Browse By Topic: Planning for the Future

Empowered to Work with Your Visually Impaired Child’s Medical Professionals

You + your child’s ophthalmologist + the pediatrician + any necessary therapists + medical specialists who manage any chronic or acute problems = your child’s robust medical professional team. You are a key member. Yet, it isn’t uncommon for parents to feel void of expertise and, therefore, to take a passive role or back seat in medical evaluations and interventions. I’m here to remind you that your child and his or her medical personnel need you, whether or not the need is acknowledged, as you are the expert on your child and the voice for your (young or nonverbal) child. The team needs you to remain informed, to advocate for your child’s needs, and oftentimes to educate them about blindness or a visual impairment. Remain Informed If


Fostering Strong, Healthy Bonds Between Siblings When One Child Has a Visual Impairment

Families who have a child who is blind or visually impaired spend much time and energy teaching concepts which would otherwise be learned incidentally, demonstrating self-care and home management skills, addressing accessibility concerns, visiting specialists, attending educational planning meetings, and responding to questions of passersby and family members. Siblings can feel forgotten. Siblings can feel bitter. Siblings can feel jealous. Siblings can feel afraid. Siblings can feel embarrassed. In an effort to address these and other potential feelings of siblings and to share how to encourage healthy relationships between siblings, I have gathered


Autism Awareness Month: Could My Blind Child Have Autism?

We welcome April with open arms, for not only is it one month closer to warmth (finally), but it’s also Autism Awareness Month. Many of you have children who are blind or visually impaired who have been diagnosed with autism, and many others have children who are blind or visually impaired whom you question if have autism. This monthand truthfully, every monthwe celebrate these children. Shared Attributes As you likely already know, children who are born blind or significantly visually impaired often share some attributes with children who have autism. Consider the following: Self-stimulating behavior such as rocking,


Celebrating Passover? Here’s How to Involve Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Recently, FamilyConnect composed an article entitled Making Holidays Meaningful for Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired, which is a compiled list of holidays organized by seasoneach holiday links an article sharing specific strategies and inspiration to ensure a child or teen with a visual impairment can fully participate in the elements of the celebration. One upcoming celebration or commemoration is Passover, which begins Friday, March 30th, and ends on Saturday, April 7th. What Is Passover? Passover is a time to remember the liberation of the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt, as narrated in the


Empowering Your Teen Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired for Adulthood

It won’t be long before your teen is earning his own income and living independentlylet’s actually label it interdependently, as emotionally healthy adults rely on others in one way or another, albeit for friendship, paid help with house cleaning or lawn care, or general advice and support. This, of course, begs the question: how well prepared for adulthood are our teens who are blind or visually impaired? Sure, there are the important transition services at school that increase preparedness, but what more can be in play at home to ensure your teen is equipped for


Meet Families Just Like Yours—Families with Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

As parents of a child who is blind or visually impaired, it’s one thing to utilize FamilyConnect to read about teaching your young blind child to read and write, learning the role of the teacher of students with visual impairments, helping your child manage his or her feelings about having a disability, or


Spring Break Vacation Planning Tips for Families with a Blind or Visually Impaired Child

If I could write a letter to the 2017-2018 school year, I’d probably begin with the profound words of Full House’s Uncle JesseHAVE MERCY! School assignments are intensifying, classroom germs are relentless, and we’re all dog-tired. Yet, erupting from this dry ground is the most splendid and beautiful sightspring break! My hope is you are able to take the fast-approaching week off of work and enjoy every last second of respite with your child(ren). If you’re feeling up for an adventure, perhaps it’s time to plan a vacation! Here you’ll find heaps of vacation planning tips for families who have a child with a visual impairment. As suggested in


Are You Homeschooling Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired? Share Your Experience and Resources

Hi, homeschooling families! I have heard from many a family who has a child who is blind or visually impaired and who is researching homeschooling. And so I come to you, homeschooling families, asking you to share your experiences and advice. We’d love to glean from you and hear what it’s like to homeschool a child who is blind or visually impaired, empowering parents to recognize homeschooling as an option, in addition to traditional school placement options. A Few Questions for Homeschooling Families If you’re willing, please share your experience in the comment section below, and consider answering any or all of the


Equipping Your Teen Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired for College

Leer este artculo en espaol As a first-generation college graduate, I know from experience that there is room for blind students in every college classroom. However, as a first-generation student, I also know that blind students must be prepared for college in order to succeed. You see, there is a substantial difference between college and high school. While in high school, blind and visually impaired students have a teacher of visually impaired students who takes care of obtaining


Blind Young Adult Shares What Led to Her Preparedness for Adulthood

No matter the age of your child who is blind or visually impaired, I know you’re utilizing FamilyConnect because you are committed to preparing your son or daughter for a successful future. It’s why you read our resources such as preparing your child with multiple disabilities for his future, planning for the future as a homeschooling family, and preparing for service changes after high school. In thinking about additional beneficial resources to provide you, I realized the enormous value gained from listening to the wisdom of a young adult who is


For the Love of Cellphones: Are There Any Reasons Teens Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Can Benefit from a Cellphone?

