Browse By Topic: Education

How Will We Pay for My Visually Impaired Child’s Assistive Technology?

I had a recent e-mail from a family new to the country who wondered how they would afford their child’s assistive technology (AT) needed for school. Are there organizations who provide technology for free or a reduced cost? What financial assistance is available? I’m confident other families have the same concerns and thought it wise to publish the response as a blog post and ask for seasoned parents to provide additional suggestions in the comments section. Letter to Parents About Your Child's Assistive Technology Needs Dear concerned parent, Will your child attend a public school? If so, the school must conduct an assistive


The School Year Has Begun and Your Child Has No Blindness Services

The school year has begun and your child who is blind or visually impaired is not receiving blindness-specific educational services. What can you do? Most importantly, learn about the process of educating a child who is blind or visually impaired. The first step entails your child receiving federally mandated, blindness-specific assessments, which reveal your child’s strengths and areas necessitating instruction before your child can fully access the core curriculum. The educational team, including yourself, will


TVI Mom: Raising a Child Who Is Visually Impaired As a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments

I had been a teacher of students with visual impairments and orientation and mobility specialist for a few years when my husband and I welcomed our son, Alex into our lives. Things were turned upside down with the typical sleep deprivation and new parenthood stress. At six weeks, I noticed something as I stared into his brown eyes that were moving rapidly side to side,


Back to School Resource Bash for Children with Visual Impairments

Whether you’re sending your young child to school for the very first time or sending your high schooler back to the land of academia for the umpteenth time, it’s an exciting, quite nerve-wracking day. While I was referencing the emotions of your child or young adult, I know you feel the tension, anticipation, and perhaps even appreciation as well. Know that whatever you’re feeling, from distress to delight, you’re not alone. If you want to vent to other parents of children with visual impairments, head on


Making the Most of "Meet the Teacher" When Your Child Is Visually Impaired

As we near the beginning of a new school year, school districts prepare teachers with their class roster and include copies of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans. Teachers of students with visual impairments are often busy delivering braille books, low vision devices, and all of the necessary equipment in place for the student. Meanwhile, parents and children anxiously await


Preparing Your Visually Impaired Child for Preschool

The big backpack on your tiny little guy is a visual reminder of your baby entering a big-boy world and all the growth and maturation soon to come. He is heading to preschoolit certainly provokes every last emotion, doesn’t it?! It’s exciting. It’s nerve-wracking. It’s bitter-sweet. It, however, needn’t be improvised. You can work alongside your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments, orientation and mobility specialist, and early intervention specialist to help prepare your child for the social, physical, and educational aspects of preschool well before the school year


A Great Book Escape: A Multi-Sensory Adventure for Children with Visual Impairments

What if, this summer, you invite your child with a visual impairment (and any siblings) on an adventure of a lifetime. A type of summer vacation from the norm, one we’ll call a summer escape. This adventure will not require leaving the house and is ideal even when cash and time are strapped. It will, however, require pre-planning, creativity, and most of all, your enthusiasm. This summer adventure is an escape into a book. I dare


Inclusion in Life: Ted Talk Speaker Kristin Smedley Shares About Her Children with Visual Impairments

In the opening of her Ted Talk this past May, Kristin Smedley shared a very honest story about one of many very hard days as the mother of a blind toddler. Michael was three years old, bouncy and delightful. She was paralyzed daily by the fear, anger, and grief that his CRB1 diagnosis caused her. One day, in particular, she couldn’t make it out of bed. Why was this happening? Why would this happen to her child? In that moment, she could hear her son make his way down the hall to her room. Mommy, are you in here? Yeah, buddy, I’m right here in front of you on the bed. Mom, I just had to come down here and tell you, isn’t this just the best day ever? The sun is shining, and


Provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for Your Son or Daughter with a Visual Impairment

This time each year we celebrate the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each yearis that really necessary? YES! The ADA is the United States of America’s first comprehensive civil rights law protecting people with disabilities from discrimination. I know you’d agreethat can’t be over-celebrated! Provisions of the ADA And just what


How Music Therapy in the Expanded Core Curriculum Can Improve Your Visually Impaired Child’s Life

Michael Bertolami is a Board-Certified Music Therapist at Perkins School for the Blind and, for the last 18 years, has been observing the benefits of music as an auditory experience, a method of communication, and as a facilitator for social interaction and connection. As Perkins is a multi-program school with an early learning, elementary/middle, deaf-blind, and high school program, the music therapy department considers their role as therapists, instead of educators, to be interdisciplinary and integral to the full development of its students. Meeting Kids Where They Are Through Music During one of his first sessions, Michael Bertolami was introducing his group of students to a variety of musical instruments and


10 Ways to Keep the Dust off the Video Magnifier (CCTV) This Summer for Children and Teens with Visual Impairments

Students often use video magnifiers or Closed-Circuit Televisions with magnification (CCTV) to complete homework and classwork during the school year. Summer CCTV-use is often a drastically different story! Here’s to transforming the norm and avoiding the summer assistive technology regression! If your child has access to a CCTV at home or the local library, here are a few creative uses for the device: Lego directionsinvite your child to "help you" build a Lego masterpiece. Word searches or Sudoku puzzlesa blistering hot afternoon calls for an indoor puzzle. Look and find books or "I Spy" sheetsif your


Engaging Activities to Celebrate Helen Keller’s Birthday with Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

When the general population thinks of blindness, they often still think of young Helen Keller learning to communicate with sign language at the water pump. There is, however, much more to Ms. Keller. Helen Keller worked as a political and social activist, fighting for a woman’s right to vote and for equality for all people. She worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for over 40 years as an advocate for the blind in the United States and abroad. Read her biography to learn more! Not only will you learn about her life as a


