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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

FamilyConnect: A Parent's Voice

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Pathways to Independence for Teens Who Are Visually Impaired

teenaged boy on the phone, smiling widely

As a celebration of October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), we have launched a series of articles written for parents about issues in employment and career awareness. In the Transition to Independence section for each age group on the FamilyConnect site, the new articles explain how families can and do contribute to the work to prepare children for employment as adults.

As a final salute to NDEAM, we bring you the selections for teens who are blind or have low vision. In the previous age groups we discussed the everyday things that build skills and awareness of careers and employment. Teenagers are at the point where they can fully participate with the information and coursework made available to them through AFB's CareerConnect® web program. Families need to be aware of the activities that their children should be taking part in so they will be prepared to transition from public school into college or work.

Please follow the links here to explore the activities for teens and their families.

We would like to thank the May and Stanley Smith charitable trust for providing the funding for this project. Be sure to check out the earlier articles in the series:


But I Haven't Been to Holland

I would like to introduce Stacey Dodd as a parent who has submitted the following blog. You may follow her on her blog Minding Thomas.

I had never heard of the well-known essay 'Welcome to Holland' until it was mentioned to me via a former work colleague upon finding out how my boy was doing. It was suggested for me to read and I honestly didn't bother with it. I ended up coming across the essay through a national support network's booklet, 'Stories to tell.' I read it and I could relate to it for sure. I wondered about that last sentence and how we come to a certain point along this journey where we realize that we have to make a decision as to whether or not we want to stop mourning the loss of the dreams we had or hold onto it. I think that this is all very well to say but it's not that easy is it?

It never really leaves you. The feeling of loss. The eternal grief. The worry you feel when you fear to nod off to sleep at night. Will my boy have a seizure while I sleep? Will I hear him on the monitor? Will he walk? Talk? No one can answer this, not even an MRI or a neurologist. Just wait and see they say. Those words cut deep. Deep where the pain of loss and grief reside. Those words are so easy for them to say. They have to say it because what else can they really say? This is probably why I can't let go. Because I'm waiting to see? Wait and see what exactly? What my son can or can't do? I think there comes a point where you do accept that you have no idea what the future is anymore but it doesn't ever mean it's okay. It just means, for now, I'll get through today, and the next day, heck or maybe the next hour. Never week by week.

Yes, you go through ups and downs, but more often so when you are a special needs parent. You become numb with grief having been through the stages of grief over and over. You may spend more time at certain stages of grief, and that I believe depends on you as an individual. We all cope in our own ways. If someone asked me how I've coped, I would just say, I got on with it. We do this simply because we have to. We have no other choice. We have to keep pushing on for the sake of our son. We need to be strong for him. I have to be strong for him. He depends on me. I have to keep it together while I can. I can cry later. Sometimes, with all the medical visits, hopsital stays, new treatments or diagnoses you become like a deer in the headlights. Stunned with disbelief or something like that. Some days, you're wired enough to be on the ready with a trillion questions and energy to research every side effect of a new drug. You give up trying to remember names of nurses, simply because there are so many that you end up meeting. It's overwhelming. I could go on and on.

So, yes, as the essay says, you end up somewhere unexpected. You did not plan to be there. You have nowhere to turn, maybe to find the exit, a way out. Maybe press 'rewind'. No. You have no choice. You stay where you're put and you get on with it the best way you know how which is pretty much anyway you like. It is a lonely place, especially in the beginning when you really need the guidance. Somehow, you find your way about. You do meet some lovely people who help you along your way. You become an ace with the language of special needs. Eventually you find a way to forget what the future was supposed to look like once upon a time and you focus on the 'cans'. What can I do to help my son? Where can I seek help or guidance? How can I get through a difficult day? What can I do to help others? How can I meet others? What can my son do that I can celebrate? What can I do to make a difference?

Can you do the can can?

Personal Reflections

Celebrating White Cane Day

three young children using white canes to go up a school stairway, trailed by an orientation and mobility instructor

October is a month of celebration! National Disability Employment Awareness and National Hispanic Heritage Month are two examples, and let’s not forget Halloween.

White Cane Day is October 15 and falls right in the middle of the month. It is a day of extreme significance for people who are blind as the white cane is more than just a symbol but is also a tool that provides safety as well as independence. Where some prefer the use of a dog guide, all travel training begins with learning to use this simple but effective white cane. Individuals with vision loss have been traveling for a very long time but the typical white cane is a relatively new development as it really was developed after World War II. Without the need for electricity or a cell signal it can detect obstacles and drop-offs, and alert drivers to your presence as a blind or low-vision traveler.

Here are some resources and fun links in celebration of White Cane Day:

AFB's entire family of sites is celebrating White Cane Day:

After all this reading, it would be great to have your child grab their cane and go for a stroll to demonstrate just what we are talking about. How are you planning to celebrate White Cane Day?

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Orientation and Mobility

Paving the Way for Independence

baby crawling along a stone path

We are pleased to celebrate October as National Disability Employment Awareness month by launching a whole new series of articles designed specifically for parents of children who are blind or visually impaired.

Employment is an important topic and it is never too early to discuss it. In the next four weeks we will launch the articles by age range starting today with the babies and toddlers.

OK, babies and toddlers—isn't it a bit early for a transition and employment focus? My response is that everything that we do lays the foundation for the skills necessary to compete in the employment market. Become aware of what you are currently doing as a parent that is part of this process. A smart time to teach and reinforce concepts is during those teachable moments that occur naturally in our daily routines. Learn the small things you can start to do that will help in this effort.

Here are our current offerings, which can all be found in the Babies and Toddlers "Transition to Independence" area. Throughout the month, we will focus next on what you can do with your preschoolers, grade schoolers, and finally teenagers, to get them ready for the world of work.

We would like to thank the May and Stanley Smith charitable trust for providing the funding for this project. Watch for announcements through October for the entire series. Not signed up yet? We welcome everyone to enroll in FamilyConnect so you can then receive important announcements by e-mail, track your favorite blog and keep up with conversations on the message boards.

Planning for the Future

FamilyConnect Celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month

We are right in the middle of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. It is a time to celebrate the history and contributions of this important culture. We would like to take this opportunity to point out that FamilyConnect has translated its articles into Spanish and users of the program may easily switch from English to Spanish in one click of a button—use the en español link at the top of any page, or the "Leer este artículo en español" link on individual articles.

You can also get started easily with these three downloadable toolkits:

Since our launch in 2008 we have steadily built an international audience of families who visit us, many of whom are in Spanish-speaking countries. If you know of a family who would benefit from our Spanish materials, please let them know. We welcome requests to send FamilyConnect fliers in either English or Spanish and if you are interested, please contact me at

Estamos justo a mitad del Mes de la Hispanidad, el cual se extiende desde el 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre. Es un momento para celebrar la historia y las contribuciones de esta importante cultura. Nos gustaría aprovechar esta oportunidad para señalar que FamilyConnect ha traducido sus artículos al español y los usuarios del programa pueden cambiar fácilmente de inglés a español con solo el clic de un botón.

También puede empezar fácilmente con estos tres juegos de herramientas descargables:

Desde nuestro lanzamiento en 2008, hemos ido construyendo una audiencia internacional con las familias que nos visitan, muchas de las cuales se encuentran en países de habla hispana. Si usted sabe de alguna familia que se beneficiaría con nuestros materiales en español, por favor, hágaselo saber. Nos complace recibir solicitudes para los folletos de FamilyConnect, ya sea en inglés o español, y si usted está interesado, puede ponerse en contacto conmigo en

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