Chances are your child who is blind or visually impaired is already asking for a cellphone. Somehow the tablets and computers are not enough to quench their desire for technology! As a parent, I try to limit my children’s screen time, yet I know technology plays a significant role in the social lives of youth and adults. Each family has to decide if and when the right time is to introduce a cellphone, as there are certainly safety and responsibility issues that must be addressed. It’s wise, however, to consider if and when the benefits of a visually impaired teen owning a personal cellphone outweigh the risks. Reasons for Buying Your Visually Impaired


Letticia Martinez, Paralympian Swimmer Who Is Blind, Shares Her Story to Encourage Parents

Editor's note: AFB FamilyConnect knows sports and physical education have benefits aplenty for children who are blind and visually impaired. In an effort to inspire parents of children with visual impairments to encourage participation in sports, we enthusiastically share Paralympian swimmer, Letticia Martinez’s story. Letticia Martinez Shares Her Story to Encourage Parents Often time people assume


In Early Intervention, We Advocate for Babies and Toddlers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

We’ve all heard the saying comparing children to spongessoaking up all the verbal and nonverbal cues from the world around them. Just as a sponge placed in the vicinity of an expanding puddle will inevitably absorb and store the contents into its many pores, so will a child, exposed to various sensory information, have access and capacity to retain and learn from those many sensory experiences. The sooner that exposure starts, the more room there is for improvement and expansion; the more time there is to learn new material. She’s been playing piano since she could climb up on the bench. He got a soccer ball for


Classroom Parties for Children with Visual Impairments

Editor's note: Valentine's Day is just around the corner and so are the classroom parties at your child's school. To help include your child who is blind or visually impaired, Samantha Kelly shares her tips and advice on creating an accessible school celebration. Classroom Parties for Children with Visual Impairments When your child is in elementary school, there is typically a room parent who is busy organizing classroom parties months in advance. Recently, I received a note from each of my children’s room parents asking for a donation, wondering if I could help at the party, and I was provided with


An Overview of Assessments for School-Age Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Whether your child has been diagnosed with an eye condition or you suspect your child’s poor vision is negatively affecting his education, it is important to request an evaluation for vision-related services from the school’s special education teacher or director. A teacher of students with visual impairments and/ or an orientation and mobility (travel training) instructor should conduct an evaluation


An Overview of Assessments for Children Birth Through Three Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

A warm hello to you, parent or family member of a young child who is blind or visually impaired. My assumption is you are here because your child has recently been diagnosed with an eye condition, or you suspect your child has a visual impairment. You likely wonder if your child is eligible for vision-related services at home and/or at daycare, and if so, what types of assessments will be conducted to determine the type and amount of services which will prepare your child for a successful school experience. Early Intervention Services If your son or daughter is under three years of age and has


BrailleBlaster Question and Answer: Braille Software for Everyone

Editor’s Note: Parents, would you like to create braille at home for your child? Now you can using the American Printing House for the Blind's (APH) BrailleBlaster(tm) software. All you need is access to an embosser or a refreshable braille display, and you can provide materials in braille for your visually impaired child. We've partnered with APH to answer your questions about this new, free software. Read today's post, share your questions and comments, and tune in on Wednesday, January 17th, as we answer your questions about this helpful resource. Home Is Where the Braille


How Does a Visually Impaired Child or Teen Travel in the Cold, Snow, and Ice?

I can hear it nowFrozen’s beloved Anna grasping her stiff, emerald dress and murmuring, cold, cold, cold, cold, cold as she tiptoes through the snow. Then there are the famous Dalmatians trudging through knee-deep snow, Mama, my ears are cold and my nose is cold. Disney does a fine job of depicting the distress of traveling in wintry weather when unprepared. So, how do we elude those scenarios with our children who are blind or visually impaired? How does one prepare for winter weather orientation and mobility?


The Indelible Impact of Louis Braille

When I decided to go back to school to become a teacher of students with visual impairments, I shared my decision with a friend and teacher’s assistant in special education for over 21 years. While her class is not specifically for students with visual impairments, she has always made a point to read the story of Louis Braille to her students and to use it as an example


The Expanded Core Curriculum for Students with Visual Impairments: It Takes a Village

By Francesca Crozier-Fitzgerald with Sean Tikkun, guest blogger When discussing the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) and the multifaceted responsibilities that come along with the territoryproviding the skills and training associated with the curriculumone person comes to mind, the teacher of students with visual impairments. But,


Yes, Blind Children, You May Touch Your Elves on the Shelf: A Letter from Santa Claus

Editor's note: FamilyConnect is hand-delivering a note from Santa, who gives permission to children who are blind or visually impaired to touch their Elf on the Shelf. We hope you utilize this post from Holly Bonner, visually impaired mother of two girls, to make the holidays even more meaningful for your child with a visual impairment. Yes, Blind Children, You May Touch Your Elves on the Shelf By Holly Bonner Elf on the Shelf has quickly become a popular holiday tradition


The Expanded Core Curriculum for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: Start Earlier, Do More