My Experience As a Summer Transition Specialist with Blind and Visually Impaired Teens

Ten years ago to the day (at the time of writing) I nervously walked into my first career-job. I was hired for the summer to plan and implement a summer program for students ages 14 to 22 with visual impairments. I knew "career preparation" was my number one goal for the group; with this in mind, I met each student, assessed knowledge of career skills, and asked each student and his/her family about personal interests, career interests, and career goals. Several students had dreams of becoming lawyers; one desired to become a football coach; one a teacher; one a therapist; one a radio DJ; one a makeup artist, and the others were uncertain. And so began a hunt to find experiences in these industries as well as in a wide range of additional career fields. We needed to do more


Helping Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Avoid the "Summer Reading Slide"

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog post is from Samantha Kelly, a teacher of students with visual impairments in Florida, who provides us with wonderful suggestions for helping our children elude summertime regression in reading. Helping Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Avoid the "Summer Reading Slide" by Samantha Kelly Summertime. While the children are hyper-focused on keeping cool and enjoying the playground, parents are worried about preventing "summer slide" or the loss of skills acquired during the school year. While all students benefit from summer reading, students who are visually impaired benefit from a


Our [Very Positive] Experience with Evaluations at Perkins School for the Blind

Planning the Evaluation Last I wrote, we had obtained funding for our son, Vincent, to go to Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts for an evaluation. It takes a long time to get a date; I got all my paperwork and assessments together to send them in September. It took seven months to get a date in March. To be fair, they gave us a date in February. However, we had tons of snow, and they graciously extended the date to the end of March. It continued to snow here in Maine through April. The trip to Perkins School took a lot of work on our part to put together. We have three children and two foster children. We were able to put one of our foster children


In Italy, “I” Stands for Inclusion, Part 2: A Closer Look at Italy’s Approach to Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Students of Today

Editor’s Note: In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (Thursday, May 18), we are sharing two stories about the education of children who are blind or visually impaired in Italy. Today’s story dives into Italy’s current approach to educating children with visual impairment. If you missed part one of this series, check out “Gabriele Colantonio Recounts Attending School As a Child with a Visual Impairment.” Closer Look at Italy’s Approach to Educating Visually Impaired Students In


In Italy, “I” Stands for Inclusion, Part 1: Gabriele Colantonio Recounts Attending School As a Child with a Visual Impairment

Editor’s Note: In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (Thursday, May 18), we are sharing two stories about the education of children who are blind or visually impaired in Italy. Today’s story is from Gabriele Colantonio about his experience with different school systems across several regions of Italy. Tune in tomorrow for part two, “A Closer Look at Italy’s Approach to Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Students of Today.” Gabriele Colantonio Recounts Attending School As a Child with a Visual Impairment Since 1977, the Italian Ministry


Teacher Appreciation Day and Your Child’s Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments and Orientation and Mobility Specialist

National Teacher Appreciation Day 2017 is Tuesday, May 9th; Teacher Appreciation Week is initiated by schools sometime between early and mid-May. While you may have a few ideas generated for your child’s classroom teacher, I wonder if you’ve considered how to celebrate your child’s Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and orientation and mobility (O&M)


Giving Blind and Visually Impaired High Schoolers a Head Start on the College Experience

Editor's Note: Today's blog post is from guest blogger, Tovah Miller, from Perkins School for the Blind. This blog was originally posted on the Learning Ally blog. Giving Blind and Visually Impaired High Schoolers a Head Start on the College Experience By Tovah Miller There’s no place more energizing than a college campus. However, many colleges fall short when it comes to accessibility for students with visual impairment. That’s why college can be challengingphysically, socially, and academicallyfor these young adults. In fact, according to the


FamilyConnect’s Latest Article Series: Delayed Communication Development in Blind and Visually Impaired Children

This past week I enthusiastically attended American Foundation for the Blind’s leadership conference just outside of Washington, DC. Since returning home to Delaware, I have been reflecting on which message or session was the most personally impactful of the event; I choose the words of Linda Hagood, Speech Language Pathologist of Washington State School for the Blind. Ms. Hagood spoke on teaching students who are blind or visually impaired and autistic or are otherwise communicatively delayed. She began by addressing typical approaches to educational programming: symbol systems,


Braille Instruction, Too Often Neglected in Children with Low Vision

We recently discussed the importance of braille on AFB FamilyConnect. Many parents of older children and teens with vision loss, as well as many adults with vision loss, spoke out in agreement that braille is of utmost importance when print-reading is a struggle. So, with this information, why is braille instruction often neglected in children with low vision? Too often the


100th Day of School; Now to Make the Last 80 Count! (For Children with Vision Loss)

Elementary shirts are decorated with 100 gemstones, pompoms, or googly eyes; kinder snack bags are filled with ten groups of ten snacks; the more fearless in the classroom are decked out as to look 100 years old; and you know it, our kiddos are “100 Days Smarter” (say poster boards in classrooms across America). I love that most elementary schools celebrate the 100th day of school. It’s a fun reason to get hands-on with a variety of 100 manipulatives, and it’s a reminder to students, parents, and teachers that we’ve more than crossed the half-way threshold of the school year. We’ve summited the mountain; we’re headed down. Yet, every


Should My Child with Low Vision Be Receiving Vision-Related Services?

