Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Adapting to Blindness

Men's Journal just ran a fascinating feature on echo-locator Daniel Kish. What he (and others) are able to do is mind-boggling, but so is one of the impediments they face:
He's regarded by some in the blind community with deep veneration. Others, like a commenter on the National Federation of the Blind’s listserv, consider him “disgraceful” for promoting behavior such as tongue clicking that could be seen as off-putting and abnormal.
Kish is thankful that his parents raised him "with almost no dispensation for his blindness. “My upbringing was all about total self-reliance,”" As an illustration of the difference between his upbringing and most other (blind) children's:
Kish can hardly remember a time when he didn’t click. He came to it on his own, intuitively, at age two, about a year after his second eye was removed. Many blind children make noises in order to get feedback — foot stomping, finger snapping, hand clapping, tongue clicking. These behaviors are the beginnings of echolocation, but they’re almost invariably deemed asocial by parents or caretakers and swiftly extinguished. Kish was fortunate that his mother never tried to dissuade him from clicking. “That tongue click was everything to me,” he says.

He has a vivid recollection of sneaking out his bedroom window in the middle of the night, at age two and a half, and climbing over a fence into his neighbor’s yard. “I was in the habit of exploring whatever I sensed around me,” he writes in his journal. He soon wondered what was in the yard of the next house. And the one after that. “I was on the other side of the block before someone discovered me prowling around their backyard and had the police return me home to completely flummoxed parents.”


Blogger Richard said...

There is something suspicious about his recollected exploration out the window, at the age of two. Memories before the age of three are slim indeed. It is certainly embellished with concepts he could not have held at the time. He may have done that, but was likely told about it when he was older.

8:58 PM  

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