A Letter from an Eliya Graduate

Shalom! My name is Noa, I am 37-years old, married with one child, and I live in Rishon LeZion.

I was born with a cataract, which developed into glaucoma, and as a result I.I can see only with one eye. I have been issued with a Certificate of Blindness and Visual Impairment.

As a young child I was operated a number of times. I underwent surgery in London, , and I have good memories of these trips overseas and the experiences I had while staying there. All in all, I can say that I grew up as a happy and normal little girl.

My sister and I are twins. She, however, does not suffer from any vision impairment. At first, we both attended the same kindergarten but at a later stage my parents decided to register me at Eliya kindergarten in Petach Tikva. Even though this was many years ago, I still recall it as being a fun and happy for me. I remember the special transportation to and from the Day Care Center, the other children, the many activities and the parties that were organized for us. When the time came for me to enter First Grade, at school, I insisted that my parents enrol me in a regular school, the same one that my sister was attending. Although from time to time I got help from an assistant teacher, all my school years were spent together with all the other children.

My parents always related to me and my twin sister in an identical manner. Their expectations from both of us were the same; they never made things easier for me. As a result, I grew up to be a very independent child – never missing out on any activities, whether parties, school and field trips, extra-curricural activities, or simply going out with friends.

After completing my high school studies, I volunteered to serve as a soldier in the IDF. Following a short period of basic training I served in the medical corps of the Air Force.On completing my service, I stayed for a few months in New York with family, before joining a friend for an extended trip in South America.

Coping with new places and surroundings is never easy for me, as I naturally feel safer in places that I am familiar with, places where I need not be afraid of unexpected obstacles. But I learned not to hesitate to ask for assistance, and as a result I managed to enjoy many things that I otherwise would never have experienced. But asking for help has never come easily to me. Anyone looking at me would not notice anything different or unusual about me except for the fact that I wear glasses with very thick lenses. It took me some time to understand that people around me could not understand exactly what I could or could not see. Over the years I learned to explain to people that it is not just a matter of my “not being able to see well”, but that in fact I needed active assistance from them.

At the age of 22, I began to study Biotechnology Engineering at the University of Ben Gurion and lived in a shared student apartment. Towards the end of my first degree my sight deteriorated considerably, and I was forced to adapt to this new situation. I decided not to give up but instead to move forward and to complete both a Masters degree and a doctorate.

I experienced many difficulties along the way, but my uncompromising desire to be a “normal little girl” and later on a “normal woman” made me embrace every opportunity offered. I always said “yes” to anything suggested, even if at first it seemed an impossible mission. In At the end, I always managed to find a way to succeed. However, although this approach took me far in life, over the years I also had to learn to recognize where my borders lie and when I should back down or give up. I had to accept the fact that sometimes the vision impairment can influence what I can do, and I have learned when to go easy on myself and ask for help or even walk away from some opportunity offered.

While working on my doctorate, I began to specialise in the field of Data Science, and today I am employed in an American financial software company called Intuit.

I am happily married to Noam and am the proud mother of Yuval. I am now experiencing the new challenges of being a mother with visual disabilities to a child with normal vision.

On looking back on all that I have experienced over the years, I would like to recommend the following to parents whose children have vision impairments: Believe in your child’s capability of integrating into society and always look for new and creative solutions for the challenges that face them. Relate to them as if they are completely “regular” children, and make them feel confident enough to achieve all their dreams. Teach them to become independent and to overcome challenges by themselves. Allow them to find solutions by themselves, but also help them learn when to “let go” or “back down” and when to ask for help. Make sure that they always know that you are there for them at all times to offer support and assistance, but that you are not there to do everything for them.

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