It’s the middle of the school year and your child with low vision (who supposedly doesn’t need a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments) is academically struggling. While your child could be any age, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have a grade schooler and you’re seeing the result of standard print size in text books decreasing from approximately 22-point font to <strong


The Expanded Core Curriculum for Students with Multiple Disabilities

Hello, parents and family members of children/teens with multiple disabilities. Ah, and hello to service providers too. Recently we’ve discussed the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC); its subjects and skills, which are designed for students who are blind or visually impaired; creative methods of implementing it in schools; and what you, parents, need to


A Thankful Mom: Nancy's Story of Raising Her Son Who Is Visually Impaired

I recently had coffee with the mom of one of my former students (Jake). You may remember reading about Jake in July when AFB celebrated his graduation from high school and acceptance into college. I know firsthand Jake's success was in large part due to his unique character as a person, but his attributes of determination and optimism are traits his parents modeled for and instilled in him. Having worked with Jake's parents for many years, I thought I knew what their life was like as parents of a child who is visually impaired.


What You Need to Know About the Expanded Core Curriculum for Children Who Are Blind

Hi, familiesteacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) here. As a TVI, my primary role is teaching students who are blind or visually impaired the subjects and skills of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC). This is the main role of TVIs in all educational settings, including residential schools for the blind, resource rooms, or itinerant


The Importance of Braille: World Braille Day 2017

There's just something about braille, isn’t there? By "something" I’m actually not referring to how downright adorable it is to watch a toothless babe patting the pages of a braille book, or how we’re beaming with pride when a six-year-old (whose grin exposes she’s also rather toothless) reads a simple sentence of her braille work. I’m, instead, referring to the tremendous asset braille provides an adult who is blind or visually impaired. Braille is, after all, the code that changed the course of history for our children (our


Using the Expanded Core Curriculum in the School Setting

Editor's note: Today's blog post is from Amanda Bowdoin, M.Ed., a certified teacher of the visually impaired in Texas. She earned her master's degree in visual impairment from Stephen F. Austin State University. Amanda is also a mother of twins, JD and Oliva, who are 11 years old. Her son JD has CHARGE Syndrome and is deaf-blind. Using the Expanded Core Curriculum As a Safety Patrol By Amanda Bowdoin For my son, JD Bowdoin, a fifth grade young boy, it doesn’t matter what level of education he has or doesn’t have. It doesn’t matter what his mode of communication may be. All that matters to JD is


Happy Anniversary to IDEA Part C: Early Intervention! #babyIDEAis30

This week AFB FamilyConnect is joining the Office of Special Education Programs to celebrate 30 years of Public Law 99-547, which established Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Won’t you join us in celebrating 30 years of early intervention services to children ages birth to three? Show your support of early intervention (EI) services by letting the world know how it has affected the life of your


This Fall, Maybe We Should Teach Our Children (With and Without Visual Impairments) It's Okay to Fall

When you read each of these sight words correctly to your teacher, maybe we can go to the donut store, I heard myself say to my seven-year-old. Her eyes grew big, I thought with excitement at the motivation. It took mere seconds to realize they widened out of panic. The pressure was on; she had to remember what c-o-u-l-d spelled, and she could not. What have I done?! I self-talked. I’ve made this about perfection and I’m only rewarding perfection. Why oh why would I do this to my daughter who hates failing? She places heaps of pressure onto herself and here


When You’re Second Guessing a School Placement or Teacher for Your Child with a Visual Impairment

Now that school is in session, my hope is that a smooth routine has begun and the chaos of a new school year is behind us all or nearly there. But what if the chaos shows no signs of relenting? Maybe you’re certain your child who is blind or visually impaired is not receiving adequate services. Perhaps the new school isn’t meeting your communication expectations. Maybe the new-to-you-teacher isn’t ensuring lessons are accessible to your child. If you are questioning whether or not your child is in the most appropriate school placement and/ or whether or not


Advice for September from a College Freshman

It is the start of September which means two things: 1) summer is almost over, and 2) it's officially back-to-school season. It's the time of year when millions of students across the nation are returning to elementary, middle, and high schools. It's also the perfect time of the year for me to introduce you to a former student of mine, Michelle. Michelle graduated from high school in June and is now attending a local community college as a freshman. She knows firsthand what the journey from


Top 4 Resources for Parents Sending Their Blind or Visually Impaired Child to School for the First Time

You’ve shopped all the sales, seen all the signs, and browsed every resource imaginable for sending your child back to school? But what if your child who is blind or visually impaired isn’t going back to school? What if your child is going to school for the very first time? Transitioning into preschool or kindergarten is one of the most difficult phases for parents. To help ease this transition, we have pulled together 4 resources for helping you feel comfortable and confident sending your child to school: Resource 1: Advice from Parents with Blind Children If you are worried about your child’s first day of


The Best School Environment for Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

You have many options. Your state’s school for the blind; a local school for children with multiple disabilities; a classroom for children with disabilities in your neighborhood elementary; a regular classroom and a part-time resource room; a regular classroom in your neighborhood school with an itinerant (traveling) teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI); homeschooling. Yes, the list begins to feel overwhelming. Because which is the ideal school environment for your child? Where will he or she make the greatest strides in academics, blindness-specific skills, and social skills? Where will your child


Corporal Punishment in U.S. Schools: Not Nearly As Uncommon As One Might Think

We are excited to share this blog that brings to us one of the hot topics generated at the Lighthouse Guild Telephone Support group. These groups are a great way to meet other parents by phone and is a free service. To get more information or to join a group, please contact Susan LaVenture at LaVentureS@lighthouseguild.org. Corporal Punishment in Schools By Lilly Jackanin I recently received a call from a mom moving from the state of California to the southern state of Alabama. She had done a tremendous amount of research in many areas, including the Alabama schools, before embarking on this decision. When she arrived,


Back to School Checklist for Parents of a Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

The school year is around the corner and (I’ll be honest), as the momma of two girls who are currently going a little stir crazy at home, I can’t say I’m overly sad. I just may be a tad excited. Perhaps you share in my enthusiasm? Regardless, I think you’ll agree it is time to prepare our children for success in the 2016-2017 school year. I’ve put together a general checklist and I hope you’ll tailor it for your child: If your child has low vision, visit a


Are You Planning to Go to College and Are You Visually Impaired?

