Blog Posts by Shannon Carollo

Understanding and Advocating for the Expanded Core Curriculum

Imagine with me you’re looking into the future of your son (or daughter) who is blind or visually impaired. He’s in his early twenties and nearing the completion of his first year of employment. It isn’t his dream job, but hey, one must start somewhere. He lives downtown in an up-and-coming area, about two blocks from a bus stop, and shares a home with two friends. You had been sweating about his life post-nest, but he’s actually doing quite well. When we look toward the future, it’s easy to see that while math and the rest of the core curriculum are necessities, equally so (and arguably more so) are the areas of the expanded core curriculum, which teach children who are


Equipping Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired with Outdoor Activity Skills

Hearing shrieks of laughter and commotion outside, Jane peeked through the blinds. Ah, the neighborhood kids are playing soccer on the Biggs’ front yard. New to the street, she didn’t yet know the ages of all the children, but they looked to be between five and eight years old, similar in age to her Theo. She wondered, as she had many times before, if Theo would fit in with his peers who had typical vision. If only he could play soccer, this would be the perfect opportunity to foster friendship. As you may already know, Theo and others who are blind or visually impaired can indeed play soccer or other outdoor activities. With thoughtful preparation of accessible equipment and providing instruction in the movements, rules, and nuances of games, outdoor activities can be


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,


Everything You Need for a Memorable, Accessible Easter for a Child with a Visual Impairment

If you take a walk down memory lane to recollect your most treasured Easter celebration as a child, what comes to mind? I think about visiting my grandparent’s home in Tampa, Florida, wearing a new-to-me fancy dress that could twirl just so, searching diligently through the grass for plastic (coin-filled) and previously hand painted hard-boiled eggs, eating grandma’s homecooked ham, and swapping giggles and treats with my siblings and cousins. No doubt the day began and ended with my dad reading the resurrection story. Thirty-some years later and I vividly remember the details. So, how does a family who has a child who is blind or visually impaired adjust these or similar traditions in order to create an accessible, meaningful Easter holidayone which will be


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


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


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


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?


To Use Person-First Language or Intentionally Not Use Person-First Language, That Is the Question

When speaking or writing about a person who is blind or visually impaired, it’s important to use person-first language: ‘the boy who is blind’ is preferred over ‘the blind boy’, I distinctly remember learning in my coursework to prepare to become a teacher of students with visual impairments. Here I am, a decade-and-a-half later, writing for FamilyConnect and making the daily decision, To use person-first-language or intentionally not use it? As you, family members and teachers, talk and write, I know you also wrestle with this question. I


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,


My Child Has a Traumatic Brain Injury—Does He Qualify for Vision Services?

Dear parents, I have heard from many concerned parents of children who have had traumatic brain injuries who are confused as to why the school is or is not recommending an evaluation for vision services. I thought it may be helpful to discuss the concept of brain-related visual impairments and the importance of evaluating children with traumatic brain injuries who have possible vision-related symptoms for vision servicesinstruction in the Expanded Core Curriculum intended to be taught by a teacher of students with visual impairments


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,


Four Activities Fit for Fall—To Include Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Oh, autumnwe’re so happy you’re here! Can’t you just smell the warm mulling spices, taste the cider, see the fiery foliage, hear the crunch of leaves underfoot, and perhaps best of all, feel the crisp air on your cheeks? In my opinion, this season wins at best exhilarating the senses. For this reason, fall is the easiest season to experience and enjoy for children with visual impairments. Let’s not take that for granted; let’s take full advantage! Here are four activities aimed at involving your child who is blind or visually impaired in fall fun: Get outdoors and go for


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


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


New Article: How to Master Cardinal Directions

You intend to teach your child who is blind or visually impaired orientation and mobility concepts, so you’d like to use compass/cardinal directions to state which direction you’re driving or walking. The only problem is, if you’re like most, cardinal directions aren’t exactly on your list of things mastered. The temptation arises to simply let the mobility specialist help your child master this technique in due time. <img


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 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


National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Preparing Your Son or Daughter for Work

Amelia, I ask my six-year-old daughter, What do you want to be when you grow up? An artistthe abstract kindso I can paint what I want, she replies. Her answer is ever-changing, and I am ever-asking. I want her to recognize she has the power to make career decisions, and she can take inventory of her career interests. This exchange between parent and child is typically commonplace. I’m told from adults who are blind or visually impaired, however, it’s not as common of an exchange between parents and their small children with visual impairments, or at least wasn’t when these adults were little. I attribute this to parents of children with visual impairments not yet envisioning their


