Hindsight is 20/20

Authors: Emily Coleman, Parent and Superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

Keywords: change, collaborating, communication, planning for the future

Abstract: The mother of a young man with multiple disabilities reminisces about the changes in his life and her role in his education. As she worked with his teams over the years and shared her goals for him, she discovered the importance of flexibility and listening to others. Sometimes, it’s okay to change your mind!

My son, Eddie, is blind with multiple disabilities. He just turned 18 years old. That’s right, 18!!! How did this happen? When he was young, I believed his childhood would last forever and we’d have all the time in the world to shape and educate this young man. Yet, here we are, the summer before his senior year in high school.

Wearing a bow tie, suspenders, and headphones, and holding his cane in front of him, Eddie laughs broadly in front of a sign about the school prom.

Eddie obviously had a great time at the prom!

As one does when their children age, I’ve been thinking back to the many things I thought I knew. I remember sitting at a conference twelve years ago arguing with educators about the importance of career education and transition planning. As a mom struggling to get her child potty-trained, I couldn’t even fathom putting future planning before toileting. Now, I realize everything is connected to the future of our children. I’ve heard the greatest barriers to employment are behavior, transportation, and personal hygiene. Toileting certainly seems an important part of adulthood now.

A young man in shorts and a sweatshirt, holds his cane and the arm of his PT while laughing with his mother on campus.

Eddie laughs while walking on campus at TSBVI.

As Eddie developed speech and language, everyone emphasized the importance of “please” and “thank you.” I didn’t care one bit about manners. I vocally shared with many educational teams that I didn’t want any language goals that weren’t specifically about wants and needs. Eddie did learn those scripted phrases, but never spoke them spontaneously. He only recently picked that up. Now, when he makes a request and we respond, we get an enthusiastic and loving “thank you.” It absolutely makes our day. Who knew that endearment is important? This now seems critical to support his relationship development with others.

A family dressed in warm clothes smiles happily at the camera.

Eddie smiles during an outdoor hike with his parents.

My best friend and I always laugh about how many words we “ate” after the birth of our children. We were never going to give them pacifiers…and we did. We were never going to let them binge-watch Netflix…and they did. We were always going to make sure our children did their chores…and they often didn’t. This is absolutely true when parenting children who are blind, too. 

A young man in shorts and headphones, holds his cane in front of him as he poses for a picture with his mother. Both of them wear White Cane Day T-shirts.

Eddie celebrates White Cane Day with his mother at TSBVI.

As we ponder the future of all of our kids, let’s give ourselves permission to listen to the opinion of others, disagree at times, and change our minds later as needed. I’m a fervent decision maker, and sometimes that requires a pivot. We need to be strong advocates for our children, and that may not mean we’re 100% right. Luckily, it means we 100% love them, and there’s never anything wrong with that.

Two young adults drive a go-cart around a race track.

Eddie enjoys racing with his father!

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