Sunday, March 13, 2016

In the Dark

Conner has progressed so much in the last two years.  It's hard to believe he has been a part of our family for 23 months.  For most of the first year he struggled so much.  He couldn't speak English very well so his ability to communicate with anyone at school was extremely limited.  Other kids were nice to him, but he couldn't really make friends.  Pretty much every day we would ask him, "How was school?" and he would spit out, "BAD!!!"  That has turned around almost 180 degrees at this point.  He's a generally happy kid.  He speaks English quite well and has lots of friends at school.  When we took him to the high school basketball games this season, lots of kids would say hello, and often some of the kids would come and take him from us and lead him over to the student section.  He has a really good friend named Tanner who helps him at social events like dances.  Christi and I are so grateful for the many wonderful kids who are so attentive to Conner and genuinely like him.

After two years, he really has begun to enjoy life in America.  When we ask him how school was he usually says, "maybe good."  This is high praise coming from Conner:).  But one thing has remained consistent...his vigorous dislike of math.  If you ask him, "How do you like math?"  He responds with a vehement, "I Hate it!"  If he hears someone talking about math, he volunteers, "I HATE math!!!"  It has become very apparent that the kid does not like math.  And now I undertand why.

I have always loved math.  I have always been quite good at it and have been a tutor, paid and volunteer, for many students.  Many times I have seen great joy in the face of someone as a concept suddenly became clear to them.  Tonight for the very first time, Conner had math homework.  He has obviously studied the subject, but the work has been completely done at school.  Now he has gotten to a point where his English is good enough and his braille math is good enough that he is bringing work home.  And I really can't believe how hard it is.

First of all, since he's blind, he obviously can't write his problems down on a piece of paper.  Instead, he uses a device called a Braille Note.  This is an amazing machine that has moveable pegs for each braille letter.  As he types the braille into the machine, the pegs move so that the most recent typing is always available for him to read.  But as amazing as that is, think about it for a second.  Instead of having all of your previous work on a problem readily available in front of your eyes, he has to use his fingers and only has the most recent notations at his fingertips.  If he forgets something from earlier in the problem, he has to backspace through the braille until he gets back to that.  Not only that, but the notation is so challenging in braille.   Instead of the elegant simplicity of numerals, fractions, +, -, etc, each of these has to be represented by the 6 braille dots.  What's more, he can't quickly glance at the original problem.  Instead, he has to repeatedly reach from his Braille Note up to a large braille math book.  Now Conner is lucky.  He is quite brilliant.  His ability to do arithmetic in his head is phenomenal.  But once he's done it, he has to remember it, because he can't just write a middle-of-the-problem-answer down in the margin of his paper.  The whole thing is crazy!  However difficult I've made this sound, it's at least five times harder.  You really have to see it to believe it.

Conner, I am in awe of you.  Lexi, you too.  The daily struggles of life without sight are more than I think those of us with vision can possibly imagine.  And yet the two of you, and so many of your visully impaired friends, remain positive, happy people.  You are productive.  And perhaps the most amazing thing of all is how much light you share with the people around you while you yourself are surrounded by darkness.  I am forever grateful for the light you share with me each day.  You brighten my world.  Thank you!



  1. thank you for sharing these thoughts. They give great insight to what must be so challenging. I never thought through this to realize how very difficult it must be! Conner is a true inspiration to who hates math, too. I think I learned just enough to get by in life. It never made sense to me to learn things that I would never use in a practical setting. Conner is so much fun to be around. He radiates happiness! He's come so far. We're so glad to know him!

  2. Wow. Thanks for this update. It's so easy to take sight for granted. I do think about Conner and Lexi many times throughout my week and their struggles and amazing attitudes keeps me inspired!

  3. I am so proud of Conner and happy that he is communicating so well. I hope he sticks with his math. It will be a blessing to him throughout his life to have a facility with numbers. Even as a humble school bus driver I find it handy, as in predicting how many miles I have yet to drive before I need to refuel again.

  4. Does he use an abacus? There are special methods that blind people use to calculate and keep track.


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