FamilyConnect: A Parent's Voice
by Shannon Carollo
Lately I've been talking to my mom every few days. I just love when she calls to check in on me (okay, check in on her granddaughters!). It's soothing to hear her voice; it's comforting to know she cares; and it's helpful to get her advice on…everything! I love my mom.
Yet I have a head full of memories reminding me I didn't fully comprehend or express my love for her as a child. I didn’t adequately appreciate the years and years of her drying my tears, mending me back to health, preparing meal after meal after meal, watching my (lack of) softball skills, “managing” my attitude, and scrubbing the floors. I also definitely didn't praise and thank her for the boundaries she and my dad gave. Things like "You're not wearing that", "You're not going there", and "You must perform your chores beforehand" weren't well received all those years ago.
But now I see it. The picture is getting clear and it's overwhelming. She loved fiercely. How she served, how she cared, how she taught, and how she protected; it was love. Laying yourself down love. (Okay, I'm fighting the tears now.)
As a mother, we're often exhausted and those we serve, care for, teach, and protect aren't to the point of "seeing" the effort and the time and the boundaries as love. They can’t fully appreciate it. Not yet.
But our children will grow. They may then see it. This is what I think your adult son or daughter will want to say to you:
- "Thank you for loving me, even when I didn’t make it easy."
- "Thank you for loving me, even when it meant saying 'No' and upsetting me."
- "Thank you for loving me by advocating for my needs."
- "Thank you for pushing me to try new things."
- “Thank you for coaching my social skills.”
- "Thank you for believing I could do it."
- "Thank you for teaching me how to do the adult things."
- "Thank you for learning about blindness or a visual impairment, but not letting it define me."
- "Thank you for giving me those opportunities."
- "Thank you for recognizing my strengths and telling me what they are."
- "Thank you for teaching me to respect others."
- "Thank you for letting me play and create."
- “Thank you for having fun with me.”
- "Thank you for accepting me and loving me as I am."
I think you will hear, "Happy Mother's Day! I love you. Thank you for loving me through it all."
Here's what I mean: read A Son's Tribute to His Mother.
But for today, keep pressing on. You love fiercely and you're doing a wonderfully fine [imperfect, we’re all imperfect] job.
*Dads and others, help your child thank Mom this Mother’s Day by using our tips on making accessible, meaningful Mother’s Day presents and our Mother’s Day card and gift suggestions.
Do you have any encouragement for other mothers or stories of how your child made your day special? Please share in the comments.
by Shannon Carollo
National Teacher Appreciation Day 2016 is May 3rd; Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2nd-6th. We don’t have long. Are your wheels turning as you consider ideas for thanking your child’s teachers? Mine sure are, albeit slowly.
While I’d like to offer my girls’ teachers something:
Inspired. Treasured. Imaginative. Beautiful, even.
Ultimately, I want to give a gift that is meaningful. I am very pleased with our teachers this year and more than anything, I want to convey that message. I want them to know I recognize how hard they work; I understand they have far more than a “job”, but a life of dedicated service, and we are the beneficiaries. Each day they prepare lessons and weave their expertise and character into the pattern of our children’s lives. (Plus, they provide us with a few hours of free time or time to work. I love you, teachers!)
So how do we convey our gratitude? Here are my ideas and then I need yours!
- Write letters to your child’s teachers, thanking them for their time, patience, advocacy, lessons, and support. Be as specific as possible with your praise. If your child has an outstanding teacher, let the school know! Share the note or thoughts with the principal.
- Ask your child to write a letter to his or her teacher, thanking him or her, and including a few favorite memories of the year. If your child isn’t independently writing print or braille, the letter can be “scribbled” with pen/ paper or a braillewriter and transcribed.
- Consider gifting an item or small set of items you know will be used in the classroom. If you are stumped, ask the teacher for a few suggestions.
- We TVIs and Orientation and Mobility Specialists love braille. I can only imagine a classroom teacher with a visually impaired student would be particularly fond of braille as well. Consider a gift embossed with braille; the simplest braille-inspired gift is an embossed Starbucks gift card. Look for additional braille gifts in AFB’s gift guide.
