I am pleased to announce that through the support of the Perkins International Program, the very first national meeting for parents of children with visual impairments was held in Beijing, China, in August 2010. I was honored to be invited by Peng Xiaguang, of the Department of Special Education of the China National Institute for Educational Research, to make a presentation about how our parents’ association in the United States developed.
In my presentation I shared examples of parents’ associations around the world and the tremendous work that has been accomplished by these groups. Parent groups have been significant in developing schools and special programs for blind and deaf-blind children, advocating for national policy and legislation of special education law, creating recreational opportunities for blind children, supporting families of newly diagnosed infants and children, providing parent education and connection to medical and rehabilitative serves, and much, much more.
For the very first time parents of blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind children from 25 of the 30 provinces in China, rural and urban regions, had the opportunity to meet each other and network. You can imagine the excitement in the room, or may have experienced the feeling yourself when attending a NAPVI national or affiliate conference.
At the Inaugural Meeting of China Committee for Parents of Visually Impaired Children the founding committee of parents was elected and the newly founded organization was established. By becoming a member of NAPVI you will have a new connection with parents of visually impaired children throughout China!
Chinese parents are anxious to network with us and to learn more. Some parents speak English and some do not. They are aware of www.FamilyConnect.org so I encourage you to try to reach out to them through the FamilyConnect message board forums.
During my presentation about the purpose and mission of NAPVI, I explained how we work to support and educate parents so they can ensure that their child can receive the special education and access to information and resources to prepare them for the future higher education and or employment.
When I made this comment I did not expect to hear a flood of responses and questions from the audience—the parents shouted, “you mean my child can have a future?” They were very curious about the various occupations and careers that individuals who are blind have in the United States as in China the only occupation expected for a blind person is to be a masseuse.
I explained that yes, in the United States people who are blind and other disabilities are employed in many types of professional careers although we still struggle in our country with the high unemployment rate of 70% of people who are blind. NAPVI has partnered with the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) to address this issue by organizing and hosting parent forums to discuss how to prepare their children for the future and employment options. This year we’ve held parent forums in Texas with the Texas Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (TAPVI) and the NYC-NAPVI affiliate and ACB New York.
NIB and NAPVI are currently making plans for the next parents’ forum that will be held in Seattle, Washington in March in conjunction with the Josephine Taylor Conference of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).
NAPVI’s founding President Lee Robinson said, “Parents must regard themselves as the long lasting resource and the only consistent persons who continually have the child’s interest at heart throughout their child’s lifetime. NAPVI is a means to help them fulfill that function.” Although there will be many special people that will touch your family’s life, your role is the most important in your child’s life. From nurturing your child from birth, to helping to see that your child receives the best education and access to information and resources, to ensuring your child learns the skills to prepare her for the future.
Excerpted from AWARENESS, NAPVI’s award-winning quarterly newsletter.