Successful parenting with vision loss

Motherhood is challenging, even more so if you have impaired vision, but successful parenting with vision loss is possible. As a mum of an infant and a toddler and living with retinitis pigmentosa, Sinead knew there must be strategies to help.

Sinead is a VisAbility Occupational Therapist and mum to Marie, three and Mairead, 13 months. When Mairead was four months old, Sinead reached out for support from her colleague, Occupational Therapist, Kate who arranged a functional assessment.

“I was sleep-deprived, putting my children first and experiencing low energy levels. The truth was I was emotionally overwhelmed and struggling.” 

Sinead – Mother living with retinitis pigmentosa

Sinead sits on a chair outside with her children Mary and Mairead
Sinead is a parent to two young children – Mary and Mairead

“A growing family brings extra responsibilities. Sinead wanted to look at ways of organising her life to make the day-to-day easier. I knew we could incorporate assistive technology and introduce new practices to assist her.”

Watch the video to see how we helped Sinead.

Decluttering

Sinead’s priority was to call in a team of professionals from the ‘The Art of Decluttering’ (link opens in new window) using NDIS funding.

The aim was to create a clutter-free, functional home to develop routines and organisational systems.

Spice drawer

Next, attention turned to the drawers and medicine cupboard in the kitchen. Sinead had a much-loved drawer full of spices but struggled to know what was in each jar.

“We decided I should have standard labels for my husband and large print labels for me. Because my vision is worsening, I wanted penfriend laminated sticker labels on the jars. I could voice tag them and use my penfriend audio labeller to find them.”

Sinead is part of our Assistive Technology team and is familiar with new devices that can assist people with vision impairment.

Medicines

Over the winter months, Sinead’s children had caught colds and bugs, so she put tactile markings labels on medications to make them easily identifiable. To get the correct dosage for each child, she used task lighting and her Penfriend to create a Velcro mark on syringes to draw up the right amount. Sinead says this was important, especially when her husband was at work and no help was available.

Sinead drawers medication up through a syringe. Spotlighting is above her.
Sinead says minor adjustments make a big difference

She also bought a talking temperature thermometer.

“Successful parenting with vision loss is about organisation and structure, but also being aware to ask for help. You have to be compassionate towards yourself and acknowledge that sometimes it’s okay to seek assistance.”

Sinead – Mother living with retinitis pigmentosa

Children’s rooms

Occupational Therapist Kate suggested they tackled the children’s bedrooms in a similar way, as Sinead explains.

“I put large labels on drawers storing socks and underwear. I wanted to encourage the children, and other family members, to be organised and to put items back where they came from. When everything has its place, I feel there’s less of a mental load on myself.”

Sinead explains that people are not aware of the organisational systems that many people with vision impairment carry around in their heads. Parenting with vision loss is easier if you approach things methodically. The labels are there to remind people of where everything lives.

In addition, large print routine cards Velcroed onto the side of a cupboard encouraged children to complete morning and evening routines. Tasks such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, packing bags, having a bath and putting on pyjamas. Once complete, the card moves from one area to another.

Occupational Therapist Kate says the key is being consistent.

I have done this with my children – give them ownership of tasks to create routine, Children feel more confident and secure when their daily activities are predictable and familiar.”

Kate – Occupational Therapist

High vis vests

Sinead came up with a novel way of tracking her children whenever she was outdoors. She bought two personalised high-vis vests in bright colours.

“It means I can differentiate them from other children in the playground. Both Marie and Mairead like them because they are fun and different. Mairead’s says ‘Big Boss’ on the back while Mary’s reads ‘Mummy’s Little Helper.”

Vision Impaired badge for the double pram

On the top of her double pram, a ‘Vision Impaired Person’ badge pinned to its top advised people about her vision loss.

Kate and Sinead stand next to each other behind the double pram which has the badge on top
A Vision Impaired Person badge on her pram helps when she’s out

“The badge gave notice to other people about my condition. People would step to one side and were more accommodating because they knew my disability.”

OrCam device to read bedtime stories

One of Sinead’s biggest goals was to be able to read to her children from a book.

“It was what my mum used to do for me. I knew a screen would be distracting, so therefore we established that I could hook up my Orcam Read (link opens in new window)with bone conduction headphones.”

Sinead and Mary are sitting on a mat together and reading a book. Sinead is using her Orcam device and wearing a bone conductor headset
Assistive technology allows Sinead to read to her children

The device reads the printed material of the book. Sinead then listens via her bone conduction headphones and reads the story to her children. The beauty of these types of headphones is that she’s still aware of what’s happening around her.

Successful parenting with vision loss is possible. Sinead is proof that small changes can make a big difference. So passionate about this subject, Sinead is in the early stages of setting up a support group for new mums with vision loss. If you are interested in joining this new support group, contact us.

How to get support

Please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about the low vision services and support we can provide. Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future.

If you are a provider and wish to refer a client, please use our low vision medical certificate (online referral form) to make your referral.

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