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


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


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


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


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


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


A Teen Son (with a Visual Impairment) Reflects on the Impact of His Father

Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments, Debra Reames, shares, with permission, her student’s words affirming his father: My name is Adam Prousalis and, like many others, I have Oculocutaneous Albinism. While I have struggled with this visual impairment at times, one figure in my life has helped me overcome it, this, of course, being my father. With love, and a seemingly endless amount of patience, my father has helped me overcome my visual impairment in whatever way he could; he was willing


A Toast to Fathers of Children with Visual Impairments

Here’s to you, Dad. A provider, a protector, a teacher, an encourager. A source of strength, a source of love. Time with you is precious and remembered. You are respected, you are adored. You’re a role model, Dad. Thank you. Thank you for holding and nurturing that precious babe. Thank you for playing, tickling, wrestling, and


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


Making Sports Accessible for Children and Teens Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

If I say, accommodations and modifications for children and teens who are blind or visually impaired, your first thought is likely children accessing education. You’d be right, but that’s not where the necessity for accommodations concludes! We, parents and teachers, are often quite focused on our children grasping the academic curriculum and reaping the full benefit of school. Understandable. Importance of Sports Let us not, however, neglect the importance of children who are blind or visually impaired accessing


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;


Prom Makeup Application for Your Blind or Visually Impaired Daughter

I’ll never forget the excitement of sitting at the Clinique makeup counter the morning of my first formal school dancenot only was my makeup being professionally applied at minimal cost (with the purchase of at least one product), I was eagerly memorizing the application techniques in effort to replicate them at home. This was the day I was finally given permission to wear foundation, blush, and red-tinted lip gloss and not only for the dance but also for use on a daily basis. I was, in my estimation, now a legit teenager. With prom quickly approaching, I wonder if you have considered providing your teen daughter


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


Resources on Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI) in Children

Parents and family members of children with cortical visual impairment, or a brain-based visual processing disorder, you are far from alone. According to the Boston Children’s Hospital, cortical visual impairment (CVI) is the most common cause of permanent vision loss in children. Yet as common as CVI is, its educational implications are often grossly misunderstood. Advocating for Appropriate Services Your story may be like that of Bernadette Jackel who wrote


Including Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired in Easter Traditions

The goal of the day is idea-sharing. Let’s put our heads together and consider how to make the holiday of Easter, its traditions and celebrations, just as meaningful and enjoyable to a child with a visual impairment as it is to a child with full sight. What Is Easter? It helps to begin with a brief summary of the holiday. Similar to our discussion on including a child who is blind or visually impaired in Christmas traditions, we know Easter is a compilation of assorted traditions. Predominantly, many would say, is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s son, three days after His death on


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


Summer Camp: An Experiment in Independence for Children and Teens with Visual Impairments

Learned Helplessness Allow me to be frank. I think the most significant disadvantage, or true handicap, for many with visual impairments is learned helplessness. Ms. Susan Harper describes learned helplessness perfectly in the article, I'm Learning, Too!. Learned helplessness is the result of not having to practice skills in self-care, problem-solving,


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


AFB FamilyConnect Message Boards: Why and How to Use Them

You already know, blindness and visual impairments are low incidence disabilities. Most likely, you, parents and family members of babies, children, and teens with vision loss, are undertaking the parenting journey alongside few other (or no other) parents of children with vision loss. As such, I want to make you aware of one avenue to support and connect with each other: AFB FamilyConnect’s Message Boards. Why They’re Useful You have questions. Perhaps some include:


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


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


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


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


Winter Weather Orientation and Mobility (Oh My!) for Children and Teens with Visual Impairments

Now I don’t know where you live, but I am freezing here in Delaware and most certainly have winter weather on the brain! This morning, in fact, my kiddos and I definitely should have worn hats and gloves to the bus stop, but gloves in particular seem to be ever-missing in this home. One trip to the Target dollar section later, and I am well stocked on woodland animal beanies and cotton gloves. Tomorrow morning we’ll be prepared. Bring it on, winter! Well, actually…go easy. Please, I’m begging you, go easy. In thinking about preparing for winter, it occurred to me that we should discuss cold weather preparations and skills


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


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.


