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Traveling With a Child Who Is Visually Impaired: It's All About the Journey

RV camper parked in a shady site

Traveling with children is a challenge at any age. So I have to say this isn’t about traveling with a visually impaired child, but traveling with any child. We have a core group of children who are the current family. So, what the heck is she talking about core family?

We have a large family of 14 children. 11 of them are adopted. The most living at home at any one time was 9. As they grew up, we added one or two more through birth and adoption. Our children were of various ethnic backgrounds, the oldest adoption was 12, and had a variety of developmental/emotional needs. Nowhere in here did I say “Special,” because each was special and unique and my child. This in itself has been an amazing journey.

If you are packing for a day or a month or a year, with kids, planning ahead for you is a must. I start with a list of things I’m going to need. I am a list maker and even my children and husband have learned this is a good organizational tool. I make a list of medications, clothing, optional items, favorite snacks and drinks. You’ll probably use a cooler on a regular basis. Soda and bottled water is so much cheaper if you bring your own.

MEDICATIONS are a must. I always put in enough for the day and another day’s worth. If I break down, get stuck, or decide to stay overnight, I’m all set. We can all live with the same clothes or without a tooth brush, but seizure medication or asthma meds, not so much. If you have rescue medications, make sure to pack them as well. For longer trips, make sure you bring medical records or at least a list of doctors with phone numbers and a list of all medications.

Next is the first aid kit. I don’t mean one of those you buy; I mean one you keep in the car anyway. It will include Band-Aids (3 inch ones are great for knees and elbows), antiseptic ointment, tweezers, ace bandage, cold and hot packs (the ones that you squeeze to get to work), Tylenol, Ibuprophen, Benadryl, masking tape (my go to for lots of things), and a blanket. You might want some bug spray if you are traveling in the Northeast. We have a lot of Lyme Disease. Bug spray with deet will work to prevent those pesky little ticks from biting. You may have other things you want to add.

We have AAA Plus. It covers our cars and RV. They will bring you 5 gallons of gas if you run out, fix a flat tire, tow you to a garage (Plus will allow you up to 100 miles of towing), and assess if you are safe. If you are not safe, then you will be given priority for faster service or be directed to a safe area. You can get free maps, trip itinerary, and even travel plans. We don’t travel without it.

Your trip does not have to be expensive to see some great sights throughout the country. You can obtain a “National parks and Federal Recreational Land Pass” for free. Ask when you go through the gate of any Federal recreation entrance. Most national parks will be free, although in some parks fees will still apply, but be discounted. It is a free “Lifetime Pass for U.S. Citizens or permanent resident, medically determined to have a permanent disability that severely limits one or more major life activities”.

There are 6 of us, 3 adults (19 year old takes up an adult space), twin 8-year-old boys and a 12-year-old girl. We have a 5 passenger jeep and a 3 passenger truck, so unless we are going close by we take our RV with the jeep in tow.

My favorite way of traveling is in the RV. We have a 40 foot motor home, that is we and the bank own it. It is our 3rd RV. Do not think you need an expensive RV to travel. Our first RV was 28 foot Class C motor home. It was used and cost $24,000.00. It was a Ford 350 truck with an RV. It was great fun. It slept 8. We put the babies in their car seats up front in the passenger seats at night. Our son slept in the overhead. Our two grandchildren 5 & 7 slept in the convertible bed from the kitchen table and seats. Our two girls slept on the fold down bed. My husband and I slept in our bed in the back, which was a modified queen. You should really check the bed sizes when looking at RVs. We had a full bath with shower and an adequate kitchen complete with refrigerator. We had 10 seat belts.

One of our favorite activities is going to a drive-in movie. They have us park in the back row. No yucky bathrooms or one of us taking them to bathroom. The kids would sit in the overhead over the front seats and watch the movie. We sat in the front seats in the driver’s area. Babies went to sleep. We had a microwave to make popcorn, beverages in the fridge, etc. If the kids went to sleep, no biggie, we let them. Sometimes we would just go to our favorite Walmart “RV Park” afterwards. Then we’d all sack out.

If you are going to boon dock at a Walmart parking lot or at a truck stop, make sure they have 24-hour surveillance for your safety. We also make sure there are other RVs and/or trucks parking overnight. Do not stay in rest stops, unless it is an emergency. Then make sure there is 24 hour surveillance (TV cameras) so there is security.