- Find out what the teacher enjoys and provide a corresponding gift or gift card.
- Your child can create something for his or her teacher. Perhaps your child is skilled at an art form, or you are and can ask your child to participate in the creation of the gift. For instance, my husband’s hobby is woodworking. My girls can help him make a cutting board for each teacher. The artwork can be a sensory painting, a story, a song, a picture frame, a jewelry piece, a photograph, a sculpture, etc.
If your child changes classes, the thought of numerous teacher gifts is overwhelming. Remember that notes and positive feedback to the principal are the most meaningful.
Most importantly: #ThankATeacher #Don’tForgeTheTVI #OrTheCOMS #WeNeedAThankTheBusDriverDay #AndAThankTheTeacher'sAssistantDay #ThankThemToo
by Shannon Carollo
Officially the fourth Thursday of April (April 28, 2016), "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day", is a day of bonding between parents and children, as well as a day wrought with job exploration and exposure to job skills!
Why not ask your employer if your children can observe you in action and participate in your responsibilities on the special day this year? If you are unable, ask a trusted friend or neighbor if your child can participate with him or her.
Consider the following to make the experience accessible and meaningful for your child with a visual impairment:
- Begin the workday with an orientation to the building. This will help your child get his or her bearings, and it never hurts to learn where the restrooms are located. To assist you, utilize FamilyConnect's Helping Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Orient to a New (School) Building article.
- Whether you are employed inside or outside of the home, recognize your often-unspoken job expectations and explicitly teach them to your child. Speak about the formality of clothing and shoes you choose; the importance of your timely arrival; the requirement of your participation in meetings; and the avenues you utilize when questions or concerns arise. Utilize CareerConnect's article on employer expectations to assist you.
- Identify and discuss the social skills and work habits, known as "soft skills", which allow you to be successful on the job. Talk beforehand about how you handle frustration, take initiative, and show respect for the employment team. Utilize CareerConnect's article on building positive work habits to review important "soft skills" transferable to all jobs and careers.
- Communicate the technical skills, or "hard skills", you are paid to execute. Share how you acquired the skills (through education and former work experience) and how you continue improving with additional training and practice. Next, involve your child in the executions of tasks, using hand under hand or hand over hand if necessary, and share your research on how the task can be accommodated for an employee who is blind or visually impaired.
- Talk with your child about why you work. From the income to the mental challenges and social connectedness, give your child the "big picture" of your day-to-day grind.
- Introduce your child to coworkers, clients, and staff. Ask the individuals to communicate their job responsibilities to your child.
- Consider concepts which can be taught to your child while he's with you at work. If you work in a hospital, take the opportunity to teach your child about a pharmacy. If you work in an office, take the opportunity to teach your child about cubicles and a break room. If you work at an airport, take the opportunity to teach your child about an air control tower.
To get an idea of just how treasured and meaningful this day will be for your children, read former CareerConnect Program Manager Joe Strechay's account of visiting his dad's NYC office.
Enjoy the day and let us know how it goes!
by Shannon Carollo
April is the official National Financial Literacy Month in the United States. But let’s face it, with income tax finished, we already have money on the mind. What a perfect opportunity to draw our children and teenagers into conversations about earning money and managing finances. Convey your money-management strengths; humbly discuss your challenges; share many of your family’s financial decisions and general goals; and work alongside your child’s TVI to prepare your son or daughter for financial independence.
Take time to debunk these common financial myths your child may believe:
Myth #1: I can’t have a stable, “good” job as an adult because I am blind or visually impaired.
This is far from reality! As an adult with vision loss, your son or daughter will use job accommodations to perform job functions, and can be successful in just about any career. Show them CareerConnect’s Our Stories section as proof!
Myth #2: Mom and dad will bail me out if I overspend.
Not so fast! If your child is on track for full-time work, he should assume he will be responsible for the income it takes to support himself, including paying off accrued debt. Your high expectations of your child’s financial independence will provide the momentum needed to prepare for gainful employment.
