I Believe...in the Power of Subliminal Messages

In a presentation given by the mother of one my students, she describes the process her family experienced as they discovered her youngest son was diagnosed with a  degenerative eye condition which would eventually lead to total blindness. As a professional in the field of vision impairments, listening to her experience helped me gain a deeper understanding of the tragedy a family experiences when a child is diagnosed as blind.

In my mind when I hear a student has a vision impairment, I immediately look at ALL THE POSSIBILITIES and get super excited to teach "blindness skills". On the other hand, I have to take a step back and respect the journey of the family. After all, my time with the child is simply a fraction of his/her life.

As I continued to listen to this mother pour out her family story she made a profound statement that will forever be etched in my memory and holds extreme power.

"My husband and I decided we were not going to assign our fears about blindness to our son."
(This is how I remember the quote, she may correct me in the comments)


Profound, right?!

As teachers and family members, we are given the INCREDIBLE responsibility to sit down around a table and lay out a plan to help our children/students obtain the highest level of independence.

So how do  we do that?

The first step is to look at our children's peers and then ask ourselves, "What are their peers doing? How can we get our child there?"

Then we develop goals based on one of the following subliminal messages we want to send our children/students.

"I believe you CANNOT!" 
"I believe you CAN!"

Children who are blind or have vision impairments can be safe, can be happy, can have friends, can got to college, can obtain and maintain a job, can date, can get married, can, can , can,

ONLY IF we teach the skills necessary to develop independence and GET OUT OF THEIR WAY.

Let us consider an example.

  • A 6 year old greets his teacher in the lobby and they are both going to the same destination. There happen to be 2 routes available from which to choose. The teacher asks the student who is blind, "Which way are you traveling today?" After the student makes a choice, the teacher has the power to choose one of the following responses  from which to send a subliminal message to the child. 
    • Subliminal message 1:
      • The teacher says, "Ok great! I will follow your there!"
    • Subliminal message 2:
      • The teacher says, "OK great! We've been practicing that route and I think you've got it! I'm going to take the opposite route and meet you there. Tell your friends hi in the hallway!"
Does the teacher release his/her fears assigned to blindness or does he/she hold onto fear and hold the  student back from developing self-confidence and boosting his/her self-esteem?

Subliminal messages are far more powerful than any words we could ever say.
Which subliminal message says "I believe you can!"

If you have a child or a student who has a vision impairment, and you allow fear to lead your decisions, then here is your challenge to boost your child's confidence. 

I  challenge you to choose 3 opportunities over the next week to send a subliminal message to your child/student that says "I believe you can!". Start small and work your way up to bigger tasks. The growth you will see in your child/student will astound you.
Children rise when they are given the space to rise.

Please share your experience with us below!

Here's to the power of subliminal messages!

Sarah D. Bussey

If you enjoyed this 5th installment of the "I Believe" Series, you might also enjoy:




(Installment 4) "I Believe...in Camp!"


Kim Owens said…
Thanks for your kind words! I am the "mom" mentioned above and I always love to hear what stands out to people who hear our story. The epiphany about "not assigning our fears about blindness to our son" continues to be a life changer for us. Now, when our legally blind son expresses interest in something our first questions are "how do we make it possible?" and "how do we make it safe?"

Where there is a will there is a way but some endeavors take a little more courage on our part than others. I write a blog for parents of blind children called www.navigatingblindness.com so please feel free to stop by and share your experiences. Thanks so much for highlighting our story!
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