Browse By Topic: Social Life and Recreation

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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

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

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

Adapting a Rubik’s Cube for an Individual Who Is Blind or Deaf-Blind

Editor’s note: Today's post is from guest blogger Kristen Sharpless. Kristen has her bachelors in American Sign Language/English interpreting and is pursuing her master’s degree in Vision Rehab Therapy and a certification in orientation and mobility. She is extremely passionate about working with individuals who are deaf-blind. Kristen shares how to adapt a Rubik’s cube for an individual who is deaf-blind or visually impaired. Adapting a Rubik’s Cube By Kristen Sharpless When I was in elementary school, I checked out my first two books from the library. The first book was titled My First Book of Sign Language, and the second book, unbeknownst to me at the time, would spark a flame that would continue to burn until this very day, 20 plus years

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

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

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?

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

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,

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

A Meaningful and Accessible Halloween for Children with Visual Impairments

Halloween is a favorite day of the year for many childrencandy, costumes, and fall activities, how could it not be?! Your child with a visual impairment can be easily included in all things Halloween and activities leading up to Halloween. Here are a few ideas. Trick-or-Treating If you choose to participate in trick or treating in your neighborhood or to attend a local community Trunk or Treat, your child may want to dress up. When picking out a costume, remember your child's preferences and how some costumes present sensory issues. There are many creative ways to

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

Reinforcing Music Literacy: Lighthouse-SF Blind Music Academy

This past summer, we discussed the unique value that music lessons and music therapy add to your child’s expanded core curriculum (ECC). We highlighted some of the ways that private music lessons, music therapy sessions, and access to music programs in elementary and high schools across the country can enhance social interaction skills, regulate emotions, and fine-tune communication skills. Music contributes to another very important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hands-On Summer Activities for Children with Visual Impairments

Editor's Note: Today's post is from guest blogger Paula Korelitz. Paula, a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI), offers her suggestions for hands-on activities for your child who is visually impaired. Summer’s officially here! This extended vacation time provides an opportunity to add to your child’s general knowledge base and encourage self-confidence and growth. It’s also a great time to start asking your child what he wants to be. Believe it or not, your child’s age doesn’t matter, even toddlers may have a ready answer to that question. So, what can we incorporate this summer that’s hands-on, super fun, meaningful, and promotes knowledge, self-confidence, growth, or career awareness? Let’s take a look. Hands-On Summer Activities for

Dancing Dots and Summer Music Academy

Editor's Note: Today's blog post is from guest blogger Bill McCann. Bill is the founder and president of Dancing Dots Braille Music Technology and director of a summer music academy for young musicians who are blind or visually impaired. Summer Music Academy for Youth with Visual Impairments By Bill McCann Once again this August, I will be heading out to Northern California to lead our fourth annual Summer Music Academy session at the Enchanted Hills Camp near Napa. The session will run for 10 days: a week at Enchanted Hills Camp in the mountains above Napa, California, followed by three days of cultural events, presentations, and our closing performance at the headquarters of the San Francisco Lighthouse, sponsor of the Summer Music Academy.

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

Empowered by Sports: The United States Association of Blind Athletes Offers Life-Changing Recreational Opportunities

Editor’s Note: FamilyConnect aims to help parents recognize the importance of recreational activities for children and teens with visual impairments as well as identify agencies and associations who provide recreational instruction and opportunities for blind and visually impaired children and adults. Families, meet the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA)! Empowered by Sports By Courtney Patterson of the United States Association of Blind Athletes Approximately 70 percent of American youth who are blind or visually impaired do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum due to barriers in education 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

Goalball: An Overview from the United States Association of Blind Athletes

Editor's Note: Today's blog post provides an overview of goalball, a competitive sport for blind athletes, as well as information on finding teams for various ages. This information has been generously shared from the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and was originally published on USABA's site. To watch goalball in action, USABA recommends their informational goalball video. What Is Goalball? Goalball is a Paralympic team sport played by athletes who are blind and visually impaired. The sport was introduced as a medal event at the 1976 Paralympic Games in Toronto. However, it originated in 1946 when Austrian, Hanz Lorrenzen and

