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 APH CareerConnect® 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 friends with similar life experiences, and just making more friends. The truth is that other children with visual impairments can relate on many levels with each other. They most likely have dealt with similar situations at school, home, and in life. Because blindness is a low-incidence disability, children with vision loss are most often isolated from each other and we must find opportunities for interactions.
I strongly suggest that you and your family attend events where other children or teens with visual impairments will attend. This can be such a great experience for the entire family because it allows a visually impaired child to be in the majority, which is rare experience for them. Events could be hosted by statewide organizations of people who are visually impaired (NFB, ACB), parent organizations (NAPVI, POBC), or an event from your state’s blind services program. Some schools for the blind offer camps or events that are open to students from outside of the school. The FamilyConnect website maintains both a directory of agencies who are active in your state and a calendar of events where you will find a variety of activities listed.
Getting involved in Paralympics sports is a great opportunity for students to network with other athletes who are visually impaired. The United States Association of Blind Athletes has representatives in most states, and they would be a great organization to contact. Most states have athletes who participate in Paralympics sports. These organizations sometimes provide clinics and expos on these sports. There are beginners skiing clinics—and more—available nationally.
The American Foundation for the Blind offers a number of message boards aimed at people who are blind or visually impaired. One of these message boards is called TeenConnect. TeenConnect was developed so teenagers could interact with each other regardless of where they live. Teens have the freedom to discuss most issues and there are a number of regular users ranging in age from 12 to 22 years old. The teens share advice on issues that they are currently experiencing including technology, career, school, college preparation, hobbies, blindness, and more.
The TeenConnect message board is monitored daily by AFB Staff to make sure the content and language are appropriate, but teenagers will be teenagers and some things slip through the cracks. We strive to provide the users with a quality experience and freedom of self-expression.
I want to make sure I mention that it is important for children with vision loss to be active in their community. Encourage your children to participate in organizations such as the Future Business Leaders of America, Distributive Education Cooperative of America, Key Club, student government, debating, model congress, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, sports, and more. There are scholastic sports that all students can participate in with a few accommodations.
Some social networking opportunities and resources to check out:
- The AFB Press book, Teaching Social Skills to Students with Visual Impairments, edited by Karen Wolffe and Sharon Sacks, would be a great resource for parents, families, and teachers who are hoping to help promote and teach appropriate social skills to their children. This book offers methods based on theories that have proven effective.
- APH CareerConnect, where users can send messages to mentors who are employed in many fields. The safe message system will allow users to explore careers, interests, accommodations, and more. APH CareerConnect offers many other resources and teen-appropriate material. Check out Aaron’s Adventures in Employment and experience some entertaining educational multimedia materials.
- NAPVI, the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments is a national parents and families group with chapters around the country.
- NFB, National Federation of the Blind, is a consumer group.
- ACB, American Council of the Blind, is a consumer group.
- AFB, American Foundation for the Blind, is a national organization that offers many resources including web, publications, technology evaluations, professional development, career exploration, educational resources, content for parents/families and more.
- USABA, United States Association of Blind Athletes, is a membership organization that promotes sports for persons who are blind or visually impaired.
- Camp Abilities is a program that helps develop and conduct sports camps for individuals who are blind throughout the country.
- FBLA, Future Business Leaders of American, is an organization that allows students to learn business skills and participate in competitions.
- DECA, Distributive Education Cooperative of America, is a student organization that allows students to learn and compete in marketing-related events.
- Key Club is a service-related student organization that offers opportunities for students to give back to their school and community.
- Boy Scouts of America is an organization that allows males to learn skills, leadership, and participate in activities.
- Girl Scouts of America is an organization that allows female youths build skills, leadership, and participate in activities.
I challenge you all to get your children out and involved in social networking online and in person! Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and let me know your thoughts.