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For parents of children with visual impairments

American Foundation for the Blind® | National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments

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Parents of Teens who are Blind or Visually Impaired: The Foundation for Your Child’s Transition Goals This School Year

It feels like yesterday you first laid eyes on your precious one. I know. The days were long, but the years flew. Now it’s high school. High school! That means your child’s adulthood is rapidly approaching, and it’s time to prepare him or her for a satisfying life as a grown-up.

    If a “satisfying life as a grown-up” truly is the goal, the important questions to ask your son and yourself in your quest to support him are:
  • What leisure activities would my child enjoy as an adult?
  • How can my child be active in his community?
  • Where would my child want to live?
  • What job would be a good fit for my child?
  • Who can be in my child’s circle of support in his adulthood? (This includes family, friends, and any support needed to attain a job or independent living.)

Your child may have specific desires and realistic dreams for himself, making his transition from high school to adult life relatively straightforward. In this case, you, your child, and his educational team will meet to establish long-term goals and short-term objectives to prepare your child for his ambitions. For example, transition goals and objectives for the next several years may include;

If your child has additional disabilities that make his desires and dreams unclear and complicated, the transition team should begin by discovering the possibilities for your child. Ideally, a voluntary series of personal futures planning meetings would take place with your son and all who support him now, and those who will continue to support him throughout his adult life. The group of family members, educators, and community supports would aim to understand your child’s goals for a satisfying adult life (such as fulfilling employment, a gratifying living situation, leisure pursuits, and a plan for future finances); identify barriers to reaching the goals; and establish a plan to overcome the obstacles. The meetings can continue throughout your child’s lifetime.

As you look to the upcoming school year and seek to support your child’s shift to adult life, remember to prioritize identifying his goals and desires when creating transition and employment goals. Thereafter, utilize AFB FamilyConnect's "Teenagers' Transition to Independence" section and the tools and resources within AFB CareerConnect to prepare your child for “a satisfying adult life.”

Teachers of transition-age students who are blind or visually impaired, please utilize AFB CareerConnect's Lesson Plan Section to teach many transition-related concepts and skills.


More Back To School

Back to school is an important day and issue for children and families. We have been posting on the subject but I wanted to take a moment and share a few items posted on various AFB programs. I Hope you have had or will have a smooth transition back into the school year.


Back to School: Educational Priorities for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

mom, dad, and son hugging

This year my oldest daughter, Madeline, will begin kindergarten. I’m already feeling the pressure and stress of teaching and pre-teaching all academic skills so that she is successful in the classroom. Maybe this stems from uncomfortable situations like hearing other five-year-olds reading, and knowing my child is definitely not there yet. So I choose to stop and settle down those green-eyed, pride-driven thoughts. I rein them in and tell them to “Go!” My child is my child, and her value is completely independent of the ability to read, solve math problems, or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Besides, is academic success really all that is important?

Don’t get me wrong, academic skills are valuable and can be great tools for life. (Check out AFB FamilyConnect’s Literacy Resources for Children who are Blind or Have Low Vision and other important blindness-specific educational resources.) However, academic success isn’t the end-all-be-all measure of success and well-being for our children.

If academic success is not the primary learning goal, what then is the priority for our children to learn this year?

According to Foundations of Education (2nd edition, Volume 1, ch. 6 by Tuttle and Tuttle), “Much effort, time, and resources are directed toward the satisfactory completion of daily classroom activities and assignments. Often, this focus on schoolwork is made at the expense of other, perhaps more significant, aspects of personal growth.” Instead, the book describes, we should prioritize nurturing the whole child and his self-esteem.

These are the 5 ingredients for a well-rounded individual with a healthy self-concept:

  1. Self-Acceptance. Children need to learn who they are: personal interests, abilities, values, characteristics, etc. Children who are blind or visually impaired need to learn they have many qualities, only one feature is a visual impairment. (Not only is self-acceptance important throughout childhood, self-awareness offers an edge in employment.)
  2. Social Connectedness. Children who are blind or visually impaired need to experience positive interactions with others. (For more information on the topic, read Mary Ann Siller's Advice on Social Skills.)
  3. Informed Choices. Children who are blind or visually impaired need to recognize they are in the driver’s seat of their life, especially as they mature. The ability to make decisions from an early age is imperative, and encourages responsibility. (For more information, read Making Choices: A Key Skill for Children with Visual Impairment.)
  4. Genuine Productivity. Children who are blind or visually impaired need to succeed in goals they find important. They will feel proud, motivated, and productive.
  5. Relaxing and Having Fun. Children who are blind or visually impaired need to have outlets for enjoying life and reducing stress. (Use CareerConnect's Stress Management lesson series as a guide to teach your child stress-reducing pursuits.)

So I will continue teaching and pre-teaching academics at home because I want to help Madeline learn, not to satisfy my pride, and not at the expense of nurturing her whole self. In other words, I will focus on the five ingredients of a well-rounded individual instead of focusing only on her academic pursuits. Sometimes I need a reminder of priorities.


Improving “School Confidence” in Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

A girl and boy swinging, big smiles on their faces

For many of us, summer break is already but a memory (cue the sad music). As we look to the start of a new school year, we anticipate our children engaging in meaningful friendships and advancing in their academics and the blindness-specific Expanded Core Curriculum. We know there’s tremendous potential growth right around the corner.

