Our Journey Raising Two Children with Special Needs

This blog chronicles our life raising two children, Nicholas 15, diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome and Weston 18, diagnosed with Autism/Asperger's/ADHD. It's the ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows and most importantly, the beauty of living a life less perfect, a life more meaningful.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pete and the Giggly Girls from Perkins School for the Blind

My husband, Pete is 6'1 and weighs 200 lbs. He is an ex-marine, although he will argue there is no such thing as an ex-marine. He is an HVAC mechanic for a union company in Boston that is listed as one of the top Fortune 500 companies in the country. Some of their customers include: Harvard University, Boston Children's Hospital and Perkins School for the Blind.

Now, while my husband is a quiet, big, bulky kind of a guy, he is also the father of two children diagnosed with special needs. Beneath his large, hardened exterior beats the heart of a kind and loving man. It is very rare that he allows others to see this side of himself.

His company often sends him to work on equipment at Perkins School for the Blind. Pete has told me several times that he takes his work there very seriously. He will do whatever it takes to ensure these students are always comfortable. He makes sure the kids are toasty warm in the winter and comfortably cool in the summer. More than a few times, he has come home from visits there with tears in his eyes.

Last week, once again, Pete was working at Perkins. As he carried his heavy tools from one building to another, he had to pass through a large courtyard which was covered with deep snow. A narrow walkway with high snow banks was plowed through the deep snow enabling students to pass safely from building to building. The passage was barely wide enough for two adults to pass each other comfortably.

As Pete walked down the narrow path, he saw up ahead three pre-teen girls with canes, walking, talking and laughing with one another. The giggly girls were so busy talking and laughing, they were completely oblivious to the fact that there may be someone up ahead. Without a thought, the mighty Pete jumped up and into the mountainous snow bank which flanked the narrow walkway. He floundered (tools and all) in the deep snow that was up to his waist as he waited for the giggling girls to pass. As they passed he said hello and like typical pre-teen girls, locked in conversation, they didn't hear him. They passed the large, strange man protruding incongruously from a snowbank without even a hesitation in their conversation.

After they passed, Pete climbed out of the deep snow, brushed himself off and smiled as he thought to himself.........preteen girls are all alike no matter where they go to school..

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this amazing school, here is some history for you.

Perkins School for the Blind

From their website:

A historic painting of the Perkins campus from the Charles River.
The foundations of the future are rooted in the past.
A trip to Paris to see the world's first school for the blind in the early 1820's convinced medical student Dr. John Fisher of the dire need for such a school in America. Upon his return, Fisher and some friends applied for and received a charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to establish a school for the education of blind students. Perkins school was incorporated in 1829 and using rooms in his father's Boston home for classes, the director, Samuel Gridley Howe, opened the doors of the school in 1832.

Just one year later, the school moved to a larger home owned by Thomas Perkins, vice president and a trustee. Within six years, student enrollment grew to 65. Perkins sold his home and donated the money to the school so it could convert a hotel in South Boston. The school still bears Perkins' name as a testament to his generosity.

About this same time, Samuel Gridley Howe began to establish a separate printing department in the school to produce embossed books. Howe hoped to entice well-known authors to use the school to emboss their books. As fate would have it, Howe attracted the attention of Charles Dickens, who used Perkins School to print and distribute 250 copies of his book, The Old Curiosity Shop.

Dickens visited Perkins in 1842 during a lecture tour of America and was amazed at the work Howe was doing with Laura Bridgman, a young deaf blind girl who came to the school in 1837. So impressed was Dickens that he wrote about his visit in his book, American Notes. Years later, Kate Adams Keller, mother of a young deaf blind girl named Helen, read the book. The book provided a ray of hope for the couple's six-year-old daughter, Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing when she was only 19 months old.

Helen was born in 1880, the same year the Samuel P. Hayes Research Library was founded at Perkins. It's considered the largest repository of its kind in the world. It contains the most recent and complete information on the non-medical aspects of blindness and deaf blindness. Its vast collection includes books by and about Helen Keller.

In 1887, Perkins Director Michael Anagnos sent graduate Anne Sullivan to teach Helen Keller in Alabama. That same year, the school established the first kindergarten for the blind in the United States. After working with her pupil at home, Ms. Sullivan returned to Perkins with Helen Keller in 1888 and remained there until 1893.

The school outgrew its home in the hotel and desperately needed more space for the children to run and play, so it moved to its present 38-acre home on the Charles River in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1912. Perkins continued to develop "firsts." For example, the Hayes-Binet test was introduced in 1920 and revealed that the intelligence of the blind population is no different from those who can see.

As the school evolved, so did the population. Perkins changed its charter in 1982 to accept students with multiple disabilities other than blindness. A major grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in 1989 made it possible to expand Perkins' services throughout the U.S. and in 50 developing countries through Perkins' International Programs.


Laurie said...

Your husband is right... there is no such thing as an ex-Marine. :) Tell him we live on Parris Island. Where was he a recruit at?

Lisa said...

Semper Fi! Pete was originally from Wisconsin so he was a recruit in San Diego. He spent a year in Okinawa and then was based in New Bern, NC.

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