Tips for parenting a child with sight loss without fear and empowering independence
It is normal to want to protect your child from being hurt. But holding a child back because they have sight loss does not empower them. Children and Youth who are blind or partially sighted need new experiences, even more so than their sighted peers, to learn about the world and gain skills in life. They can do anything sighted children do they just need to it differently.
Here are some tips for parents:
1) Seek information. Knowledge is empowering. Learn about your child's eye condition and what they need to learn to be independent. Eye conditions are complex and affect children differently. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Connect with the Child and Family Services Counsellor through Vision Loss Rehabilitation Saskatchewan (a CNIB organization) so they can develop a case plan to foster your child's ability to be independent.
2) Build a support system. Seek out other parents of children with sight loss for advice, community connections and support. Surround yourself with positive sources to rely on. CNIB has a Beyond the Classroom program for parents of children with sight loss that builds a community of support and teaches parents everything they need to know to enable their child to grow into an empowered adult.
3) Conquer your fears about what your child is unable to do. You would be surprised how many activities can be adapted so your child can participate. Look for role models who are blind or partially sighted for your child. Ashley Nemeth is a person who is blind and she snowboards. Watch her YouTube video.
4) Take one day at a time. Fears about your child's future can be immobilizing. Being in the moment is more manageable then the "what ifs" and "what thens" of the future. Have realistic expectations about what your child can do. Sometimes children who are blind or partially sighted take longer to reach milestones because they have to develop other skills that children with sight don't have to.
5) Learn how to build conceptual understanding in your child. Children with sight loss need all aspects of a concept described to them because they can't use their sight to understand. For example; if a child with sight loss is only served mashed potatoes, then they may not understand the different cooked forms potatoes come in, like fries and baked etc. And they may not understand that a potato comes from a plant in the ground.
6) Encourage and foster independence in your child. Children with sight loss need independent travel skills, independent living skills, adaptive technology and need an expanded core curriculum in school to make sure they get all that they need to be independent and excel in their life without sight. CNIB also has a Youth Leadership program that can help your child develop advocacy skills and confidence that they will need for their future.
7) Nourish your child's strengths and interests. Encourage involvement in art programs, physical activities and social programs. They need new experiences to gain a better understanding of the world. CNIB has a Youth Leadership Program, Kids Camps and Family Fun Days where your child can explore new activities to try and gain experiences.
8) Having children complete household chores, teaches them responsibility, gets them involved in family routines and learn skills to take them into adulthood. CNIB has an Independent Living Skills Specialist that can help your child learn how to vacuum and bake without the use of their sight.
9) Take care of yourself. You are the one that helps your child learn about life, so it is important that you are healthy. Take time to yourself. Remember to practice self care rituals that give you the energy you need to parent effectively.
Teresa Aho, Child and Family Services Counsellor, Vision Loss Rehabilitation Saskatchewan, a CNIB Organization, Regina Office