NAPVI National Conference for Families

Chicago skyline at night

We have just returned from the National NAPVI conference for families held this past weekend in Chicago. We were so grateful to meet parents and teachers from around not only the country, but the world. (Kudos to the mother, aunt, and baby who traveled all the way from Australia!) The message families gave us is that they need for more information on everything from dealing with bullies, to coping with the frustration and social challenges of being a non-driver. With so many great ideas, we will be working to add to our current collection of articles in both English and Spanish.

There were so many speakers and topics that there was something for everyone throughout the three days. From the many sessions here are a few highlights that we heard:

The Friday night reception was filled with inspiring speakers including the Chicago Lighthouse Board Chair Dick Schnadig, President emeritus of the Chicago Lighthouse James Kesteloot, and attorney David Lepofsky, along with a panel of young adults who talked about their blindness.

Matt Simpson, of USABA, acknowledged that “Sports is not the end goal, right? The goal is to live a happy, healthy, productive life. But sports can be a means to that goal.” He noted that his track record was one of “occasional success with an underlying theme of many, many failures” and spoke movingly about how his parents “allowed me to run around that track, and run into that hurdle. And that’s the best thing that my parents have done for me, is allowing me to succeed or fail on my own.”

He tried several sports (including the aforementioned track with that unexpected hurdle) before finding the sport of goalball—the only sport specifically created for people who are blind or visually impaired. His dad said, “Well, we’ll figure out what it is,” and they actually started a goalball team, because there wasn’t one in their town. The rest is history.

Kevin O’Connor, ex-president and founding member of NAPVI, shared some of his best IEP tips:

  • Bring food. “Teachers who didn’t even teach our son came to our IEP meetings, for the pizza.”
  • Sit across from your spouse, so you can exchange looks with each other, and also influence the two people sitting on either side of you.
  • Tell your child what they’re doing right, but also tell your child’s doctors and teachers what they’re doing right. If you ask, “Do you want to know what I liked about what you said today?” — nobody will say no to that question.

If you were with us in Chicago please share with us some of the tidbits you learned.