Here is information about one of the Lighthouse Guild's telephone support groups. With our back-to-school focus, this support group is particularly relevant as its focus is helping visually impaired high school students with their transition into college. These telesupport groups are an excellent way to share and learn from each other. In September 2016, we will form a free telephone support group for high school juniors and seniors from around the country who are blind or visually impaired and are planning to go to


Expect Your Teen to Dialogue with Teachers Prior to the School Year (and Other Ways to Help Your Child Self-Advocate at School)

Blindness and low vision are low incidence disabilities; the majority of our children’s and teens’ teachers will not know their specific needs and necessary accommodations. Parents are expected to suit up and get on the field; to play an active role in advocating for their children’s educational needs and services. But in time, roles shift. A parent starts in the driver’s seat of the family car and


Wow

What a spring this has been, especially after the winter that wasn’t. Spring to me is always like unwrapping a new package. I just never know what is going to be in it. I feel the same way about learning. Each year is like unwrapping a package. Vinnie is always surprising me. We do the same old things, adding on new things, which build on what we have already learned. We try some new things too. I always find joy in those new accomplishments. We have some changes coming. I never like those. Most of us prefer what we know, that which is comfortable. I like a predictable routine. Vinnie turns 10. Adolescence is coming. He is growing


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

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,


Teaching Financial Literacy to Our Children with Visual Impairments

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: Openly discuss finances with your child. Allow your child to practice earning and managing a small allowance. Involve your child in your family’s saving and spending opportunities. Work with your child’s TVI to address accommodations related to vision loss. To assist you on your journey, utilize the


Meaningful Gift Ideas for Teacher Appreciation Day from Your Child with a Visual Impairment

National Teacher Appreciation Day 2016 is May 3rd; Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2nd-6th. We don’t have long. Are your wheels turning as you consider ideas for thanking your child’s teachers? Mine sure are, albeit slowly. While I’d like to offer my girls’ teachers something: Inspired. Treasured. Imaginative. Beautiful, even. Ultimately, I want to give a gift that is meaningful. I am very pleased with our teachers this year and more than anything, I want to convey that message. I want them to know I recognize how hard they work; I understand they have far more than a “job”, but a


Common Financial Myths to Debunk for Your Older Child or Teen with Vision Loss

April is the official National Financial Literacy Month in the United States. But let’s face it, with income tax finished, we already have money on the mind. What a perfect opportunity to draw our children and teenagers into conversations about earning money and managing finances. Convey your money-management strengths; humbly discuss your challenges; share many of your family’s financial decisions and general goals; and work alongside your child’s TVI to prepare your son or daughter


Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, You Are the Key to Your Child’s Services

Here I am in the lobby of the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in the greater area of Washington, D.C. Day two of the three-day American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Leadership Conference is complete, and I have eagerly listened and learned from many leaders in the field of blindness and visual impairment. You see, you have around 400 courageous advocates in one place, and it is inspiring. I wish you could be here and experience it. You'd see national, state, and local organizations, programs, and agencies unified and represented, as well as Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVIs), Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists


Questions and Answers Regarding Your Child's Low Vision

February is Low Vision Awareness Month, and so we round out this month with questions and answers you may have regarding your child's low vision. Our hope is that you understand what low vision is, how your child will access her environment with minimal vision, and the accommodations she may utilize in school and beyond. Read the following questions and click on the links if you'd like to learn more on the topics. What exactly is low vision?


Ten Invaluable Resources for Parents of Babies and Toddlers Who Are Blind

Those of you who have young children recently diagnosed with blindness or a visual impairment, the intensity of emotions you are feeling is not overlooked. We recognize you’re in a deeply painful waiting room. You don’t know how to envision your child’s future; you wonder what services your child will need and how you will get them; you wait to one day overcome grief and accept all that is. You look to your right and left, and it feels as if nobody else is waiting with you. We at FamilyConnect do not want you to wait alone. We’re here. We’re here


I’m Learning, Too!

In case you haven't noticed by now, let me point out that I am fiercely independent! I am an advocate for family-centered services. I don't like (very mild word) bureaucracies that exist for the good of the agency rather than the client. I'm rather outspoken. And I have to sit with my hands over my mouth when in any kind of meeting where I'm going to say something I shouldn't or that is in anger. I have that conversation in my head, so it won't slip out. Anger, while it might make you feel better, is destructive to what you want to gain. I work really hard to remain positive. It is that Yankee independent streak! My pet peeve


How Will My Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Access A Formal Education?

For those of you who have children recently diagnosed with a visual impairment, I want to give insight into how your child will access her schooling. Thankfully, you will work with a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI). In all likelihood you will hold this teacher very dear to your heart. He or she greatly cares for your child; roots for your child; teaches blindness-specific skills (known as the


How Do the Pieces Fit Together?

I can’t say I’m sitting here in a snow storm, because we’ve only had one. There are only a few inches of snow on the ground. The pond is frozen, but not safe to walk on or go ice fishing. It’s going to snow/rain this weekend. Usually we have 0 and below temps. But, I know the big one is coming! It doesn’t fit in with our regular winter. It changes how we do things. Home schooling changes how we do things too. Schedules, daily routines, teaching materials, and expectations all change. The best parts of these changes are no school meetings, less stress (unless you put it on yourself), choices in what to teach (curriculum, functional,


Is My Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Receiving Adequate Services?

