Photo of the back of a student's head, wearing mortaboard graduation hat and gown, and looking up at York Minster.

Moving On To Higher Education: How to Help Your VI Child Make the Most of University Life

Starting University is a big step for both you and your VI young adult. In this resource, The LOOK Parent support group and expert guest panellists share their insights, tips and advice.

Facilitator: Jane Ring, Parent Support Officer LOOK UK

Featuring: Kathy Lamb, Parent Carer/ Expert parent, Emily L, LOOK UK mentor and Khadija R, LOOK UK mentor

In this session, a parent carer and her daughter (currently in her second year) share their experience of leaving home and preparing for University.

Khadija explains how she managed at University, giving practical advice about a range of issues such as the type of dinner set to buy and when to contact your children.

Watch

You can watch the original session, here:

“Thanks so much Emily and Khadija – so lovely to hear from you both, you both come across so confident and well spoken. You are great examples for our children” Parent.

Interview with Charlotte Milburn, LOOK Mentor Project Officer and Mentor

Charlotte wearing her graduation robes and mortarboard hat, smiling at the camera.

Q1. What Support did your parents give you that helped you the most – before you started University and during your time there?

My parents were really supportive before and during my time at university. They would always be welcoming if I wanted to go home for a weekend and equally, they came to visit me as well which I think really helped. A really lovely thing that my mum did was that she made me a folder of recipes from home in a format I could access. I could make them myself to give me that ‘home’ feel. That was a really nice touch when I moved to uni.

Q2. Leaving Home is A Big Step. What helped you prepare and manage the change?

I left home for the first time when I was 16 because I moved to RNC so moving to university was a similar move but only this time to a much bigger place with a lot more people. What helped me, with both moving away to college and university, was staying in contact with my friends and family – whether that be messaging or a FaceTime call every now and again. That gave me the balance of having a social life at university but also making sure I was in contact with my friends and family from home.

Q3. What do you wish you had known beforehand?

I’d wish I’d known how to communicate my sight loss better to people. Sometimes I found it hard to explain my VI to people in my first year but this did get easier throughout my time at university. I found my friends were really understanding of my sight loss – which is something I was really unsure of how people would understand it.

Q4. Any reassurance or advice you can give parent carers?

University is a big step in gaining independence for life after studying. My advice would be to make sure that all support is in place for your child so that they can become independent and thrive during their time studying at university.

Top Tips from the Panellists

  1. Promote your children’s independence, encourage them to leave and be the best they can be. These things are hard, but it has to be done. It’s not tough love, but it’s reassurance. Have confidence in yourself as a parent that you are doing your best.

  2. Independence starts at home. Be there, be aware, and don’t overshadow them.

  3. Give your child the room to see how capable they are. Sight loss doesn’t mean you can’t do things, you just do them differently. 

  4. Encourage your child to go away if they wish to before university. For holidays, volunteering programmes, residential colleges. This encourages them to take every day as it comes and gives them the confidence to continue experiencing this for university.

  5. Mistakes happen, sometimes it is better for your child to start now and make them at home with cooking, cleaning, etc, so you are there to help them learn.

  6. Discussing & planning habilitation before your child goes to university is key (around sixth form). Learning kitchen skills, washing up and general cleaning, etc.

  7. Chose universities that are not too far, but far enough for independence (1-2 hours away).

  8. Have a checklist of what you want from a university but don’t let this limit their options.

  1. Visit universities on a regular day as well as an open day to see what it is really like. Open days can be all ‘pretty & shiny’ but the best day to really discover them is on a regular day. 

  2. Visit the disability support teams at the universities you are looking into and find out who would give the best support.
     
  3.  Get applications to University in early, and explore the options earlier on rather than following the other young people without a disability.

  4. Parents: be prepared to help with the key paperwork like DSA, it’s important to know how long this is going to take and start the process early

  5. Prepare children to take their own education in their own hands, and give your child responsibility for their education. They will have to advocate for themselves as there are so many different contacts at University. 

  6.  Supporting your children’s independence is key. Teach them to self-advocate. You have to stop trying to solve everything for them. As they get older give them the independence to ring the doctors for an appointment, dentist etc. 

  7.  Remember there is a lot that you can do to help prepare:
  • Buy the right equipment; i.e. one cup hot water dispensers, pen friends for recording labels, cutlery with different handles, bright crockery, plates with edges or pattern
  • Cooking lessons are a brilliant idea. Help them practice their favourite recipes

16. There is an emergency contact option at university: legally when you are 18, they do not need to contact or tell parents if an emergency happens. Your child can opt for their emergency to be told. It is best to do this; to reassure yourselves. 

17. Emily (Kathy’s daughter) went abroad with a fantastic charity called JoLt (Journey of a Lifetime). The link to their website is here.

Download

You can view, download and print this resource, here.

We wish all of our young people the best of luck with their journeys into Higher Education and beyond. For more useful articles, tips and advice, take a look at our Resources pages.

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