Talking About Visual Impairments With Children
There is an incredible, inquisitive, and empathetic little boy who calls me mommy. Ever since he began to talk I have been transparent with him about my visual impairment and have discussed the parameters of my vision. In the beginning, I would ask him to help me see if the bus was coming or if he could help me find something. As he got older I continued to inform him about my visual limitations and the importance of helping me by locating certain door numbers when looking for a specific address.
Distinguishing blind from legally blind
One evening my son randomly said to me, “Mommy do you know that there are some people who do not see that well and need special books.” I said, “Yes baby I do know.” He then went on to say “Well Mommy you do not see that well, but you do not have special books.” I responded by agreeing, “You’re right. Right now I do not have special books, but at certain times in my life I have used special books.” Trying to make sense of it he asked me, “But Mommy, you are blind right?” I clarified, “Well technically I am legally blind.” Because trying to explain the complexities of the terms “legally blind” to a four-year-old is challenging, he ended the conversation by saying: “But you can see me though.”
Empathetic to my visual impairment
I had so many emotions after this conversation. Initially, my reaction was how brilliant my son is. At the age of four, he was able to relate what he learned in school and apply it to my situation - all while showing empathy. It was the cutest thing! Honestly, I really wish I could have recorded it. The look on his face was priceless and reminded me that it is so important that I continue to be intentional on the language I use when discussing my visual impairment with my son. Currently, I try to use a strength-based approach rooted in gratefulness and encourage my son to practice empathy; this is shown in all of his interactions. It is so important for me to let people, including my son, know how they can assist.
Understanding macular degeneration early
I feel like this way of thinking is contrary to my cultural norm. Traditionally, parents do not share with their children their pain, limitations or struggles. It is thought that children should not have to be burdened with learning about such things. I vividly remember my son’s father calling me and sharing a story that had occurred earlier that day while they were driving in the car. Due to the rain, his father had commented along the lines of not being able to see well. My son’s reaction was to say, “Like how mommy can’t see that well?” He wanted to know why I shared that with our son. I told him that sharing my experience is important for our son. My visual impairment is nothing to be sad about; it simply means that I am a mommy who is a little different. The moral of this article is to share with children early, share with children often; they comprehend more than we think they do… at least that’s the way eye see it.
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