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The integration of visually
impaired people depends on two factors, namely on the fact how well society
is prepared to accept them and how the visually impaired and the blind
themselves are adjusted to living and working with the seeing people. Since
social enlightenment is a rather long and complicated process the second
factor is much more important. To help the blind and the visually impaired
to associate with the seeing without inner psychical tension (with strangers
in particular), to make their behaviour free and natural, devoid of any
complexes they need realistic appraisal of their personality and possibilities
which, to my mind, is closely connected with the acceptance of their handicap.
Psychologists of the blind have noticed that self-appraisal of the visually impaired is more often polarised than that of the seeing, i.e. it is either groundlessly positive or too negative. It means that visual impaired has a certais place in the structure of their self-consciousness. If the self-appraisal process is concentrated on the handicap it acquires a lot of negative aspects. The people imagine that their personality has a smaller value because of their handicap, it supresses their activity, their potential possibilities and their adaptation in general. In case the handicap is ignored in the self-appraisal process, no attention is paid to it they become of extremely high opinion of themselves. The people imagine that their visual impairement is of almost no importance in their lives, they set themselves unrealistic goals, behave as if they could see well and are apt to experience certain failures because of that. Although such people are rather active and full of energy they are under constant suspense and always expect failures because of ignoring their handicap.
In order to verify the statements and to analyse the personality's self-appraisal under the circumstances of visual impairement I carried out a series of research. For my first research object I chose 50 visually impaired students of the age group 15 to 18 studying in the senior forms of Lithuanian schools for the blind and the visually impaired. My later research was done with 90 blind adults.
The choice of the age was not accidental since I hoped that their self-appraisal which intensively forms in their adolescence would be stable by that time. For the comparison of the data 50 seeing students of the same age were tested too.
The students' appraisal test consisted of three series. In the first one they were given a test for emotional relations with themselves consisting of 9 scales:
1) inner sincerity and honesty; 2) self confidence; 3) self reliance; 4) reflection of the evalution from the environment; 5) sense of self- value; 6) self-acceptance; 7) sticking to one's "ego"; 8) self-blaming; 9) inner conflicts. When comparing the emotional self-appraisal data of the visually impaired students and those with normal sight it turned out that the data of the visually impaired students were lower in comparison with their seeing peers at almost all levels. Statisticscally proved are differences in the scale of their self confidence (P > 0.01), sense of self value (P > 0.02) and sticking to one's "ego" (P > 0.001). That means that visually impaired students are less self-confident, have greater inferiority complex and expect the same attitude from the others. Besides they more stick to their self-appraisal and lack of wish to change something in themselves.
Very interesting and meaningful were the data of the sex groups. Girls were inclined to evaluate themselves too low, while boys an the contrary - too high. In the emotional self-appraisal of the seeing boys and girls such contrasts have not been observed.
The aim of the second research series was to analyze students' cognitive self-appraisal features. The young people were given a scale of personality's features to find out how they evaluate their intelect, ability to associate with people, altruism and morals when dealing with other people. The young people had to evaluate not only their own qualities, but those of their class-mates as well using nine point system. Thus it was possible to state the cognitive self-appraisal level in this aspect and its adequacy when comparing your own evaluation and that of your class-mate.
While comparing the data of visually-impaired and seeing young people it turned out again that the data of the visually impaired students were lower than those of their seing peers, i.e. they were inclined to use lower points for the evalution of their character features. Mathematical statistical analysis has shown that they evaluated three features, namely the flexibility of mind (P > 0.05), ability to get into contact (P > 0.001), sincerity (P > 0.02) lower than others. There wasn't a single feature which would have been evaluated higher than that of the seeing students. At the best the data of both groups were quite similar.
It should be mentioned that the data of the visually impaired boys and girls did not run into extremes in this research as was the case in the emotional self-appraisal. Evidently it is so because girls have more problems not on the cognitive level of self-appraisal, but rather in the emotional personal relations with themselves, they are just not self -contented.
After comparing each student's data of self-appraisal with those of their class-mates it turned out that in both groups there were people who evaluated themselves inadequately high or vice versa. It has also been established that 31% of visually impaired students evaluated themselves inadequately low while this low percentage of the seeing was only 15%. Inadequately high evaluation was almost identical in both groups - 11 % for the blind and the visually impaired and 13% - for the seeing.
