The leap of faith

2008, and a lady was about to meet two people, one without vision, and the other, a very protective person, who would, undoubtedly worry for her granddaughter. What this lady did not know, as she was travelling in her car, to the highschool, is that she’d have battles to fight, not with one, but both of them in the months and years to come. Not just that, this girl, with no vision, who had not been allowed to use a cane until now, the age of 15, was about to give everyone, a taste of strong-willed determination, that may lead her into some dangerous, and some good teretory. She was about to go on her first mobility lesson, and this was to be learning how to use the cane, a long white cane, with a ball on the end. 
A few months later, and after constant battles with her, over practising the route they were doing, the small 15 year-old, now 16, was off, on her own. Suddenly, someone notices, she is veering away from the tactiles, and into the main road. Running to stop her, the lady asks her, what she’d done wrong.
Years later, and the now 24 year-old, after coming through struggles of being diagnosed with epilepsy, stripping her of her confidence, and also not practising her routes, nor living skills, finally, could someone, an unlikely group of people, have come to her rescue at just the right time? Come to her familys’ rescue? Come to most importantly, her nan’s rescue? This group, The VIP Lounge, a group, who strives for the independence and confidence to shine in visually impaired people around the country. A group, who will stop at nothing, to get them the independence skills, and help they require, while also helping the indevidual to build their confidence, and social skills. While sometimes facing rebellion from either family members, or the indeviduals themselves, it does not bother them, it does not phase them. They still strive to help them, and do not give up, until success is achieved. This group, came to her rescue, and have now begun working with her, her nan, and other various people, to help her in her endeavours. It will be no cruise, no easy ride, no smooth seas. There will be storms to weather, and arguments, possibley frustration from this person, this person being me, but I shall have to deal with whatever challenges are thrown at me, with grace and dignity, and most of all, acceptance. The existential view, that life, well and truely does, have a meaning, behind everything. Behind every page in the book, there’s a piece of prose, behind every piece of prose, lies the question, and behind that, the essay of which, is your answer.
Now, I must take that leap of faith, off that cliff edge, with my metaphoric carabiner, attached to an absaling rope, and see where I freefall, either down to an abiss below, or I will manage to get myself over to the other face, where I will climb to the top, having reached my goal of becoming a neuropsychologist. Before that though, there is that leap of faith, and I have no choice, but to leap into the unknown, but embrace it, and brace myself, for anything life throws at me. 

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What does the future hold.

A journey back to 2004.
It’s her first day in highschool, and a small 11 year-old student, is walking up the corridor that she’s spent the best part of all summer learning. She was on a schedule. It was morning, 09:45 hours, and she had to be at tutorial, for 09:50 hours. That would take 5 minutes to get there. Through the narrow furnished corridor, with wooden panels she walked, straight ahead, down another long straight corridor, with the turning on the right, that took you to the library, and also through some double doors, to 2 stairwells, one going to the unit for cognitively impaired, and the other, down to the German rooms. They occasionally smelled of food. As the year went on, she carried on through her classes, but began to notice, there was something she excelled at. That was anatomy. She has always had an interest in medicine, right from the age of about 3, from getting a stethescope at the age of 5, from her GP, and letting her feel tools that were being used, as well as questioning everyone when she went for various checkups.
A few years later, and the rain is falling on the roof of the entrance hall. She is waiting for an interview with a careers advisor, but that will not go to plan, (see blog post further down my archive) So far, she has failed her first mock examinations, is not completing homework and, if she can, doing the bare minimum of work possible.
Finally her GCSEs were done, and it was crunch time. Had she passed, or not. The answer, she had only scraped 2, and failed the rest. Or, passed, but with very low marks. Now she was destined for the local colledge, which she thought would be a rather good afair, as she would not have to do so much accademic work, but unfortunately, her social skills, let her down. Later, she went to the colledge in the UK, which would be where she would discover the Open University.
But what careers had she imagined herself having? An instantanious language interpretor, perhaps a singer, perhaps a medical secretary, general secretary, when she was younger, a doctor, or a nurse, even a ward sister, now a psychologist,/counsellor, or, a speech and language therapist, but hang on, what was this that was starting to interest her? Neuroscience? How could she possibley be a neuropsychologist? She began emailing various people, researching the career specifications, reading up on the job role, reading up on qualifications, when finally, she had decided, that was to be her career aspiration, a neuropsychologist. All she had to do, was make history, by trying to become the first blind neuropsychologist in the Uk, if not the world. They say people love those who try, so why not. If you don’t try, you will never know.   

