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How a blind person studies complementary courses

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Reasons for studying complementary modalities:

I like to work with my hands and with people on a one to one basis.

I would've liked to study a medical degree but could not due to my visual disability, but I can make a difference in people's lives by giving them complementary treatments.

I think this a good career for a blind person and I would like to teach my knowledge to other blind people

You would probably want to know how I get around at college and how do I get there.  Well I have a guide dog, Ansty who is a black Labrador female who leads me around at school.  I received her in September 2007 and when I started studying I asked SAGA (South Africa Guide Dog Association) to help me learn the routes at school.  So they sent a trainer to teach me all the different routes I need to know at school.  Either I get lifts to school from fellow students or lecturers or I get a taxi who drops me outside the school and then Ansty finds the gate and I press in the code and go to school.  I cannot take the bus, because I will struggle to carry my towel bag over streets with Ansty and my laptop bag.  So transport can be a hassel but one has to make it work for you. 

I have completed first year in reflexology and am now busy studying Swedish Massage, and MLD (Manual Lymph Drainage).  I want to study all the complementary health modalities as well as a spar certificate.  I am not sure what I want to do after my studies but I want to keep my options open. 

Here are a few ideas. 

Work in a health spa, teach other blind students the complementary health modalities, or have my own health spa. 

The reflexology diploma is a 2 year course the first year consists out of reflexology theory, practical, case studies, anatomy & physiology, business studies, hygene and sterilization and complementary therapies.  The 2nd year consists out of 2nd year reflexology theory, practical, pathology & pharmacology, counseling, nutrition, jurrispudence, grooming & interviewing techniques and community service. 

I will tell you what I have studied so far and how I have done it.  I have completed most of the 2nd year reflexology course except the community service and 2nd year practical and theory side of reflexology so cannot comment on how I will do those parts of the course.

You are probably wondering how do I study these subjects.  Well thanks to technology in 2001 and 2002 I completed computer subjects which taught me Microsoft packages such as word and excel and how to send email.  I can touch type which was a compulsory subject at the blind school in Worcester  which I attended from preprimary to matric.  So that is how I communicated with sighted people. 

Well, all theory notes have to be in an electronic format and either emailed to me or put on a flash drive.  Then I listen to the notes on my laptop via JAWS which is a speech program which is installed on my laptop and speaks through my sound card.  Tests and theory exams are put on a flash drive I sit in a separate room from the rest of the class and write the exams on my laptop using earphones.  I learn the theory via reading it on my laptop and understanding the information by talking about it to fellow students.  Any extra information I want to know about the subject I research on the internet.  I cannot scan in or read pictures or diagrams these have to be translated into words which makes it difficult to access the reflexology hand and foot charts. 

In our pathology and pharmacology course we had to do an assignment of 4 case studies which included diagnosing clients, giving them advice on allopathic and alternative medicine and devise a treatment plan for the client.  I did all my research on the internet and out of my notes from other courses that I have done.  I handed in my assignment via email and am still waiting for the results. 

Practical is taught to me in a hands on approach.  The lecturer puts her hands on top of my hands or I put my hands on top of the lecturer's and feel the movements.  Then I do it on my own with the lecturer watching and seeing if my hands are in the correct position if not the lecturer shows me again and I take it from there.  Another good way of learning the techniques is to be the model in class so when the lecturer is demonstrating a new part in the sequence I am the model so I can feel how it feels to do those techniques.  I also like to go for the different therapies to feel how people do the techniques differently.  I have to study on memory and luckily my memory is good so I can remember a sequence by practicing it over and over again.  The reflex points on the foot were told to me while learning the reflexology techniques.  A good way of getting the hang of reflexology is to do as many people as possible and if I find different things on the feet like calluses I ask my lecturer what it means, because there is not a lot of information accessible on the internet about reflexology

Practical exams are very difficult, but I have managed so far, but would like to find an easier way in handling practical exams.  I do not mind doing the sequence but the consultation forms and write-ups afterwards are difficult.  I would like more space when writing the exams then I could fill in the client form on my laptop and do the write-up afterwards in the same manner.  At the moment if I can find a client beforehand I let them do the intake procedure before the exam and then one of the lecturers write up the information about how the client feels, home care advice and my feedback on how I performed the treatment so I need to gather all my thoughts in my hand and give it orally.  I hope that will change. 