We worry. We wonder if our children are receiving adequate vision-related services, as well as additional special-education or therapeutic services. Many parents haven't traversed this road before; we're uncertain. We worry. Worried one, you are not alone on this road. Many walk beside you and even more have walked before. Let's pool together resources and advice, and heap on the encouragement. We need each other. So first, if you have a specific question or concern regarding the quality or appropriateness of your child's services, reach out. Seek counsel by posting on the


The Code That Changed the Course of History. Happy Birthday, Louis Braille.

The year was 1821. On a day like any other, 12-year-old Louis Braille, blinded from an eye injury in his father’s leather shop and subsequent double-eye infection, attended school outside of Paris. This day, however, he met Captain Charles Barbier. Barbier, a retired artillery officer, showcased his invention to Louis’ class. The invention was called “sonography”; a system of writing and reading in the dark via 12-dot cells produced by methodically piercing paper with a slim knife. The system was bulky and unrefined, but Barbier presented it to the school for the blind as


Inspired by the Holidays: Take an "Autumn Walk" and Encourage Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired to Discover the Sights, the Smells, and the Feel of Fall

I will never forget his question. My transition students and I were on a nature trail walk and it was a particularly rocky section. One teen who was totally blind opted for sighted guide, so I offered him my arm. We all strolled on and chatted; all except this one, typically talkative, teen. "What's on your mind?" I asked. "Ms. Shannon, how many snakes do you see?" he asked with a quivering voice. "What?! None! Why do you ask?" "I know snakes live in the woods. I thought you must see them all over the place." I assured him that snakes prefer to flee from the noise and if I saw one,


Odds and Ends and Homeschool in Braille

The joy of home school is setting your own school time. You also have the flexibility to change the time based on needs and progress. Three to three-and-a-half hours of day in home school translates into a good 5 to 6 hours of public school with arrive times, bells, class change, recess, lunch, and ready to go. That doesn’t even include bus time. The bus picks up the senior next door at 6:45 AM and returns at approximately 3:45. That is one heck of a long day. We use our time doing things like listening to a book and playing outside, getting “GASP” exercise. We also have more time to work on ADLS (activities of daily living skills).


Inspired by the Holidays: Ideas, Tips, and Resources for Families of Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

"Silver bells, silver bells, soon it will be…" I know, right?! I'm equally as staggered. Wasn't it just Thanksgiving, 2014? Didn't we just take down the holiday lights? I guess not; my, how the day-to-day intensity of parenting leaves us wondering where a year went. And so we look ahead to the holiday season. One we can intentionally fill with child-wonder, quality time, memorable traditions, and lastly, significant learning opportunities. So here's the plan, my plan at least: You focus on enjoying your children; notice and appreciate the simple, beautiful


Life Prep or Career Planning for Teens

Parents often ask me what they can do to prepare their children with visual impairments for life and employment. I always encourage them to enroll their children in career education and job preparation courses. As we approach the end of October, which is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I am pleased to share with visitors to the FamilyConnect site great news about a new program that Perkins School for the Blind will launch in January 2016: the Perkins Pre-Employment Program (PEP). The PEP will be offered at Perkins’ Watertown, Massachusetts, campus every other Saturday through May. And, yes, there are snow days built in to the schedule – just in case!


Practical, Research-Based Tips for Preparing Your Teen who is Blind or Visually Impaired for Gainful Employment

As you prepare your visually impaired teenager for independence, remember to stay focused on the big picture by helping your teen discover what it will to take to prepare her for a satisfying adult life. This will almost surely mean your child will need to pursue training in independent living skills, Orientation and


Free Teen Tele-Support Group for High School Seniors

Editor's note: Lighthouse Guild and NAPVI have a number of teleconference programs and we will be posting information for them on this blog. I am excited to announce that the Lighthouse Guild will be offering a free, teleconference support group for blind and visually impaired, college bound high school seniors starting this Fall for the school year. This is the fourth year that we are offering this group. Participants call in for a 60- to 90-minute phone group each week, using a toll-free number. It is a great way to meet other students also dealing with the challenges, trials, and tribulations of preparing to leave home for college, as a visually


Parents, I Present You with “Your Roles” in Readying Your Child who is Blind or Visually Impaired for Future Employment

You know preparation for adult roles begins early. For this reason AFB FamilyConnect provides a “Transition to Independence” section within each age-specific category: Babies and Toddlers, Preschoolers, Grade


October Is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and we plan to give you information throughout the month on employment issues. The path to employment begins at home as well as in school and that destination may now seem far away. The promotion of skills and independence are criticalfactors in this process and begin at an early age. Last year we brought you the series of articles in the Transition to Independence section of each age range including; We start with Babies and


Seeking Family Members for a Focus Group Study on Unified English Braille eLearning Platform

Editor's note: This is the second blog entry that both informs and requests the assistance of families in answering important questions that impact all who use braille. Please help Holly Lawson and Kathryn Botsford with this effort. Unified English Braille (UEB) is almost here... Braille is getting a makeover. In January 2016, students, adult consumers, their teachers, and their families will be starting to learn changes to the braille code with the United State’s adoption of the Unified English Braille (UEB) code. UEB Prep At Portland State University (PSU) we realize that not everyone learns best


Parents Can Now Learn ABCs of UEB

Editor's note; we bring you more resources for the topic of the transition into UEB. By Sheryl Bass, The Hadley School for the Blind An exciting new introductory braille instructional course has just become available through the Family Education Program at The Hadley School for the Blind entitled Introduction to Braille, UEB Edition. The Hadley School for the Blind is the largest provider of distance education for people who are blind and visually impaired worldwide. Beginning in 2016, new braille materials will be produced in Unified English Braille (UEB) throughout the United States. This course provides the tools for those interested in


