the World: Children Who Are Blind
young boy who is blind was maneuvering his way around the carefully
constructed Guild School hallway using a “kiddie” cane to help
guide him. He was not alone. Along on the journey with the three-year-old
was Orientation & Mobility (O & M) instructor Stu Filan.
they first start to move independently, without the aid of a person
to guide them,” says Filan, in his 28th year with The
Jewish Guild for the Blind, “it’s especially fearful and challenging.”
Filan, a Brooklyn native, had not planned on spending almost his
entire working life working with children who are blind. But,
after watching Filan work, it only takes seconds to see that he
doesn’t doubt that his career choice is a winner.
the outset I was hooked,” says Filan, who originally started out
to be a general physical education teacher. “It takes a very sensitive,
hard working person to motivate children who are visually impaired
and multiply disabled to be independent travelers. That is the
single most important thing we can do for them.”
As it turned out, the best thing that could have happened to Filan
was that in the early 1970s, thanks to the city’s budgetary woes,
there were no public school gym teaching jobs available. And,
having just gotten his degree in physical education from Hunter
College, he was ready to work. So, when his professor suggested
that he use his skills to teach people who are blind to travel
around Filan was eager to give it a try.
the ultimate form of teaching,” he says. “To teach students who
are blind to explore their environment like other children is
a real challenge. Most students learn how to deal with their world
through visual experiences. My students need to learn how to use
their sense of hearing and touch to make up for this loss.”
Filan went on to get a masters in physical education from Hunter
in addition to his training as an O & M teacher. This diverse
background has enabled him to approach the discipline from a unique
me it’s not just teaching kids to get around,” says Filan. “It’s
much bigger than that. It’s about the skills needed to get involved
So, for Filan, who has been married for 16 years and has a passion
for baseball and nature, his career has given his life balance
and much pleasure. Not to mention, all of the children who now
have the skills and self-confidence to find their place in the
If you have an interest in finding out more about becoming an
Orientation & Mobility teacher you can email Stu Filan at
Filans@JGB.org, or call him at The Jewish Guild for the Blind
at (212)-769-6200 ext. 507.
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