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Holiday Travel Tips for Families with Visually Impaired Children and Teens

Modern airport scene of a passenger walking inside the airport looking outside through the large window

Heading anywhere for the holidays? This year we’re opting to stay home and soak up two weeks of minimal commitments and maximum relaxation. I cannot wait to regroup and unwind.

If you, on the other hand, are opting to visit family, sightsee, or vacation, you brave soul, and you aim to experience respite on your adventure…not to mention make the most (educationally) of your experience…read on.

I’ve compiled a list of travel suggestions published on AFB and WonderBaby in years past. The only suggestions missing are yours! So, gather a few for yourself, and leave a few for others in the comment section.

As suggested in Tips for Travel with a Visually Impaired Child:

  • Include your child in the planning.
  • Make a tactile map of the destination.
  • Create a travel bag with activities for long rides (think: braille card deck, audio player, puzzle toys).
  • Explore replicas of any historic destinations (empire state building, golden gate bridge, statue, etc.) usually found in a nearby gift shop.

As suggested in Traveling with a Child Who Is Visually Impaired:

  • Don’t forget medications.
  • Know your entire family’s needs, wants, and limits.
  • Plan, plan, plan!

As suggested in How to Manage the Airport More Effectively:

  • Help your teen become acquainted with the airport layout in advance.
  • Consider an audible luggage locator to help your child easily retrieve his/her baggage from the carousel.
  • Teach your older child/teen to handle flight delays (see article for details).

As suggested in Holiday Travel Ideas and Tips:

  • Ask for specific accessibility accommodations, such as verbal descriptions of sights on tours, or the opportunity to touch landmarks or artifacts usually off limits, consider asking for the accommodations in advance, such as at the time of booking.
  • Your teen can utilize an app with an accessible GPS to familiarize himself with the new environment, and maybe even lead the family to a restaurant in walking distance.
  • If your child or teen doesn’t regularly use a cane for mobility, encourage her to bring it for identification purposes, which can be helpful in unfamiliar, crowded spaces.

Lastly, if your child has multiple disabilities and a regular bed isn’t a safe sleeping zone for him or her, you’ll want to read WonderBaby’s review of special needs travel bed.

Good luck on your holiday trip! I’d love to know where you’re headed.

Getting Around
Low Vision
Orientation and Mobility

Understanding CHARGE Syndrome: Raising My Child Who Is Deaf-Blind

Editor's Note: Last week, Amanda Bowdoin shared the story of the birth of her son, JD, who is deaf-blind with CHARGE Syndrome. Today in part two, Amanda shares the joy and fear of raising her child.

JD at age 11 sitting on a haybail

Understanding CHARGE Syndrome: Raising My Son, JD

JD spent most of his early years surrounded by nurses, therapists, and doctors. I decided when the twins were 3 years old to go into the program at Stephen F. Austin State University for Visual Impairment. At this time, JD was starting to wear glasses. Because he was born without ears (Microtia Atresia), he had to wear a head band to keep the glasses on. He also started to wear hearing aids. When JD was seven, he went through a four-part surgery over a year to get new ears and a new hearing aid. The proudest moment was him hearing my voice for the first time and smiling.

He now has visual impairment services at school and has a teacher for the deaf that works with him. Today, JD is in fifth grade along with Olivia who still mothers him. She signs to him and makes sure he is surrounded by friends. My husband and I keep him active and advocate for him.

As a mom, I always get asked, "How do you do it? I couldn't do it." My response is always the same, "Yes, you can do it." My husband and I are closer now than ever, and we wouldn't change it for anything. We have learned so much through our son's environment about patience. We have learned that JD learns on his own time, and yes, he is stubborn, but he doesn't give up.

About Your Child Living with CHARGE Syndrome

CHARGE Syndrome

Understanding CHARGE Syndrome: The Birth of My Son Who Is Deaf-Blind

Possibilities Are Endless

My Child Who Is Visually Impaired Is Bound By No Limits

Personal Reflections
Planning for the Future

Understanding CHARGE Syndrome: The Birth of My Son Who Is Deaf-Blind

Editor's Note: Over the past several weeks, Amanda Bowdoin has shared stories about raising her son, JD, who is deaf-blind with CHARGE Syndrome. She showed us how anything is possible for JD and how he is bound by no limits. Today, she shares a special story about the birth of her twins, JD and Olivia. This is part one of a two-part series.