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

Helen L. Diller Vacation Home for Blind Children: Summer Camp Option for Children with Visual Impairments

The Helen L. Diller Vacation Home for Blind Children has been spicing up summertime with beach days, sports, and day trip adventures along the Jersey Shore since 1972. Camp Director, Anna Ackley, shares what they have on the horizon for 2017 and the essence of being a part of Diller. Summer 2017 at Diller The Helen L. Diller Vacation Home for Blind Children is getting ready to open its doors to campers for their annual summer camp sessions, and this year’s agenda is jam packed with fun. The camp’s mission is to provide a home-away-from-home where kids can engage in community events, run around in the sun, and establish lasting friendships with

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

Adding a Braille Touch to Special Occasions - An Activity for Mother's Day

Editor's note: Mother’s Day is around the corner! Dads and others, what a perfect opportunity to work alongside your child to create a tactile card for Mom using a braille design. Have fun and don’t forget to make the experience meaningful to your child! Adding a Braille Touch to Special Occasions By Sheila Rousey, VisionAware Peer Advisor It would seem that we celebrate a special occasion or holiday and, then before we know it, we are celebrating yet another one. Some holidays seem to get a bit more attention than others, but a visit to your local retail store’s card

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

If Your Child Enjoys Beeping Easter Egg Hunts, You May Have This Man to Thank

By Amy Lynn Smith Ever since learning that his daughter, Rachel, would be blind, David Hyche has actively sought ways to make sure she can fully participate in all the joys of childhood and life. When Rachel was still a toddler, David was helping his church plan an Easter egg hunt and wanted to find a way for her to join in like other children. “It’s no fun having an adult take your hand and put it on an Easter egg,” he says. “Kids need to find it themselves.” A bit of searching turned up a man in Los Angeles who was making beeping Easter eggs. David ran with the inspiration and started making them himself.

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

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,

Summer Camps for Youth Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: Enrollment Time!

Editor's Note: Today's blog post is from VisionAware peer advisor, Audrey Demmitt. Audrey is a wife, mother of three adult children, and a registered nurse living with retinitis pigmentosa. As an outdoor enthusiast and a counselor at SEE Adventure Camp, Audrey is pleased to share two great summer camps for your child who is blind or visually impaired. Summer Camps for Youth Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: Enrollment Time! By Audrey Demmitt Attending summer camp is sort of a “rite of passage” for many

Happy Valentine's Day: Activities for Your Child or Teen Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Cultivate love for love is the light that gives the eye to see great and noble things. Helen Keller Every day, you are cultivating the love you have for your child who is blind or visually impaired. You spend the necessary time and effort to ensure they are receiving proper care; you advocate on their behalf so they can have access to the services they need to succeed

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

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

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

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

The Best Holiday Crafts

When you have a child who is blind, you don’t always receive homemade gifts from school that were made entirely by your children. It’s difficult for teachers and classroom assistants to let a child have total control over an art project. Therefore, we often receive projects that were done with significant support, which can honestly be disheartening to receive. My favorite art projects that come home are the ones that appear to be done entirely by my son. He has very little interest in crafts, isn’t inclined to spend a lot of time with art supplies, and cannot physically see the end product if it’s 2-dimensional. Therefore, I expect it’s a challenge to engage him in a project for any length of time. <img src="" alt="A

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

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

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

My Child Who Is Visually Impaired Is Bound by No Limits

Editor's note: Today's blog post is from Amanda Bowdoin, M.Ed., a certified teacher of the visually impaired, and mother of JD, her 11-year-old son who has CHARGE Syndrome and is deaf-blind. Bound By No Limits Bound By No Limits, that was the theme for the 18th Annual Sports Extravaganza for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This annual event provides opportunities for students with visual impairments to excel and show off their talents in a variety of activities that will encourage a more active lifestyle by participating in leisure, recreation, and competitive sports. This event by Region 10 and the Lions

