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Krystal Wants to be a Painter

By Pat Linkhorn

My youngest, who is seven years old and blind, announced today that she wants to be a painter when she grows up. My first reaction was that all too familiar gut-wrenching, sick feeling I get when the realization that she really is blind hits me. I didn't have the heart to tell her she couldn't be a painter because she was blind.

I wandered around the house, more or less moping about the whole thing, when it struck me that a painter isn't necessarily a painter, as in still life or portrait pictures. She could be a painter that painted in textures -- her impression of the world in textures or whatever she chose.

Here I am, thinking I'm one of the worlds biggest advocates for normal lives for special kids, falling into the stereotypical trap of what people can and cannot do. Since I've been doing some serious thinking about how to convince both of my childrens' teachers that they're more normal than abnormal, the irony of what had just happened was significant.

The ingrained and learned prejudices don't go away just because of one incident, or even a dozen. They are so deeply imbedded in many of us that some of the decisions we make aren't necessarily based on our new awareness of the world of disabilities all the time. If I, a parent, can forget about the need to be creative and innovative, how can I expect her teacher not to forget?

As parents, we have to have ongoing communication with those who teach our children and share our ideas with them. We also have to "stay on our toes" and try not to fall back into the same old traps of setting limits on what our children can do.

I am sometimes amazed at many of the strategies my friends come up with when they are interacting with my children. They do things and explain things differently than I would, but it works. Sometimes I think parents can get so involved that they cant always see the forest for the trees. Were so involved with our kids that we tend to overlook some major areas.

Once I realized how mistaken I'd been about my first reaction, I mentally kicked myself soundly and went back into the living room to tell her that, yes, she could be a painter. In fact, she can be anything she wants to be, with a little imagination.

Later the same evening, as I was giving her father a haircut, she said she wanted to learn to cut his hair. I didn't say no, but I will have to give this one some serious thought. But, hey, it's his hair!

Copyright © Pat Linkhorn 2001


Pat Linkhorn is the Editor of Special Education at About.com and a professional advocate for families with children who have special needs. She is also an experienced parent and has two girls with special needs - autism and blindness due to prematurity. http://thelinkto.com/linkhome

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