My daughter doesn’t fit the mold, and maybe that is because she is growing up with me.
Usually, children have no idea what to do around me. They look at me and see normal eyes. They do not understand that my eyes might look normal and even track with them, but in reality I do not see anything.
Often it takes until children are around 6-7 years old until they can get the abstract concept of blindness for me. They think, hey, if his eyes are open like mine, he can see what I can see. And they do things like throwing a ball at my head assuming that I will catch it.
The thing is my optic nerve died do to LHON. Like the cable between the video camera and the TV, my optic nerve should carry the picture to my brain. Well that cable doesn’t work any longer, and all I see is a dense fog, no colors, no distinction, no shapes, only light and dark and vague forms nearby.
With that in mind, I am always blown away with how easily my daughter handles my blindness. She knows how to take me by the hand to bring me where she wants me to go. Mind you, she is only two-and-a-half. She knows that I don’t catch her facial reactions. She knows how to get my attention. And it doesn’t bother her in the slightest. I am her Daddy.
The other day, she stood out to me. Maybe her feat of greatness went unnoticed by others, but she simply amazed me. I would say I was left speechless, but that is a bit harder to do.
We were travelling back from Montana and spending a three-hour layover in the Denver airport. As we waited to begin her 50th flight (that’s right, she grew up as a missionary kid), we played and ate food. At one point, I needed to take her for a diaper change. We had the privilege of using the special bathroom for her changing. We had plenty of space to ourselves in the handicapped bathroom, and changing table bathroom.
When everything was finished, and my little princess was ready to go, I swung her into my arms. I grabbed my cane with one hand, and the sopping wet diaper in the other. I spun in one direction looking for the trash spot. I know they are usually near the door or in the corner near the sink.
I looked to one corner, and Ellie said no.
I looked to another corner.
And Ellie said no, other way.
I turned to a third corner.
And Ellie said yeah! Right there. Her excitement that I found the right direction neared my enthusiasm when Jay Cutler finds an open receiver for a first down. It was like she was playing the game Hot-and-Cold.
Then I leaned towards where I estimated the trash to be. I estimated too low and heard a quick reproof from my daughter.
She said, no. Up, dada.
I went up a bit.
And again she said, up.
I went up more.
Again she kindly said, up.
Finally, I dropped the diaper in the trash receptacle, and she shouted with glee, Yeah!! As if Kobe Bryant hit a game winner in game 7.
I wanted to shout from the mountain tops how incredibly intelligent my daughter was. I wanted the whole world to know how quickly my daughter has adapted to me. She has entered my world with the ease of an expert, and she is a toddler. She has already become a huge help. I can’t wait to see how much more she helps. As we grow together.
One of the keys in helping someone with any need, be it blindness, a learning disability, a new language, financial management, tutoring, or whatever, is finding a way to enter their world with ease. My daughter constantly teaches me how easy it can be. And she does it without making me feel special for her going out of her way to help me.
What other traits are important in helping people with special needs?