Halloween Weekend Activities for Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Happy Halloween from FamilyConnect! Are you looking for some fun, sensory activities for your child with a visual impairment this Halloween? With only a few days left, here are some ideas you and your child can do this weekend. We hope you will give these must-do activities a try and share your experience with us! Trick-or-Treating. Let’s be honest, what kid doesn’t love trick-or-treating? Dressing up and going around the neighborhood with your friends and family is the best part of Halloween. And talk about a great opportunity for your child to show off their

Possibilities Are Endless

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. Imagine being told by your doctor when your child is born that there is no chance of your baby making it, that he is going into renal failure, and needs not one but two heart surgeries followed by more than 25 surgeries over the next 11 years. Imagine after nine months in the hospital bringing

"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

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

Ready, Set, Go!

Three or four years ago I was helping teach a summer camp for children who are blind. My son was the right age for the camp, but developmentally he wasn’t ready. The kids were learning how to take a bus, prepare meals, and even ride tandem bikes. While I was captaining one of these bikes, I felt sad because I didn’t think Eddie would be able to ride a bike like this…even though he’d love it. We had a handicap bike stroller he really enjoyed over the years. We received the stroller when he was four, and now that he was eleven, I wasn’t so sure about the weight limit. It may be able to hold him, but my legs certainly weren’t

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

Dancing Dots and Summer Music Academy, Take 3

I am pleased to post information about a great camp located in Northern California. For many of you it is far away but it is always nice to learn what is happening accross the country. By Bill McCann Next month, I’ll once again be heading out to northern California to lead our third annual Summer Music Academy session at the Enchanted Hills Camp near Napa. This year, we’ve extended the session to run for ten days: a week at Enchanted Hills Camp in the mountains above Napa, California, followed by three days of cultural events, presentations and our closing performance at the new headquarters of the San Francisco Lighthouse, sponsor of the Summer Music Academy. I’m looking forward to spending ten days with a group of young, visually impaired

Top 5 Toys for Children with Visual Impairment

By Kathy Yoo At first, buying gifts for a child with visual impairment can be challenging. Whether it is for your granddaughter, cousin, or niece, there are many fun and accessible gift options for blind or visually impaired children that you may have yet to discover. When choosing a toy for a child who is visually impaired, search beyond the physical appearance of the toy. Since looks aren't the most significant factor for sight challenged kids, focus on toys with multi-sensory appeal. For example, try bright and colorful toys that are loud and have different textures, which would appeal to three out of the

Ladies Who Lunch: Lessons Learned During Mommy-Daughter Time

Since having my second daughter, I have come to realize just how difficult it can be for a blind mother of two toddlers to get around. Cumbersome car seats, a double wide stroller, and a back breaking diaper bag are just some of the baby essentials necessary for even the shortest spring outing. Although I know this awkward travel period is merely a bump in the road on my journey through blind parenting, I don’t want to miss a single opportunity to spend time with my daughters. My eldest is three years old and has recently been requesting some extra cuddles, reading time, and overall mommy attention. I told my husband I wanted to take her out for

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:

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,

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

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: 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

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

Halloween Fun with Pumpkin Spice Playdough

One of the many reasons I am excited it’s Fall is because it’s time to make my favorite recipes! Pumpkin Spice Playdoh smells soo yummy and is a blast of sensory experiences…remember as you are creating it with your child/family, it is the process not the product that’s important. Here are some helpful tips: Have your child experience dry/wet ingredients using descriptive words such as soft flour, warm wet water, gritty salt, slippery for the oil. Smell the pumpkin spice and compare to the smell

