If your child is college-bound, she will require specific training to prepare for independent college life. No longer will an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team create a plan to help her succeed in her classes. If your child requires any accommodations, she will be responsible for identifying herself as visually impaired, and she will need to contact the college’s disability service department to provide documentation of her disability. Your child will be expected to negotiate with disability services and with each professor for use of specific accommodations that provide access to the material. Read more about this process in APH CareerConnect’s “Cheat Sheet to Help You Self-Advocate for Accommodations as a College Student Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired” and in the U.S. Department of Education’s document on rights and responsibilities in postsecondary education. You can help prepare your teenager for success in college:
  • A successful transition will depend on your child’s ability to accept responsibility for her own success. Make sure your teen is already taking on an age-appropriate amount of responsibility. Responsibilities your child can assume include caring for her cleanliness, presentation (makeup, shaving, hairstyle, and clothing choices), some food preparation, time management, technology care, organization, some transportation, and schoolwork.
  • Success in college and the workforce will also depend on your child’s blindness competencies. A visually impaired college student needs safe orientation and mobility skills; proficient reading skills, which may include braille; and proficiency in assistive technology.
  • In high school, your child should be learning to research information for class projects and interests. While it would be much easier to access the information yourself, skill in researching and completing projects independently will be key to success in college.
  • Encourage your child to talk with her teachers about her disability and accommodation needs, appropriately and assertively self-advocating.
  • Do not encourage your child’s school or teachers to provide modified or shortened assignments. Your child may take longer to complete assignments, but colleges and workplaces do not provide such modifications.
  • Ensure your teenager is taking her own notes in class, getting regular practice in shorthand note-taking, and regularly setting up her own backup plans in the event of failed technology.
  • Help your teenager learn how to study for tests. Remind her to read material, review notes, and participate in study groups.
  • At this age, your child should be learning to balance school and home life. Give her practice in juggling schoolwork with self-care, contributing to the household, and maintaining friendships. She cannot have the single task of performing well in school because she will not know how to manage her time in college.
  • Your child will need to choose a dorm or apartment in college. Encourage her to consider such factors as price range, accessible to public transportation, and safety. Perhaps you can take a weekend and practice apartment-hunting.
  • Encourage your child to take responsibility to find agencies in her local college area that provide blindness-specific assessment and training in orientation and mobility, assistive technology, employment skills, leisure skills, self-advocacy skills, communication skills, and daily living skills.
  • Encourage participation in activities and social groups to build friendships and relieve stress.
  • Continue providing realistic feedback on your child’s social skills. Her enjoyment of college will likely be determined by maintaining a few solid friendships.
For more information on preparing your teenager for college, listen to the webcast: Postsecondary Training Preparation for Students with Visual Impairments. Some of the information provided is from Golub’s Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness article, “A Model of Successful Work Experiences for Employees Who Are Visually Impaired: The Results of a Study.”