When working with learners who have visual impairments (VI), the experiences and mental health of their parents/carers are often overlooked as we focus on the child.
Although they may not always communicate it, parents/carers may be experiencing a range of emotions linked to a diagnosis or pre-diagnosis of visual impairment. Some examples of these are:
- Confusion regarding a visual diagnosis and medical terminology. Do the parents fully understand their child’s diagnosis?
- Senses of guilt and bereavement –parents may experience mourning over the future they had imagined for their child and their family.
- Stress during times of transition (such as the move to secondary school).
- A feeling that they are not understood by the professionals working around them or that they cannot clearly explain their child’s needs. This may manifest itself as anger or aggression.
- Reduced family wellbeing with changes to parenting style, resulting from ongoing stress, anxiety and/or depression. Behaviour expectations may become varied.
Improving outcomes: the support that parents want
- Many parents want and need an element of emotional support from the professionals they are involved with. This could be as simple as being on the end of the telephone for a quick chat.
- To work in partnership with professionals, with a shared understanding of success, aspirations and high expectations.
- A clearly explained path towards targets and milestones – such as academic progress targets or developmental milestones.
- Guidance and transparency through EHCP applications with the process fully explained.
- Signposting to supportive groups and networks, such as parents’ groups on social media and organised events for learners with VI.
If you need any information about the impact that visual impairment may have on a parent/carer that you are working with, please get in touch with your Advisory Teacher for specialist advice and support.