By Francesca Crozier-Fitzgerald with Sean Tikkun, guest blogger The Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) has a very specific purpose. It was created as a strategic method to address the needs of students with visual impairments, ensuring that they receive the necessary specialized instruction and skills to benefit from their general education. To achieve this large task, the ECC has nine components: Compensatory or functional academic skills,


Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices for Visually Impaired Students Navigating the College Admissions Process

Editor’s Note: AFB FamilyConnect is dedicated to supporting parents of youth with visual impairments. We know you have questions regarding your college bound teen’s pathway to a successful university experience. We’re thrilled to hand the floor over to Perkins School for the Blind’s Leah Barrett Demers, who will share information on a free webinar regarding navigating the college admissions process. Admissions Made Easy By Leah Barrett Demers, guest blogger from Perkins School for the Blind The college admissions process can be dauntingfrom selecting the right school and securing strong recommendations to writing the perfect essay, the stakes are high. And if a student happens to be visually impaired, there are additional factors to


A Fun, Festive Holiday Take on the Expanded Core Curriculum

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and with a little intentionality, that can be the truth! This season needn’t be about expensive gifts but about what’s far more important… using the additional time off from work and school to reconnect with family, enjoying each other while creating lifelong memories and traditions. This year we remind you to look at holiday connections, memories, and traditions through the lens of creating enjoyable,


Why Your Blind or Visually Impaired Child Needs to Study Abroad

Editor’s Note: Today's blog post is by Justin Harford, a project coordinator with the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, a project sponsored by the Department of State and administered by Mobility International USA for the purpose of increasing participation of students with disabilities in mainstream international exchange. Having studied and traveled in Latin America using a white cane, a slate and stylus, and a smartphone, Justin knows firsthand about the growth and independence that can come from studying abroad. Why Your Blind or Visually Impaired Child Needs to Study Abroad <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.ashx?ImageID=8710" alt="Earth globe on a background of red rays, blast type fireworks"


First-Generation College Graduate Who Is Blind Encourages Parents of Visually Impaired Children

Leer este artculo en espaol Hello, my name is Ana. I have been blind since birth. The name of the genetic condition that I have is Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). I have the privilege of being the first blind person in my family. I also have the privilege and the honor of being the first person in my family to obtain two college degrees. After reviewing the mission statement of American Foundation for the Blind, I discovered that their goals and mine are similar. I too want to work to leave a world with fewer limits for the generation of blind young men and women who will


Holiday Gift Ideas for Children and Teens with Visual Impairments, a Round-Table Discussion

One of my favorite things about our FamilyConnect community is the opportunity to brainstorm together. While we may not have the chance to get together with a group of local friends who are parents of similar age children with visual impairments, we have the ability to do so right here. While sometimes we convene over IEPs, potty training frustrations and college-readiness skills, today we get to focus on a less stressful,


Giving Blind and Visually Impaired Children the Power to Explore—Using All Their Senses

Editor’s Note: FamilyConnect is dedicated to empowering parents and caregivers of children with visual impairmentswe know you are your child’s first and most significant teachers. We want you to know what's different about the way visually impaired children learn and how to support learning and development from an early age. For this reason, we are thrilled to announce Perkins School for the Blind’s free, live webinar which will provide information on facilitating sensory exploration.


What Do You Want the World to Know About Blindness?

ABCNews recently published Seeing Hope: FDA Panel Considers Gene Therapy for Blindness intending to excite readers with the story of three siblings whose vision, impaired from Leber Congenital Amaurosis, improved remarkably after undergoing gene therapy. The author writes of the outcomes of the majority of individuals who have undergone the same gene therapy as the sibling set, Many are no longer legally blind and gained independence. Gained independencewords that, while well-intentioned and possibly accurate for this


Being Your Visually Impaired Child’s Math Teacher and Motivator

Parents can feel overwhelmed with building their child’s math skills at home. When you have a child who is visually impaired, there are unique challenges, and it may feel like only the professionals know how to teach math to your child. Good news. You do not need to know braille, Nemeth (math code), or the UEB math code, and you do not have to own specialized equipment to assist your child with math. Here are a few tips to help you teach your child foundational math skills,


New Article: Creating a DIY Tactile Map for Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

You want to intentionally teach your child orientation and mobility skills, so you invite your child who is blind or visually impaired on motivating excursions such as practicing a trick-or-treat route or walking to the neighborhood park. To help your child orient to the area and to provide instruction in utilizing a map, you decide to create a tactile map. But let’s face itif, like me, you’re lacking a crafty side, the thought of creating a map that your child who is


FamilyConnect’s Latest Article Series: Orientation and Mobility for Blind and Visually Impaired Babies, Preschoolers, Grade Schoolers, and Teenagers

If your child is blind or visually impaired, your child’s education (from birth through the completion of high school) should include more than the core curriculum. It should include the expanded core curriculum, which provides your child with the skills needed to not only access the core curriculum but also to live a satisfying


In the Hands of the Beholder: Artist Who Is Blind and Deaf Shares Why Not Doing Art Because You're Blind Is No Longer an Excuse