Including Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired in Christmas Traditions

Last year we discussed including your child who is blind or visually impaired in Hanukkah traditions; I learned much as I asked my friend, a rabbi, to explain the holiday traditions to me. Together, the rabbi and I discussed how to make each tradition meaningful and accessible to a child with a visual impairment. Today we turn our attention to Christmas. We will take a look at the holiday and again discuss how we can make the traditions meaningful and accessible. While Hanukkah has a


Toys "R" Us Quiet Hours and Toy Guide for Children with Autism

If your child is blind or visually impaired and has autism or a sensory processing disorder, I wanted to be sure you heard Toys “R” Us’ exciting new venture. The US-based retail giant opened its UK doors last month for “quiet hours” on November 6th. Lights and music were lowered, announcements were eliminated, and “quiet zones” were set up where coloring and quiet activities took place. Toys “R” Us hoped to create a more sensory-friendly environment for a few hours while children could create wish lists, peruse toys, and even rest a few minutes in the quiet zones. Toys “R” Us succeeded. It


Holiday Travel Tips for Families with Visually Impaired Children and Teens

Heading anywhere for the holidays? This year we’re opting to stay home and soak up two weeks of minimal commitments and maximum relaxation. I cannot wait to regroup and unwind. If you, on the other hand, are opting to visit family, sightsee, or vacation, you brave soul, and you aim to experience respite on your adventure…not to mention make the most (educationally) of your experience…read on. I’ve compiled a list of travel suggestions published on AFB and WonderBaby in years past. The only suggestions missing are yours! So, gather a few for yourself, and leave a few for others in the comment


Holiday Gifts for Children and Teens with Visual Impairments

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are quickly approaching, and I for one cannot wait! I’d like to say it’s because I enjoy the snow, holiday decor, and mostly the extra family time and memory making—because I do! But if you can keep a secret, I’m most looking forward to the surprise puppy we’re getting (the long-hoped-for pup that just so happens to be ready before Christmas, so we’ll call her a Christmas present!). Now unless you, like myself, have been desiring a dog for years and are fully prepared for the commitment, I’d not recommend a Christmas dog. What then would I suggest as a present for


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

We at AFB are tremendously thankful for you and your dedication, parents and family members of children with visual impairments. Our entire community wants your child to develop into one who pursues his goals and interests, and who is well engaged with a community of mutually beneficial relationships. We know you, parents and family members, have the greatest impact on your children developing into such an individual. And like always, we want to support you with resources for your journey. I hope you have ample time off from work this week and can enjoy your family to the fullest. Perhaps this week can be filled with


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


Orientation and Mobility Resources for Your Teen Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Orientation and Mobility—it’s a hot topic for parents of teens with visual impairments. And you know what, I’m glad it is! It’s a matter on which we must intentionally focus; it’s a matter where we must raise our expectations; and it’s an area for which we must advocate! I can almost hear your thoughts— that’s a lot of work! Yes, it is a lot of work. We parents are bone-tired and often we’re striving for surviving. I am so right there with you. That’s why I’m coming along beside you as your encourager and urging you to fight the good fight, however tired we feel. [Okay, sometimes, just take the day off. Offer


Early Orientation and Mobility Concepts for Young Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Like a child learns to read and write only after extensive understanding of the building blocks that are letters and sounds, a child will eventually learn to safely and confidently navigate the environment only after extensive understanding of the building blocks of Orientation and Mobility (O&M). As a sighted parent of a child who is blind or visually impaired, you may initially believe you can’t teach the basic elements of O&M because you have little to no knowledge in the use of mobility tools and concepts. Not true! Sure, you will want the


3 Tips to Help Prevent Bullying in Children with Visual Impairments

As a teenager I was bullied quite badly, which of course left me devastated, fearful, and stressed. That painful season did change me and give me eyes to see the lonely and marginalized—so truly, beauty rose from the ashes—however, I would have much rather learned empathy in a less agonizing manner! Now, as a parent and a teacher for students with visual impairments, I am painfully aware that our children can encounter the same ridicule I did years ago, and I recognize the importance of doing what we can to prevent our children from becoming victims of bullying. You see, according to the


