1. Raeann's story
  2. Jeff's story

A story from the Indiana School for the Blind

My name is Raeann Vaughn, and I am visually impaired. I used to attend the Indiana School for the Blind, a day and residential school for blind and visually impaired children ages three to nineteen years old in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I was four years old when I started attending the school and left the school when I was fourteen, my family moved to Albert Lea, Minnesota. I was considered a residential student, during the week I stayed at school. I lived in a dormitory, like the kind you stay in at college. The school was like my home away from home and the people in my dorm were like my family. I rode a bus home Friday afternoons, had a nice visit with my family, then I went back to school Sunday afternoon. I spent the holidays with my family. Summer vacation was like a breath of fresh air, I had three whole months with my family at home. The only time I remember going home during the week was when I was seven years old. My dad was taking classes; he would pick me up after school. He would bring me back early the next morning. Being able to go home during the week to see my family was like a rainbow. It only lasted a few weeks before it had to end because I was so tired at school that I started falling asleep in class.

The girls in my dorm were family. Jessica was like a ray of sunshine, always smiling. Nicole was like a butterfly, always changing her hair and makeup. Lisa was like an old teddy bear, you could pour your heart out to her, and she wouldn't say a word. Sara was like a baby, she would wine and complain to get out of doing her homework.

My house parent's were like second moms, they would do anything for me, and I could talk to them about things that I did not feel comfortable telling my friends. If breakfast had tasted like dirt in a bowl, the house parent's would take us back to the dorm, and fix us toast so we would not go to school hungry. I was able to explain to my house parent's why Christine and I were not getting along as roommates. Christine was rude and bossy to me.

The dormitory was a large three story brick building that looked like an apartment building from the outside. The first floor of the dorm was storage and laundry rooms. As you went up the stairs to the second floor you saw a large room with doors leading off to smaller rooms. If you turned to the left you saw a kitchen, bathroom, activity room that had in it a piano, Nintendo, ping pong table, television, tables, and chairs. If you turned to your right you saw a bedroom, lounge with couches, and a television, and a house parents office. The third floor had a bathroom and eight bedrooms. In each room there were two beds, dressers, closets, and study tables. At the start of each school year the house parent assigned each girl a room and roommate. My roommate Christine was bossy always telling me what to do, lucky for me I got to switch roommates part way through the year and roomed with my friend Jessica the rest of the year.

The dorm was usually a big happy family until one night an accident occurred that turned the dorm dark and scary in the blink of an eye. In sixth grade my friend Ester cut her wrist and had to have several stitches. She was running down the stairs to the bathroom, without thinking she put her hands on a glass pane in the bathroom door, pushing on it and breaking the glass causing the glass to cut her wrist. The house parent came running from her office and my friends and I came from the study room when we heard Ester scream. "I just told you not to run in the dorm Ester! Nicole ran upstairs to the laundry room to get towels to try and stop the bleeding. HURRY!" "I'll never be able to use my arm again!" "Yes you will I am taking you to the hospital to let them fix your arm." The blood looked like bingo chips as it fell on the floor. "I can not believe this is happening the bleeding is still not under control Lisa!" "It will be all right Jessica Ester is on her way to the hospital." I just stood around kind of in shock unable to believe what had just happened to a close friend. I learned a few days later that Ester had staples put in her arm, she had almost lost enough blood to require a transfusion, but she was going to be all right. I never looked at that glass door the same way again even after they replaced the glass pane.

Many residential children experience homesickness at one time or another. The child or child's family are unable to adjust to the separation of child from parents or vice verse. My friend Jenny parents were unable to adjust to not having there daughter at home so they took there daughter out of the blind school and put her in the local public school where I hear she did quite well with support from her family and the local school. The only time I ever experienced homesickness was when I had not been home for three weeks because I had been traveling to other state blind schools on the weekends to compete in track meets.

There were several advantages to attending the blind school. I was able to participate in sports like track and cheerleading. I was able to take piano, singing, and dance lessons. I was able to take trips all over the country to places like, Minnesota, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Ohio, and Washington D.C. I consider myself lucky that I attended the Indiana School for the Blind.