Visually Impaired Latinos in America: My Thoughts on Hispanic Heritage Month

As Hispanic heritage month approaches, I think it is important to recognize the values and ethnic background and contributions that Latinos make to American society. First, Hispanics or Latinos are a multi-racial group. We are black, white, mestizos, as well as European-descended. So, Latin Americans are multi-racial. In my opinion there are several types of Latinos in America: those who are born here, are brought young, and others that come when they are adults. The message that I would like to convey is that Latinos in America should try to keep their values, background, and identity. Thus, they become part of a multi-cultural


Swimming Up the Mainstream

Editor's Note: With Labor Day behind us, the majority of children are back in school. The new school year always brings challenges as the children adjust to new classrooms and increasing demands. While we all get in our school groove I thought it a good time to share a blog post written by a woman who is blind who shares her perspective and memories of “swimming” in the mainstream. The Muppet character Kermit the frog sings a song entitled "It Ain’t Easy Being Green." Going to public school with a visual impairment can seem like being green when everyone else is white, black, or some shade in between. It can feel like swimming against the


Parents of Teens Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: The Foundation for Your Child’s Transition Goals This School Year

It feels like yesterday you first laid eyes on your precious one. I know. The days were long, but the years flew. Now it’s high school. High school! That means your child’s adulthood is rapidly approaching, and it’s time to prepare him or her for a satisfying life as a grown-up. If a “satisfying life as a grownup” truly is the goal, the important questions to ask your son and yourself in your quest to support him are: What leisure activities would my child enjoy as an adult? How can my child be active in his community? Where would my child want to live? What job would be a good fit for my child?


More Back To School

Back to school is an important day and issue for children and families. We have been posting on the subject but I wanted to take a moment and share a few items posted on various AFB programs. I Hope you have had or will have a smooth transition back into the school year. An adult reminds us of how things once were in Going to School With the Dinosaurs. Everyone should sign up for the free AFB publication AccessWorld Magazine. The July edition featured Back to School! You can signup to receive and


Back to School: Educational Priorities for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

This year my oldest daughter, Madeline, will begin kindergarten. I’m already feeling the pressure and stress of teaching and pre-teaching all academic skills so that she is successful in the classroom. Maybe this stems from uncomfortable situations like hearing other five-year-olds reading, and knowing my child is definitely not there yet. So I choose to stop and settle down those green-eyed, pride-driven thoughts. I rein them in and tell them to “Go!” My child is my child, and her value is completely independent of the ability to read, solve math


Improving “School Confidence” in Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

For many of us, summer break is already but a memory (cue the sad music). As we look to the start of a new school year, we anticipate our children engaging in meaningful friendships and advancing in their academics and the blindness-specific Expanded Core Curriculum. We know there’s tremendous potential growth right around the corner. But in order for our children to actually advance in the classroom and in their Individualized


Parents of Children and Teens with Visual Impairments: “Your Goals” in Orientation and Mobility for the New School Year

While you can't learn orientation and mobility (travel) skills for your child who is blind or visually impaired, you certainly can support your child’s acquisition of skills. In fact, I want to share a variety of ways you can get involved, encourage, and motivate your child toward mobility success this school year. I call these “your goals,” should you accept them: Before the school year begins, formally introduce your daughter to her new


Back to School Tips for Older Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

It is back to school season and thousands of students are returning to elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities. Many visually impaired students have to do special preparation to go back to school. As a graduate student I would like to suggest some tips in preparation for school. Preparation is very important for a student’s success in college but the most importantly in my opinion is your attitude about school. You have come this far in deciding or being enrolled in an institution—now with a little motivation and perseverance you will help yourself in the process of acquiring knowledge and skills that will help


How to Ease the Transition from Summer Break to a New School Year for Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Yes, it’s a substantial transition. One that repositions our children from the familiarity and comfort of home or daycare in the summer, to brand new classrooms, a different mix of student-peers, unfamiliar teachers, and more intense studies. But don’t fear, the transition from summer break to school can be done well with a little preparation and strategy, and perhaps a dash of fun! Ideas for easing the summer-to-school transition: Continually talk with your child about when school will begin, what he can expect at school, and his feelings regarding school. Sufficient sleep will be essential to our


Back to School Tips for Parents of Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Can it be true? Is it really time for back to school? It seems like the summer just started and here we are at the start of another school year. I hope you all were able to use some of the tips on the summertime activity posts we did on our summertime blog party with the website WonderBaby and all the bloggers who shared their posts. We hope to have more parties in the future as a way to share resources and ideas on important topics. In the next several weeks we will post blog entries on


NAPVI National Conference for Families

We have just returned from the National NAPVI conference for families held this past weekend in Chicago. We were so grateful to meet parents and teachers from around not only the country, but the world. (Kudos to the mother, aunt, and baby who traveled all the way from Australia!) The message families gave us is that they need for more information on everything from dealing with bullies, to coping with the frustration and social challenges of being a non-driver. With so many great ideas, we will be working to add to our current collection of articles in both English and Spanish. There were so many speakers and topics that there was something for


Summer Blog Party: Hot Fun In the Summertime for Kids who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

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


In Honor of Father’s Day, A Son’s Thoughts About Parenthood and Blindness

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.


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 adversitywhat 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


My Suggestions for College Success

We are pleased to introduce you to Irwin Ramirez who will be blogging for us this summer. Irwin is completing his Master’s Degree in computer science and is working as an intern for the American Foundation for the Blind’s web department. He will be sharing his experiences and perspective as a young adult who is blind. His areas of interest are accessibility consulting, web design and assistive technology training. He was born in Guatemala and moved to the United States when he is 17. I urge you to follow his blog, ask him questions and post comments. I would like to share my college experience as a visually impaired student. There


Register Now for the International Family Conference!