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Progress update

It’s been a few days, and you’ll probably be wanting an update. I have been researching degrees, and universities, and the best one, is either MMU, or Shefield. MMU is looking more likely though. There is just one small, but for me, large problem. I don’t have a mathematics GCSE at grade C. Maths was never my strong point. What may go in my favour though, is my open university modules. The person that is helping me, has also recommended finding a placement, in the likes of the local hospital, or private practice, in order to observe what an SLT does. This I too have researched, and found one already willing to offer her help, the other seems very informal, and very warm, welcoming, which seems encouraging. I would love to apply for the degree earlier than when I’m 26, as there will be a lot of complications, if that doesn’t happen, and I have to wait until then. I wonder how the next week will go. We’ll have to see. I will try and bring you updates. 

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The true blind experience

Here we are, on yet another topic I feel must be addressed. You all go to an awareness raising session, devoted to blindness, and the different eye conditions there are. What organisations like the RNIB fail to mention, is that wearing what they call simi-specs, a type of lens that simulates the eye condition, is not the same as being truely blind, nor is walking a route, having known it all your life through vision. Imagine the following.
You have not seen anything all your life, no light, nothing. Every day, you have to learn routes, but all by feel. You have to memorise each landmark, each tactile road crossing, each grass verge, everything. As sighted people, you have visual references, for example, the colour of the ground, and any other references. Even if you were blind-folded, you would still know the route, because the memory of the visual route would be stored within your hippocampus, the area of the brain, situated in the temporal lobe, that deals with memory,. You would automatically know where you were going, so being blind-folded, and thinking you are doing a good thing, by simulating blindness that way, in actual fact, is wrong, and should not be done. If you wish to simulate it properly, take the sighted person, who is blind-folded, into an area that is unknown to them, then instruct them on how to use a cane. Whilst RNIB would frown upon this, I do not care. This is how to show people what living in our world, is truely like. If you wish, get a rehab officer from RNIB, to instruct them, on cane technique, as they would us. It is important for the sighted person to remember however, that the soul purpose of learning this cane technique, is soly for the purpose of the experieence, and under no circumstances, should they then try and transfer their skills to a blind person, without rehab training. They would have to undergo a rehabilitation course, and be certified as a rehabilitation officer, before they can attempt such teaching.

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A follow-up

Regarding my last post on my career change, to speech and language, I too had slight problems of my own when I was younger. The first, I could not say words with the letter L. I would always compensate them for the letter N. In order to combat this problem, my granddad, who sung opera, though not professionally, decided to try and help me. We began a regime of exercises with my tongue,, some of which involved singing, both solo and in harmony, as I too was a singer. We’d discovered not just my piano tallents, but my ability to sing soprano, with no struggle. My granddad would say: “put your tongue in the N position, then move it more to the front of your mouth, just behind the top teeth, under the roof of your mouth, then it should sound like L.” I kept trying, but most times, failing. After a while, and numerous attempts, I succeeded. The second problem, the more frustrating issue I faced, came much later, when I began studying voice formally. I had serious jaw tention. If I was going to sing well, and in the correct belcanto (beautiful singing) technique, this had to be sorted, and quickly. I also had problems with understanding the concept of using my soft pallet, and allowing it to raise. This was not happening, causing the sound to go back, and close. It was also causing my jaw to clench, and my neck to tighten. This was also not good. There were numerous times, I would cry with frustration as I was struggling, but it was when a teacher, by the name of Miss Deledesma, endevoured to explain it to me. I was studying in Hereford at the time, and had just had my voice ruined, and confidence destroyed a previous teacher who worked there. One day, while singing in a concert, the lady heard me and came up to me. Her observations, were that I had a large voice, and that I was holding it back. Finally, after a lot of explaining, through touch, on my part, and exercises, I understood. Now, I wish to utalise my skills, in order to help people with the likes of aphasia, (difficulty getting words out, as well as understanding) people with head injuries, and cerebral palsy. So yes, I can at least, have some empathy. 

