Why Grad School?

As the title suggests… in an unexpected turn of events I decided to go to Grad School. I think the only person more surprised than me about deciding to go back to school is my mom. The woman I tortured drawing instead of studying and who used to CRY she was laughing so hard reading my high school papers… I thought my ability to combine sentences was a gift, apparently it was a run-on issue… whatEVER. The good new is I worked really hard in college, doing something I love, and now it is paying off ten-fold because I was accepted into the masters program in Visual Impairment at the University of Kentucky.

Moving our family to Tennessee and having the option to send Josiah to the School for the Blind is amazing, we know how privileged we are to be able to give him that opportunity. And while it’s the “perfect” place for kids who are blind, we know that we were taking a big chance that it might not turn out to be the “perfect” place for Siah. We just had to try. What I’ve realized is that, just like every other kid, the majority of what kids learn and how they develop happens at home, and that is even more true for a child with differences. I’ve been able to research and learn so much about how to help Siah, and it’s been amazing to see the progress he’s made with us when we know what kids with visual-impairment need. But now that he will be learning pre-braille and other important skills visually-impaired kids need to succeed, I’ll be at a disadvantage soon. Did you know that 85% of all learning through age 5 is done through sight? Yeah. So the solution that made the most sense to me was to take some classes and educate myself to fill in that giant gap as best I could. It only took a day to realize there are not a lot of braille and VI classes available to the general public (if you know of any please tell me because I found zero). So here we are… in grad school

As part of my application I submitted a personal statement to the graduate admissions board on why I wanted to be a part of the Visual Impairment program. So if you’d like to read that I have it below


Personal Statement – Graduate Program in Visual Impairment at University of Kentucky

If someone would have asked me early in my college career if I would want to study visualimpairment I would have given a confused but confident no. I spent most of my high school education and all my undergrad focusing on visual arts. My interests grew and changed but always remained in art. My goal was to be in publication design, so after graduation I moved to New York City to work for one of the largest publishing companies as a book cover designer. I had always found a large part of my identity in my design work and I was known for that by everyone who knew me.  

After marriage, two kids, and moving around the country, I still set aside time to pour into design however my life allowed. Then in June 2016 a doctor laid my third son in my arms and I knew then that my life would change trajectory drastically. Months before, early prenatal scans showed there were differences in his physical development. Specialists had combed over every ultrasound and fetal MRI, trying to predict what his life would look like. The days and weeks that followed his birth were very hard trying to reconcile everything that had been predicted with what was actually happening now that he had arrived. But no matter what doctors predicted, he never followed the path they laid out because his abilities and strength were completely unpredictable. He was going to be who he was going to be despite what people thought; it was only a matter of seeing things differently and finding what worked for him. To finally receive a diagnosis of complete blindness felt like a grain of sand compared to the mountain of possibilities doctors speculated about during my entire pregnancy.  

Several months later a friend sat across from me and asked me something that hit me hard and unexpectedly. She looked at me and said, “Don’t you think it’s crazy that after dedicating so much of your life to something completely visual, you have a son who is blind?” It was like being hit with one of those giant inflatable exercise balls you see on funny videos that throw the unsuspecting child flying across the room. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how I had not explored this idea before, it seemed painfully obvious. Something that was so important to me had been seemingly forgotten in the wake of our new life, and I immediately felt a sense of loss. I remember my response to her question being very underwhelming while I tried to process the new realization. Although I had given birth to a new son, what I had unknowingly given birth to, was a new me. 

After a lot of reflection, I realized I hadn’t lost my passion for design, in fact I still love and enjoy design, but how I viewed it before was lost. I lost it in the way a child outgrows an obsession with trains, that one thing growing up that you couldn’t get enough of and the only thing you would talk about. Everyone who knew you recalls that passion and it’s a part of your most important childhood memories. It’s in every photo, even if just tucked in your front pocket or scattered across the living room floor in the background. Now those memories have faded and the only thing that physically remains is probably a tub of small wood tracks and engines in your parent’s attic. Even though that chapter is undeniably closed, the value of that passion is not lost at all, it was the catalyst to bigger ideas and perspectives. Perhaps that passion for trains was the beginning of what lead someone to becoming an engineer or physicist, like a seed planted and given the right environment and dedication to thrive.

I don’t want to study visual impairment because I’ve discovered a new passion, I want to study visual impairment because I’ve realized that my passion all along was for seeing things creatively and reaching people in ways that are not always easily seen or understood. My passion has always been in creating and participating in something that opens the door for someone to feel and excel at things that they may have not been able to otherwise. The best part of my experience in working every day with my son is that it has opened my mind to the enormity of the world that I had been missing because I was only seeing it with my sight. Who knew having a child who is blind would highlight a lack of vision. 


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