We are organizing a phenomenal conference program for you and your family. The conference welcomes parents of children of all ages with visual impairments, blindness, and additional disabilities including siblings and extended family and friends. Early registration is now open! The conference location is at The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, close to the conference hotel. The


A Sense of Community

My sister invited me to her granddaughter’s (she’s 2) birthday party. I love to go because there are always lots of kids and it is outdoors. She bought a bouncy house and said I could use it for my boys’ birthday parties if I wanted to. Oh, major downer for me. I thanked her and said, “I guess you don’t understand that because my children are special needs, their social circle of age appropriate friends is smaller. We usually have family parties.” Actually, I’m glad she didn’t understand because she always includes our children in family gatherings. I make sure we have the means to deal with the need for a hasty exit if needed. We home school and our twins, age 8 are both special needs. Vinnie is blind. Brandon has hydrocephalus and a seizure


Translating the Visual

Imagine a World Without Color Try to imagine the world without color. What do you think it would look like? Perhaps you envisioned a world of black and white, given depth by varying shades of grey. Maybe you pictured a world out of a crisp new coloring bookall white with solid black outlines giving shape to people, buildings and trees. Now, how do you think a blind child perceives color? And what about a child who has been blind since birth? Is it even possible for a blind person to comprehend color? And, does teaching about color really even matter? Yes, of course! Why Teach a Blind Child about Color? The moment I found out my daughter Madilyn was blind, which was moments after she was born, I immediately thought of all the


The Disconnect and a New Phrase, "Not Collaborative"

There is such an amazing lack of information or disconnect in the general public regarding vision issues and education. I am always amazed, but I guess I shouldn't be. I find myself educating. Most of the time it is lack of understanding, rather than malice that drives the misunderstanding. It has been a rather interesting beginning to our new homeschool year. For the first time in 3 years (we are beginning our 4th homeschool year with our visually impaired son), we


Being Organized Helps Prepare Parents of Children Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Every fall the circus returns. It can become the major focus of many families for years. The entry parade is exciting, noisy, confusing, long, and a little bit scary. As the circus gets underway each act takes the breath away. The jugglers handle too many things all at once, trying not to drop anything. The crazy fire eaters swallow amazing amounts of strange things, the clowns (who aren’t really funny) are distracting, and the elephants incredibly perch on a tiny surface while balancing on only one foot. And all the while the high wire acts have people suspended frighteningly high above and acrobats swinging through the air desperate to catch hold of support. It is all just a little bit crazy and looks out of control. It is fall and our circus is here again.


Sooo, What About School in Summer?

Summer school or no summer school is a hard question. It is an individual decision. Some areas have local schools for the blind that offer a range of recreation, independent living skills development, social opportunities, and skills building opportunities in a short burst of fun in a camp-like setting. Depending on what your child's IEP says regarding summer school, there is usually a short 6 to 8-week shortened summer school program in a less structured environment. There are local bible schools/camps through churches, YMCA or YWCA day camp, camps for special needs children, etc. I have mentioned some of these options before as opportunities for social interaction for home schooled children.


How to Get Assistive Technology for Your Child

Editorial note: With school back in full force, you may be concerned about how the school year will progress. Assistive technology is an important component of your child's accommodations, but sometimes the expense can be a hurdle. We're delighted to welcome Erin Sheldon as a new guest blogger, sharing her story about working with the schools to get her daughter Maggie an iPad. I do workshops for parents on effective advocacy. I compare a parent asking for an iPad to a teenager asking Mom for an iPhone. If your teen comes to you and says, "Mom, I NEED an iPhone!" We all say, "no, you don't, and here


Mixed Emotions Going Back to School

For families it's that time of yearmixed emotions of sadness that the summer vacation time is over, excitement and anticipation of preparation of the new school year, and the anxiety and stress that parents of children with disabilities often encounter. Will my child have the right accommodations needed to make sure his/her textbooks and materials will be accessible? Will there be a


It's Back-to-School Time Again: Resources for Parents of Blind Children

Across the nation children are returning to school in large numbers. Alabama leads the nation with a start date of August 5th, but others will follow with almost everyone back by the end of the Labor Day Weekend. This is a good time to remind you of the information available to you through the American Foundation for the Blind and its resources such as FamilyConnect. Technology is a vital component of the skills every child who is blind or visually impaired needs to learn. How do you learn what is new, what is working, and what to avoid? AFB's AccessWorld(r) Magazine is a free monthly


Transition to Preschool Is a Big Deal!

Help your child get ready to jump into a new environment! Once upon a time my whole being surrounded the most wonderful little boy in the world. He was magic and could tap out tickly messages on my tummy. We knew every single thing about one another. And we were totally in love. I knew just what he needed and he grew. Much of that changed in a matter of scary, crazy hours. My angel boy was being pushed from his safe and secure haven with me with kicks and panic. We were in "TRANSITION," they said. "Uncomfortable!" Several hours later he was back in my arms, tired and sleepy and peaceful... He


NPR News You Should Know About

Sometimes it seems like it is impossible to keep up in our ever-changing world. Today I have come across two articles on NPR that deal with special education. Both are worth reading. The first involves the very fast-paced world of technology: iPads in Special Ed: What Does the Research Say? Today everywhere you go you see people with iPads. These portable devices are providing amazing opportunities in education and are fast becoming a tool for accessibility, especially for children who are visually impaired, because of built-in features


Socialization: How We Teach Matters as Much as What We Teach!