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Speech and language?

Today, I went out with my counsellor for a coffee. We were discussing some recent events, that had happened. My voluntary work placement, was going extremely well, until the insurance company, refused to allow me to continue with my placement, due to the fact I have no vision. Upset, and hurt, I’d had enough, and decided to write to the press. As some of you may or may not know, the Isle of Man, is currently undergoing changes, as we do not have the equality act in place. I decided, therefore, to write to the press, explaining how I had felt about the situation, and also, how I was fighting for the rights of others with disabilities, who are struggling to get into employment, or voluntary work. That then lead onto the subject of my degree. My counsellor, eventually, discovered my true passion, did not lie in neuro-rehabilitation, in terms of physio, or psychological, though, I would like to use my psychological skills to help people with brain injury, or other neurological problems, but it was speech and language therapy, that I would like to go in too. My counsellor, explained that she could tell the passion in my voice, when I explained what I wanted to do. Now, I am going to switch my degree to an open degree next year, then after I graduate, pursue my degree in speech and language therapy. So, there you go. The latest post. I hope you enjoy it.

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To someone losing their sight.

To someone who is losing their sight

While I may not know you, or have even spoken to you, I hope the reason you chose to stop bye and read, is because of this post. While I myself, was born without sight, due to being born 3 months early, I can say somewhat that I know what it’s like. Okay, I don’t know what it’s like to lose sight, as it’s something I’ve never had, and probably will never have, but getting a diagnosis of something that more or less changes you a lot, is something I can relate too. while it is not eye related, but brain related I can say, that I have been there. I lost confidence, I felt that sadness, that worry of not being able to go out independently, fear of the unknown, knowing what I have cannot be cured, but can be controlled. But it’s not the end of everything. That’s not where your life has to end, not where your world has to end. Mine did not, and nor will yours. I sort counselling, CBT, and NLP, of which I am still going through, and I am also studying towards a degree in psychology with counselling. Do I see myself as disabled? No. We all have challenges in life, but why should we use the word disability, or disabilities. Regardless of what you have, whether it be brain injury, epilepsy, stroke, CP, ALS, etc, If the likes of Hawking can achieve such huge endeavours, even with his challenges in life, then why can’t we? If Helen Keller achieved so much, why can’t we? We can follow in their footsteps, we don’t have to be piano tuning, answering phones, weaving baskets. Those are the jobs for the people in victorian Britain, or anywhere else, with no understanding of us. Yes, we may not have sight, or may be in wheelchairs, but what of it? There’s no difference right? The sky is our limit, the world is ours to take, and we should grab every opportunity we have to adapt things to our needs, even if it is tedious, even if it makes some frustrated, so what? We get there. So if you’re sitting there now thinking, I have lost my vision, that’s it, my world is over, it’s not. Look at this post, at what I’m doing. At what a lot of people without sight can do. We can be psychologists, nurses, assistants to teachers, medical doctors, if you read the story of Bolotin, who became a heart and lung specialist in the 1920s. You can do what ever you put your mind too, and this, I mean. Let no-one stop you, let no-one put you down. You have no vision, but that does not matter. What matters, is that we all fight to achieve, and succeed, as no matter what people may say, we can and will, succeed. I hope this has made you feel somewhat better, and inspired. You can cook, can raise a family, can live the same as you could before, just, using different tools and strategies. It’s what you know, and who you know that counts. 🙂

If you want to be inspired, find a list of visually impaired people who achieved on http://www.afb.org

Even this link:

http://www.afb.org/info/living-with-vision-loss/for-job-seekers/our-stories/healthcare/1234

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