FamilyConnect: A Parent's Voice

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High Expectations for Your Graduate with Vision Loss (From Pre-K to High School)

Kindergarten child in graduation gown and mortarboard kissed by her parents during graduation

For as long as I’ve had the pleasure of blogging for AFB CareerConnect, followed by AFB FamilyConnect, I’ve never said it. I’ve reserved its use. Until now.

If you only remember one thing from any blog I’ve ever written, remember this:

Your son or daughter needs (read: thrives on) your high expectations.

We’ve heard it before, but has it changed the way we parent our children? And how does it impact the way we regard our graduates?

This year I have a graduate from Pre-K and a graduate from Kinder; maybe you have a graduate from elementary, middle, or high school. No matter, let’s consider together how we can empower our littles and bigs with our high expectations.

  • Speak life. Maybe you do have high expectations of your youngster, but it doesn’t make its way to words very often. Encourage your child by praising him for who he is and for his strengths and efforts. For example, “I am so proud of how hard you’ve worked this year, my little graduate. I can’t wait to watch you in first grade. You sure are a hard worker.”
  • Identify what your child has done well and learned this year; transition the talk to “next year”. Discuss the growth and maturation she’s had this year, the milestones reached, the character traits gained, and the strides made in the core curriculum and expanded core curriculum. Tell her you can’t wait to continue watching her grow and blossom over the next season. For example, “Remember when you learned to use the video magnifier this year? I know next year you’ll learn even more assistive technology. Oh, maybe technology for cooking; I’d love your company and help in the kitchen.”
  • Expect your child to work to the best of his ability. This should be the case for schoolwork, participating in chores, choosing a high school track, tackling a summer job, and through the encouragement of career goals. Children and teens need parents to hold them to high standards in order to develop a strong work ethic and to prepare for life after high school.
  • Introduce your child to successful adults with visual impairments. By both reading success stories and connecting to adults in your community, be sure your child has role models who are blind or visually impaired. Your child needs to see low vision or blindness doesn’t have to hold one back now or in the next season.

Congratulations to your graduates! May we encourage them and expect them to rise.


Topics:
Education
Personal Reflections
Planning for the Future
Transition

Loving on Siblings of a Child with a Disability, and Helping Them Cope

Eddie with his sisters in 2014

We have two children; both girls, sixteen months apart. My oldest was given a “failure to thrive” label very early in life, which has yet to be removed, and my youngest has developed typically. Madeline, the oldest, well, I worry about her! At any given meal I’m questioning, “How can I get Madeline to eat more?” “Is she choking again?” “Is she not eating because…” “Should I be concerned about…”. You probably know the routine. Our mother (or papa!) bear mindsets are protective, worried, and all too often hyper-focused on our child who struggles to meet a milestone, make a friend, or in our case, gain a pound.

This isn’t always negative. The siblings of a child with a label or disability learn to share attention, consider others, wait patiently, be helpful, and act supportively. These are certainly positive aspects.

But our time and attention far disproportionately showered on one child can be quite confusing to “siblings”.

So let’s brainstorm together.

What can we do now, over this summer, and beyond to show each child how important and worthy of our attention they are? I’ll give you my ideas and I hope you comment with yours.

  • Invite each child on a separate “date” with you. Forge new memories as you participate in activities of each child’s interests. Your undivided attention will speak volumes.
  • Create a picture memory book or short biography of each child, with the help of each child if he or she is interested. This can be as simple as journaling the child’s birth story, milestones, accomplishments, and interests. Each child will recognize his own story and understand that you think it is significant.
  • Recognize each child’s accomplishments. You can celebrate positive behavior, progress in recreational activities, and improvement in school.

What can we do to help “siblings” identify and cope with their feelings?