"If a child cannot learn in the way we teach, we must teach in a way the child can learn." - Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas, UCLA I like planting! I plan what, when, where, and how. I know the who: me. So if my crop fails, it is my fault. Same with my planning school work for the next year. I do it much the way I plan my garden, with a lot of the work done mentally in my head and an awareness of whether conditions are right for what I am planning/planting. Then I peruse my favorite catalogues. I do a lot of mental work before I ever start. I look at what we have done and what do I/we need to do to get to the next level. I am getting to the end of the year. Which means I not only evaluate (not formally, although you could) what we have


The Big Picture: Planning for the Future

Well, it is snowing again, actually snow, sleet, and freezing rain. The prediction for today is 3 to 6 inches and/or 6 to 12 inches and it is going to last into tomorrow. We live in the border region, the foot hills. A few miles makes a big difference. So, today, I have time to brood/think. No church for us. What is in our future? I do mean "our." My twins will soon be 8. I am 61. Will I be in sufficient health to raise our sons to adulthood? Will Vinnie continue to progress as he is now? Will Brandon's retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) get worse or remain stable? All questions we face each day. I tend to push those to the back of my mind and continue on with our daily routine. Do you


Age Is Just a Number

I was recently asked some questions about home schooling by a parent, which got me thinking. The concern was repeating the same curriculum 3 years in a row. As I was writing back, I realized that repeating grades and information is common with kids in public school special education programs. This has been true in our own family. We had a young man, in high school, who kept repeating 4th grade math. When he finally wanted to join the home school group, he had just one request. He didn't want to repeat 4th grade math again. Our answer to him was we would test him and find out where he would be placed in the curriculum, and then he would progress from there. He tested at the 4th grade math level, which is where he started. He never repeated it again. After he


Parents and Family Members are Teachers, Too! Resources From AFB CareerConnect

The fact is, whether your child is being homeschooled or is in public or private education, parents and family members are teachers, too. Teachers in the schools only have so many hours with your child, and the rest of the time they are typically with family. In either case, I have some easy ready-made lessons for you. I am the American Foundation for the Blind's CareerConnect Program Manager. I spend my days working on curriculum, projects, and initiatives specific to the employment of persons who are blind or visually impaired. Of course, I have a strong passion for the transition from school to work. CareerConnect launched a new section about six


Home Schooling a Blind Child: A Day Off

We're pleased to host a second blog post from Susan Harper, who has been home schooling for 22 years. by Susan Harper The joys of home schooling are the flexibility to work schedules around whatever. Today, my son is sick for the third day. He is down on the couch, never a good sign. This bug has gone through our entire household, one person at a time. I had to cancel OT and O&M this week because Vinnie is sick. He is rarely sick because he doesn't bring home whatever is circulating at public school. That too is a benefit of home schooling. However, his older sister started college and brought home this lovely viral thing and it decided to stay. I am using this unexpected


Home Schooling a Blind Child

We are pleased to feature a FamilyConnect community member as a guest blogger today, writing about her experiences choosing to home-school a child who is blind. Susan has been a registered/licensed medical technologist for 35 years. She writes, "I finished my BS degree 15 years later in health education and worked as a social worker in adoption and therapeutic foster care. I earned my MS in Special Education 10 years ago. My husband and I have been foster/adoptive parents for 32 years, adopting 11 of our 14 children and fostering 30+ children. We have been a home school family for approximately 20 years. In my spare time, I'm a notary public and love to do weddings!" <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=5094" alt="Susan Harper and family,


New Telephone Support Group for High School Seniors Planning to Attend College

We are pleased to welcome Daniel M. Callahan, Director of Children's Vision Health, to the FamilyConnect blog today to announce Jewish Guild Healthcare's new telephone support group for high school seniors who are blind or visually impaired. Senior year for any high school student thinking about leaving home for the first time to attend college can be a time of both excitement and apprehension. For a student who is blind or visually impaired it can be a time of anxiety and even fear. Many students with visual impairments have never spent a night away from home in their lives. They've been supported by their parents, their


Six Tips for Teachers Working with Students Who Are Visually Impaired with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Key Principles to Share With Your Child's Teachers The following is an excerpt from the book Autism Spectrum Disorders and Visual Impairment: Meeting Students' Learning Needs, written by Marilyn H. Gense, and D. Jay Gense. We hope


AccessWorld's Annual Back-to-School Issue

Hello, FamilyConnect community. As the Editor-in-Chief of AFB's technology magazine, AccessWorld, I invite you to check out our July 2012 issue which focuses on providing information as students head back to school. It's almost here again. I know the students out there don't want to hear these words, but it's time to get back to school. New classes, new instructors, class projects, oral presentations, tests, meeting new people, and even the possibility of changing schools or moving away to college bring about uncertainty and new challenges. Uncertainty is not necessarily a


Special Education Policy and IEPs Featured on the Radio

With the sound of fireworks we all know that the Fourth of July celebration is here and we are deep in the midst of summer. This is not traditionally a time when our thoughts are on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) but it is also not often that the subject of students with special needs and their IEPs make the news. This week, WNYC radio in New York did a nice piece about parents working through the process to obtain the services their children need. Although it highlights events in one region, the dilemma that families face is universal across the United States. Follow this link to


Recognizing and Overcoming Test Bias Against Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

We are very pleased to welcome Shelley Homsy, a teacher of students who are visually impaired at the New York Institute for Special Education, as a guest blogger on the subject of test biases, and how to tackle them. by Shelley Homsy, TVI The New York Institute for Special Education Students often ask, "Why do they make these questions so hard to understand?" Bias against visually impaired and blind students in testing is a great concern to those involved with their education. These biases can cause extreme anxiety, distractibility, and in many cases, low test scores for our children. Translating visual images into braille is not reliable. We need to be confident that the tests provide a fair and accurate measure of our children's competency


Follow Us:

services icon Browse Archive

Join Our Mission

Help us expand our resources for people with vision loss.