Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
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9 Ways to Take The Stress Out of Meeting New People When You’re Visually Impaired

It can be daunting meeting new people for the first time, especially when it comes to explaining that you have a visual impairment. Should I tell them? What if I need support? How do I go about asking for it?

Here are some tips from our trusty team of Look staff and mentors on ways of coping with these feelings of uncertainty and nerves:

1. Make sure you are wearing something that makes you feel comfortable.

This doesn’t mean go out in your pyjamas. It’s just that you don’t want to be worrying about whether your shirt is too small or if your tights have twisted round when you are meeting people for the first time. Make life easy for yourself. Choose something to wear that allows you to be yourself.

2. Check you are breathing!

We are all familiar with the advice to ‘take a deep breath’ when we need to draw courage and often we do breathe in and hold our breath when we enter a difficult situation.  In fact, this is very unhelpful, as it has the effect of creating tension in your shoulders and chest. Your voice has less room to come out. Blood rises to your face. Your heart pounds or races. Instead, a good trick is to breathe out before you enter the situation or before you speak. From there, breathe slowly and from your stomach instead of your chest. You can practice this when you are on your own.

3. Relax your shoulders.

Make sure they are not up around your ears somewhere!

Try to keep your head up. This can be tricky, especially if you suffer with back pain from straining to see things – and we all get into bad habits – but try to keep your neck long and strong if you can. This is good for your body and posture but also gives off a sense of openness, confidence and friendliness.

4. Talk about how you feel

Remember it is extremely likely that there are other people there who are also feeling shy or anxious. Being open about feeling this way can often break the ice and give others the space to say, ‘me too!’ Hey presto! You have something in common already!

5. Smile! It really is amazing!

Endless research has shown that if you slap a smile on your face, the world is much more likely to smile back at you. Sometimes it’s easy to feel awkward about your own appearance if you can’t check yourself out in the mirror but try not to feel self-conscious or worry about over doing it. At the end of the day, it’s better to smile too much than too little!

6. Tell people about your visual impairment.

When it comes to telling people about your Visual Impairment, again, it is best to be as open as possible. Just get it out there. In general people want to be friendly and helpful but can be afraid of offending you or saying the wrong thing. Yes, it can be annoying having to explain yourself time and time again, but when you are faced with the need to make new friends, it can really ease things if you just address it straight off. If you find this hard, it might be worth practicing some stock phrases or ways of bringing it up, so you don’t have to think too much about it in the moment. You could just keep these in your head or practice them aloud or with a trusted friend or family member. Then follow the tips above, breathe out, and go for it.

7. Take the lead and own the situation.

If you are feeling anxious about your eyes roaming around or looking off to the side, and how the other person might respond to this, again, it is a good idea to address it so that you are taking the lead and can own the situation. Some people suggest using humour: explain that it is due to a VI and not because you are staring at their bald spot or rolling your eyes because you are bored stiff. Some prefer to explain the physical reason for it happening and the way in which it affects them. Others suggest using it as a way of bringing Visual Impairment into the conversation. This can be especially helpful if you are partially sighted and don’t have any other obvious give-away signs about you to tell people that you can’t see.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for support.

It is often easier to wait until it all goes wrong and then complain, than it is to pluck up the courage to ask for help. Again, it might help to have a few well-rehearsed sentences in your mind to draw upon. Often people you meet will have no idea about what you may or may not need and when people seem rude or unkind it can often be due to oversight, not malice. Resist the urge to turn and walk away from a situation if you can. Breathe, relax your shoulders and explain that you need assistance. Try and be specific about how you want them to assist you, and again, be open, friendly and polite.

9. Love yourself!!

People who are happy with who they are encourage happiness in others around them too.

Love others!! Look for the best in people and spread the love!

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