Thus, not only self-evaluation level of the tested visually impaired young people is lower than that of the seeing ones on the whole. They also have certain problems of self-appraisal adequacy. The problems do not stay deep inside them. They "dictate" unnatural behaviour, inefficient style of associating with people, unrealistic hopes and visions of their future. I noticed all that in the answers of the blind and the visually impaired students presented by them to complete the sentences, in which they expressed there are some sincere moving answers. The beginning of a sentence: "When I compare myself to others, I think..." evoked such answers from some of the young people: "others were given so much and I was depraved of it", "I'm good for nothing", "I am of little value". "I deserve...": "nothing but pity", "that others would avoid me", "others looking down with contempt at me". "I would be happier if ...": "I could see well". The answers show that some of those young people's minds are too much concentrated on their handicap, they feel being repulsive and victims of their ill fate, though this "dark" philosophy has been created by themselves, in other words, they make themselves unhappy. So teachers could do a lot when helping visually impaired students to change their attitude towards themselves and their handicap, towards other people and life in general. If students learn to reconcile themselves to their handicap and realize that this is invariable situation in their life they will find it easier to adjust to it.
I noticed the fact that it is rather difficult to accept their handicap and feel at ease and naturally in different situations for visually impaired people when doing research with 90 blind adults too. They were offered three types of situations: 1) encouraging the blind to show their handicap to strangers (e.g. to use the braille in public, to sign a paper when surrounded by a crowd etc). ; 2) encouraging the blind to apply for strangers' help ( e.g. there is a ditch on his usual route, drops a coin in a shop etc.); 3) when the seeing don't behave properly (mock at them, pay too much attention, humiliate them etc.). When summing up the results of the research important tendencies were revealed. Only 49, 54% of the answers proved that the blind would behave at ease and naturally in unusual situations, 28,75% of the answers concerned disregarding of the handicap and 21,71% of the answers proved that the blind would be passive or try to avoid such situations.
The results of the research have prompted us to prepare a correctional quide for visually impaired students to encourage their more positive self-appraisal attitudes. The quide could be used by teachers of the blind and psychologists working with visually impaired students. The quide envisages a group work for only this ensures reflexive tie so important for every member. The workshops should be of three directions: discussions on different subjects, games and other tasks, staging of difficult or unusual situations for visually impaired people (psychodrama). All this has to be closely interwoven in the work of a group in accordance to the current moment.
Naturally discussions on different subjects are possible and even desirable, but there are themes which simply have to be discussed by visually impaired students.
The themes of fate and happiness should be discussed with the attitude that happiness depends rather on us than on outer factors, that our fates are built by our habits, behaviour, decisions and goals. It's also worth while talking with the students about the value system, about failures and errors, stressing their positive side-encouragement of perfection. More than one class should be devoted to students' attitude towards blindness with the aim of persuading them that blindness is not any great misfortune, but it is not inconvenience either, it is one of the circumstances in one's life that one has to reconcile with and adjust oneself to. When discussing the attitude of the seeing towards the blind we stress the fact that their negative attidute concerns the mere fact of blindness rather than personalities of the visually impaired. Besides there are different stereotypes of attitudes among all the people including the blind and the visually impaired, so they should be rationally accepted.
The tasks presented for the group should be: a) for learning about oneself (cognitive) and b) for making the self-appraisal more posuitive. In the learning about oneself and self-appraisal much attention should be paid to students' not using too generalized conceptions or attributes. They should rather learn how to periphrase, soften, or make them more concrete. Self-appraisal could become more positive thanks both to friendly words of the group members and to successfully performed tasks. It is important that the student's "ego" and success would associate as often as possible. Besides, the young people should learn how to praise themselves, notice even a fraction of success in their everyday life.
Also in a group we could try to stage different situations in which stress and frustration is experienced because of the visual handicap. Thus the students would experience negative emotions and find the most efficient variants for their behaviour together with the group.
They are working in Lithuanian schools for the blind and the visually impaired using this guide (it is presented in a separate edition) and we hope to achieve good results.