Ever wonder what a day is like through the eyes of your child?
Many parents have never tried eating a meal or playing with a new toy while blindfolded. It is quite an experience, to say the least. As a lot of you know, my daughter has had a difficult time learning to walk independently. I recently had the pleasure of learning almost exactly what my daughter experiences every day in attempting to travel on her own. I decided to run (err... and walk) the half marathon blindfolded with my husband as my sighted guide. We did train some, but not as much as we should have! We did it to raise blind awareness in the community as well as to raise money for our non-profit group for parents of blind and visually impaired children, and most importantly- for our daughter.
I ran the half marathon (fully sighted and lots of training) in 2007. This year the marathon committee decided to include a charity program in their events, of which our group joined. It seemed like it would be a great opportunity to raise awareness and funds, perhaps even inspire a few others to think about what it is like to be blind in our world today. Turns out, it worked! We raised over $1500 just between my husband and myself for the group and made the newspaper- with a bold subline, picture and article! We were very proud of our efforts and the support we received from our friends, family and even complete strangers! We had several fellow runners come up and tell us how they admired what we were doing. It was great motivation to have these people whom had never met us or our daughter before, come up to us in the middle of their own race and compliment us on ours. (I will blog in more detail about the actual race later!)
When we first started, there of course were a million sounds everywhere. I did not look at the course map so I would not know exactly where we were all the time. I wanted to experience complete 'blackness' in the idea of my surroundings. I didn't want to be able to picture where I was in my head. My daughter has no idea how tall the buildings are downtown when we walk the streets, so I wanted to come as close to that as I could. We used a rope tether to keep me within reach of my husband, but I ended up just holding his arm at his elbow for most of the race. I would have wondered around in paths like squiggly lines had I only used the rope, running twice as far as I needed. For the first hour or so (it took us almost 4 hours) I constantly felt as though I was running in circles about the size of a large kitchen table. I now knew why my daughter keeps going in circles when we give her minimal support and guidance! It brought tears to my eyes just knowing I could relate to her in this way.
It was an extraordinary experience to complete 13.1 miles blindfolded with my companion in life, my husband, and for the very greatest blessing of all, our daughter. My husband and I both learned a little teamwork and it definitely was a trust-building activity! I didn't fall once, and only tripped a couple of times, thanks to his wonderful guidance.
I would advise anyone with a blind child to buy a comfortable blindfold that completely blacks out all light and take on an everyday activity your child enjoys! You don't have to jump right in and go blind the entire 24 hours without a break or anything. Trust me, it would be pretty dangerous in some situations! For fun, have someone move around the furniture in your living room so that you aren't familiar with the setup, and try to navigate it as your child would. Take off the blindfold and look for all the objects (and their traits) you weren't even were aware of in your exploration and remember that is your child's environment. Enrich it with interesting textures and fun objects for her to explore!
I'm working on some ideas for decorating blind children's bedrooms. I want to make my daughter's walls as interesting to explore as the toys and books that fill the room! Share your ideas with us, too! Post your comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org - We would love to hear from you! Also, check out our new website at www.sensorysun.com and let us know what you think!