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

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

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

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

Swimming Up the Mainstream

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

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

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,

Traveling with a Child Who Is Visually Impaired: It's All About the Journey

Traveling with children is a challenge at any age. So I have to say this isn’t about traveling with a visually impaired child, but traveling with any child. We have a core group of children who are the current family. So, what the heck is she talking about core family? We have a large family of 14 children. 11 of them are adopted. The most living at home at any one time was 9. As they grew up, we added one or two more through birth and adoption. Our children were of various ethnic backgrounds, the oldest adoption was 12, and had a variety of developmental/emotional needs. Nowhere in here did I say “Special,” because each was special and unique

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 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

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

We are kicking off the summer season with a roundup of items to help you make the most of activities, events, and just plain old ideas that can be fun. We are excited to be co-hosting a Summer Blog Party with WonderBaby. Bloggers, please join in by writing about your summer plans and sending us the links. We will share all the posts and links with families. From FamilyConnect you can sign up with FamilyConnect to get alerts as cool

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

A Sense of Community

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

Translating the Visual

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

Happy Accident/Merry Christmas/Happy New Year!

Sometimes the best things that happen are happy unplanned events. We were going to a fundraiser concert that my husband's brass group was playing for. We decided to go to this Christmas Concert because it was afternoon. The next one was evening in a church and I knew by then my crew was not going to sit down and be quiet and listen. Most likely, it won’t make a difference what time of day it is, they won’t sit and be quiet for any length of time. Vinnie hates large crowds and clapping. He does love music. The concert was in a gymnasium full of real Christmas trees and each tree was decorated by a business and they were all lit up. There was

Holiday Readiness

It’s that time of year againtime for bells and lights, songs and get-togethers. This is a wonderfully exciting time for us all...and potentially an overwhelming time for our little people who are blind or visually impaired. Here is a hint that might make a chat with someone very special or a visit from Auntie Harriett a little more fun for your kiddo. Readiness is the key. First, it helps to talk with your child about the upcoming visit or experience so he can get a little prepared. Maybe practice some of the activities that will probably happen ahead of time. If a visit to Santa is in your holiday plans, you might gather a fake beard, a velvet hat or even

FamilyConnect 2014 Holiday Guide Now Available

It is that time of year again that brings both joy and boundless levels of stress. We have put together a Holiday Guide for Parents of Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired that will help you get through the season. Trying to find that perfect gift for your child who is blind? On the Holiday Guide we have collected several articles with tips and specific toy ideas. For that teen or adult you should browse the holiday issue of AFB's

Technology for Children with Visual Impairment

By Felicity Dryer Today we are posting a blog written by Felicity Dryer who is sharing her thoughts on technology. Every parent, particularly those raising a special needs child, wants not just the best, but the very best for their child. With special needs technology advancing at such a rapid pace, the possibility of reaching and applying such progress may very well be possible. What's Out There? Assistive technology (AT) now offers a long list of applications that have

Pumpkin Activities for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired!

We're delighted to have a guest blog post today from Maria Dibernardo. Maria writes, "Hi, my name is Maria. I am the proud mom of my 16-year-old daughter, Jewels, who is totally blind from ROP (retinopathy of prematurity) as she was born at only 23 weeks of gestation. Here are some messy activities that we used to do when she was younger and enjoy sharing them today. Hope you and your family have fun with them, too. Remember they could be adapted to any age group." Carving a Pumpkin Carving a pumpkin is easy and a great sensory activity. Here are the steps: Using two hands, explore the outside of the pumpkin feeling the shape and the

Encourage Your Child’s Independence: Incorporate Orientation and Mobility Skills into Summertime Fun!

