You—parents and grandparents of children with visual impairments—have gone to great lengths to set the course for your child’s life and advocate for her needs. You have been in tune with your young person’s needs, preferences, strengths, and limitations and have made decisions, arrangements, and investments to prepare the pathway for your child’s success.

Now that your child is in grade school, an important part of preparing your child for success is teaching your child to recognize her needs and preferences and gradually expecting her to advocate for herself and grow in self-determination.

  • Talk with your child about the accommodations she uses in school and the processes of requesting them. Allow her to observe you requesting services and accessible materials, and invite her to advocate for herself as she matures.
  • Encourage her to actively participate in IEP meetings.
  • Have her prepare a list of accessibility tips for her teachers at the beginning of the school year.
  • Help your child understand how to ask for—and decline—assistance. Utilize APH CareerConnect’s assertiveness training lesson series to gather information on teaching your child to politely, firmly, and honestly express her needs.
  • Help your child develop the motivation to dream and set goals for herself by stepping back and allowing her to meet needs, correct problems, make decisions, succeed, and fail.
  • Coach your child in problem-solving potential or actual issues that arise while attaining what she needs or wants. For example, your child may have a goal to independently purchase a game or toy. Explore the process ahead of time and encourage her to plan for the issues she identifies. She might recognize the need to bring a magnifier, organize her money, and practice the skills needed to ask an employee for assistance if needed. You will have taught her to think about her needs for herself.
  • As advocating for one’s needs requires setting goals, assist her in developing goals across many situations as the needs arise.
  • Teach your child the skills to accomplish her goals as independently as possible. Additionally, give her the skills to assertively communicate to others how she will accomplish a task. This will be invaluable as she pursues paid work.

As you learn and respect your child’s opinions and thoughts and use them as the basis for teaching the development of self-advocacy and self-determination, you will validate her experiences and personhood. You have the power to help develop her confidence and self-awareness, giving her the ability to recognize her realistic strengths and needs. As she practices these behaviors, she learns to problem-solve her way toward independently reaching her goals and meeting her needs.

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