Myth #3: I need the same expensive lifestyle as my friends.
Not true! Others may have larger incomes or spend their incomes differently and choose to live in a more spacious home, indulge in exotic vacations, drink Starbucks daily, and own the latest technology. Your adult son or daughter will only be responsible for earning, spending, and saving his or her money wisely. Living within a budget will mean living without some “wants”; that should be anticipated.
Myth #4: I have the money for it, so I can afford it.
I wish! Your child will need to understand a basic budget, say for instance the “50/30/20 rule” where 50% of an income is spent on needs, 30% is spent on wants, and 20% is spent on financial goals. He will need your help recognizing the importance of saving for emergencies, future needs, and retirement. If he spends all the money he earns, he will be penniless. Why not use the Money Management lesson series to train your teenager in budgets and more?
Myth #5: When it comes to finances, I’ll be fine “winging” it.
Not hardly! When it comes to managing finances wisely, it’s important to set goals and personal limits. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of debt without understanding the financial loss of interest and it’s too easy to neglect savings.
Now is the time to educate our children on money management and prepare them for financial independence.
by Scott Truax
We are happy to bring you information about another telephone support group available to you.
By Dr. Susan Barron, PhD and Facilitator for the Lighthouse Guild Tele-support group for Parents of Children with Autism with Blindness.
Misunderstood, mislabeled, misdiagnosed. How many times since the birth of your child has this been the judgment of others about your boy or girl's behavior, ability, or functioning? How hard and how often has it been your challenge to correct, explain, and advocate for a fair assessment of their abilities and limitations, so that you could obtain the needed services to enable them to live their best lives? And how tired and frustrated have you become in trying to search out the best resources, people, and support to make this possible?
Dealing with a child who is both blind and autistic, with special needs is doubly difficult, because so many agencies and services are set up to deal with one or the other—they're either familiar with or experts on blindness, knowing little or nothing about autism, or they know about and have expertise with autism, but rarely are comfortable with or have knowledge about blindness. And this is where so often, mistakes made about the meaning of your children's behavior and limitations may lead to less than appropriate services offered. Locating the best facilities becomes a daunting task for a parent, filled with complications and frequent discouragement.
To help handle the sometimes overwhelming exhaustion, uncertainty, and confusion, the Lighthouse Guild with the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) offers a free national telephone support group specifically for parents of children who are blind with autism to come together. They have an opportunity to share, support, and encourage one another's efforts as they go about the daily routines which often sap their energies. It helps them to not feel alone and to try to stay upbeat when they meet the many obstacles that stand in the way of getting what they hope will be the best for the people they love the most. They get to laugh at the absurdities or cry about their struggles, but always be understood. They hear which strategies parents have used successfully, and learn how to avoid or go beyond what is unlikely to meet their goals.
In addition, participation in the group often provides some useful information when there are guest speakers. Among some recent ones have been:
- The owner of a clothing company who sells garments without buttons, zippers, hooks and eyes, that are reversible and made of soft, smooth texture.
- A physician who has done research linking autism to gastroenterology problems and has treatments for same.
- A lawyer who discussed setting up special needs trusts.
- A legally blind actress who talked about teaching children facial expressions and hand gestures and how close to be to others' physical space and be comfortable.
- An orientation and mobility specialist who instructs students how to use sound cues and clicks to determine location and the nature of objects in space.
- And the latest, a mother of a 59-year-old blind autistic son who has learned to navigate multiple state educational and workshop settings to secure necessary services and is currently waiting for group home placement.
We are hoping to have someone address the parents on how to comfortably deal with oncoming puberty and emerging adolescence.
The parents see the value of the time they spend. It is both a chance to relax and ventilate among others who "get it" and an opportunity to receive verbal appreciation from those who most recognize how much they do every day. For more information about the free tele-support group for parents of children with Autism and Blindness or to enroll, contact the NAPVI national office at 800-562-6265 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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