Summer is in full swing and soon we'll be celebrating the 4th of July! Most students are finished with school and everyone is busy with projects and summertime fun. This is a great time for children of all ages to practice the orientation and mobility skills and concepts they've learned, but in a fun way. I have written activities that can be done at any time during the year but summer can provide lots of opportunities for these activities. There are appropriate

Embracing the Fear That Comes With Being the Parent of a Child Who Is Blind

Alyssa at her ski lesson I am the mom of 16-year-old twins, Ryan, who is sighted and Alyssa, who is blind. My children are AWESOME!!! I have friends, looking to adopt, and they have asked for notification of any child who is visually impaired, as they would like the opportunity to adopt him/her. This makes perfect sense to me. Having a child who is blind certainly does add a different element to our liveswe have to talk more, touch more, and choose our vocabulary carefully. We have to be fearless, because our fear will inspire the fear of othersteachers, principals, care providers, and

Fishing with Lions

You've heard the saying, "A bad day of fishing, is better than a good day at work." But have you ever gone fishing with Lions? As a kid, my dad always promised to take me fishing. I remember going twice. So you can understand my reluctance to take my blind son Bob fishing. If it was left to me, it’d really be the blind leading the blind. In 2004 when Bob was in the 5th grade, his school teacher had gotten a flyer from the Everett Central Lions Club. They wanted blind people to come participate in their Salmon Fishing Derby. He thought it might be kind of fun, so off we went. The blind person is allowed to bring a sighted guide. Everett Central Lions Club The Everett Central Lions

Have You Ever Been to an Easter Egg Hunt for Children Who Are Blind?

Have you been to an Easter Egg hunt for children who are blind or visually impaired? Have you thought about starting one? These events are a wonderful time for the entire family and are also a good place to practice those mobility skills. Here is information for a recent beeping egg event held in Florida, and a search on Google finds many more spread across the country. If you would like to learn how to set up an event in your community

Free Golf Clinics for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

To reach out to the parents of every blind and or visually impaired child in this country is a dream we have had for many years. The chance to explain to these caring parents that their children can achieve above and beyond their wildest dreams is something that the Middle Atlantic Blind Golf Association has had on their wish list. While we are a golfing organization, our children go far beyond the fairways and greens. We open doors for life using golf as a conduit. In the world of Junior Golf, 2013 has been a

An Out-of-This-World Visit to the Space Shuttle Trainer

Editorial Note: We are pleased to welcome dad Mike Cavanaugh back as a guest blogger. You might remember him from a past post about the role braille has played in his son's life, as well as his own: Touching Letters, Touching Lives. Mike and his son recently visited the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, and with a little patience, parental advocacy, and some adaptations from the museum staff, had a great visit. What have your museum-going experiences been like? Which ones can you recommend? By Michael Cavanaugh I don't know what the Cold War, Korean War, and the start of the Vietnam War were like. And I can only imagine

Camp Abilities Brockport, NY: Part 2

On my first evening, I got the opportunity to go around and visit with the different evening activities, which allows the participants to choose what they do. There was fishing, boating, kayaking, basketball, roller blading, soccer, and exert-games. Yes, exert-games, this is a term used for video games that are based around fitness and movement. That is right, video games that involve exercise and movement. While going around and visiting the different areas, I met a tremendous number of people. I met Mike Fortner, father of thirteen-year-old Jake Fortner. Jake is a youth with retinopathy of prematurity, and he is a participant at the camp. Jake's father is actually volunteering and assisting with the camp. He became involved through being inspired by his son. Jake

Camp Abilities, Brockport, NY: Part 1 of a Series of Posts

Hello, friends. I think it has been a while since I wrote for FamilyConnect. But, I had to take this opportunity to provide you with a few updates from my few days at the 2013 Camp Abilities held at SUNY Brockport. If you don't know about Camp Abilities, it was created and run by Lauren Lieberman. <img src="" alt="cover of Physical Education and Sports for People with Visual Impairments and

Outdoor Play Tips for Toddlers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

From Reach Out and Teach: Helping Your Child Who is Visually Impaired Learn and Grow There is no better time than summertime for toddlers who are blind or visually impaired to begin to learn about the outdoors and playing outside. In this excerpt from the book Reach

