Future Reflections Fall 1992, Vol. 11 No. 4
A DAY AT THE PLAYGROUND
by Mary Ellen Thompson
[PICTURE] Niki White
Editor's Note: Mrs. Thompson is a staff member at the National Center for the Blind, and a dedicated member of the National Federation of the Blind. She has a special touch with children and frequently assists with chapter and parent division children's activities. Niki White is the daughter of Loretta White, president of the Maryland NFB Parents of Blind Children Division.
Autumn was in the air as an anxious group of children took their grown-ups by the hand and headed for the playground. The grown-ups slowed things down considerably, but the children were patient. After all, grown-ups are slow movers, and we did have little Fisayo Kuforiji in a stroller. Several young representatives from the neighborhood were already at the playground to greet us. Some kids came right over to say "Hi." Others waited for the opportunity to make friends with us on the jungle gym and swings.
The grown-ups watched as the children ran undaunted first to the swings then on to the sliding board monkey bars. Niki said, "Would you hold my cane?" and handed it to one of the grown-ups as she headed for the jungle gym. No one gave a second thought to Niki or her cane, although a few stopped to look at the grown-up holding a little cane.
Our story girl is Niki White. She is five years old. She is blind, a good cane user, and she is full of fun. Niki took to the jungle gym like a fish to water. After a short explanation of the curved ladder that led to the platform of the lower sliding board, and the back where platform steps led to both sliding boards, Niki decided she liked the curved ladder to the sliding board. She climbed it and slid down the sliding board over and over and over. Without hesitation she climbed to the high sliding board for several slides down the curved sliding board. She needed assistance only the first time or two, then she was on her own. She discovered that laying her cane on the ground in the same place near the ladder every time would be a good idea. She tried it. It worked! She laid her cane down to get on the jungle gym and picked it up after she got off the sliding board. One of the neighborhood kids pointed to the cane and said, "What's that?" Niki said "It's my cane." and ran off for one more trip down the sliding board. The little girl said, "What's it for?" I said, "That's Niki. She's blind. The cane helps her to get around." That was all that was ever said about Niki's blindness or the cane.
The most captivating and exciting piece of equipment on the playground was, indeed, the jungle gym. This huge steel structure was a combination of ladders, steps, platforms, and sliding boards. We were playing a game the kids called Freddie Kruger, where a grown-up would go about "catching the children to eat them for lunch." The grown-up would approach with a vicious growl showing hungry teeth, and the children would scatter. Niki thought that she could get away from Freddy by getting on the see-saw with Dianna Maurer, but it didn't work. Freddy had her in his clutches and was about to have a big bite of her when she wiggled away!
It was a day rich with good times when the kids and their grown-ups filled the fresh air with laughter and shouting. For the neighborhood children, it was a day of learning that blind children are children just like themselves who like to run and swing and climb on the jungle gym and slide down the sliding board. Niki showed the kids how she touched things to learn about them, how she knew who was near by listening, and how she made friends just by being herself.
Niki, the other young members of our group, and their grown-ups are members of the National Federation of the Blind. It was the third Saturday, and the monthly meeting of the Baltimore Chapter was in session inside the National Center for the Blind at 1800 Johnson Street right across the street from Riverside Park. The chapter was busy discussing plans for the next National Convention, and making a list of dinner items to be brought for the Christmas repast. We had plans of our own, however. We were about the business of having fun.
We all enjoyed a happy, fun-filled day at the playgroundNiki and her friends old and new.