continuously test my skills and improve them based on the ever-changing physical aspects. This helps me to stay as independent as possible, but I must say that as a totally DeafBlind person I must have some type of sighted or hearing/sighted help in the unknown environments that I find myself in following family, work, and social commitments. Transportation is the first aspect, of course, but to know what is happening around me and to be as safe as possible, I must have someone with me to explain the world around me. Having a small computer and braille display to communicate with hearing/sighted people directly certainly helps when the other person feels comfortable enough to use it, but there is still too much information that I miss out on without a trained SSP. Trained meaning they have been giving enough information about DeafBlindness and helping a DeafBlind person participate as independently as possible in the world that is dominated by sight and sound.

Based upon these experiences, I think I can answer this most important question for myself and expand it to others. My situation being toward the end of the spectrum as severely compromised in the hearing/sighted world by total DeafBlindness and the complexities caused by the simple, rural environment could easily be used as an initial model to understand the needs for a huge population of DeafBlind people with varying physical abilities and environmental settings. Although equipment to support communication, work settings, access to the internet and computer is vitally important to provide more independence and less isolation of DeafBlind individuals, the question is really what resource is needed the most and for the most individuals. The answer to me is fairly clear. Support Service Providers that are well-trained and provided by a well-organized agency to recruit the largest amount of individuals, train in the best methods and give the best information of the needs of DeafBlind individuals, scheduled efficiently to give the most access to as many DeafBlind as need that resource. From rural areas to towns to major metropolises, transportation is an issue from various perspectives. From not having any infrastructure for transportation to having major bus, train, subway features, the DeafBlind often need help in some way to get safely from one place to another. An SSP could provide that from an actual vehicle to guidance in safely using the transportation system of a major city. Equipment such as braille displays, TTY’s, Videophones often still require a DeafBlind person to use a sighted person to help access some web sites, programs, relay centers, etc. An SSP could provide some of that help. The agency set up to provide SSP’s in a general area would continually canvas its DeafBlind population and determine the varying needs and recruit individuals that could help serve these needs and provide the additional training that is specific for supporting a DeafBlind individual.

As I gain the equipment and communication skills I need for accessing the world, I realize that none of these can get me into the world or even accessing the world from this room in which I live completely on my own. I find too many times where I need a physical person to help me access people, things, and situations. At my current state of total DeafBlindness despite my determination and abilities to compensate well, I need a good bit of help from a person, especially when I leave this room and venture into the outside world. When I had a bit more vision and hearing, I needed other people less, but I still needed them if for nothing more than transportation. It is a fact that I don’t apologize for or regret. All people need other people. As a DeafBlind individual, I need other people more. I specifically need people who understand my needs and have the skills to meet my needs.

In advocating for one’s needs, you also have to anticipate certain questions. There is at least one more question that would come to someone’s mind if they didn’t understand my needs or if they had to justify why they should have to accommodate my needs, in this case for a trained SSP. Why can’t I just use family and/or friends? Why does someone specifically need to have some type of training in order to help me? I have family and friends who help me all the time. I appreciate what they are willing to do for me. Problems arise though when I have no one, but family or friends to call on when I need them. First, they are busy with their own lives. They can only give me small amounts of their time and at their convenience. I often miss deadlines or have schedule conflicts that can’t be resolved because there is no one available to help me at the exact times I need them. Careful planning done in advance can help alleviate some of the issues, but all too often there is no help available. Secondly, friends and family do not always know how to help me. My needs are often very unique. I have to be tapped and told using tactual ASL that someone is present and who that someone is. I have to be guided by either grasping the person’s elbow, so I can detect their not so distinct and sudden movements; or I have to command my dog to follow them. Without sight and sound, I cannot negotiate intersections safely even with a guide dog who is trained to protect me, but should not be relied upon to decide when it is safe to cross a street. A sighted person is needed to inform me of the traffic flows and when it is best to cross. I also am particular about the way I want certain things done, and I want to make decisions for myself based on full details of the situation and/or the environment that I am in. I don’t want things done for me. I want to do them after I have been fully apprised of all information. Friends and family mean well, but often help too much, or help too little because they don’t know what to do and are afraid of making a mistake. Either way, they mean well, but they can cause problems for me. One of the biggest problems is that friends and families do not understand how much and what kind of information about the surroundings and the situation that they need to give me. They don’t realize that I want to know not only the important and obvious details like how many people are present and who they are, but also, describing the setting of a room and in general, the tones of voices and body language clues given. Most people use this information daily to decide how to react to a given situation, but aren’t even aware of the fact that they are using all of those details and wouldn’t be able to describe them to a DeafBlind individual who just like them need the information to better understand what is going on around them and decide how they wish to respond. A trained SSP has been given knowledge that helps them know better about what is needed, and although the needs of individual DeafBlind vary, has been given tools to help them quickly ask and evaluate what is needed. This training doesn’t go to the extent of a certified interpreter, of course, but does give skills that better help a DeafBlind individual access the world around them. Overall, the main goal of a trained SSP is to communicate in the DeafBlind individual’s primary mode of communication all the aspects of the surroundings and let the DeafBlind make decisions and interact with the world as independently as possible for that individual. That takes a lot of skill that is best derived by the services offered by a trained SSP. Trained SSP’s just can’t be replaced by caring friends and family no matter how hard they try.

Now I have answered the question for myself and expanded it to a generalized population of DeafBlind individuals and even given some basic arguments to support the justification to those who might require it. I can more confidently answer the people who ask me. Now I ask that you, my readers, do the same. Address this question to yourself and based on your experiences even expand the issue to the wider DeafBlind population as to what might be the most needed resource provided for all DeafBlind individuals. Once done, with confidence, you can speak out on your behalf and other DeafBlind. Take this advocacy seriously, and write, call, or email your government representatives both on the state and federal level. Put your thoughts out there in internet blogs or letters to family, friends, businesses, etc. Let’s educate everyone on what we need now to be more productive citizens as independently as we each can be. We not only should be active participants of our world, but we can be with the right resources.

If you would like to know more about SSP’s, you can visit the American Association for the Deaf-Blind’s website, http://www.aadb.org. If you would like to express your thoughts or questions to me regarding this article, you may contact me at rkwalker@wynfieldca.org, or you may write me at 143 Williamson Dr., Macon, GA 31210. You can also follow my blog at http://www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com.

Read Full Post »


I have been so busy trying to get Wynfield strong, set up DeafBlind Hope, fundraise for SP and other DeafBlind people, and write reviews for The Old SchoolHouse Magazine Crew that it left no time for writing here which I really wanted to do.
I have also been asked to publish my previous blogs here, so I am going to do that with a few minor changes in cases where I didn’t get permission to put it on the public side of the internet. My next post will start with Day 1 of my trip to Southeastern Guide Dogs in Bradenton/Palmetto, Fl in June 2006 to get my first guide dog, Little Joe.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: