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Press Release, American Foundation for the Blind, April 29, 2008

Abstract: This article describes the new FamilyConnect resource that provides support and information for parents with children who have a visual impairment.

Key Words: News & Views, blindness, visual impairment, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI), FamilyConnect,

When parents learn their child has a visual impairment, it can be overwhelming. Parents wonder, Will my child fall behind at school? or Will my child make friends? or Will my child have a successful career? With only 93,600 visually impaired school-aged children in the U.S., over half of whom have additional disabilities, it's easy for families facing vision loss to feel alone.

To help these families connect with each other and give busy parents, grandparents and other caretakers a place to find comprehensive resources and support 24 hours a day, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) today launched FamilyConnect", an online, multimedia community for parents and guardians of children with visual impairments.

Located at www.familyconnect.org, FamilyConnect gives parents access to message boards where they can talk to other parents, compelling videos featuring real-life families, parenting articles, a mom-authored blog, a glossary of more than 30 eye conditions, and links to local resources. The site also features sections dedicated to multiple disabilities, technology, education, and every age group from infants to teens.

We created FamilyConnect to give parents the support and information they need to ensure their children can achieve their dreams - whether that is playing sports or music, learning to read braille, getting a first job, surfing the web, making the cheerleading squad, traveling the world, or going to graduate school, said Carl R. Augusto, President & CEO of AFB.

A recent NAPVI/AFB survey of parents of children with visual impairments showed that parents/guardians turn most commonly to physicians (82%), educators (76%), and web sites (65%) for information and support regarding their children's vision problems. This is consistent with national statistics from the 2006 Pew Internet & American Life Project that show 80 percent of American adult Internet users have searched for health information online. For parents living in rural areas with fewer resources, the web is particularly important to finding relevant, trustworthy information and the right services.

When I talk to parents of visually impaired children, they almost always ask about three things: they want to talk to other parents who have children with the same eye condition as their child, they want access to the latest health and education information, and they want to know what the future holds, said Susan LaVenture, Executive Director of NAPVI. FamilyConnect offers parents all these things - and more - in one place.

In addition to joining a community of parents, visitors to www.familyconnect.org can create a personal profile and receive information on news and events based on their child's age, eye condition, and location. Families can also find articles written by parents and professionals on topics such as:

  • Finding the Right Eye Care Professionals for Your Child
  • Developmental Milestones: What Do They Mean?
  • Your Child's Individualized Educational Program
  • Friendship in the Teen Years
  • College Life Begins

In designing this web site, AFB and NAPVI partnered with leading national organizations and hundreds of local agencies that serve children who are visually impaired to keep FamilyConnect content complete and up to date. AFB and NAPVI also solicited input from families across the country.

The goal of www.familyconnect.org is to provide connections and support. By providing accurate information and creating a forum for meaningful discussion, families and their visually impaired children will feel empowered to reach their full potential.

FamilyConnect is generously supported by grants from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Inc. and Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Morgan Stanley.