Decades before Carol Saylor started to notice that the colors on her canvas were not as bright, and years before the sounds in the classroom and studio were reduced to a low hum, she chose a lifelong path steeped in creation and expression through the fine arts. She listened to her internal voice; she committed the spectrum of colors etched into her mind to memory. When the gradual deterioration of both her sight and her hearing started, Carol already had what she needed to continue on. She had years of human experience and observation, she had her imagination, and above all else, she had a vision. Carol walked me around her home in Abington describing watercolor landscape paintings of marshlands, flower arrangements, and wilderness that hung on the walls. One of these


In Celebration of White Cane Day 2017: Orientation and Mobility Questions and Answers

Since the passing of its resolution in 1964, each 15th of October we celebrate White Cane Safety Day and Blind Americans Equality Dayas I see it, we are celebrating the independence and abilities of individuals who are blind and visually impaired. We celebrate the fact that people with vision loss can go where they want to go, be who they want to be, and go invest in and enjoy the world. This independence is what the white cane symbolizes. It is also what orientation and mobility (travel) skills enable. <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=7062" alt="collage of children using white


Where to Turn When Your Young Adult or Adult Son/Daughter Receives an Eye Condition Diagnosis

Your young adult or adult child has been diagnosed with an eye condition and is now considered visually impaired or blind. You’re left trying to hold it together as you seek to understand the diagnosis and provide both emotional and physical support, but you can’t remain composed much longer. This is enormously painful and confusing. I’m glad you’re here. A diagnosis of a visual impairment is overwhelming. Identify your emotions; help your son or daughter identify his or her emotions; give yourself and your grown child permission to feel. Grief is healthyheavy and healthy. Do know that this overwhelming loss is not the end of the story. Your son or daughter’s vision loss will one


New Diagnosis? The Most Common Questions Asked by Parents of Children with Visual Impairments

You’re here because your child has recently been diagnosed with an eye condition. You likely weren’t at all prepared for the emotional impact of the diagnosis, you certainly can’t foresee coping with vision loss, and you don’t understand what to do next. You feel consumed with questions; lost at sea. <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.ashx?ImageID=8593" alt="A mother and father holding their small child during an eye examination at the doctor's office; the doctor is looking at the child and holding up three fingers for the baby


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


Attending Conferences for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments

I’d like to initiate a dialogue regarding attending conferences for parents of children who are blind or visually impaired. On behalf of parents who have not attended a conference of the sort, and for my own interest, perhaps former attendees would be willing to answer the following questions: Which conference or conferences did you attend? What were your expectations of the conference? Were your expectations met? What did you gain from the experience? Would you attend again? Whether you have attended a conference presented by the National Association of Parents of


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


Adult with a Visual Impairment Describes Learning to Use the White Cane While Using a Motorized Wheelchair As a Teen

Editor’s Note: Ms. Kim Shepherd shares her experience learning Orientation and Mobility while using her motorized wheelchair in hopes that children and teens with multiple disabilities pursue O&M training. Thank you, Kim! To the FamilyConnect family, I received Orientation and Mobility training in 1977, at age 15, while attending Chico Junior High School in Chico, California, thanks to the brilliance and compassion of Mr. Jerry Early,


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


Finding a Role Model for Your Child with a Visual Impairment This Summer

Hallelujah, it’s summertime! I can almost hear the waves crashing and the seagulls squawking…and my children asking, "What can we do now, Mom?" My response, "Girls, it’s summertime. Play in the yard!" Love those girls, I do. There are, however, a few struggles when it comes to the loads of free time summer provides us. I know you’d agree when I say these struggles are important for children to wrestle with as constant entertainment isn’t helpful in the long run. It’s why FamilyConnect suggests teaching children how to handle free time and creating


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


Volunteering—A Beneficial Endeavor for Children and Teens Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

It’s summertime, which seems like the ideal time to focus on the benefit of children who are blind or visually impaired volunteering in their communities. While volunteering is a work-like experience certainly beneficial to all children and teens, it is particularly profitable for children and teens who are blind or visually impaired. Sighted young people can observe many work concepts as they simply navigate public spaces and workplaces. Children and teens with visual impairments may well


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


Assisting Your Blind or Visually Impaired Teen in Obtaining a Summer Job, Part Two: The Job Search

We previously discussed how early work experiences give teens with visual impairments realistic perspectives of work, shape their positive work habits and work-related skills, and reveal personal strengths as well as shortcomings which can be worked on or worked around. These competencies and aspects of self-awareness become tools in their employment toolboxes, preparing them for the next rung on the career ladder. This begged the question: how can we assist our teens in preparing for and


Assisting Your Blind or Visually Impaired Teen in Obtaining a Summer Job, Part One: Preparation

It’s early work experiences that give our teens with visual impairments realistic perspectives of work, shape their positive work habits and work-related skills, and reveal personal strengths as well as shortcomings which can be worked on or worked around. These competencies and aspects of self-awareness become tools in their employment toolboxes, preparing them for the next rung on the career ladder. So, how can we assist our teens in preparing for and obtaining that very first summer


Money Management Education for Children and Teens with Visual Impairments

When it comes to teaching our children who are blind or visually impaired to manage money wisely, we may desire a ready-made tutorial, perhaps a 10-step program that equips our children with a lifetime of financial literacy and security. I’m here to remind us that teaching our children financial literacy and money management is an enduring process. It involves our children understanding choice-making; wants vs needs;


