A set of color-coded cards plays a significant role in Tina Murray’s household, helping her teenage son track his daily routine while navigating distance learning with a visual impairment.
“I can just put those Kanbans next to his breakfast and he knows sometime throughout the day, ‘I’ve got to shower, I’ve got to go water my cucumbers,’ and later empty the dishwasher.”
“I think that COVID has actually gotten more kiddos involved in independent living skills,” she says.
While it can be tempting to speed through her son’s chores herself, Tina has learned to delegate out of necessity and to foster independence in the long run.
“He used to have an aide in the class that could help him locate the position in the notebook or the textbook that he needed to go to if he couldn’t get there as quickly as the teacher,” she says. “So that support is not physically close to him anymore; or, the vision teacher who’s teaching him how to cut safely because he’s down right where the knife is with his cucumber.”
The network of services and experts that Tina constructed for him over the years—thanks to the advice of fellow special-needs parents—has been reshuffled based on what’s available virtually and still funded amidst budget cuts.
Vista Center and its “expanded core curriculum that’s available to blind and visually impaired students” remains at the top of her list.
The 75-year-old Bay Area non-profit (which is currently running a back-to-school fundraiser to bridge the education gap created by remote learning) has empowered Tina and other families to think beyond the challenges posed by traditional sports and recreation to “push those boundaries a little bit,” she says.
“Let’s do kayaking, or maybe whitewater rafting. Let’s listen to a movie that is audio described as a group and enjoy that experience together.”
Tina says it’s “amazing to be a fly on the wall as a volunteer,” and it’s an opportunity for the parents to check in with each other.
“It’s pretty brilliant,” she says.
Tina also hosts the Vision Parents Google Group to continue the conversation.
“If my child is feeling successful, if my child is independent, if they are making their own dinner—hey, I am now in my ‘wow,’” Tina says about hitting a groove as a family. “It’s that progression towards independence in adulthood, given the state where we are. Those are my shining days.”
For those times when it “feels like one big long day” while blending school, work and everything else under one roof, she recommends reading Raising an Organized Child: 5 Steps to Boost Independence, Ease Frustration, and Promote Confidence by Dr. Damon Korb.
As a professional project manager and natural multitasker, Tina believes in “not trying to boil the ocean, not trying to solve everything at once, not taking on too much–because that is overwhelming.”
Instead, she suggests breaking up problems into manageable parts and celebrating the milestones along the way.
“It’s the opposite of low hanging fruit,” Tina says. “You have to pick the hardest things because that’s where you’re going to see the biggest gains.”
“You’re never done being a parent,” she says. “You’re never done figuring out how to connect with and relate to your child.”
“It has been a complete roller coaster to get to where we are, and I know there’s more coming,” she says about parenting in the teen years. “And I love roller coasters.”