Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gaining independant sight

Whilst away in Spain I watched film about a man who had lost his sight by the time he was three years old. When he was in his 30s he was given the opportunity of having an operation which would restore his sight, and after some deliberation he decided he would have a go. As his surgeon said, ‘what have you got to lose’? Interestingly enough he has a lot to lose, and it wasn't until he gained his sight he realised just how much there was he was losing.
One of the first things he realised was he was completely disorientated. He had developed a feeling world in which he could sense rain, size of buildings, position of doors, and other essential things that helped him get around the world. He had no sight and yet he had a rich imagination one that had been fuelled by all of the explanations he had been given by sighted friends and family. But the question here is whether the actual sights live up to the expectations he had inside his non-seeing brain?
When he first opened his eyes, he would have been as a newborn child, with no idea as to what was a face, a body, an apple, or any other object that was in the room at the time. Imagine seeing movement for the very first time. He had no idea of depth of field because he never had to have knowledge of it, and yet the sighted world presumed, wrongly, that now he has his sight everything was fixed. It wasn't. He had gained a sense and in many ways he had lost his others. They were still there, and he could still access them, but this new sense, sight, was interfering with his original brain processes. He was disorientated.
So we present our children with new situations and we wonder why they are disorientated. We give them new hurdles to climb such as 11+ examinations, GCSEs and so on and we wonder why some of them are drawn towards this new experience, some of them hope it will go away, and some of them just accept it and plod on through.
I looked into some early research into corneal replacement surgery and the restoration of the sight in people who had become blind. The first surgery to be recorded was in the 1950s and this was on a subject who when he first saw for the first time, felt really disillusioned and let down by the whole experience. In fact he became so overwhelmed by it all he believed it was the worst thing that ever happened. Now in those days, psychologists were few on the ground and he didn't get the support that really and truly he needed, and as a consequence he found the adjustment to this new world very, very difficult.
If we return to our children for the moment and think of how they adapt, then we can see a potential parallel. We give them new experiences to give them a wider experience base but we must also remember to give the correct psychological backup to make them feel safe secure and inquisitive. If we wrap them up in protection, when do they get to experience the full force of what they will have to live in? When will they have t adapt to a new set of senses they had been protected from. I realise this is a tenuous link but there is one here. The man in the film had been ‘protected’ from the need to understand large aspects of the seeing world and he operated very well in it. He was then thrown in and told to cope. For the first few months he didn’t and that’s a rational 30-something man. Protect our children too much from the world and we are denying them the development of their full set of senses too.

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