Getting Your Teen Who Is Blind or Low Vision to Participate in Family Activities

teenaged boy at the wheel of a golf cart, with sister sitting on back

As children reach their teens, they tend to spend less time with family and are more interested in being with friends. This is a typical phase of adolescence, as teenagers seek their own identity and independence and focus on friendships and dating. You may find that your teenager is more reluctant than before to participate in family activities.

The following are some suggestions for encouraging your teenager to participate in family get-togethers:

  • Involve your teenager in the planning. If you’re all ordering pizza and picking some movies to watch, ask them what movie they’d like to see and give them the responsibility for ordering the pizza. Or, when planning a family weekend trip to the beach, ask your child to take responsibility for finding a hotel within your budget using the Internet. These opportunities allow your child to have fun with the family and practice using assistive technology and other skills while honing his social skills.
  • Have your child invite a friend to join your family when you’re going to a play, museum, or mall. Seeing them interact with a friend can give you a sense of their social skills. You, in turn, can give them realistic feedback on what’s working and what’s not when it comes to interactions with others their age.
  • Include your child in events that may not be fully accessible to them. If you have other children who want to go to something very visual, such as a dance recital or a soccer game, ask your child to come along—and go prepared to give them a running description of what’s happening. If they are not enthusiastic about it, suggest that they bring something along—a book or an MP3 player—that they can read or listen to for part of the time. See if a balance can be obtained between the amount of time your child does the alternate activity and the amount of time they are participating in what the family is doing.
  • Occasionally, leave the car at home when your family goes on an outing or visit relatives. Rather than driving, take public transportation—a bus, subway, or train or have your child call for a taxi. These opportunities allow your teenager to practice the skills needed to use other forms of transportation and get around independently. It also reinforces the message for your child and their siblings that driving isn’t essential to get from one place to another.
  • If your teen uses optical aids, such as a monocular, to see things in the distance, encourage them to do so whenever it may help them to participate more fully in family activities. For example, their cousin’s football game will be more interesting if they can actually see some of the action. Keep in mind, though, that they may feel embarrassed about using an optical device in public. If that’s the case, keep encouraging them to make use of assistive devices; point out how helpful they can be in expanding their experience of the world around them, but try to strike a balance and do not nag.
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