"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


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


Paralympics and Our Newly Motivated Children

Parents, I know you are as impressed with the Paralympic athletes as I am! Absolutely remarkable displays of power, speed, strength, agility, resolve, and grit: unequivocal athleticism. I watched them, just as I watched the Olympic athletes, and felt a surge of adrenaline…like I needed to pick up a set of boxing gloves and release my inner athlete. I realize that’s because these individuals are champions, whether or not they have a disability, and champions


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


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


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


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


A Celebration of 26 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and a Call to Action

Twenty-six years ago President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is one of civil protection to Americans with health issues, military combat injuries, and disabilities alike. ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for said persons in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, telecommunication, commercial facilities, and transportation. Now your child should not encounter barriers to enjoying community playgrounds,


Summertime Activities to Advance Orientation and Mobility Skills

School’s out, the sun is beating down [have mercy!!], and most children are spending much more time at home. That’s right—summer’s in full swing, and my hope is that playtime is in full force. We know playing encourages creativity, problem solving, and social skills. Why not use play time as a fun means of advancing in Orientation and Mobility? Let’s put our heads together in effort to create a master list of activities that help our children practice Orientation and Mobility skills. First, browse FamilyConnect’s href="http://www.familyconnect.org/info/browse-by-age/grade-schoolers/parenting-and-family-life-


9 Ways to Unwind This Summer As a Family with a Child Who Is Blind

Understand that I am a teacher for students with visual impairments and an orientation and mobility specialist. So here come the “summer learning assignments”. Let’s get those kiddos prepared for the school year; let’s intensify training now that there’s time; let’s structure this summer just right. Just kidding! I will surely blog ideas for making meaningful learning opportunities out of your summer experiences, but I don’t want our focus to be on “downloading” information onto our little ones and teens. Instead, let’s intentionally let loose and enjoy our children. Here are my 9 suggestions for unwinding this summer:


Dads, You Are Adored; Happy Father's Day

Oh, dads! Do you know how treasured you are? I hope you do, but something tells me you are in the dark. I think about my entire childhood in hopes of capturing my fondest memory, and do you know what it is? None other than my dad reading to me before bedtime. He read the Chronicles of Narnia series and the Mandie collection for sure, but the rest are forgotten. It wasn't the books I valued, but the time with my dad that encapsulated all that was right in the world. Whether through wacky outdoor games (like the shaving cream slide leading to the baby pool as described by David Hyche in


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,


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

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


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


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

Lately I've been talking to my mom every few days. I just love when she calls to check in on me (okay, check in on her granddaughters!). It's soothing to hear her voice; it's comforting to know she cares; and it's helpful to get her advice on…everything! I love my mom. Yet I have a head full of memories reminding me I didn't fully comprehend or express my love for her as a child. I didn’t adequately appreciate the years and years of her drying my tears, mending me back to health, preparing meal after meal after meal, watching my (lack of) softball skills, “managing” my attitude, and scrubbing the floors. I


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


Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day

Officially the fourth Thursday of April (April 28, 2016), "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! Why not ask your employer if your children can observe you in action and participate in your responsibilities on the special day this year? If you are unable, ask a trusted friend or neighbor if your child can participate with him or her. Consider the following to make the experience accessible and meaningful for your child with a visual impairment: Begin the workday with an orientation to


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


Including Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired in Passover Traditions

Remember when we discussed including your child with vision loss in Hanukkah traditions? It was well-received and hopefully helpful. I would like to begin offering suggestions for the inclusion of your child in a variety of holidays and religious celebrations. Be on the lookout this year and next for blogs regarding Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Easter. If you have additional holiday or religious celebration suggestions, please let me know. Today, however, we again


Summer Camp and Your Child with a Visual Impairment

Who remembers having a tremendous summer camp experience? I certainly do. I was ten years old when I tasted freedom for a week alongside my best friend. It was summer church camp and by-golly I had a blast eating candy I purchased at the on- site store, talking for hours with my new friends on the bunk beds, and even unsuccessfully trying out for the talent show. I couldn’t wait for the following summer, and the following, and the following. To this day, those friends hold a special place in my heart. It’s easy to see the benefits of summer camp. The taste of freedom provides a safe place for children to practice mostly independent self-care,


Spring Sports: Why and How to Include Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

I remember well a former student of mine who had low vision and was football obsessed. He enjoyed throwing and catching with his dad, playing on a leisure league, and helping coach young children in football on a weekend community league. This teen was swollen with pride when the football team at his high school asked him to record game scores and assist in coaching. He learned teamwork. He learned how to deal with winning and losing. He learned to submit to a coach's authority. He learned to lead as he assisted in coaching. And you know what else he gained from the hobby? He was physically


