Handicapped

This week, I heard a radio story on This American Life called “Batman.”  (Take the time to listen–it’s fascinating!)  It’s about a man who lost both eyes to cancer at 13 months old.  But he lives independently, hikes, and bikes using echolocation….he clicks with his tongue and listens to the echoes to “see.”

Obviously, amazing.  But why can this blind man do all these things others can’t?  He says he isn’t special; he uses techniques any blind person can learn.  But listening to the radio show, it’s apparent that the reason he can do it is because….of his MOM.

Because she didn’t hold him back or treat him like a blind kid.

She LET him ride his bike, climb trees, walk to elementary school alone.  She let him slam into poles and trees.  And even though he crashed, he learned independence and “sight.”  He doesn’t consider himself handicapped, or even blind for that matter.  He says the “help” blind people receive, although out of good intention and love, prevents them from “seeing” and living independently.

His story, aside from making me grateful for healthy children, also makes me wonder: how am I holding my kids back because I think they “can’t,” or they might get hurt?  How do my expectations shape their abilities?  Do I handicap my children by protecting them from failure?  When I help them, is it really help, or is it hindering them from independence?

Stephen had a reading sheet that told a story about a little eagle who learned to fly, and then told her mother she was hungry and asked for help.  The mother said, “No, I won’t help you.  You have to hunt on your own now,” and flew away.  I asked Stephen if he thought the mommy eagle was being mean, and why he thought she said “no” to her hungry baby.

“She wasn’t being mean,” Stephen said.  “She had to learn it for herself.”

I think I’m going to take a step back…and let my capable little eagles learn for themselves.

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About jennyvogan

Author of "Stephen's Mom," a blog documenting the funny, crazy life of raising four boys while keeping my day job as an ultrasound tech.
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2 Responses to Handicapped

  1. paulg78 says:

    Here’s another amazing video about echolocation. This one is about Ben Underwood, another amazing person with an amazing mom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiBeLoB6CKE
    Not shown in the video is the sad ending, Ben died of cancer in 2009.

    • jennyvogan says:

      Wow, that’s awesome. Kudos to his mom too! Kind of ironic that Ben’s skills are largely due to his confidence, but his over-confidence prevents him from learning from Dan.

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