15 Questions Elementary School Students Asked Me About My Disability

Photo of Beth and Whitney in front of the class.

The questions were fast and furious. Photo courtesy of retired teacher Maria LaPlaca Bohrer, who, with her husband Glenn, graciously fed and put us up for the night.

My husband Mike, my Seeing Eye dog Whitney, and I flew into La Guardia last month just in time for their fourth Nor’easter hit this year. We were there to see old friends and visit elementary school students who’d read my children’s book about guide dogs, Safe & Sound. The day after we arrived, New York City schools were closed due to snow. The next day, schools on Long Island were closed, too, so our Thursday visit to Rall Elementary School was cancelled.

Eyebrows up! Whitney and I finally outlasted Mother Nature on Friday. We spent that entire day at Harding Avenue Elementary School in Lindenhurst, and if you ask me, the questions the kids asked there made the wait worthwhile. Some examples:

    • What happens when you have to go upstairs?
    • How many dogs have you had?
    • What inspired you to write books?
    • How do you eat ice cream?
    • How can you write books if you can’t see??
    • What if your Seeing Eye dog bit you?
    • How come you’ve had so many dogs?
    • But what if the ice cream is in a cone?
    • Can your dog have babies? Why not?
    • When you go to shop, how do you pick out clothes?
    • How can you drive?
    • How come you have to change dogs so much?
    • Is your dog with you all the time when you’re at home, too?
    • How do you feel if you’re blind?
    • You said all you can see is the color black, right, so I gotta wonder if, when your dog pulls you, does she keep you safe?

It took that little boy a while to get that last question out. I sure didn’t mind — it just gave me a chance to lean down and scratch Whitney’s ears while I listened. Bonus: the concern in the boy’s voice motivated me to lift the harness on Whitney’s back and demonstrate how a Seeing Eye dog works.

And so, for our grand finale, I commanded “Whitney, outside!” The kids watched in awe as my magnificent Seeing Eye dog led me safely around chairs, bookshelves and children sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor to the door out of the room.

Special education teacher Caitlin Farrell emailed me after our visit with a note. “I read the story to my students on Friday afternoon,” she wrote. “We had some really great discussion about how important seeing eye dogs are, and how we can educate other people about avoiding touching dogs that are service dogs.”
Bonus: she attached thank you notes from her class that I can hear. If you are looking for — or need — something to smile about, click the players below to hear their beautiful voices.


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