I suggest getting the book, “Exit Now” and a good “Atlas” of road maps for the US. “Exit Now” lists all the interstates in the country and what services are available at each exit. This includes RV friendly businesses and campgrounds. A GPS is great, but there are times, when I just want to take a different route for whatever reason. Sometimes the GPS doesn’t give you the best route in terms of road conditions. This is where the Atlas will really come in handy. It is also useful to teach map skills.

If you have a handicap parking placard, by all means bring it. It will be so useful. For us, we could park the RV closer to the entrance for an activity. When we were at Disney, this got us right outside the main gate, which is still a far walk with a child who needs to leave and find a quiet place. For those of you who use the white cane, keep a spare in the car or RV. I always do, so that if I get somewhere and I forgot to bring my son’s, he forgot it, or it gets broken, I have a spare.

Clean up the house before you go. Pay bills that will come due. If you take care of home before you go, you won’t come home to a dirty house. Your RV and/or car will need cleaning and there will be laundry from the trip. The last thing you want to do when you come home tired from a vacation is clean house, clean up trip mess, and get ready for work and school the next day. Better yet come home a day early and you have a day to get “caught up.”

Know your destination, your needs, wants, and limits. Make lists and prepare ahead of time. Doing a little along is easier than doing it all at the last minute. I don’t get stressed out if I plan and have things ready a few days before departure.

I am an avid RVer. I love to just take off, even if it is just the weekend. So come spring, my RV gets serviced and packed. I am always ready to leave on a moment’s notice. For me it is not about the destination, so much as the journey.


Topic:
Social Life and Recreation

Highlights From the Upcoming NAPVI Family Conference Program

smiling mother and son

Join Us!
July 10-12, 2015
Chicago, Illinois

Dear Families,

We are just two weeks away from the NAPVI National Family Conference to be held in Chicago. It's not too late to register and join us! Come and meet www.FamilyConnect.org bloggers, authors, and web team for a special networking seminar for FamilyConnect members held on Friday afternoon 2:00-4:00 pm at the Chicago Marriott at Medical District/UIC Hotel. Come and give your feedback for the further development of FamilyConnect and learn how you can be involved!

Here are some of the other conference highlights:

  • Meet world-class ophthalmologists
  • Learn at the 35+ breakout sessions led by specialists
  • Receive one-on-one coaching with adaptive technology experts
  • Make college-bound scholarship connections
  • Meet AFB's FamilyConnect web team
  • Enjoy all-day childcare and adaptive sport activities for visually impaired children and their siblings

There will also be plenty of social networking opportunities, including an opening night reception, an ice cream social with live music, and much, much more. Come join us and have some fun!

Susan LaVenture
Executive Director NAPVI


Topic:
News from FamilyConnect

Summer Blog Party: Hot Fun In the Summertime for Kids who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

young boy hula hooping with grownup's help

We are kicking off the summer season with a roundup of items to help you make the most of activities, events, and just plain old ideas that can be fun. We are excited to be co-hosting a Summer Blog Party with WonderBaby. Bloggers, please join in by writing about your summer plans and sending us the links. We will share all the posts and links with families.

From FamilyConnect you can sign up with FamilyConnect to get alerts as cool activities and camps are added to the calendar.

Be sure to explore your own communities' events and summer camp options.

Follow our blogs as guest bloggers will be adding new ideas and stories throughout the summer:

Eddie sitting on grass at park by a softball game

Some oldies but goodies from FamilyConnect

Orientation and mobility-themed summertime fun

a mother holding up her child to touch the branches of a tree

Planning ahead to get the most out of summer activities

Are you attending this summer's NAPVI conference?

Ideas from WonderBaby

Join the Blog Party! Here Are More Summer Tips From Other Parents

Are you planning any new activities or experiences for your blind child this summer? How are you preparing? Any advice to share with other parents? Let us know! FamilyConnect and WonderBaby.org are inviting bloggers to write about their summer plans. Just send us a link to your post and we'll share it!

