Thank You For The Freedom: Or, Why You Shouldn’t Put Blind Kids In A Bubble

My parents did me a great service: they refused to put me in a bubble. I was rarely told, “I don’t want you doing it, it’s too dangerous.” As a child, I was fearless. I’d try anything, as long as my dad was there to provide assurance of safety. I took risks with very little anxiety. I was so accustomed to freedom that I could not imagine what being sheltered would feel like. I was fortunate indeed. Many blind people are placed in bubbles by overprotective parents, never permitted to engage in even low-risk behaviour. This is detrimental to any child’s development, even for a disabled one.

I was blessed with family and friends who included me in just about every game, even when it meant they’d have to slow down a little. I thought nothing of playing tag, (I hit a post or two at top speed, but I was more inclined to laugh than cry), ran recklessly through bushes to play hide and seek, and dove gleefully off haystacks. I played cops and robbers, sometimes skidding across a sidewalk and sustaining mild injuries. I tumbled from out-buildings that lacked steps, and fell off swings. I even tried my hand at a few sports, and received more than one blow to the head during dodgeball. I had a great time through it all.

I believe this liberty to try and fail, to flirt with just a little danger, shaped my character. It made me into a stronger, more confident person. I am less sheltered and less afraid of the world in general. I had the opportunity to experiment and I remain grateful to this day. I got to have unbridled fun, just like every other child and, while I was sometimes excluded, I enjoyed equal status far more often than I didn’t.

I understand that parents are more safety-conscious than ever before. Safety regulations abound, and if you leave your child in a car for more than about thirty seconds, you might receive a visit from police, courtesy of some concerned citizen. While I’m thankful that kids are safer than they’ve ever been, I deplore the tendency to shelter disabled children to excess. Parents go to extraordinary lengths to keep their children secure, and it stunts their personal growth. These children grow up to be more fearful, anxious adults, unfamiliar with risk and convinced they cannot enjoy many of the same activities as their peers. They’ve never experienced the rush of running full speed ahead, swinging sky high, or chasing a soccer ball. They’ve never done back flips off haystacks or nearly flown off trampolines. To a small extent, they haven’t had the chance to live, play, and grow in the same ways I did.

So, I want to thank my parents for giving me my freedom, and I want to urge other parents to follow their example. Letting children have a little low-risk fun is not neglect. It is, in fact, a form of special care, because you are putting their needs ahead of your fears. You owe it to your children, and they will be better people for it, I promise you. Life as a disabled person demands resilience and the willingness to face fear head on. Give them the best chance you can.

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17 thoughts on “Thank You For The Freedom: Or, Why You Shouldn’t Put Blind Kids In A Bubble

  1. I wasn’t really put in a bubble as such although my parents have been a little more protective of me due to my health issues I’ve had over the years. before 1998 I was probably just a normal kid running around and hanging out with kids as if I wasn’t blind at all. once 1998 came and went I’d had a kidney transplant and was almost always ill and I was in and out of hospital a lot. I’ve never had the talk about the facts of life with my parents this was mostly done in health education classes or I’d talk about such things reluctantly with either a councillor or an uncle but we’d talk about that stuff away from other people and this was talked about during a trip up the bush one year. There’s also the discussion that there are some things that are talked about at home that should just stay at home or should stay private. a visiting teacher often told me that my parents were holding me back from some experiences but they weren’t holding me back they were just protecting me from being hurt or from taking risks. before one particular trip to south Australia my visiting teacher asked me if there were going to be other kids I could hang out with but I doubted it as my uncle and his x now but his partner at the time actually had a mother and her two daughters living nextdoor and as far as interacting with kids went that was the only real interaction there and as far as interacting with people my own age these days it’s rare as a pub for me isn’t always the safest place for me to hang out alone with others and if somebody was wanting to offer me something I wouldn’t know what they were offering me even if they said it was safe due to my medical history and having had a kidney transplant I can’t afford to put any of that at risk.

    • Hi there. I’m replying to the wrong comment because WordPress arbitrarily decided I can’t reply to the other. Of course you may reblog any post. I’m open to all forms of republication provided my name and a link back to my blog are plainly visible.

  2. Pingback: Thank You For The Freedom: Or, Why You Shouldn’t Put Blind Kids In A Bubble | blindwriterblog

  3. Hi,

    I publish an Australian website on disability news and opinion at:
    https://mydisabilitymatters.com.au

    and was wondering if it might be okay to republish this article and any other relevant ones on our website, with appropriate credit and a link back of course.

    It would help spread your work and gain a wider audience for you.

    Hope we can work together and I am quite happy to publish other articles you may have written that aren’t on your blog also.

    Thanks,
    Dale.

  4. My parents could not afford to cacoon me in a bubble what with 3 other children to look after. I am a bit more wary now as i’ve got older, but i did lots of things like abseiling, canooing and surfing. I went to a special school, and i saw first hand how over protective parents could be to the point where the children developed editional disabilities. It really broke my heart to see kids that should be as normal as they can be in a very basic class needing nearly 24 hour care. I am so glad my parents had a social worker who knew her stuff and encouraged my parents to treat me as equal. I think in hindsight i would have learnt a lot more had i been sent to a mainstream school, but that was bot to be.

    • Hi, Torie. I’m glad to hear you had a similar upbringing to mine, but I’m sorry about your time at a special school. I’ve heard that some of them are actually very beneficial in that they teach blind people a lot of life skills, but I imagine it varies widely.

      • I was probably the only capable blind person in the school at the time. I got better mobility at home than i did at school. A lot of the other blind people were rockers or needed 24 hour care. This could have been provented had the parents had the right kind of support to stop it and to show them that blind kids are just as capable as everyone else :).

  5. It’s called the dignity of risk, and it needs to be promoted more. Many disabled people are limited because someone wants to protect them. I have a tendency to fret over my kids and worry that they will get hurt, especially before we go on a hike. But I bite my tongue and I grit my teeth and we go. My kids tell me that there is such a thing as being too safe.

  6. Thank you Meagan! Very worthy reading.

    On Friday, 19 February 2016, Wheres Your Dog? wrote:

    > Meagan posted: “My parents did me a great service: they did not put me in > a bubble. I was rarely told, “I don’t want you doing it, it’s too > dangerous.” As a young child, I was fearless. I’d try anything, as long as > my dad was there to watch out for me. I took risks with ” >

  7. I’m glad it worked for you. Just like any other kids, blind kids differ in personalities. Some like you are relatively fearless and learn from both successes and failures. On the other end of the spectrum are those who are fearful of everything and parents/teachers have to encourage them to try things with parents who are not over-protective. Of course most are somewhere in between. I think the trick is to make sure the “dare devils” are learning from their experiences without restricting them on the one end. On the other end is to challenge the fearful ones without pushing them over the edge.

    • You make an excellent point. I don’t believe in forcing a child to do things that terrify them any more than I believe in preventing them from taking risks at all.

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