Structure a Meaningful “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” for a Child or Teen Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

It is my intent to draw our attention to “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day 2017” and devise a plan for making the experience enjoyable, accessible, and tailored to each of our children who are blind or visually impaired. Mark the date, April 27th, 2017, in your calendar and begin making arrangements; this experience is well worth your investment. "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day," is a day of bonding between parents and children as well as a day wrought with job exploration and exposure to job skills! Utilize the Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day Foundation’s


Totally Blind Project Manager at NASA Talks Mentors for Those with Visual Impairments [A Must Read for Parents]

This morning (March 2nd, 2017) marked the beginning of the American Foundation for the Blind’s Leadership Conference in Crystal City, VA. Here I sit on your behalf. My goal is to gather relevant information and resources for parents and family members of children and teens who are blind and visually impaired. My hopes are high, as I’ve only attended the first general session and my fingers have feverishly typed three pages of priceless counsel from blind and visually impaired adults who have significantly advanced in their careers. One of the panelists from this session included Denna Lambert, Project Manager at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, who shared she was born totally blind due to


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,


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


An Introduction to Your Child’s Specific Eye Condition

You are told your child may have a visual impairment; your world halts. You are left with questions and an emotional roller-coaster. You want to know: A description of the possible eye condition How it is diagnosed If there are treatments How it affects one’s eyesight How one functions with this eye condition Resources for families Where to Turn If this describes you, it’s time to visit AFB FamilyConnect to


Preparing Your Blind Teen for a Valentine’s Date (Insert Nail-Biting!)

Fellow parents, let’s take a minute to address our big emotions. We’re grieving the closure of childhood; excited that there may be an upcoming date; worried that they won’t behave maturely; stressed that they won’t respect all of our boundaries; concerned that hearts will be broken; anxious about their safety; not to mention we’re unsure if we’ve taught our teens all of the nuances of dating. Deep breath. Let’s face this head-on. Preparing Your Teen for Dating First, if your teen is interested in dating, that’s exciting! That’s normal, as is your teen not yet wanting to date. Whether your teen was just asked on a


Why Your Teen Needs Career Mentors Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

As you and your teen are likely well aware, blindness is a low incidence disability. Unfortunately, your teen may not know another individual with a visual impairment; alternatively, he may know only a handful of same-age peers with visual impairments from a summer transition program or a large number of young people with visual impairments if he attends a school for the blind. But, does your child know adults with visual impairments? Does he know their


My Child with Multiple Disabilities Shares His Ability at Church

As parents of children with special needs, we often feel the need to miss out on daily outside activities, and over time, we may feel that church-going is not a priority. Some families feel like they're not welcomed at church or that there aren't enough (or any activities) for their child. We have felt the same way over the years. No, that didn't stop us from going, but it does make you wonder, "how are they accommodating for our son?" When we started looking for a new home church, we found what we were looking for at First Baptist Church in Waxahachie. Everyone there has always been welcoming, thoughtful, and willing to pray for our son from the time he was born. We have made new friends and our son JD, who was born deaf-blind with


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


Teaching Our Children with Visual Impairments to Set Goals this New Year

I’m not one to establish an annual “New Year’s resolution”. I realize if I don’t have the motivation to challenge myself or change a habit during the year, I unfortunately won’t mystically attain it come January 1. I don’t like setting myself up for failure! When it comes to setting goals, I’m less motivated by the first of the year and more motivated by both internal rewards (we call this intrinsic motivation) and natural consequences. Internal rewards: It feels satisfying to have a clean bedroom, so I put items and clothes where they belong. Natural consequences: If I eat too much chocolate, I feel sick.


Give the Gift of Equality

Birthday and Christmas always have people wondering what to buy for our son who is blind. Not only does his diagnosis of blindness throw them off, but also his unique characteristics associated with autism. My request this holiday season is that everybody simply give him the gift of equality. Recently, while attending an event for children who are blind, Eddie received this gift. He was asked to play goalball, a sport specific to blindness, and he was asked to play like everybody else. The organizers didn’t look at him and think, “Will he be able to play?” “Will he want to get down on the floor?” “Will he be motivated to engage with his peers?” They didn’t


Celebrating and Creating New Family Traditions Around the Holidays

Families all around the world celebrate the holidays differently depending on their culture and religion, but no matter how they celebrate, most families develop special holiday traditions. When I was growing up, my family had traditions every year that were passed down from generation to generation. We would put up special handmade decorations, such as ornaments and wreaths, and make special desserts and holiday meals. When I started my own family, I enjoyed creating new family traditions that we could pass down to our new generations to come! When you have a child who is blind or visually impaired in your family, this life experience can give you


Preparing Our Children for the Holidays

When we think about the major holidays that occur this time of year, we often focus on the big day itself. We picture opening presents, plan who's coming to visit, and consider our religious events or beliefs. So, when we prepare our children who are blind for the holidays, we can get stuck on "just" the day and not the planning that begins much sooner. For example, when we were preparing our son Eddie for Thanksgiving this year, we only started the day before. As we thought about family arriving and the next day's events, we knew we had to discuss it with him. However, we didn't involve him in the pre-holiday tasks, so it seemed


