Emily and Eddie at TSBVI!

Teenage boy smiling

Many parents of children who are blind end up becoming teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs) or orientation and mobility specialists. As our children grow, we acquire greater insight into the complexity of their needs, and become intrigued by the work of their experts. I became a TVI when Eddie was six years old and it was the best decision I ever made.

An initial challenge for me was that living in a small town and becoming a TVI meant becoming Eddie’s TVI. Even if I felt I could switch between “mom” and “teacher,” I think others really just perceived me as “mom.” This changed the way conversations were framed and altered my role on his team. Eddie needed a TVI and “Mom” at his IEP meetings and I couldn’t simultaneously be both. After one year, I was lucky to have a co-worker willing to travel a great distance so I could just be Mom.

As my career carried forward, there was a time when I supervised the itinerant TVI serving Eddie and that also brought challenges. For example, I gave them great latitude in programming and trusted their professional opinion. This helped with district relations, but wasn’t very supportive for the provider. Also, I always had to keep in mind caseloads and equitable services across a region when advocating for what Eddie needed. Maybe this was only a perception I maintained, but I also felt passionate about the other kids who needed TVI time. This obviously influenced my ability to advocate for Eddie without apology.

Now I find myself in the most interesting situation of all. I recently became the Superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). Recently, Eddie became a TSBVI student. My husband and I previously discussed the challenging role Eddie and I both have navigating this campus together, without adversely affecting each other’s days. I don’t think Eddie has conceptualized that only a hallway separates us, but I know he will.

I look forward to helping him learn that when he sees Mom between classes, it doesn’t mean it’s time to go home. I hope he learns how to navigate to my office and makes a choice to check up on me, even if briefly. I also hope that he finds in TSBVI a culture of caring and respect that will empower him to strive to greater heights, as I have already found for myself.

I’m unsure what the exact challenges will be moving forward as Eddie and I co-exist at TSBVI, but I know we will face them together. Sometimes the juxtaposition of Mom/Superintendent is the elephant in the room, but I’ve been impressed with how our team is taking it on. When we’re meeting about Eddie, I feel as if I’m only Mom. They will be continually reminded of that as my child with echolalia divulges our deep family secrets. I’ve already asked them not to hold it against me…we’re all human after all…and nobody knows that better than this community.