  • Road Trip! 20 Ways to Keep Your Blind Child Entertained on a Long Car Drive—How’s your child in the car? Some kids hate traveling and some have mixed feelings (I know one little girl who’s fine as long as the car is moving, but freaks out when it stops...her mom HATES stop lights!). Here's some great advice on how to keep a child who is blind entertained on a long trip.
  • Summer Doings—What do you do to stay busy in the summer? Erin and her family fill the long, lazy days with shopping, ice cream, tea parties, bikes and a slip-n-slide!
  • Kurios, Lego-Splosion and Other Summer Happenings— We've been in the throes of summer here lately — the temperatures heated up, and we've been enjoying the long days and warm weather. Days and weekends are full of swim practice and swim meets, birthday parties, playtime with friends, and keeping cool in the basement.
  • Traveling With a Child Who Is Visually Impaired: It's All About the Journey—Susan, an avid RV-er, writes about how to prepare so you can enjoy your summer travels. Make lists and prepare ahead of time. Doing a little at a time is easier than doing it all at the last minute.
  • The Emerging Risk-Taker—Emily writes, "As much as we wanted to step in and “teach” him about the ocean...we let him teach himself. He quickly learned the pattern of the waves, where to find dry sand, and where to find the ocean spray. He walked back and forth, and up and down the beach...100% independent."

Topic:
Social Life and Recreation

Finding Fun Things to Do When You Are Visually Impaired

Irwin Ramirez at his desk

There are a couple of ways to find out fun things to do when you are visually impaired.

  • Find local organizations or groups that organize events or activities. In my example, I found a running club organization called Achilles International. They organize races and events, and they pair volunteers with people with any disabilities to run or walk. There is probably a local organization that would have fun things to do according to your interest. And you can sign up for FamilyConnect to get email alerts every time a new activity is added to the calendar.
  • Enjoying music. You can find music, games, videos or entertainment on devices that have built-in accessibility features for the visually impaired such as iPhone, or iPad.
  • Playing games. An activity done by blind people is playing cards labeled with braille. Another game is chess. It is a good entertaining device.
  • Going for a walk. Taking a walk is always good to promote health but also can release stress.
  • Going to the gym. In my opinion, doing a regular exercise might also be considered as fun. It is important to do regular exercise. Being visually impaired often prevents people from getting regular exercise.
  • Going to concerts. There is nothing more enjoyable to seeing your favorite band or artist performing live. It is one of the best times you can have if you are into that particular artist's music.

These are only a few examples that you can do for fun. However, being visually impaired should not prevent you from exploring new things. The activities one might perform are endless. You might find the next adventure interesting. So, you only need to try it. Let us know what new activities you're trying this summer in the comments.


Topics:
Social Life and Recreation
Arts and Leisure

In Honor of Father’s Day, A Son’s Thoughts About Parenthood and Blindness

Irwin Ramirez at his desk

With the Father's Day approaching, it is important to recognize the support and care of parents. I would like to share my experiences when growing up.

Equality

One of the things that my parents got right was promoting a sense of equality when growing up. Promoting equality for me means treating each child the same way and providing the same opportunities, rights, and responsibilities. I have an older brother but of course, all families are different — you might be a single child or have several siblings. My parents always encouraged us to do things the same way even though I am visually impaired.

Encouragement

Another good thing about my parents was how they encouraged us to do things. When people grow up they are shaped by the things they are told about themselves by their parents. I believe that only you can set the limits for what you want to accomplish. My parents did not prevent me from pursuing any of my goals. On the contrary, they provided support and encouraged me to do things such as training for a marathon, and applying for schools, scholarships, or jobs.

Some very negative comments might be "you cannot do that" or "how you can you do that if you are blind, you are wasting your time doing so," or "you can do this instead," etc. A few of these comments would be very disappointing for anybody. Perhaps, someone might be motivated to do something and with the suggestions and comments of someone else they will get discouraged and maybe drop the willingness and motivation to do something. Therefore, I believe it is important to encourage children to do what they want and support them emotionally, verbally, with whatever it is that they want to do.

Activities

Our parents always assigned us the same tasks. For instance, those tasks might be to get all children involved in a particular activity such as going to a store, taking care of a household task, or playing a game. Some activities I can mention are, for instance, going swimming or playing soccer. For example, when we were growing up my father always encouraged my brother and cousins to learn swimming or play soccer.

Parents as Role Models

Parents play an important role for the child's success in life. Children need to be treated equally and given the same opportunities as their sighted peers so that they can develop like everyone else. As a result, a child would be motivated to pursue things that they did not think they were capable of before. Whatever the case may be, parents of blind children or blind parents raising a child, there are so many alternative ways to do things. In fact, the impairment of the individual is just a facet of that person rather than the defining characteristic of that person.

Support

The most important thing is having the support from someone. The support could be emotional, verbal, or financial. When people receive that kind of support they possibly will have a better life. There are so many things blind people can do. Moreover, there is no set limit to what someone can do regardless if the individual is blind or not.