Summer Camp: An Experiment in Independence for Children and Teens with Visual Impairments

Learned Helplessness

Allow me to be frank. I think the most significant disadvantage, or true handicap, for many with visual impairments is learned helplessness. Ms. Susan Harper describes learned helplessness perfectly in the article, I’m Learning, Too!.

Learned helplessness is the result of not having to practice skills in self-care, problem-solving, self-advocacy, building friendships, and assistive technology.

Oh, it’s not that those with learned helplessness have inferior parents. Not at all. Parents who are very caring and attentive are too often overly helpful. I find myself guilty as charged. Now couple an overly helpful parent with the fact that children with visual impairments will need extra time to master the aforementioned skills, and we’re often in a hurry; not to mention we really don’t want our children to fail or fall. It takes intentionality to repeatedly say, “Honey, I want you to practice doing this on your own.”

Instilling Independence

We need to think long-term and parent in a way that prepares our children for future success. Do we want to raise children who are confident in their abilities and prepared for life after high school? Of course!

To do this healthily, we want the pendulum of helping and instilling independence to be balanced. Yes, our children can make their own school lunches, but sometimes we make them out of love.

Summer Camp

In addition to ensuring our children are gradually taking over responsibilities, wouldn’t it be beneficial for children with visual impairments to get a few trial-runs of what feels like independence, yet is supervised? Enter summer camp!

Summer camp girl in kayak

Read about its many benefits in the two resources below:

Camps specifically designed for older children and teens with visual impairments provide the added social benefit of getting to know peers with visual impairments and provide a cool place to learn and practice the expanded core curriculum!

Peruse overnight and day summer camps specifically designed for those who are blind or visually impaired here: Summer/Day Camps and After-School Programs: AFB Directory of Services Listings.

You’ll find many of these summer camps are open now for registration!