  • Consider encouraging “siblings” to attend a summer camp for siblings of children with special needs.
  • If you haven’t already, connect with other families who have children with disabilities. The “siblings” can share feelings and can understand they aren’t the only ones to have a sibling with special needs.
  • Ask your child with a visual impairment to describe her experience with no or minimal sight to her siblings. Additionally, each “sibling” can wear a blindfold while engaging in an activity and the child with a visual impairment can teach her sibling how to accomplish the task without sight. The sighted siblings will learn that their visually impaired sibling requires more direct instruction, which feels like more attention.
  • Remember to talk with “siblings” about their feelings (including adoration, protectiveness, worry, anxiety, embarrassment, fear, resentment, jealousy, and anger) toward the child with a disability and don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling for “siblings” and the entire family if needed.

As always, I would love your thoughts and suggestions. We need each other.

Related Articles


Teaching Financial Literacy to Our Children with Visual Impairments

piggy bank surrounded by coins

We know teaching our children to earn and wisely manage money is important, but how do you teach financial literacy to children with visual impairments?

Here’s how:

  1. Openly discuss finances with your child.
  2. Allow your child to practice earning and managing a small allowance.
  3. Involve your child in your family’s saving and spending opportunities.
  4. Work with your child’s TVI to address accommodations related to vision loss.

To assist you on your journey, utilize the following money management resources:

  • Find age-appropriate financial literacy activities and conversation starters for your son or daughter using Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Money As You Grow website.
  • Utilize teaching tools and parental guides for helping your child develop into a financially responsible adult within The Mint’s It Makes Perfect Cents website.
  • Read AFB's VisionAware Money Identification article to learn how adults with vision loss distinguish their dollar bills and coins.
  • Gather instructional activities from AFB CareerConnect’s Money Management lesson series. The lessons cover budgeting; setting long- and short- term financial goals; understanding the banking system; reducing and eliminating debt; investing into the stock and bond markets; and giving responsibly.
  • Read U.S. Bank’s article and Braille Work’s article to learn what accessible banking entails.

What advice and resources would you provide to parents beginning their journey of educating their visually impaired child in money management?


Topics:
Education
Independence
Transition

Children's Tributes to Their Mothers

mom with son on her lap - both are smiling widely, and the mom is holding her child's hand up high

Parents are vital in the lives of their children. When your child is blind it can add a complicating layer to the process. Getting it all just right is the goal all parents strive for but really, perfection can only ever be a goal, not the reality, right?

Well, we asked students who are blind for comments about their mothers, and it appears that many of you actually are getting it just right. We hope you’ll enjoy reading these sweet comments as much as we did, and reflecting on the important part that mothers play in the lives of their children.

Happy Mother’s Day, to all of you!

Thomas C:
“My mom is special because from day one she fought to give me the best of everything. When others told her that my life would be limited, she made it her business to make sure it wasn't. She made sure to expose to me to what was possible and not what was offered.

She supported me when I wanted to be a pro wrestler, and she continued to support me when that changed to my current path of being an entertainer. She is the reason I have the opportunity to chase my dream. Who else would let a 21 year old live at home, eat all the food, and not ask for any money? Either she loves me a lot or she's nuts.

She's showed me how to be caring by caring for me, she showed me how to be strong by being strong for me, she showed me how to dress to kill by dressing to kill herself, sometimes we'll get all dressed up just to go to CVS.

In short my mom loves me very much and would give me the world. Well, I love her just as much and can't wait to give her the world soon. "

Anthony M:
Anthony’s mom says, “It was really hard to say what makes my mom special in only 2 sentences! My mom is a great cook and always drops off food at the school even though I live there."

Dominic P:
“My mom is special because she is there for me when I need support and love.”

Milly P:
Milly’s mom reports, “Milly is only 5 years old and one of the best thing's she has told me is that ‘I am her eyes.’ Another thing she told me is that whenever I get sick that she will take care of me.”

Anthony D:
“What makes you a special mom is that you do everything for me, you’re smart, and you’re loving, and special, courageous. And brave.”

These comments are wonderful tributes and show how often it is the little things that are so very much appreciated. We also wanted to share posts from previous years that you might enjoy:


Topic:
Holidays

What Your Future Adult Son or Daughter Will Say to You on Mother's Day

picture of visually impaired child and mother smiling and 

hugging

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.


Topics:
Holidays
Personal Reflections