A Father's Perspective: Keeping a Blind Child Active and Interested

Editor's note: In honor of Father's Day, we asked Alabama NAPVI rep David Hyche to share his thoughts on parenting a child who is visually impaired. We hope all of you dads are having a wonderful weekend with your children. Happy Father's Day! By David Hyche One of the biggest fears I have had since I learned that my daughter was blind was that she would have to sit in her room and not be able to participate in life. This could not be further from the truth. Now that she is eight she has participated in and enjoys activities on par with or even to a greater level than many sighted children. Much of this can be attributed to her adventurous spirit and outgoing nature. This is great but there are also many times when we have to work

Instructions for Beeping Easter Egg Hunt for Visually Impaired Children

Editorial note: We're delighted to turn the blog over to guest blogger David Hyche, a NAPVI dad and ATF agent, for his tips on hosting a beeping Easter Egg event for children who are blind or visually impaired. Holding a Beeping Easter Egg Event To hold one of these events you will need a large flat grassy area with no holes, large rocks or fire ants. If you are from the northern US or a country that does not have fire ants, count your blessings. I mark off an area appx. 50 meters

Having Fun During Free Time with Our Kids Who Are Visually Impaired

At a recent NAPVI conference, we had a great discussion about ways to keep your child interested and engaged during longer periods of free time like weekends or vacation. I think we've all experienced that moment when everyone starts getting a little stir-crazy. The parents attending the panel discussion had some great ideas about how to remind their children about all of the great options they have, and encourage them to make their own choices. After the conference, I asked two parents to write down their own perspectives on what has worked well for their families, so that we could share them with the FamilyConnect community.

Summertime: A Time to Connect with Families

Hope you and your families are enjoying the summer and are able to keep cool as the country is experiencing unusually extreme hot temperatures. Summertime is always a busy time for the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) State Affiliate and Regional family outings, conferences and parent meetings because the children are out of school and families get to enjoy a more relaxed schedule. This summer NAPVI State Affiliates held family retreats, events, and conferences throughout the United Statesincluding one of our longest established affiliates, Michigan Parents of the Visually Impaired, who held

Inspiring Your Child to Become Involved in Sports and Physical Activities

I have a passion for bringing the world of sports and physical activity into the world of individuals with vision loss. Much of my professional life has been devoted to supporting the inclusion of students with visual impairments and blindness in physical activity and sport. I founded Camp Abilities, a developmental sports camp for children who are visually impaired, blind, or deafblind, in 1996. There are now eight Camp Abilities programs across the nation and in three other countries. Camp Abilities empowers children with visual impairments to become involved in physical activity and sport and teaches future teachers how to teach children with visual

Brian McKeever to Make Olympic History

I was excited to see that a Canadian cross-country skiier named Brian McKeever qualified to compete in this year's Winter Olympics. McKeever, who has Stargardt's Disease and is legally blind, will be the first athlete to compete in a Winter Olympics after competing first at the Paralympics. His 50-kilometer cross-country ski event will take place on February 28. McKeever will also be competing in this year's Paralympics in Vancouver, March 12-21. This ESPN article provides an interesting history

Did I Mention Social Networking?

Social networking, social networking, and more social networking! My name is Joe Strechay and I work for the American Foundation for the Blind as an associate in the AFB CareerConnect(r) Program. I am grateful to have the opportunity to share something that I am passionate about with you through this blog. Encourage your children to network and connect with other kids, students, adults, and professionals who are visually impaired. There are many benefits to children with visual impairments interacting with each other. These can range from promoting the adjustment to blindness, finding