For more information visit the Indiana School for the Blind on the web.

Another Indiana school story from Jeff Armstrong

My name is Jeff Armstrong and I attended the Indiana School for the Blind "ISB" for 7 years starting in 1972. It was quite a substantial change from public school life to life at the school for the blind. I was 9 years old when my parents were approached by the psychologist from the school. She explained the advantages of sending a partially sighted child to a school for the blind and outlined the type of facilities the school could provide. Mom and dad knew that I was losing my vision a little at a time and soon would no longer be able to read the large print books that had let me stay in public school so long. Actually, my parents sent me to public school in the first grade because they really weren't aware of the level of vision I had and what it meant in a learning, classroom, environment. It took a little while for the teacher to pin down the cause of my "learning disability". I was sent to a "sight saving" classroom. In such a classroom the teacher teaches 3 grade levels of children with varying levels of blindness or vision loss, if you will. These were the most productive years of my education. The blackboards were still used as in "normal" classrooms but the students were allowed to walk right up to them and read the assignments that had been written out in 3 inch high letters. We all had large print books and lots of individual attention. Independent study was a big part of the success of this program and fostered the ability to teach one's self. Once a student's vision got to the point where they could no longer read large print text books they were almost always sent to the school for the blind. And this was my situation.

As I have read in other stories, the atmosphere was one of total acceptance. Since everyone there was in the same boat we experienced what a sighted child must have experienced in the public schools. However, since the school was much smaller and there was a higher ratio of teachers/staff to students one didn't have to deal with the violence that I had previously experienced at public school. I received a much better education than did my brother and sisters in the Indianapolis public schools. We were exposed to athletic competition for the first time in our lives and I was taught to play the trumpet. Most students at our school learned to be quite proficient on some musical instrument. You could learn to play band instruments or, alternatively, the piano. We had shop class with power tools and home economics where students learned to prepare meals with microwaves and ovens and learned to use sewing machines and other items I was never allowed to use in my own home. The thought of me operating a belt sander or a drill press or even a table saw would have scared the stuff out of my parents. We had swimming lessons and trained with weights. Their was a 2 lane bowling alley in our school, believe it or not. We had a bowling league and it was great fun. There was a small stream, Williams creek, running through the campus and it was the source of endless hours of fun for the kids. Some kids traveled on away trips for athletic competition and others traveled for speech competition. Over the years I have traveled to 20 or 30 states via USABA and other blind athletics.

I made good friends who knew me as a person, not just the blind kid. We seemed to date at a younger age than my normally sighted friends or even my brother and sisters. We were "going with" each other by junior high. We had wonderful dances and pep rallies. Over all I think the blind school afforded me and my fellow schoolmates the opportunities to live as close to normal lives as could be lived without vision. Because of this, however, I had a little bit of a hard time understanding that the sighted people in the world saw "blind" people as differently from themselves as they sometimes do.

This reality hit me when, in the 11th grade, I was taken out of the blind school by my parents and returned to public high school. As most people will tell you most friendships are already forged by this time and I kept in touch with my friends from the school for the blind as much as I could but the sighted kids in public high school were a hard nut to crack. I made a few friends, mostly freshman students since we were all in the same position. My brother went to the same high school for part of my time there and even he had a hard time adjusting to the fact that everyone now knew about his brother who was blind. We eventually adjusted to things and I even learned about such things as blue jeans and t-shirts. At the blind school fashion hadn't been that big of an issue and I always enjoyed dressing up and the school was fine with that. But, when you get tossed in with public school kids, dressing up to them meant wearing a polo shirt or dark tennis shoes. I had also been sheltered from the idea of drugs by the school for the blind and was shocked to be offered to purchase pot on my first day at public high school.

Though I preferred the social environment at ISB, I realize that my parents wanted me to learn about the real world before I graduated from high school and I most certainly did that. I have long since moved away from the school and even the state of Indiana and it brings a smile to my face to remember those days of freedom and acceptance of my childhood and maybe, some day, the world will move a little more in that direction.