Reaching for success

. February 5, 2013.

According to Dani Moran, Children’s Services Coordinator for The Sight Center of Northwest Ohio, children with low vision or blindness need less help than people think.”Parents have to learn that kids need to be independent. We want to fully prepare them to do that, to be able to go out on their own,” Moran says. “That’s pretty much the goal of every program we have — to give the kids the tools they need to work along with their sighted peers with confidence and happiness. Real life isn’t easy. The kids who succeed are the ones who have independent skills,” Moran says.
Struggling to see 
There are differences between blindness and low vision. Moran explained that low vision is a condition in which people struggle to see, even with glasses, adding that some with low vision benefit from glasses, but may still need large print books or other adaptations. Others may have a restricted field of vision or only see out of one eye.  Some have conditions that cause the eyes to move constantly, making it very difficult to focus long enough to read well. 
Moran, who came to the Sight Center in 2007, has worked with adults and children with low vision or blindness since completing a master’s degree from Western Michigan. Prior to working at The Sight Center, Moran worked in the blind rehabilitation program at the Department of Veterans. In addition to helping parents and children improve situations at school, The Sight Center also offers an Activities of Daily Living program designed to teach blind children (or those with low vision) to live independently. “We have a model apartment with a gas stove and an electric stove. We discuss nutrition, teach them how to plan a grocery list, how to find different foods in a grocery store. We talk about ways to label and organize items in the kitchen, how to test meat to be sure it’s fully cooked. They learn how to be really safe in the kitchen. They vacuum, dust and wipe tables. They learn ways to sort clothes if they can’t see them. Changing sheets. How often to do those tasks,” Moran explains.
Achieving independence
The Sight Center offers a vocational program that allows children ages 14 and older to gain experience at different job sites utilizing help from job coaches. While parents may find it troubling to allow a disabled child to make mistakes or to learn from trial and error, Moran said that this is the best way to help children succeed. She advised parents to find opportunities for children to socialize and to seek help from community resources like The Sight Center. “Don’t hesitate to provide opportunities for socialization with both kids with low vision and sighted kids. Nobody knows what to do in every situation. No parent has all the specialized knowledge,” Moran says.
When a child wants to help a blind classmate, Moran says that parents should encourage that impulse, but also instruct their children to ask before lending a hand. “Don’t be afraid to offer assistance, but ask first to make sure it’s needed.  A lot of times, little helpers come along, and kids with low vision get so much help that they don’t learn how to do things for themselves. If a person is struggling, it’s okay to ask. [But] they may not be struggling; they may just be looking for a friend,” Moran said. 
The Sight Center’s vision education program begins in February and March. Teaching parents about adaptive technology, the program instructs parents how to use tools provided by schools (including individualized education plans) and what accommodations parents should advocate for. For more information on vision education, summer camp programs and independent living, contact Dani Moran at (419) 720-3937 or by e-mail at 
1002 Garden Lake Parkway, Toledo.