A Letter to Parents of Teenagers Who are Newly Blind or Visually Impaired

You say your child is acting different now, angrier and perhaps aggressive. He wasn't like that before. You say your child is shutting others out now, avoiding anxiety by dismissing the diagnosis. You've never seen her like this before. It's grief. The grief feels like a mountain to your teen, impossible to climb. You know because you are grieving too. A diagnosis of a visual impairment is a big deal. Identify your emotions; help your teen identify his or her emotions; don't dismiss them. Let me tell you, however, there is hope. This grief is not the end of the story. I believe your teen's vision loss will not stay a big deal, the center of attention. It will become a part of your beloved teen, one of the many, many parts of your


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


Why Might My Child with Low Vision Need Orientation and Mobility Training?

Imagine yourself, typically a fine traveler, walking up to the ticket counter to purchase one ticket for The Jungle Book. No problem, right? Double checking your ticket, you walk toward theater 10. You open the door and step forward. It's dark. "Oh great," you think, for you cannot navigate well in a dimly lit environment and this time you came alone. You stumble up the stairs; can't quite figure out which rows have empty seats; and half-way through the movie you question if you should risk a bathroom break. Yes, as many of


Adopting a Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

For you who are considering the adoption of a child who is blind or visually impaired into your family, and for those who have recently adopted or begun fostering a child with vision loss, I intend to connect you to our FamilyConnect support system and to resources that answer your pressing questions and that subside your fears. First and foremost, understand that children with vision loss are far more like their sighted siblings and peers than different. With the proficiency of skills and tools, children who are blind or visually impaired can learn in typical


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?


The Love Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired Needs

This is far from a lecture, but an invitation to a discussion. I want to pose a question and I'd appreciate your input. I’ll give you my thoughts; know that I'm coming from the angles of both a teacher of students with visual impairments and a parent. I need your expertise as a parent of a child with a visual impairment (an expertise I do not have.) What expressions of love does your child (who is visually impaired) need from you? As for my input: Loving a child with a visual impairment is no different than loving a child without a visual impairment. After all, the most important components of


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


Why Parents Can Get Excited About the Upcoming AFB Leadership Conference

I haven't been to an American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Leadership Conference before, but this year I'll be there. Come March 3-5, 2016, I'll be in Washington DC to help man the conference registration table, to take notes and blog about pressing topics, and to meet you. Let me tell you that without a doubt I am most excited to meet you. If you can make the conference, please do say hello. Parents, I hope many of you can attend. Check out the conference information here and


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


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 a


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


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


Including Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired in Hanukkah Traditions

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with a family friend, a rabbi. I asked him to explain the holiday of Hanukkah along with its traditions and celebrations. He explained that the holiday of Hanukkah commemorates a time (2,180 years ago) when G-d empowered the ancient Israelites to defeat the powerful Syrian-Greek army. The army, under the leadership of Antiochus Epiphanes, sought to conquer Israel and cruelly deny the Jews their right to worship G-d or practice their faith. Although vastly outnumbered and short of weapons, the brave Israelites miraculously defeated the Syrian-Greek army over a three-year


Experience Gifts for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa

“This Christmas,” my parents told me when I was twelve “we are going on a family trip instead of buying presents. Here’s why: Do you remember what we bought you last year? No? Well, you never forget an experience.” They were right. I never forgot that trip; we drove from our home in Raleigh to a cabin-inspired hotel in the North Carolina mountains for the weekend. It was my first time playing in the snow and it was marvelous. And so began a new tradition where we had a small gift to open on Christmas, but the highlight was the forging of a memory. To my parents, thank you for that


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,


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


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


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


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


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


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?


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


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


Five Summertime Activities That Buy Parents of Preschool Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired a Few Minutes of Free Time

Buying parents a few minutes of rest? Am I a bad mom? No, simply striving for emotional well-being. After all, we parents must prioritize our own emotional health in order to best meet the needs of our children, particularly because our job responsibilities include repeatedly diffusing tantrums and providing around-the-clock care. Not a job for the faint of heart or mind. So how do I buy myself a few minutes of free time without the use of television? Not that I'm completely against TV, it has its purpose, but I prefer guilt-free free time that drives my daughters' learning, creativity,


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


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