But in order for our children to actually advance in the classroom and in their Individualized Educational Program (IEP) goals, our children need to be uninhibited by a poor self-concept. You see, it seems to me that when children perceive they are failing and incapable, they have a blanket poor sense of self-worth, and their ability to learn and develop is almost “frozen” or stuck.

We desire, instead, for our children to be comfortable and confident in themselves, knowing they are valuable, they are able to learn, they are worthwhile friends, and that they have areas of strength. They can do this “school thing.”

So how can we develop their self-confidence, preparing them for success and progression in school academics and relationships?

Foundations of Education (2nd ed, volume 1, ch. 6, by Tuttle and Tuttle) states that children’s self-confidence increases when they are successful. But there’s more. Here’s the kicker: The books says children’s self-confidence increases when they are successful in areas they care about! You, as the parent or grandparent of your child who is blind or visually impaired, may be concerned about your child’s math or reading skills, when at this point, your child may not care about academic success. Find out what your child cares about, and help him or her find success in that area.

Maybe it’s finding a good friend, swinging independently on the swing set, learning to swim, learning to read, building a tall tower with Legos, getting around the neighborhood independently, using a cell phone, or (for teenagers) going on a date. I don’t know what it is that your child values, but give him or her the tools for success and help your child practice. When your child is successful in what he cares about (even success in very small goals), he will feel like a success.

Here’s the value of helping your child succeed in an area she cares about:

  1. A child who “feels like a success” knows she’s capable of success in school-goals with enough continued practice.
  2. You now know your child’s “currency,” or what she regards as important and motivating. You can utilize your child’s currency to teach her academic and social skills. If your child loves to swim and feels successful in the water, you can read books together about swimming, teach her to tell time so she can speed up her swim time, teach her math with dive rings, teach her technology skills when researching online swimming tips, teach her about money when you help her earn chore money and purchase swim gear, and learn the social skills necessary to succeed at swim meets. In other words, you’ve found a tool for engaging your child’s interest and connecting it to academic and social goals.
  3. A child who succeeds in areas of interest is more accepting of herself and her visual impairment. She doesn’t get stuck thinking “I can’t do anything because I am blind.” Instead, she realizes she often uses a different approach than her sighted peers to achieve a desired outcome, but she is plenty capable nonetheless.

So over the next several weeks before school begins (and beyond!) take the time to give your child the tools and training to succeed in goals related to his interests. You’re giving him the gift of improving his self-concept and confidence. You’re increasing his “school confidence”.


Parents of Children and Teens with Visual Impairments: “Your Goals” in Orientation and Mobility for the New School Year

Mother with young daughter, who is wearing glasses and holding a white cane

While you can't learn orientation and mobility (travel) skills for your child who is blind or visually impaired, you certainly can support your child’s acquisition of skills. In fact, I want to share a variety of ways you can get involved, encourage, and motivate your child toward mobility success this school year. I call these “your goals,” should you accept them:

  1. Before the school year begins, formally introduce your daughter to her new learning environments, which will likely involve working with your child’s Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist. The O&M Specialist will familiarize your child to her classroom(s), the cafeteria, the restrooms, and if she’s in elementary school, the playground. If age- and ability-appropriate, your child will learn routes to the bus stop, to classrooms, to the cafeteria, and to school restrooms.
  2. Consistently talk with your son about mobility information that will eventually be important to his safe and efficient travels: tell him you stopped your car because of a traffic light; explain that cars drive on the right side of the road; use compass directions in everyday conversations; talk about routes as you are driving and walking; tell him you see a bus stop or taxi cab, point our important landmarks he is contacting as you are on a walk, etc.
  3. Model self-advocacy skills such as kindly asking for directions, seeking assistance, and politely declining assistance.
  4. Find out what your child is learning in regard to orientation and mobility by talking with your child's Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Ask how you can continue instruction at home.
  5. Encourage your child to practice the skills she’s learning with her O&M specialist. Whether it’s engaging in O&M activities at home with your young child who is blind or visually impaired, insisting your grade-schooler walks with her cane as she walks beside you in the community instead of solely using sighted guide, or tasking your adolescent with mapping the route to a family destination. (To understand the importance of mapping a route, read Alicia Wolfe's reflection of a visually impaired adult who mapped Alicia’s route for lunch).
  6. Read or listen to Melanie White's Advice on Orientation and Mobility Skills. You will learn how to collaborate with your child’s O&M specialist, as well as receive practical advice such as using a GPS in your family car so that your child will become familiar with its role in traveling.
  7. Read or listen to Jill Brown's Advice on Orientation and Mobility Skills. You will learn what you can do at home to support your child’s success in mobility, including the development of high expectations for your child’s involvement and responsibilities within the family.
  8. Identify transportation options for non-drivers. You can begin to describe the options to your child and intentionally explore the options with him.
  9. Help your child understand the value of strong O&M skills. Find out your child’s dreams and desires, and help her see how mobility skills will enable or enhance her goals. She wants to make a friend on the playground? It helps to be familiar with the playground. He wants to go on a date or hold a summer job? It helps to be familiar with public transportation.

Your child will greatly benefit from your involvement in orientation and mobility training; in encouraging him to practice; in motivating him toward his goals; and in providing travel knowledge as you encounter it in the real world.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
—Helen Keller

Orientation and Mobility
Getting Around