Future Reflections       Special Issue, Extracurricular Activities      A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

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Life, Be In It!

by Deborah Kent Stein

Deborah Kent SteinWhen my daughter started high school, she signed up for an after-school program called Life, Be in It! Students volunteered at nursing homes, child care centers, homeless shelters, and an assortment of other programs in the community. Much of the focus was on helping others, but there was also a strong educational component. Beyond the confines of the classroom, students had the chance to learn through firsthand experience.

I loved the concept behind this program, and I was enchanted by the title. Life, Be in It! What a weird, hokey name! Yet how could it be more apt?

Most of us agree that academic studies are important, but living in the world involves far more than passing tests and writing term papers. A tremendous amount of practical learning takes place when students engage in extracurricular activities. They develop confidence, learn teamwork, and build leadership skills. They have the chance to be useful, to make meaningful contributions. Instead of learning at a distance, by reading and discussing, they learn by doing, through direct experience. And at the same time they get to have plenty of fun!

Extracurricular activities are invaluable for blind children and teens, just as they are for their sighted peers. Too often, however, blind kids are excluded from activities that would greatly enhance their learning and enrich their lives. Transportation issues may be a factor. Parents sometimes worry that their child won't be accepted by group leaders or peers. And of course there are those "safety concerns" that tend to rear up when they're least expected. "We'd love to include Joey, but we don't want him to get hurt . . ."

The articles in this special issue of Future Reflections present a variety of perspectives on extracurricular activities for blind students. Parents, program leaders, and kids themselves write about challenges, adventures, and triumphs. They describe activities that range from birding to marching band, from cheerleading to surfing. These accounts show that creative solutions may be called for. Sometimes it even takes a bit of advocacy before a blind child or teen is able to participate. Nevertheless, the end results prove well worth the effort. Life, be in it!

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