Role Models and Mentors for Teens Who are Blind or Low Vision
No matter how close you and your child are, there may be times when they feel the need to have someone else to talk to or learn from in life. An older teen or an adult who’s blind or low vision may be just the right person to act as a role model or mentor for your child. In turn, your child might become a role model or mentor for a younger child with blindness or low vision.
Sharing experiences with others who are blind or low vision can help your child understand that they are not alone, that others have had similar feelings to them. Equally important, a role model can demonstrate that having a blindness or low vision doesn’t prevent someone from being an active, successful person. Your child may be impressed and learn from any of the following:
- A college student is introduced to who lives in a dorm on campus, shops for their own clothes, and participates in several extracurricular activities.
- The high school senior in school who’s popular, gets top grades, and uses a variety of assistive technology. Just observing that person might help your child get over any reluctance they may be feeling about using low vision devices or assistive technology tools because they are afraid they’ll make them seem different.
- A classmate who travels around the city using public transportation. Talking with that person could help your child realize that orientation and mobility (O&M) instructor really does have a reason for teaching to cross intersections using a cane.
Mentors are often role models who take on the additional role of supporting your child in developing new skills. For example, the high school senior who uses a range of assistive technology may teach your child how to use a screen reading program, while encouraging the use of technology they already have. Sometimes mentors are sounding boards, giving their input and advice. Your child’s mentor may also have been left out of something because of their blindness or low vision and can tell your child how they have dealt with their feelings.
Your child can also learn about jobs and careers that people who are blind or low vision are involved in by meeting adults who are employed. If your child wants to know more about a specific career area, and you’re unable to find a person who is blind or low vision that works in that field, helping to find a mentor, even if the person is not blind or low vision, can provide your child with support and encouragement.
There are many communities that have weekend or summer programs for young people who are blind or low vision. Talk with your child about whether they would like to participate in a program where they will meet others with blindness or low vision while having fun and learning new things. Your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments may be able to recommend a program. Other possible sources of information are your state department of education or your state rehabilitation agency.
It’s also important that your child recognize the importance of giving back to others. Encourage your child to be a role model for younger children with blindness or low vision or other disabilities. Remind your child how much they looked up to their own role models and help your child see that they can be a role model too. Becoming involved in a mentor relationship can be an enriching experience and a deeply meaningful one as well.