JD at birth in a crib at the hospital

Understanding CHARGE Syndrome

CHARGE Syndrome is a rare disorder that arises during early fetal development and affects multiple organ systems. The CHARGE acronym comes from the first letters of some of the most common features that have been seen with this syndrome. Some children may have all or a few of the areas listed.

C: Coloboma (cleft or gap in some part of the eye)
H: Heart
A: Atresia of the Choanae (blockage of the nose)
R: Retardation of growth and development
G: Genital
E: Ear abnormalities and hearing loss

Facing Uncertainty: JD's Birth

My son JD was born with his twin sister, Olivia, at 31 weeks old. Olivia was only 2 pounds, 3 ounces and was born without vitals causing her to stay in the ICU for a month. JD was born weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces, but the doctors knew there were problems even a week before he was born.

JD had a hole in his esophageal (the tube that runs from the throat to the stomach) for which he needed a TE Fistula repair. During the surgery, we were told he also needed heart surgery. At that moment, I was still recovering from just giving birth, and I asked the doctor to explain what he was saying in English. "Basically, Mrs. Bowdoin, your son needs a new heart in order to live," the doctor said.

I was scared, so I researched everything I could to find out what was going on. The word CHARGE Association came up several times from doctors, and I had researched this two year's prior. I was so glad I had an understanding, but now what?

Next Steps for JD

I found support from the CHARGE Syndrome Family page, not just international, but in Texas as well. JD spent the first nine months of his life in the hospital before coming home to us. By this time, he had already had 25 surgeries and was still going strong.

About Your Child Living with CHARGE Syndrome

Understanding CHARGE Syndrome: Raising My Child Who Is Deaf-Blind

CHARGE Syndrome

Possibilities Are Endless

My Child Who Is Visually Impaired Is Bound By No Limits

Using the Expanded Core Curriculum in the School Setting

Personal Reflections

Holiday Gifts for Children and Teens with Visual Impairments

Happy young woman in winter clothes with shopping bags in front of a Christmas tree

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are quickly approaching, and I for one cannot wait! I’d like to say it’s because I enjoy the snow, holiday decor, and mostly the extra family time and memory making—because I do! But if you can keep a secret, I’m most looking forward to the surprise puppy we’re getting (the long-hoped-for pup that just so happens to be ready before Christmas, so we’ll call her a Christmas present!).

Now unless you, like myself, have been desiring a dog for years and are fully prepared for the commitment, I’d not recommend a Christmas dog. What then would I suggest as a present for your child who is blind or visually impaired?

I suggest 1) exploring what is popular for children your child’s age and meaningful/interesting to your child (this will help your child connect with his or her peers), 2) thinking about what your child will soon need (accessible watch or alarm clock, for instance), and 3) considering investments into potential hobbies for your child (can include experiences such as swim lessons, toys that require construction and creativity, or equipment for a hobby).

I think these resources will help you brainstorm:

Gifts wrapped with different color paper and ribbons

One more resource: check out FamilyConnect's Holiday Guide to Toys, Games, and Gadgets for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired.

If you have additional gift ideas, definitely let us know in the comments section!


Making the Most of Thanksgiving Week with Your Visually Impaired Child or Teen

Happy Thanksgiving Retro Card

We at AFB are tremendously thankful for you and your dedication, parents and family members of children with visual impairments.

Our entire community wants your child to develop into one who pursues his goals and interests, and who is well engaged with a community of mutually beneficial relationships.

We know you, parents and family members, have the greatest impact on your children developing into such an individual.

And like always, we want to support you with resources for your journey.

I hope you have ample time off from work this week and can enjoy your family to the fullest. Perhaps this week can be filled with intentional memories in the making, many peaceful moments and even enjoyable bustling ones.

To make the most of this Thanksgiving week, you may want to peruse the following:

Happy Thanksgiving week to you and yours!

Social Life and Recreation