Now, now — stop worrying. I’m not leaving this blog just yet: you can’t get rid of me that easily. I know, I know … OK, you can stop crying now … OK, stop it now; you’re getting annoying. NO, STOP.
This week, I spent two days at a school for the blind and visually impaired in my home country of England; for those who are unaware, I am blind and currently attend mainstream (or ‘normal’) school, however post-16, specialist school is an option which I wanted to explore. In all honesty, I’ve never really been onboard with ‘blind school’; I felt that it almost encouraged the stereotypes relating to the needs of the blind, especially that our needs were unmeetable by mainstream establishments. All the same, I decided to visit my favourite of the blind schools, to evaluate its value to me as a developing young adult and hopeful university student at age 18. I took a trip on Wednesday, leaving at 6am (shock horror, I know), and spent two days at the school, with an overnight stay in the student residential block; I would be staying at the school for up to 7 weeks at a time if I were to attend, as it is so far from home.
There were several options for me at blind school, and i’ll briefly outline them both below:
1. i attend blind school for two years (aged 16-18), to complete my A Levels (exams here in the UK), and move on to university, having learnt the skills I need to live independently at university from the blind school.
2. I attend blind school for 1 year at age 18, to learn skills or independent living as a blind person, in preparation for univeristy; I’d stay in my current ‘normal school’ for my A Levels.
Of course, I could just not go at all, which was another option too.
You know when you go somewhere, meet someone or do something for the first time, you desperately try and convince yourself that you’re going in with an ‘open mind’, and you won’t make asumptions etc etc? Yeah, don’t lie — none of us can actually do that. I tried — honestly, I did –; I went in with an ‘open mind’, even thogh I had already decided that I wouldn’t go to blind school at age 16, and that was that. My parents didn’t want me to leave home at 16, and whilst I recognise that their opinion is not automatically my own opinion, I didn’t particularly want to leave everything I know behind me, and start fresh in just under 2 years time. I would love the chance to start fresh, don’t get me wrong; I think I need to at some point, but I really wasn’t sure that 16 was the right time to do that.
And then it all changed.
I shadowed some lessons at the school, which basically means I went in and observed/took part in the lessons, to get a feel for how they work. The classes there are much smaller, and the overall size of the school in terms of student intake is significantly smaller to that which I am used to. Staff are addressed by their first names, and the opportunities there for me as a blind individual are incredible, so much more than I was expecting and unbelievably more than I can access here at home. Still, I stayed true to my open-minded pre-judgement: not at 16. This isn’t right for 16. This isn’t right for 16.
why? Because I said so before I even stepped foot in the building.
Wednesday was over, Thursday was to come. On Thursday, I shadowed more academic lessons; Maths and English. Only then did my mind suddenly clear, and left me with one thought: this feels natural. You know when you’re somewhere new, or in a new situation, and you just feel right? It’s like you belong there, and you fit in, and it feels amazingly easy. I could list the advantages of this blind school over mainstream school, but I’d both bore you to death, and spark some controversy in the blind community, so I shall refrain from doing so. All I’ll say is that blind school is the right choice for me as an individual for ages16-18, and so I have decided to go right ahead and apply.
There is no guarantee that I’ll be able to go, although things all look positive: in short, we have to persuade my local counsel to pay for me to go to this school rather than pay for my support in ‘normal school’, but that shouldn’t be a problem due to various factors.
This isn’t going to be an easy time: I’m going to spend the next 2 years trying to get into this school, and the following 2 years away from home, in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people all around me. But, to tell the truth, I’m excited to move on. It’s so great to have stability and familiarity, but I also think it’s beyond important to recognise when change is necessary, when it’s time to move on.
It’s time for me to move on, and I’m going to grab the opportunity with both hands, and see where it can take me.