Future Reflections         Summer 2010

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by Crystal Morales

Reprinted with permission from TX SenseAbilities, a publication of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Fall 2009

Crystal Morales and her sister Danielle in their music studio; Crystal's guide dog, Umbro, sits beside herFrom the Editor: In 2008 Crystal Morales received her BA from East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. She hopes to find work as a teacher of deafblind adults.

When our mom, Cynthia, was told that her little girls would never make it, she said a prayer. "I will be the best mother I can," she prayed. "Please let my little girls survive." We did survive, but our story had only begun.

My twin sister, Danielle, and I arrived three months early to meet the world. We barely survived heart surgery when we were four hours old. That surgery was followed by lung disease and many other conditions. It was all quite stressful, scary, and dramatic.

Both Danielle and I were born with nystagmus, strabismus, ambliopia, and several other eye conditions, along with hearing impairments. The doctors told Mom that we would both be profoundly deaf and totally blind if we survived to the age of twenty-one. They were always telling her about horrible conditions and diseases that could eventually kill us. Sometimes Mom lay awake all night, crying about the terrible things that might happen to us some day. Yet she found the strength to help us go to school, even home-schooling us for a short time.

Danielle and I also had frequent mild seizures. They interrupted our day up to twenty times, leaving us tired and distracted. Our seizures became more severe as we got older, but with medications they are now more manageable. With all of these things going on in our lives, we remembered the phrase Mom said over and over, "All things possible, girls."

After years of physical therapy, medications, speech therapy, and special education, we graduated from high school at the age of twenty. We were two eager, motivated, confident deafblind young adults. While we were in high school we received great help from deafblind specialists, Braille instructors, and orientation and mobility teachers. We also obtained assistance from the Texas Commission for the Blind, now known as the Department of Assistance and Rehabilitative Services. We knew that with our disabilities college would present many challenges, but we also knew college was something we really wanted. Our mother had always stressed the importance of getting an education. She taught us to find ways to do things, no matter how hard it was. She always taught us never to give up.

From the time we were six years old, Danielle and I loved to compose music. We wrote songs every day together. As we grew up, so did our musical ability. We performed for small audiences until we put together a professional concert. Then we widened our scope to perform at colleges and universities, on radio stations, on a local news station's live music section, at private events, and even in coffee shops and local music stores.

Although we enjoyed this work very much, our hearing difficulties were increasing. After a while we found it hard to hear and enjoy our compositions. Mom was afraid we would lose all of our hearing in the next few years, and she wanted to capture our work before that happened. Eventually we put together two CDs of original material. Naturally we had to give our first CD the title "All Things Possible." Our second CD is called "Meditations."

Currently we both have profound hearing loss along with severe visual impairment and epilepsy. Today we compose music in our modified music studio that is fully accessible. All of our speakers, amplifiers, and equalizer machines allow us to hear our music, though we don't hear in all the ranges. Our keyboards, synthesizers, and recording devices are marked in Braille and have hand-Brailled manuals and menu pages. Our acoustic instruments, such as the violin, cello, bass, and hammered dulcimer, are individually tuned and mic'd so that we can hear them. We can even connect our iCom Bluetooth system to the amp so that it sends the signal to our hearing aids wirelessly. We had to figure these things out on our own. It sure makes us feel good, knowing that we can be self-sufficient and creative. We knew that there would be a way for us to continue composing, no matter how much hearing or vision we lost.

Today we live life energetically. We compose music and travel around the city of Austin. We have learned sign language and Braille. We have found ways to meet others like us and to make great friends with people of many abilities. As Mom always said, "All things possible."

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