Photo description - Two past Year 12 students dressed for Graduation - boy in black & white suit with bow tie and girl in sleeveless embroidered dress top - both looking very 'grown up'. (Consent to post photos given)
Over this last week many year 12 students finished their schooling and big celebrations have begun. It’s a scary time for parents and for them to feel confident and let their child go out into the world. Many students will not know where they want to go or what they want to do or how they will do it.
This week I have seen photos of past students that I have worked with over many years. Now, they have just graduated. There may have been challenges along the way but they got there. As a visiting teacher or Orientation & Mobility specialist, we provide support to these kids in rather a unique way, not always understood by those who only watch on from a distance. We work on concepts that the regular sighted child will pick up on very quickly, in their early years. It may take a child with a vision impairment longer to grasp a concept and fully understand it. They just need a bit more time.
I remember when I finished year 12 (Higher School Certificate-HSC) wondering what I would do after we broke up but I continued doing part-time work in the area of disability. As I didn’t get into ‘Teachers College’ straightaway I continued with the part-time work but it was shift work which meant that I had days off. Apart from sleeping I didn’t really know what else to do with my time as I had spent so many years doing copious amounts of study every day and night after school, on weekends and here I was with nothing to do or no assignment to hand in. It was a very weird feeling. I recall offering a friend of mine who got into Teachers College to work on one of her assignments so I just felt like I had something to do. Adjusting to a new life with different schedules, different goals and working out how I was to support myself financially, if I wanted to holiday away, or move out into a share house or flat.
I also remember when leaving school that I felt quite sad and quite upset that I would be leaving a big group of people that I had spent many many years with and teachers that I really regarded highly and teachers that liked me and I liked them. There were many hundreds of girls that were at my school and I didn’t know whether I would continue to see them around, or for how long. Without admitting how long ago I was in year 12, what I can say is that in Melbourne we didn’t do ‘schoolies’ like they do now. Our excitement for the day of our final break up was going into Melbourne city by train, to The Pancake Parlour for breakfast in our school uniform and returning to school by 9. The chosen theme for the final day was ‘the Beach’ and I recall umbrellas and beach towels on the ground in an area where Year 12 girls with zinc painted noses gathered. Our graduation dinner was considered at the time a big thing and I was excited because my mum bought me a dress with a dropped waist which was fashionable at the time that cost $65. I think I gelled up my hair, took a partner to the graduation dinner and we ate and danced the night away with no afterparty that I can recall.
I thoroughly enjoyed my school years and the friends I made and understanding others supported my social development and the ability to communicate – all great skills for future workplaces. I wouldn’t say school prepared me very well for the world out there as far as knowing the process and how to go about finding full-time work, budgeting, further study, filling in government forms. I could ride a bike, catch a bus or train but still relied on my parents for a lift at night time. Just a couple of my friends had a car that I sometimes had the luxury of travelling in. There was lots more out there to learn, to succeed at, to fail at, to be someone in my journey. It was just the beginning.
To all those past and present students – give things a go, you have got this far already and enable yourself to be who you want to be.
If you need assistance along the way, ask for it.
This week I decided to share something from one of the children that I am supporting. At school, she has just written her 'Letter to Santa' in braille (good to hear she is planning ahead) and for those who require the print, I have included it below the brailled letter to click on.
Perhaps, the children today are not asking for quite as much?
If you would like to share your child's 'Santa Letter' over the next month or so, and have it published on this page, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
What will your child be doing in another 10 years or in another 2 years? When they leave school, what do you imagine they could be doing? Leaving school is another one of those transition periods where not only the student faces new challenges but the parents can feel quite fragile as well.
Those transition stages have also been considered grieving stages for parents – a time of change, of a new acceptance, worries for the future, a reminder of their child’s abilities and disabilities when exploring new grounds and building new relationships. Naturally, as parents we will always express concern and worry but we also need to be the ‘encourager’, the ‘tough support’, the ‘teacher’, the ‘lifelong support’ when needed and/or when requested.
Today a question was asked about whether there is a group that exists where parents are advocating for and alongside, their children/teenagers/young adults with vision impairments for them to become part of the workforce and employed based on their skills and abilities. The parent asking the question knew of someone in the ‘deaf community’ which is a very strong group who apparently achieved great success in non-profit organisations where a percentage of jobs are now allocated to the ‘deaf/hearing impaired’ person.
The following question was then put forward and I thought I would include her question in this week’s blog – “Does the VI community need to further join together to drive and implement services and supports structured to the communities’ real needs?”
What are your thoughts? Should certain jobs in our networks be for people with vision impairments only? What do you think about this concept? We will welcome your thoughts.
More questions have been posed for future blogs and depending on your responses, it may be lead to further discussion or a planned ‘chat time’.
Kerri Weaver is a service provider for children with disabilities.