How to Help a Visually Impaired Child Explore the World
It doesn’t matter what the age of your child is when you find out that he or she is visually impaired. This is a very traumatic and shocking situation for all parents. You love your child so much and see that the world will not be such an easy place for a child with a sight disability. This kind of news affects the entire family. You are going to feel a huge range of emotions, including confusion and remember you are not alone. Most parents of visually impaired children can remember the first day their child had a problem seeing. Other parents find out when the child is older than their child can only see black and white out of one eye and nothing out of the other. You might wonder why your child didn’t tell you this before. The reason is that is the way they thought everything was because they were using only one eye and your children didn’t realize the world was in color. It’s important to have your child’s eyes checked young. Some parents find out during a pre-screening for kindergarten that their child has an eye problem with sight. This is very painful for you as a parent but remember there are places for you to turn to. There are many places that offer support and dwell on the strength you gain. Parents can also connect with other parents on “Family Connect” through blogs, message boards, and more.
Building Healthy Families with a Visually Impaired Child
Parents have a multitude of feelings that affect them deeply when it comes to their visually impaired child. Try to be supportive of each other, focus on the love the family shares. This can make things easier for both of you to cope with these strange feelings that have overtaken you. These conflicting feelings can interfere with parents’ ability to think and act constructively. Remember to set aside time regularly for yourself and as a couple. You should continue to do the same things you enjoy together and alone. You might have to alter your schedule but life is always changing and many don’t respond well to change, especially when the news is traumatic. Give yourselves some time, weeks, months and longer if need be to adjust to any new situation and also learn how to cope with these circumstances and feelings. Life is always an ongoing process, you both are in a big transition now. It’s very helpful to keep remembering this. Remember that you are not alone and try and connect with other families that share your situation by taking part in conferences or workshops for parents with visually impaired children. The National Associations of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) alliance is a great start if you choose to participate in their telesupport group.
If you are having problems with being overwhelmed with anxiety about the future, you may need to seek counseling or another form of support.
Grief and other Feelings
Parents should understand that the whole family will feel grief when a child is first diagnosed with a visual impairment. They are grieving the fact that they don’t have a normal child, brother, and sister, niece or nephew, granddaughter or grandson. At times, you might see anger, depression, resentment, jealousy, or denial about baby’s impairment. These feelings are normal and after all, you probably are going through similar if not the same feelings yourself. Consider seeking professional help if your other children show signs of social withdrawing.
Don’t expect your other children to take over the care of your visually impaired child. You can involve them in the care of the child but remember all your children need a fair share of your time. Try scheduling different activities with your other children every few weeks and let them make the choice. Keep your other children up to date on what’s happening with medical appointments and advice including care. Don’t burden them with all the details, but share as much information as possible if your children are age appropriate. You don’t want your other children to be taken by surprise if suddenly, the baby is having surgery. You don’t want to impose any worries on the rest of the family. There are early intervention programs for your visually impaired child, and explain this to your other children in case someone comes over with cool toys and they are just meant for a baby. This way your children won’t be surprised when these people from different programs arrive at your home.
If your older children feel they are the only one in the world with a visually impaired sibling, the parent’s in these special groups and programs most likely have children as well that your child can relate to.
The relationship with grandparents and your visually impaired child might seem awkward at first, but grandparents will probably and most likely have a grieving period as well. Unlike their other grandchildren, this isn’t the typical grandchild for them but remember they need your help and love to understand the importance of treating this grandchild the same as the rest of them. Remind them that this child needs the same love and support as their other grandchildren. If your family is very active and do many outdoor activities together, don’t alter the program because you have a visually impaired child. Try to help everyone include this child in all the activities you all have enjoyed in the past. This is why it is important to establish with an Early Intervention Program to help you and your spouse teach the rest of the family to love and include your special visually impaired child.
There are multiple services for visually impaired children. The American Foundation for the Blind is a good place to start connecting with families, message boards, other services like Goodwill Services for the Blind. Remember your visually impaired child is going to use their other senses to guide them through life. They can hear, touch and feel the world around them. They can still listen so you can still read some books that are specially written for blind children. They will learn to read using Braille and can also learn to use a computer with Braille as well. There are cell phones designed for the blind as well and service dogs that are always welcomed in all places. Although your child is different, the world is geared for the visually impaired as much as it is for everyday people. Love and understanding and bonding with your family is the main ingredient in raising a visually impaired child!