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AFB FamilyConnect: A Resource for the Modern Family with a Child Who is Blind or Visually Impaired
Imagine your child was just diagnosed with a visual impairment and you've had no prior experience with visual impairments or blindness. You just spent hours at a doctor's office, where you were told that your child or baby has an existing visual impairment or a condition where he or she will lose vision. You and your partner head home, heads full of preconceptions about your child's future, and questions about how a person with vision loss manages day-to-day tasks.
You might first turn to the Internet, Googling the diagnosis and staying up late at night trying to find information, maybe posting a question or two to different message boards, or searching for articles related to what you're experiencing. But after this initial search for information, what happens next?
Created by the American Foundation for the Blind and the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI), FamilyConnect is a resource for parents and families with children who are blind or have a visual impairment, and for professionals who work with them. FamilyConnect has grown extremely quickly in its two-year existence, and provides information on a wide array of topics, from Individual Education Plan goal setting to assistive technology. The site allows you to search for content based on age group, topical area, and diagnosis. All of the information is aimed at parents and families to help address their concerns.
FamilyConnect's Program Manager, Scott Truax, says, "FamilyConnect is all about connections. The site allows parents and families to connect with other parents and families, resources, and topic-specific articles." These types of connections—and the community they foster— bring a feeling of belonging and comfort to parents of children with visual impairments.
The numerous FamilyConnect message boards offer forums for every type of visual impairment and age group, along with a discussion on what to do after the diagnosis. Parent representatives of NAPVI monitor these message boards and respond with answers based on their personal experiences. While these boards are one of the most used resources on the site, the greatest resource is you. Families appreciate being able to interact with parents throughout the United States who share their advice and experiences. Parents and families are the true experts. They have been through the trials and tribulations, as well as joys and celebrations.
Directory of Services
In addition to the message boards, Family Connect publishes and maintains a searchable Directory of Services specific to children, a crucial resource for parents and families of newly diagnosed children.
FamilyConnect recently added a new and exciting social networking feature, FamilyFriends, which provides social networking to families in a safe and personalized format. The FamilyConnect team worked hard to provide parents and families with the features that they would be most interested in using. Families can create their own pages where they can share their story with other families, and users can connect with other users to benefit from each other's experiences.
Using FamilyFriends, parents and families have the option to reach out to as many people as they are comfortable with and to selectively share information using the feature's personalized security settings. The interface allows users to post a photo and updates to their profile pages, and to message other users. These social networking features will be spreading through the AFB family of sites in the near future.
Parents and families wanted to know about activities going on in their local area, so FamilyConnect developed a calendar system that allows organizations to post events. Members can sign up to receive notifications for events in their areas. Connect with your local NAPVI chapter and get active!
FamilyConnect publishes blogs written by parents and guest bloggers, including experts. Users are invited to join the discussions by interacting with the writers and their readers.
Professionals and Organizations
If you work for an organization that works with parents, families, or children, you should make sure that your organization is registered with FamilyConnect and the Directory of Services. The site provides a great resource for professionals to offer content specifically written for the perspective of parents and families.
Join the FamilyConnect Revolution
As professionals, parents, family members, and community members, we have an opportunity to share resources that will help families with the coping and learning processes. FamilyConnect offers a unique forum that facilitates and encourages these supportive and informative interactions—please join us!
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