Everyone Needs a Role Model
Your child may already have a role model; someone she looks up to and whose behavior she may admire and try to copy. This person might be an older cousin or a favorite teacher. Or, her role model may be someone she knows only from a distance—a tennis champion she’s read about, or a singer she’s heard on television. Some role models are also mentors, people who take the time to nurture your child’s special interests, answer her questions, and teach her new things. Are any of her role models or mentors visually impaired? For one grade schooler, a visually impaired role model really made a difference.
Aaron, who’s in third grade, recently lost a lot of vision due to a retinal detachment. He loved reading but was very reluctant to learn braille. He didn’t want to use a cane, either, or ask for help when walking around his neighborhood. Aaron’s parents and his teacher of students with visual impairments were very concerned about his negative attitude. Then, at a picnic for families who have visually impaired children, Aaron met Trevor, a seventh-grade student who reads braille and travels with a cane. The two boys spent the afternoon talking about the books and sports they liked, and Aaron got around to mentioning that he hated learning braille. Trevor set him straight right away. “Get over it. The quicker you learn it, the quicker you can get back to reading again. I read all of the Harry Potter books in braille. And you can read braille in the dark, so I can stay up late to finish a book without my parents bugging me to get to sleep.” Now that was something Aaron hadn’t thought about—being able to read with his fingertips actually had advantages! The boys also talked about getting around with a cane, and Trevor told Aaron about a couple of funny experiences he’d had while learning how to use one.
That conversation was a turning point for Aaron. He’d found a role model—someone he liked, who had the same kind of challenges he had and didn’t treat them as if they were a big problem. He could be like Trevor, too!
What a Role Model or Mentor Can Do
There’s a lot your child can get from a role model or mentor who is visually impaired.
- Your child’s role model or mentor can answer questions from first-hand experience.
- Your child can share her feelings about being visually impaired with someone who may have had the same or similar feelings.
- The role model or mentor can share information about technology, low vision devices, and other tools she uses and finds helpful.
- This person may also know of a weekend or summer program or other activity that she liked and found beneficial and can describe it to your child based on first-hand experience.
- Your child might be facing a problem now, such as being teased or having trouble getting a teacher to understand her visual limitations. Her mentor may have had a similar experience and be able to offer ideas about how to solve the problem.
Finding the Right Role Model or Mentor
Here are some ideas for finding a role model or mentor for your child who is visually impaired.
- Ask the members of your child’s educational team if they know of an older child in the area who has some common interests with your child.
- Contact an organization that provides services to visually impaired people (see the Directory of Services) or parent group to ask for help in getting in touch with other families whose children might share your daughter’s interests and act as mentors.
- Join an online discussion group and inquire if anyone in the group knows of a child who might be a good role model for your daughter. Even if the children can’t meet face-to-face, they may enjoy talking on the phone, sending e-mails, or even exchanging “snail mail.”
- Post a message on the FamilyConnect message boards, letting other parents know you’re seeking a role model or mentor for your child.
As your child gets older, she may want to be a role model or mentor to a younger child who’s visually impaired. Giving back to others is another important skill for your child to develop.