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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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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


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.


Harnessing Adversity: A Chat with Erik Weihenmayer and Amy Van Dyken-Rouen

We're delighted to host a guest post today from Buddy Levy, presenting his interview with Erik Weihenmayer and Amy Van Dyken-Rouen.


What do a blind outdoor adventurer and an asthmatic six-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer have in common? Turns out, the same thing that all of us have in common in some form or other: adversity.

Everyone faces adversity—what matters is how they face it, according to Erik Weihenmayer and Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, who got together recently for a web-hangout interview ahead of this summer’s No Barriers Summit, to be held in Park City, Utah July 9-12. Van Dyken-Rouen, a celebrated U.S. Olympic swimmer who was paralyzed in 2014 in an ATV accident, is the event's keynote speaker at the opening ceremonies, and Weihenmayer, a mountaineer and outdoor adventurer blind since the age of 13, will speak at the closing ceremonies. Their individual stories are remarkably different, yet each of them believes that personal adversity can be harnessed to effect positive change in your life. As Weihenmayer puts it, "With the right tool-kit, the right community of support, the right 'rope team,' you can become a kind of alchemist, and turn the lead in your life into gold."

Amy Van Dyken-Rouen at the Olympics, wearing swim cap and goggles

Amy Van Dyken-Rouen

Van Dyken-Rouen agrees, even going so far as to say that her accident, which left her paralyzed from the waist down a year ago, "was an epiphany that has made me a better person. I'm much more empathetic. I don't take things as seriously as I used to, and I laugh a lot more. To be honest, I'm a lot happier than I was before the accident, because I know this life is so precious, and that it can end in just the blink of an eye. I've learned to love more deeply."

Van Dyken-Rouen, driven and determined, has attacked her rehabilitation with the same intensity she brought to the Olympic swimming pool in 1996 and 2000. After 2 1/2 months of rehab she stood on her own for the first time, and she recently took her first steps with the aid of an exoskeleton, a computerized assistive device that gets paralyzed people up and walking.

Weihenmayer has experienced his own epiphanies. In 2001, as he descended from the 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest, one of his guides congratulated him on his historic climb, then said something that Weihenmayer would never forget: "Don't make Everest the greatest thing you ever do."

Weihenmayer had just become the first blind person to stand on the world's highest peak, and he went on to climb the rest of the fabled Seven Summits—the highest points on each continent. So, what was he supposed to do for an encore?

Erik Weihenmayer kayaking

Erik Weihenmayer kayaking

The more Weihenmayer thought about his guide's words, the more he realized that his life's purpose wasn't just about personal accomplishment: He had an opportunity to help others. In 2004, Weihenmayer co-founded No Barriers, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping people with adversities overcome personal barriers, find inner purpose and maximize their contributions to the world.

"We all face obstacles in our lives," says Weihenmayer. "Mine happened to be blindness, but all people struggle with adversity. Yet I think there is something inside all of us, a kind of light. Sometimes—through injury, disease, tragedy, mental illness, loss or trauma—we get shoved into a dark place, and that light almost goes out. But that light inside us is really strong, and combined with a mindset of character, strength, and resilience—it can win out over the barriers we confront."

For Weihenmayer and Van Dyken-Rouen, teamwork, community, and goals are all vital elements in the process of living what they call No Barriers Lives. Van Dyken-Rouen says, "My idea of teamwork before my accident was getting three other girls together on a relay team and going for a gold medal; now it's getting a group of doctors and physical therapists together for my life! I could not do what I'm doing today in my recovery, and I wouldn't have the outlook I have without them, my husband, the whole amazing team—they are doing everything they can to help me succeed in my long term goal to one day walk under my own power."

Weihenmayer says that the No Barriers Summit is profound and deeply meaningful to him, and that no one leaves it unchanged. It's an opportunity to be around a community of people who are trying to live No Barriers lives. They may struggle and fail in the process, but they believe the message. "Whether you are in a wheelchair, or blind, whether you have any kind of challenge—which is honestly most people in the world—what unites us aren't our triumphs but our barriers. Our failures. Our inner strength is formed in the flames of adversity. We are all trying to figure out the tools we need, the skills we need, to discover the mindset we need to push forward, and to answer an important question of ourselves: Is there something inside us that we can tap into? I think there is," Weihenmayer says.

The four-day No Barriers Summit in Park City July 9-12 will bring together about 1,000 global participants and will feature innovative adaptive technologies, inspiring speakers and clinics for outdoor activities such as rock climbing, cycling, kayaking, rafting, sailing and fly-fishing, painting, and photography. All Summit participants are invited to the Canyons Resort Summer Concert Series for a free show, featuring the Grammy Award winning Blind Boys of Alabama, who take the Mountain Town Stage after 6pm the evening of Saturday July 11.

Summit presenters include NBC's Last Comic Standing winner comedian Josh Blue, who has cerebral palsy; innovator Henry Evans, a quadriplegic who is also mute, who pioneers adaptive robotic technology at Robots for Humanity; and Mick Ebeling, founder of Not Impossible Labs, who will demonstrate his latest inventions, including the Eye Writer, which enables paralyzed individuals to communicate and create art by using only the movement of their eyes.

Erik Weihenmayer and Amy Van Dyken-Rouen will be there, sharing their remarkable stories and also participating in many of the clinics, like rock climbing.

Says Van Dyken-Rouen, in closing out their conversation, "In life, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward if you succeed. So who knows, Erik, maybe I'll be on the rock wall, side by side with you. That would be so cool!"

Group of men and women posing on a mountain summit with the No Barrier sign

To register for the No Barriers Summit visit nobarrierssummit.org or contact the No Barriers office at 970.484.3633.