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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


For the week of Nov 27 - Dec 3, 2002

Sports

Not seeing is believing

The story of T.J. Squires


By JODY ZARKOS
Express Staff Writer

T.J. Squires is your typical teenager.

He likes to hang out with his friends, mix it up with his older brother Brian, play video games, ride bikes, and watch his team Ė the Dallas Cowboys on TV.

T.J. played guard on the freshmen football team this season, and will suit up for the wrestling team this winter.

He skied a little bit last winter and this year wants to learn how to snowboard.

T.J. Squires is a freshman at Wood River High School. Express photo by David Seelig

But what makes all this ordinary stuff so extraordinary is T.J. Squires does all these things without the benefit of sight.

Blind since birth because of an underdeveloped optic nerve (termed optic nerve hypoplasia), T.J. has made his way in the world with four of the five senses, but perhaps twice the heart.

He is gregarious, amiable and very curious, and contrary to some misperceptions people may have about blind people Ė very smart.

"I like to investigate things. I want to know what, where, why and how." T.J. said.

"I think of myself as not sighted, he added.

"It means sometimes I need extra help. Some people are kind of creeped out. They donít know how to react."

T.J. takes it all in stride and with a very healthy sense of humor.

"I have a T-shirt, which says, Ďplease feel free to point, stare and ask questionsí," he said. "People do anyway."

What most people want to know is what it is like not to be able to see. What does he imagine the world looks like?

"I am sure how I imagine a tree is not what it actually looks like. Itís hard to describe. If I had a choice to get my sight back I donít think I would take it. I donít think my pictures would match," T.J. said.

T.J. lives in Hailey with his parents Michelle and Martin. His 19-year old brother Brian is a freshman at Jamestown in North Dakota.

Michelle remarked on raising two boys Ė sighted and not.

"There is no difference," she said.

"They follow the same rules. With T.J. you have to explain things better. He is a little more sensitive. With Brian you can be more blunt."í

T.J. navigates the world with a metal cane with a sphere at the end. The aluminum cane collapses and folds up like a tent pole.

A few weeks before school started he had a few orientations to familiarize himself with the campus. His textbooks are in Braille and his home computer is outfitted with a program called Jaws, which reads aloud to him. He said he pulls down mostly Aís and Bís and math and science are his favorite subjects.

Rick Ambrosi, a football coach and math teacher at Wood River High School remarked, "I have T.J. in the classroom for math and his ability to visualize a problem is amazing. He is a great student and gets along great with his peers."

T.J.ís buddies talked him into playing football this fall, which he said was "as fun as I thought it would be." Heís going to go out for the squad next year, too.

"I expected it to be more difficult, but all it was was communication between my teammates and me."

Coach Ambrosi described the process of teaching T.J. the sport.

"With his wrestling skills he knew how to get in a hitting position and we taught him to use his head in case he got hit. In the latter part of the season we were able to get him into drills and two games.

"T.J. is an unbelievable kid and an inspiration to everyone," he added.

Despite his newfound interest in football, wrestling has been T.J.ís main sport since he was six years old and living in Idaho Falls.

He won his weight division in the Middle School conference championships last year and was third the year before.

The only difference a wrestler faces when going up against T.J. is they must maintain contact with him at all times.

T.J.ís goals not only for this season, but his high school career are well defined.

"I want to qualify for state this year and win state by four years," he stated.

T.J. may be blind, but he sees the world more clearly than many of us.

"You have to follow your instincts. Follow what you think. Donít follow what your friends say. But if you do, make sure you want to do it. Make your own choices and use your common sense."

 

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.