When Your Child Is Visually Impaired

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Whether your child's visual impairment developed gradually or happened suddenly as the result of an accident or illness, you may be experiencing a wide range of feelings. Here are a few things to consider:

Your child is a child first and foremost. Try not to let visual impairment take over his life or yours. Your child may be scared, angry, depressed, sad, or uncertain, and, at the same time, hopeful that his eye problem may be fixed or simply go away. You may be having the same emotions. Feeling that you're on an emotional roller coaster isn't an unusual reaction.

If your emotions are overshadowing other aspects of your life—your relationship with your spouse, your patience with your children, your performance at work—consider talking to a counselor or joining a support group. You might also find it helpful to contact other families who have gone through or are in the middle of the same situation you are. You can use the FamilyConnect message boards to share your thoughts with other parents and, possibly, get some good advice.

As much as possible, continue doing the things you've always done to relax, whether it's jogging for a half hour in the morning, meeting your sister for lunch once a week, or reading the newspaper after work.

Your other children and your spouse or partner need your attention too. Don't put your relationships with others on the back burner because you're worrying about your child's visual impairment. You may find that others can provide you support as you talk about your feelings.

Sometimes Your Thoughts May Not Be Positive

Some events, like a visit to the eye doctor, may bring your child's visual impairment up front in your thinking. If you find that you're angry, sad, or depressed, take some time to grieve—it's natural. But then, if you can, try to plan what you and your child can do to make a negative more positive. If your son is struggling with reading, build time into your evenings to practice his braille together, or if he's losing more vision, contact the orientation and mobility (O&M) instructor on his educational team to get some pointers on what you can do to help him use his remaining vision when you're out in the community together.

Now that your child is older, he's more likely to be aware of others' feelings. Have open conversations with him about how he's feeling about his visual impairment and how you may be feeling too. The same is true with other family members. If you have other children, they may have feelings related to being embarrassed, feeling left out, or not getting enough attention as they relate to their brother who is visually impaired. If they are willing to talk, hear them out, and share your thoughts too.

You'll continue to encounter people who may not understand your child's visual impairment, so they'll need some education in the form of explanations or information from you or your child. But it can be tiring to have to always be explaining things to people. Give yourself permission to take the day off from wearing your public relations hat now and then.

Recognize that there will be things related to having a child with a visual impairment that may always cause you stress. For example, you may become angry when you hear some of the neighborhood children calling your son "four eyes" or another not-so-flattering name. At times like this, you may feel emotional turmoil. Try to remind yourself that all parents have strong feelings about their children and may also have times when they wish their child were different, whether it be more affectionate, more organized, or a better student in school. Focusing on your love and affection for your child and spending time with supportive friends may be helpful at times like these.

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