Now you are wondering how I do case studies.  Well my guide dog trainer, Gail gave me the contact for puppy walkers who I could contact for case studies.  I phoned them on my cellphone which also has a speech program on called talks which reads me the telephone number and I can write sms's as well.  So I contact the person.  Tell them what to expect of the case study how many treatments they have to do how long it is going to take and that they have to come to my house, because I cannot drive to their house. 

When a client arrives at my house I put the lead on Ansty so she does not jump all over the client or run out of the gate.  I open the gate and introduce myself to the client and introduce Ansty to the client as well.  I let Ansty out in the garden and then take the client to my study where my laptop is so that I can fill in the consultation form.  I ask the client the questions and fill the answers in on my laptop.  Afterwards I show the client where the therapy room is and I then tell the client to take off their socks and shoes and tell them to sit on the plimth.  I then tell them I am first going to look at their feet to see where are all the rough skin areas, calluses and if there are muscular abnormalities in the feet.  I also tell them I am going to feel if their feet are hot and cold and feel the texture of the feet if it is moist dry.  I cannot check colour or the nail abnormalities but the other diagnostic tools I use with my hands.  I explain to the client while I am doing the diagnostic techniques what I find and what it means.  Then I start the routine and do one foot at a time.  I make sure that all my equipment is on a table next to me before I start so that I do not have to look for them during the treatment.  I also like all the towels, blanket and things to match.  I have a tool to tell me the colour of the linen its called a colour teller and it is quite accurate.  At the end of the treatment I ask the client if they want something to drink.  If they say yes I fetch them water.  I give them homecare advice and if it is to do with hand reflexology I show them on their hand what reflexes to manipulate.  When that is finished I discuss with the client when their next case study treatment will be and I like it to be the same time every week.  If not possible I will adjust but I am a creature of habit that's why I like the same person at the same time.  I also ask the client if they would like an sms reminder of their appointment.  If they request it I will sms them the day before the treatment.  At the end of the case study which is 4 treatments I write up my conclusions and write up how I felt about doing the treatment and what I have learnt.

I would like to see the following occur for visually impaired students studying complementary therapies:

A reflexology hand and foot chart that a blind person could visualize.  How I see it happen is to have a foot cut out of rubber then stick pins where all the reflexes are with no information alongside, because it will then get out of proportion.  Then one writes a little booklet to go with the foot of what reflex is where in anatomical language.

I would like to have a consultation form template created with tables but having page breaks so that information does not get lost on the page and you have a lot of blank lines.  The tables must be adjustable in width to the amount of information you type into the cell.

I would like to have copies of all the theory information given to me to study with in Braille format either at school already available for the student to buy when paying for beginners kit or when a school knows a blind person is enrolling that information can be printed.

I would also like a few of each therapy examples in reflexology, aromatherapy and massage to be available in Braille as well as the anatomy book a pathology book and a medical dictionary.

How one will go about doing this is one will have to scan the books in, get someone to edit the scanned documents and get a Braille printing company to print and bind the books. 

Otherwise if we can make contact with publishers or authors of these books and get them in an electronic format then it will speed up the process of putting the books in Braille. 

There are probably other things that one can put in place to make it easier for the student but those are my initial thoughts.



By Jessica Grib Currently studying Therapeutic Reflexology, Swedish Massage and M
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.

Author: Currently studying Therapeutic Reflexology, Swedish Massage and M

Biography: I am a 28 year old, married female who is totally blind and has a hearing impairment and wears hearing aids so that I can hear clearly. Currently I am studying Healing Modalities in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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How a blind person studies complementary courses


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