Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Experiences of Parents with Visual Impairments Who Are Raising Children

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Experiences of Parents with Visual Impairments Who Are Raising Children

Article excerpt

Abstract: Sixty-seven parents who are visually impaired revealed strategies for their children's safety, transportation, homework, and other parenting tasks and provided information about the emotional impact on their children and others' reactions to them as parents. Recommendations for current and future parents who are visually impaired and professionals are discussed.


Parenting is a daunting undertaking for any individual, but it may be even more daunting for individuals with visual impairments as they think about how to accomplish everyday tasks, such as diapering and transporting children. Over the past 40 years, few studies have been conducted on the child-rearing experiences of people with visual impairments.

Early articles were generally anecdotal, describing what it was like to raise children as a parent with a visual impairment (Arsnow, Dichiera, Mould, Sauerburger, & Peaco, 1985; Branson, 1975; DiCaprio, 1971; Hirshberg, 1960; Kendrick, 1983). They focused on the ways in which parents interacted with their children and established communication when their children were young. The parents with visual impairments in these reports tended to describe their personal concerns related to day-to-day experiences and adaptations, public perceptions, and the lack of support and information available to them.

Ware and Schwab (1971) expanded on the anecdotal information by interviewing 10 mothers with visual impairments about their children's clothing, personal hygiene, grooming, and feeding and the role of the mothers in child care. The authors found that mothers with visual impairments received little training in how to perform parenting tasks and that they accomplished many of the tasks through trial and error. They proposed the development of a training program in the basics of child care to allow mothers with visual impairments to concentrate more on the emotional aspects of child rearing. Yet such findings have not been put into practice, and parents with visual impairments have reported concerns about raising children, including protecting their children's safety, the extra time needed to accommodate their own visual impairments, and transportation needs (Conley-Jung & Olkin, 2001).

Some research has focused on the relationships and interactions between parents with visual impairments and their children. It has shown that societal beliefs influence the types of interactions between parents and children. Deshen and Deshen (1989) found that Israeli children grew up learning to be disrespectful toward their parents with visual impairments because of the cultural belief system in Israel surrounding people with disabilities. Although no similar studies have been conducted in the United States, Conley-Jung and Olkin (2001) interviewed mothers with visual impairments who reported experiencing negative reactions from other people. The mothers reported strategies to deal with negative attitudes, such as confiding in others, educating people, ignoring the negative messages, or laughing about them.

The mode of communication can also affect parent-child relationships. Since much of the communication between parents and young children is conducted visually, parents who are visually impaired must use other modes of communication. Young children were found to adapt readily to alternate forms of communication for interacting with and developing relationships with their parents who were visually impaired (Adamson, Als, Tronick, & Brazelton, 1977; Collis & Bryant, 1981).

It is not possible to determine the number of parents in the United States who are blind or have low vision. According to the 2000 census (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000), there were approximately 38 million households with individuals aged 18 or younger, or about 36% of the total number of households in the United States. In 2005, an estimate based on the American Community Survey showed that 2. …

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