Image of the back of a womans head surrounded by a black cloud with the words mental health at the top

How to help your vision-impaired child feel less isolated and build a sense of belonging.

In this resource LOOK UK and VICTA discuss the power of connection and the impact identifying your tribe has on mental health and wellbeing.

Facilitator: Jane Ring, Parent, carer support officer, LOOK UK.

Featuring: Charlotte Mellor, expert parent and Projects and Programmes Officer, VICTA, Melissa Crowland, VICTA Ambassador and Crisis Recovery Mentor for mental health charity Positive Futures, Kaya, LOOK Mentor studying Psychology with Counselling at University and Naz, LOOK Mentor, disabilities advocate and public speaker.

In May our Parent Support Group (PSG) came together with VICTA to discuss how we can support our children to feel less isolated and lonely.

We know that loneliness can be a key driver of poor mental health for those with sight loss. We also know that there are ways that we can help to alleviate these struggles for our young people, so we linked up with Charlotte Mellor (Project and Programmes Officer) from VICTA and an expert panel of speakers to offer parents advice and guidance.

Our experts shared some fantastic resources and top tips, listed at the end of this article, to help support our young people.

We also heard directly from LOOK Mentors about their own experiences and feelings of isolation and they shared how connecting with other VI young people has helped them and how creativity can be used as an outlet to express a sense of loneliness.

Mental health charity Positive Futures discussed the triggers for social anxiety and a link to their resources can be found in our resources section.

Watch

You can watch the original session, here:

“The session has helped reassure us that we are not alone in the journey. That independence for our children is important to their mental health as well as our own.” Parent.

We also heard from Susan who is a member of the women’s British Blind Cricket team and how sport has helped with issues of social anxiety and has been a great enabler for making new friends.

Susan says “There are definitely people out there who can help you, you won’t get there if you don’t try, keep pushing yourself.”

Watch

You can listen to Susan’s inspiring interview here:

“A really great session thank you. it is fantastic hearing from the Mentors who have the lived experience.” Parent

The Panellists

Charlotte Mellor Projects and Programmes Officer, VICTA and mum to Scarlett aged 11, who is visually impaired with additional needs.

Jane Ring LOOK UK Parent Support Officer and mother to Deafblind daughter aged 13.

Melissa Crowland VICTA Ambassador and Crisis Recovery Mentor for mental health charity Positive Futures. Melissa also works at The University of York on the Service User and Carer Participation & Advisory Board.

Kaya LOOK Mentor and studying Psychology with Counselling at University.

“My mental health and wellbeing definitely started to improve when I connected and met other young people, who were the same age as myself. By meeting other people who are also visually impaired, it makes you realise that you are not alone, and you are not the only person with a disability. “

Naz LOOK Mentor, disabilities advocate and public speaker, Sight Loss Council member and yoga teacher trainee.

“Volunteering has been a big and necessary part of my life for the last handful of years and I’m excited to share with you how it’s been essential in order to heal my isolation and help me feel more connected.”

Tops Tips to Help Our Children Make Friends and Feel Connected.

School/ College/ Education

  • Friendship bench.
  • Early Passes for lunch.
  • Identify a safe space where you can go with friends.
  • Understanding, supportive, trained lunch and break time assistants.
  • Trained play leaders at primary school.
  • Children are given roles of responsibility.
  • Lunch Clubs.
  • After school activities.
  • Positive Inclusion Training for staff.
  • For students to also have positive inclusion training or for inclusivity and disability awareness incorporated in their lessons in some way.
  • A few good friends can be better and more lasting.
  • Managed TA support (what each child needs is different).
  • Small group work in class.

Home

  • Link with local sight loss charities and take part in meet ups.
  • Local council or sight loss charities can help make the home more accessible and VI friendly.
  • VICTA activities.
  • Online groups- LOOK forum starting again as LOOK Life hacks for 11-18-year-olds, RSBC sisterhood group, NCW virtual youth club.
  • Youth Groups / Clubs for young people with SEND.
  • Residential opportunities- New College Worcester and VICTA.
  • Have a go days British Blind Sport.
  • Encourage swapping of contact details.
  • Habilitation officers and Enablers (getting out with you).
  • Henshaws I can do it course.
  • Brownies, Cubs, Scouts etc can be very inclusive with training from a Habilitation Officer.
  • Search your ‘Local Offer’ each local authority has an initiative and should provide free opportunities for children with additional needs to attend events/clubs.
  • Encourage independent interaction in a variety of settings if possible, these early building blocks will help in later life.
  • Talk to your child and let them know that not everyone is going to like them or want to be friends with them- but that’s 100% okay in life and that they don’t have to like or be friends with everyone either- FIND YOUR TRIBE!
  • Do plenty of what your child enjoys, it will help to fill the space where feelings of loneliness may start to develop.
  • The young person can sign up to the Welcome to the VICTA Student Portal (victastudents.org.uk) lots of age-specific information and support around well-being and connecting with others.
  • Parents can access the VICTA Virtual Wellbeing retreat for a hub of information and videos that aim to support the mental health of both you and your child VICTA Parent Wellbeing Retreat Live – VICTA.
  • Connecting with people who share similar experiences is vital in understanding that you’re not alone. E.g., through Facebook groups, and local young people’s vi groups.
  • Another important factor is, having a role model to look up to. This really helped me in my journey to help me feel more empowered. Molly Burke – YouTube.
  • LOOK mentor scheme Peer Mentoring Projects for VI Young People – Look UK (look-uk.org).

Resources

Counselling

Family Support

For more useful articles, tips and advice, take a look at our Resources pages.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Sign up to the Newsletter