Tips for Travel with a Visually Impaired Child

Road Trip! A driving trip or resort vacation for the whole family can be lots of fun, but how do you maximize the experience for a child with a visual impairment? Below, instructors Sue Melrose and Ginger Irwin, from The Hadley School for the Blind, which offers free distance education courses for family members of a person with a visual impairment, provide their expertise and some ideas to make your family getaway fun for everyone: Share the plan: Keep the whole family involved in the travel planning process. Children and teenagers who know where they're going and what to expect are more willing travelers, especially if they have the opportunity to help pick out fun

Holiday Ideas for Families

It's hard to believe that it is December already and that the traditional holiday season began with Thanksgiving this past weekend in the United States. Hoping your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend sharing time with your loved ones cooking, eating, and some maybe some R & R, or at least being able to have a looser schedule? Around the world many families are beginning to plan and celebrate their family's cultural and religious holidays during the month of December and January to give thanks and to bring in the New Year. The FamilyConnect team has gathered together some great resources and ideas in preparation for the holidays

Sharing the Holidays with Your Child Who Is Visually Impaired

Again it is the time of year that has families gearing up for another holiday season. For those of us with a child who is visually impaired we not only have to think about organizing our families, but also how to include our visually impaired children in a way that will be enjoyable to them. As a mom of one such child, I happen to have a few thoughts on this very topic. Important things to remember over the holidays are keeping with tradition, teaching in the moment, adaptation, and time management. I understand that my four-year-old son who is blind, Eddie, doesn't always love every family activity, but neither does my older child who

Video Description and Summer Movie Fun

Ah summer, beloved by children anxious for the freedom and fun of lazy days and family time! There are indeed many great family activities to do during the summer, and Hollywood is hoping that seeing movies is high on your list. I know the new Harry Potter movie (coming out in July) will be on my family's list. This month I'm using this space to help familiarize you with "video description" (also sometimes called audio description), which is designed to make movies, TV programs and educational media more enjoyable and accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired. And I suspect, more enjoyable for their sighted family members too. This week I'll try to explain video description and focus on movies. After that, I'll turn to the challenge of video description

Space Camp: Where Blind Kids Can Reach for the Stars

Hi! My name is Dan Oates and I currently work at the West Virginia School for the Blind as an Educational Outreach Specialist. I have been in that position for 14 years and for the previous 14 years I was an Orientation and Mobility Instructor. Since 1990 I have had the privilege of working with the staff at the U. S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as a consultant for their programs for special populations. I initially started with the program for the blind and visually impaired called Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCIVIS) and since have assisted with programs for other populations. Most

Practicing Social Skills During the Holiday Season

Hello, and happy holidays to all. My name is Dr. Sharon Sacks. I have worked in the field of education for students with visual impairments for over thirty years as a teacher of students with visual impairments, a university professor in teacher preparation for students with visual impairments and students with multiple disabilities, a school administrator, and a researcher. Because of my own personal experiences as a person with a visual impairment, I am passionate about working with children, their teachers, and families on the acquisition of socially competent behavior. This vital area of the Expanded Core Curriculum is the key to

What Toy to Buy for My Visually Impaired Kid?

Greetings to all. I am very pleased to introduce this month's expert who will write about a subject that I know is important to many families at this time of year. Emily Coleman is the mother of Eddie and is assisting us by sharing her expertise on the subject of play and toys. With the holiday season upon us this topic is on the minds of many families. I invite you to not only read the blog but also to actively participate by adding what has worked for you. I would love to see examples of games that are accessible for children and teens. Ideas for homemade as well as purchased toys would be an excellent addition in these troubled economic

Toys Are Tools to Encourage Your Child's Social Interaction Through Play

Learning to play and finding ways for your child with visual impairments to socialize with his or her sighted peers can be a unique challenge. Finding toys that your child will find interesting is a great step toward teaching your child to play with others. And a great resource for parents to find toys that encourage playtime for kids with visual impairments is a free booklet, Let's Play: A Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs. It's also a great guide for you to give to grandparents, family, and friends to select gifts for your child for birthdays and holidays. You can also find other toy and gift ideas

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