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. 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


Resources for Adopting or Fostering a Child Who Is Blind

It’s National Adoption Awareness Month, and what a joy it is to support both new and prospective, adoptive and foster parents of children with visual impairments by providing pertinent resources. I will list my top 10 resources with topics such as subsiding your fears, sharing relatable stories, and easing the difficult transition of bringing a new (visually impaired) child into your family, and I hope you will comment with additional resources and/or questions for our community. Intended to diminish your fears, read American Foundation for the Blind’s informative blog post


Defining Our Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

As I’ve shared before, we were given a grim perspective of Eddie’s future when he received the diagnosis of optic nerve hypoplasia. We were abruptly told he was blind, severely handicapped, and then being asked, Do you know what that means? As a young mother in a small doctor’s office, the answer was obviously No. I didn’t know what that meant for him as a baby, or what it would mean for his future. When he entered preschool, while trying to navigate the special education system, I struggled with what his blindness meant. Did it mean he would be in school with the neighborhood kids, or would he be somewhere else? Did it mean that we should just see


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


Transitions, Not So Easy!

Well, it is fall again, my favorite time of year. It's harvest, the weather is good, and finally the temperatures are where I like them. With fall season, begins the school year, another transition. And like fall, not always predictable. Change is inevitable, but not always easy and sometimes decisions have to be made. Evaluation from Perkins School for the Blind I’ve always wanted an evaluation for Vinnie at Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. Perkins is 250 miles from our home and three states


"Trick-or-Treating" As an Orientation and Mobility Lesson- Oh Yeah!

Listen, this is where we get creative. Our kiddos want to trick-or-treat and that’s just what we’ll do. [Insert sneaky little laugh.] However, don’t think we can’t slip in some orientation and mobility throughout the process. Here’s what I have in mind. If trick-or-treating really is a motivator for your child, it’s time to invite your child to learn and practice a trick-or-treat route. If you don’t know the ins-and-outs of teaching a route, don’t


In Honor of White Cane Day 2016: What to Do When Your Child Refuses the Cane!

As the parent, family member, friend, or teacher of a child with a visual impairment, I’ll bet you feel enthusiastic over White Cane Day which we celebrate every October 15th. There’s something special about the cane, that’s for sure. We are proud of the youngster who has a visual impairment. We are excited about the white cane and the independence it represents. We are thankful for the protection the white cane offers. Yes,


National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Why It Matters for Our Children

#InclusionWorks. It’s the theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2016 and it couldn’t be more true. Whether your child or teen is solely blind or visually impaired, or your child has blindness and additional disabilities, as AFB President and CEO Kirk Adams said, For most of us, work is a big part of how we define ourselves and measure our value. For many people with disabilities, it’s also the key to independence. Yes, your child will value work. Aspects of work your child may appreciate include executing a routine, socializing, goal-setting and


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


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,


A Survival Guide for the Holidays When You Have a Child Who Prefers Calm

A math equation we parents of sensitive children know well: A sensitive child + A new environment + A Loud crowd of voices + A Late-night party + A possible itchy Christmas dress or slacks = A recipe for many (not at all merry) meltdowns. I saw it today; bless his heart. The boy in the back of my child’s school “frenzy” (it’s an assembly, but “frenzy” is certainly more accurate) preferred calm, while the majority of children sung holiday songs and screamed with delight. He held his hands over his ears and rocked, wanting a little more peace and a little less party. If you have a


Holiday Reflections

This guest blog post was written by long-time NAPVI Regional Coordinator Jeannette Christie, who works with families in the greater New York City region. Aww, the holidays. They can be joyful and stressful all at the same time. I think back to the time when my son was little and playing with toys. I remember how, of course, at the beginning of my journey in having a visually impaired child I bought no specialized toysjust toys off the shelf of Toys r Us or any toy store we went to. I am glad I didn’t know any better, because now I realize that when he went to school or played at someone’s house there wouldn’t be specialized toys available for him. I guess what I am saying is everyone’s family is different and there is no right or wrong way to


Inspired by the Holidays: Volunteering with Your Older Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Can I tell you my favorite holiday memory from childhood? I was 8 or 10; my parents, siblings, and I bundled up and squeezed into the minivan on our way to “Meals on Wheels”. We collected about 4 single-serving hot meals; slices of roasted turkey, runny mashed potatoes, green beans, and pecan pie enclosed in Styrofoam. We were given directions to 4 homes and off we went. I remember meeting adults my grandparents age who lived alone and who seemed eager to chat with our family. I instantly liked them. We gave each person a meal, accepted friendly hugs, and drove home changed. That began a


Inspired by the Holidays: A Letter from Santa and Literacy Galore for Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Thank you, holiday season, for generating major motivation for our beautiful little people to read and write. When my children come home from school this afternoon I will ask them to write a Christmas wish list. I’ll grin as I watch their uncharacteristic enthusiasm for literacy. My oldest, the perfectionist, will ask for help with spelling. My youngest, the ultra-spirited one, will be content with guessing. I’ll be happy they’re practicing. Let’s think of further ideas for incorporating literacy training this frosty month: This is too cool. If you sign up online


