[blindkid] recess and social interaction

Heather craney07 at rochester.rr.com
Mon May 31 22:22:25 UTC 2010

Ok, this is not going to go over well, but here goes.  There is an ackward 
and painful period that hits around now, between second and fourth grade, in 
which children shift gears from one stage of social interaction to another. 
>From infancy to around grade two or three children observe differences 
objectively and indifferently, Johny is black, Cindy is blind, Amy has long 
hair, Ronda has two daddies, Emily is deaf, etc.  It doesn't make them more 
or less likely to interact with them.  It is the most honest and wonderful 
time because they are not afraid of differences, are not cruel, not 
intentionally cruel and are not fake, giving false sympathy and so on.  If a 
child is normally a bully and hits the other children, they will hit your 
blind child and your child will learn when to fight back and when to call an 
adult and how to cope and talk out problems.  If a child is a helper they 
will want to help your blind child with everything, but they will also be 
wanting to help the other children with everything, so your child will not 
feel singled out by their attentions.  If a child is a hugger they will run 
up and hug your blind child, just like every child and your child will learn 
about personal space and comfort levels and unconditional positive regard. 
Then there are a few dark years when children's experiences, their famlies, 
communities and the media start to tell them that skin colour and ability 
level and socioeconomic status matter.  This is when children will begin to 
ignore, tease or fear your blind child.  In the best case scenereo they will 
tease them, because at least then your child can fight back with witty 
words, or physically, minor squabbles amung children under ten are 
developmentally normative and healthy if they do not escelate.  Or next best 
case they fear your child, because that can be overcome with time and logic. 
But, the worst case is ignoring them.  With no confrontation, as provided by 
taunting and teasing and no logically unsound ideation to be overcome, the 
blind child can do little to gain the interest of the other children. 
Teachers interfearing may make it worse as sighted children begin to feel 
pressured to play with the blind child, and resentment will grow from that. 
There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Around fifth or sixth grade 
children begin to devide into clicks, in large relatively diversafied clicks 
this is a good thing, I.E. the jocks, the nerds, the geeks, the theatre 
freaks, etc.  This is when children seek out friends not based purely on 
proximity, as preschoolers do, and not merely based on socially percieved 
norms, as in elementary school, but they begin, around junior high or middle 
school to seek out friends based on common interests and tallents.  Your 
child will be best served to take their interests and passions and 
personality and natural abilities and cultivate them now, and when their 
peers maturity advances, they will gravitate towards them.  It will be 
rough, and your child may have only one good friend for much of their school 
career or a very small, but very close nit circle of friends, and I, 
personally think this is a good thing.  It is more realistic and more 
genuine.  I had three very close friends in high school, where most other 
girls had large circles of twenty or more "friends" but in a chrisus, my 
friends were always there for me and I for them, whereas these other girls 
were lucky to have one friend out of twenty "friends" who would really care 
about what was going on with them and help them.  The blind adults who are 
alone, depressed, or who settle for friends and life partners who are below 
their motivation, achievement, education, intelectual level, etc, are the 
ones who gave in to the loneliness that can set in during childhood in the 
transition from unconditional, immature, but so sweet ant inocent 
relationships, to meaningful, deeper friendships in the higher grades.  If 
she has good familial supports, as it sounds like she has, and as long as 
there is lots of communication, and you watch for signs of giving up, and 
intentional isolation to avoid rejection, she will weather the storm.  For 
now, help her find her self, so that when her sighted peers finally "grow 
up" and do away with the natural and unavoidable self-centeredness and 
shallowness that is an inevadable step in the social progression, she will 
be a well-rounded, interesting, self motivated person who will captivate 
them.  She will make life long friends on the math team, at a horseback 
riding class, in orchestra, in the backpacking club, at a cat show, at a 
concert, etc, not on the playground.  Have her pick something meaningful for 
her to do during ressess.  If she likes swinging, then she should head over, 
snag a swing and swing to her heart's content and ignore the children who 
are ignoring her, and one day a girl or boy who enjoys swinging as much as 
she does will come and join her.  Or, if she likes music then she should 
bring a discman or an MP3 player and enjoy some good music.  Bring a yoga 
mat and do positions on her own, bring an art project outside, jog around 
the track, if there is one and she has a system, etc.  You can't force 
friendships, but if she displays confidence in who she is and what she 
likes, she will be the weird kid who does X Y or Z to most of the kids and 
the cool girl who does X Y or Z no matter what everyone else thinks, to a 
smaller group who will gain confidence in themselves and then become her 
friends when they catch up to her in maturity.  In both cases which will 
both manifest to some degree depending on her own unique style and 
personality, she will always be on the raydar, not some obscure blind girl 
remembered in conversation for her blindness.  She will be mentioned for 
always having all sorts of music with her to listen to at ressess, or always 
reading books a few grade levels above, por always having the T-shirts with 
world wildlife federation on them, or something else that is her, not her 
disability.  I hope that was helpful.  It's not to say that she won't have 
any friends at this age, but be prrepared for the worst, hope for the best, 
and what you will get will probably be in between.  I've written several 
papers on this theory for various classes, and I'd be happy to talk more 
with you about it off list if you think this would be helpful.  Have a great 
day and tell her that Jeremy, my 22 month old and I both send hugs her way.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Joy Orton" <ortonsmom at gmail.com>
To: "NFB Blindkid list" <blindkid at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Monday, May 31, 2010 3:51 PM
Subject: [blindkid] recess and social interaction

> Dear Friends, (sorry, this is pretty long)
> Please help us with your ideas and experiences. Our daughter Ahbee is in
> third grade (for one more week), and is having trouble with recess. She
> often does not have anyone to play with or spend her recess with. She just
> walks around by herself for most of the time. Sometimes one  or more
> children will come to her and invite her to join them in what they are
> doing, but not always. She has sometimes asked her classmates in advance 
> of
> recess to play with her. One girl said yes, but then did not play with her
> and said, "I couldn't find you."
> During recent conversations she has said this has been going on for two
> years, or specifically, "Since Jacey moved."
> Jacey is a girl from China who was adopted at age 5 by a family who lived
> near us. Ahbee (who was adopted at age 4 from China)  and Jacey spent
> kindergarten (half of one year and all of the repeated year) and first 
> grade
> together, but then Jacey's family moved to another school district. They 
> had
> in common that they had been adopted from China as young children, not
> infants, and that they repeated that kindergarten class. They were very 
> good
> friends.
> Last year, in second grade, Ahbee was "not playing with anyone" at recess,
> and I learned about it from another mom whose child was apparently having
> some similar issues. We got the two together for one or two play dates. I
> also spoke with the classroom teacher and TVI about it, and I thought they
> were watching for problems.
> This year, I asked early in the school year, and I thought things were 
> going
> better. We had some problems with gym class as well, and those have been
> addressed by assigning children to be Ahbee's helpers during gym. The
> helpers rotate or take turns. But apparently there is still a big issue 
> with
> recess, and it is starting to cause enough pain that Ahbee is bringing it
> up.
> So, I have a couple of concerns or questions.
> First, how can Ahbee find people to play with at recess, and how can we
> facilitate that?
> Second, how can I make sure that the teachers are observing and letting me
> know how she is doing? I don't want this problem to continue for another
> year!
> Looking forward to your responses.
> Joy Orton
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