As a parent of a blind or visually impaired child, you are not alone! There are millions of parents who have children with some level of disability.
It is sometimes difficult to focus on what your child can do – rather than what he or she cannot do. Even among professionals, there may be disagreement about how much learning and independence is possible at what age parameters.
Your best role as a parent of a blind or visually impaired child is to:
- Remain open, curious, and positive with your child. He or she will pick up on your attitudes more than you may expect. Although your child may not hit normal developmental milestones because of the difficulty in obtaining feedback or even hand-eye coordination that is so influential in early learning, your child can still learn. This accomplishment will give you great joy in your life if that is the way you perceive it. Of course, you will focus on what your child’s unique needs are but many of them are the same needs that all children have: to love and to be loved, to learn and progress, to share social and personal experiences, to learn to communicate and to be understood.
- Learn as much as you can about your child’s disability. You can find a lot of information on the Internet and through well-respected nonprofit organizations.
- Find state and local programs to help both you and your child. For example, there are support groups for parents of children who are blind or have visual impairments.
- Talk to your family (and professionals if needed) about how you’re feeling. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help with even simple things like going to the grocery store or baby sitting for an hour or two of free time for yourself. Book an appointment with a therapist if needed.
- Stick to a daily routine. Typically a child with disabilities, including blindness or visual impairment, likes to understand the rhythm of the day: getting up and getting dressed, eating breakfast, going to school, coming home, doing homework, a few free hours for play, and getting ready for bed. If the routine is disrupted, for example if your child is sick, explain how not going to school affects their day and yours.
- Take it one day at a time. Each day comes with challenges. Get through the day with as positive attitude as possible and realize that even parents of children who do not have diagnosed disabilities can have a difficult day with their children.
- Take good care of yourself. Just like they say on the pre-flight description, you can’t take care of others until you know that you are in good shape first.
- Learn how to be an effective advocate for your child without becoming over-protective. This can be a difficult balance. Ask other parents how they do this.
- Encourage independence by providing choices. By giving your young child opportunities to make choices (such as what foods to prepare or what clothes to wear), you can also encourage limited risk taking in a supportive environment. As the child matures, the ability to make decisions about larger issues becomes more important. This all helps to develop an independent child.
- Reporting progress. You also will have an important role in the development and implementation and reporting progress on your child’s educational progress. Only through taking on this challenge with a positive attitude, can you help your child meet his or her potential.
- Help your child with problem solving. Whether it is facing the realities of friendships in fluctuation that happens in school to all children to deciding how to approach bullying behavior, you can help your child with responding to the situation. Help your child to define the problem and design a plan to deal with it as well as a Plan B (back up plan).
Please note that the websites and webpages shown below are not all inclusive of all websites containing this type of information. Always consult your child’s health care provider(s) and educators for additional reliable and accurate information.
- US Department of Health and Human Services: (federal website for women’s health) https://www.womenshealth.gov/illnesses-disabilities/parenting/parenting-child-with-disability.html
- Education.com (a consumer education website for parents): http://www.education.com/reference/article/importance-family-involvement/
- Child Action, Inc. (a consumer education website for parents, children, and other caregivers). This webpage on inclusion of children with disabilities has a handout that is useful to parents: http://www.childaction.org/families/publications/docs/guidance/Handout48-Caring_For_Children_With_Special_Needs.pdf