Inspired by the Holidays: Encouraging Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired to Get Curious About Careers

I guess you could say I’m as inspired by the holidays as I am by Emily Coleman’s blog series: "A Holiday Approach to the Expanded Core Curriculum". Take, for instance, Emily’s advice to have your child ask family members about their careers in the blog post, “Career Education for the Holidays”. This is where I want to focus. You probably have a


Inspired by the Holidays: Enlisting the Help of Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired with Your Thanksgiving Meal Preparation

Last year Emily Coleman blogged about living skills instruction over the holidays. I know Thanksgiving week can be an intense week of traveling or hosting relatives, and you may feel held captive by the kitchen, but. But what if this week can also be a time for your child who is blind or visually impaired to improve her cooking skills and shine? What if


Inspired by the Holidays: Imparting the Discipline of Gratitude to Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Last year, Emily Coleman blogged about teaching social skills over the holidays; it’s a must read. And if you read it last year, it’s a must re-read. Inspired by Thanksgiving, I want to address the specific social skill of gratitude. It’s really more than a social skill; it’s a life skill, or more accurately, it’s a “this is the secret to living well” and “this is the secret to healthy relationships” discipline. We, me at the top of the list, can


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


From Intolerable to Indispensable: Learning to Love my White Cane

I have not always loved my white cane. I’m twenty eight now and don’t like to be out of the house without my cane, even if I’m not using it. It gives me a sense of security and independence that I really don’t like to be without. But it was not always that way. Not at all. When I was a little girl, I hated my cane. It was “useless!” “Stupid!” “So annoying!” It was, in my young eyes, the symbol of everything that made me different. My teachers tried to get me to like it. They used every tactic they could think of. They tried forcing me to use it. They tried introducing me to other people who were cane users. They tried suggesting I


Oodles of Resources for Equipping Your Teenager Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired for Successful Employment

Because sometimes you just want to say words like “oodles” to lighten the mood. And the rest of the time you aim to finish laundry, serve a tasty- enough meal, and supply your teenager with information and resources to succeed as a future employee who is blind or visually impaired. While FamilyConnect can’t help you wash and fold, and can’t whip up and serve foodstuff, we will gladly hand you a list of 5 employment resources for you to work through alongside your adolescent. Open the links below and explore with your teen. It will be time and energy well spent; I promise. Encourage your teenager to investigate AFB CareerConnect's


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


Erik Weheinmayer Employment Interview

You might know it is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and I was offered the opportunity to share some information with you. I manage the American Foundation for the Blind's CareerConnect program. AFB CareerConnect is a career exploration, job seeking skills, navigating the employment process, and e-mentoring web program. You might guess that I am quite passionate about employment and the transition from school to work. In my work with AFB CareerConnect, I have been able to connect with fabulous and inspiring individuals who are blind or visually impaired. One of the coolest and one of my personal favorites has been Erik Weihenmayer, world-renowned


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


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


Highlights From the Upcoming NAPVI Family Conference Program

Join Us! July 10-12, 2015 Chicago, Illinois Dear Families, We are just two weeks away from the NAPVI National Family Conference to be held in Chicago. It's not too late to register and join us! Come and meet www.FamilyConnect.org bloggers, authors, and web team for a special networking seminar for FamilyConnect members held on Friday afternoon 2:00-4:00 pm at the Chicago Marriott at Medical District/UIC Hotel. Come and give your feedback for the further development of FamilyConnect and learn how you can be involved! Here are some of the other conference


Finding Fun Things to Do When You Are Visually Impaired

There are a couple of ways to find out fun things to do when you are visually impaired. Find local organizations or groups that organize events or activities. In my example, I found a running club organization called Achilles International. They organize races and events, and they pair volunteers with people with any disabilities to run or walk. There is probably a local organization that would have fun


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


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


Braille for Children's Clothing

I wanted you to know about a parent who has created a solution for helping her child be independent while dressing. Gracie Benedith has created these items and sent me the pictures and descriptions. As a mother of a legally blind child, I saw the struggles that my son had to deal with getting dressed every single morning. My husband and I had to get up earlier to assist him with his clothes while trying to teach him how to get dressed independently. I suddenly had an epiphany to start a clothing line for blind and visually impaired people called Braille Code! Why not have a clothing line that they can call their own? I designed this line with style that would


Louis Braille's Gift of Furthering Independence for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

I am no stranger to the theme of independence. My husband is a member of the United States Air Force. We live on an American military base in Japan. I can't leave my house without being reminded of the independence I have been gifted, for I live alongside those who protect it and sacrifice for it. Oh, how thankful I am! And there's the independence my husband and I daily (okay, hourly!) instill in our preschool children. For example, I often see a dreadfully messy room, and while it would be ten times less of an ordeal if I quickly reorganized it, I choose to call out, "Sweethearts!" (I say


Paving the Way for Independence

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 toddlersisn'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


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.


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


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


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


Celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is Disability Employment Awareness month and it is a time for families to pause and ponder the eventuality of employment for our children. Regardless of additional disabilities all people should have access to employment in their communities. Employment may come after a college degree has been obtained or for others when a


A Trip to Work with Dad for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day

Editorial Note: Today is the 20th annual Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day! Previously, we asked Joe Strechay to reflect on this opportunity for parents, guardians, and mentors to introduce our children who are blind or visually impaired to the world of work. Today we are delighted to welcome CareerConnect(r) mentor Paul Kurtz as a guest blogger. Paul, a computer systems manager and analyst who is blind, took his son to work so he could experience office life for a day. The experience helped his son figure out what he did and didn't want in his own career. How are you talking to your children about what they want to be when


Bring Your Son or Daughter to Work Day: "Suit Up, Head Out, and Get Your Work On!"

Editorial Note: in honor of the upcoming 20th annual Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day on April 25, 2013, we asked Joe Strechay to reflect on this opportunity for parents, guardians, and mentors to introduce our children who are blind or visually impaired to the world of work. Some of my earliest memories involve my father bringing me, my twin brother, and on occasion our older brother to his office on a Saturday okay, it wasn't the official day. I know we had many similar visits to my mother's workplaces over the years. These experiences live in my memory to this day. I am Joe Strechay, a


Summer Is the Perfect Time to Think About Career Goals

What Did You Want to Be as a Kid? I am Joe Strechay and I work at the American Foundation for the Blind in the AFB CareerConnect program. I write about career exploration, employment, and transition for the most part. On occasion I get the opportunity to write about current issues, entertainment, or technology. I think back to the days when I was a child or even teenager. I wanted to work on the business side of professional sports preferably the National Football League. I did come out of my undergraduate degree working in sports-related public relations and marketing. I enjoyed


Are You Aware?

As October draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment to commemorate this month's importance as National Disability Employment Awareness Month and to ask you, as parents, caregivers, teachers, and friends of children who are visually impaired, to get your youngsters thinking about and aware of career options as soon as possible. In 1945, Congress designated the first week of October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped week, which was an effort to educate the public about hiring people with disabilities. In 1962, the word “physically” was dropped from the title to include people with all disabilities. In 1988, Congress made


What is the Expanded Core Curriculum?

Are you familiar with the term "Expanded Core Curriculum" (ECC) or know what it means? It refers to the non-academic subject areas that students who are blind need to learn in order to become independent and successful: Social Interaction Skills Orientation and Mobility Skills Independent Living Skills Recreation and Leisure Skills Assistive Technology Sensory Efficiency Career Education Self-Determination Compensatory Skills The


My Very First Paid Internship

Hi! I hope you are all having a good summer. I am very pleased to introduce this month's expert, who will write about a subject that is important for families: summer jobs and internships. Daniel is sixteen years old, and interned in the AFB web department this summer. With the summer winding down, maybe some of you (or your teenagers) have thoughts on how your child's summer job experience went. We would love to hear your stories, whether as comments below, or as blog entries of your own. If you have an experience to recount, please e-mail us at familyconnect@afb.net or reply below!


Developing Next Year's Individualized Educational Program (IEP)

Spring is a time for both renewal and obligationswith flowers blooming, taxes due, and for many families, the development of next year's Individualized Educational Program (also referred to as an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP) for their child. The IEP meetings can be a time of rising anxiety and many questions. It may be that you have developed a good working relationship with your service providers and attend the meeting with confidence. For some it becomes like a family reunion where you catch up on recent events with the people who have been working with your child through many years and transitions. However, there


Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month

I am delighted to post this message as the majority of my career has found me speaking with families about the importance of focusing on skills that lead to employment. As you and your child travel together through the school system there will be many terms and phrases that may seem foreign to you. Transition plans, expanded core curriculum, and assistive technology are all important terms that need to be understood because they have a direct impact on employment. It is our hope that you may use both the FamilyConnect(tm) and AFB CareerConnect(r) web sites to


Caitlin's Top 10 Rules for Incoming Freshmen

Hello, everyone. When it comes to negotiating a college campus for the first time, who is a better expert than the visually impaired student who has just learned everything the hard way? Many thanks to our visiting blogger, college sophomore Caitlin Hernandez, for this funny and true back-to-school list of survival strategies for blind college students. Hi, all! From my vantage point as a soon-to-be-sophomore (at the original time of this writing, I have just one more week of my freshman year to plow through), I present you with the top ten things I have learned this year at college


What Will Your Child Be When He or She Grows Up?

In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I am pleased to offer up FamilyConnect's second "Ask the Experts" blog post, which focuses on career education. My name is Dr. Karen Wolffe, and I am the director of AFB CareerConnect(r), a free online resource that connects young people to visually impaired mentors, and provides families with videos of blind people on the job,


Planning for the Financial Future of a Child with Multiple Disabilities

If you're worried that your child will not be capable of full employment due to cognitive or other limitations in addition to blindness, you are probably facing a dilemma. Most parents want to provide some kind of financial support for their child after they are gonewhether deceased or disabled themselvessince most government benefit programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, Social Security, etc., are insufficient for providing the quality of life most parents want for their child. So they naturally think about leaving some funds to their child to offset the quality of life deficit that usually exists.


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