Introducing TAPVI’s New President

Authors: Hillary Rodriguez, Parent and TAPVI President

Keywords: Texas Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, TAPVI, family support organization, Texas Tween/ Teen Time, social media

Abstract: The Texas Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (TAPVI) has just elected Hillary Rodriguez as its new president. In this article, Hillary introduces herself, shares information about her journey to TAPVI, and describes her aspirations for the organization. Readers can also learn more about how to become connected with and informed about TAPVI events.

Hello, all! My name is Hillary Rodriguez, and I have been elected as the new President of the Texas Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (TAPVI) organization for the 2020-2021 year. I’d like to take this opportunity to share a little bit about myself, my family, and my aspirations for the organization.

I live in Houston, Texas with my husband, Javier, and our three children. I work full time as a Quality Assurance Laboratory Supervisor at an agricultural liquid supplement company. When I am not working or being a mom, I volunteer. Along with TAPVI, I am also serving my second year as treasurer for our local school district’s Special Education PTA (previously 3rd VP of Communications for two years) and treasurer for my son’s Cub Scout Pack. I volunteer regularly at my church in a variety of capacities. My passion for volunteering and serving others started with my mother. She was always volunteering with local hospitals while raising her children, and while in high school, I followed her lead and began volunteering at Texas Children’s Hospital, a place I became more familiar with after my daughter was born.

A man and woman stand in front of several trees and a lake with their three young children, two boys and a girl.

Hillary, her husband Javier, and their three children.

My daughter Madelyn was born exactly a month after Hurricane Ike destroyed our home and school located in Galveston, Texas. It was already a traumatic time for our young family when we first noticed something abnormal with Madelyn’s eyes only one day after she was born. I was in denial at first, but eventually we were sitting in her pediatrician’s office, waiting for a referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist. One week later, we received her diagnosis. Madelyn has microphthalmia and colobomas of the retina, optic nerve, and iris. I was devastated. My husband had just graduated college, and I was still finishing school. How were we going to support a child with a visual impairment? Her doctors ordered a full genetic evaluation and an MRI. Less than one month after she was born, I was nursing Madelyn in some of the same hallways I had spent many hours volunteering in, waiting for them to take her back for anesthesia. After bringing her home that day, something changed within me that I can only describe as a fire lighting up. I became determined that even if she could not see the world around her, she would experience great things. That “fire” continues to drive me today as I move forward, engaging and encouraging families who are first receiving their diagnoses as well as those with older kids who strive to challenge themselves to greater heights.

Today Madelyn is a confident, intelligent sixth grader attending a Science Magnet school within her district. She attends General Education classes with her sighted peers but also has an IEP with VI and O&M services. She is extremely independent and uses a cane to get around. One of the things I feel strongly about is allowing all kids to excel to their abilities, despite their disabilities. At home, we find solutions to help Madelyn succeed as a family, with my husband and I sitting down and asking for her input towards solutions. Things like adding carpets to the stairs so she can differentiate the bottom step and the ground floor, bump dots on appliances, tactile markers on clothes, or audio settings for devices have been very helpful. These solutions allow her confidence to soar as she accomplishes amazing things like winning fourth place in her district science fair, art contest awards, and playing three instruments. These past few years watching Madelyn grow into a young lady have inspired me even more. I am truly in awe of her bravery, determination, and compassion.

A young girl wearing a green dress, pink bow, and glasses smiles while holding a 4th place ribbon.

Madelyn receives a 4th place ribbon for her science fair project.

This year has been a challenge for so many of us. Navigating a new way of life has been stressful and disconnecting. This year in TAPVI, I intend to focus on facilitating new connections. One of the things Madelyn missed so much this year was attending her normal schedule of summer camps. Connecting with other children who are blind or visually impaired is her outlet every year. TAPVI plans on starting a Texas Tween/Teen Time this Fall. This will be an RSVP invite-only event where kids who are blind or visually impaired can make the connections they aren’t otherwise able to make right now. This will be hosted via Zoom with various topics and open share each time. The goal is to make long-standing relationships and build a community through fun and laughter.

Please make sure you are on the TAPVI mailing list by filling out the Google Form and don’t forget to also “Like” and “Follow” our Facebook page @TAPVIFamilies. There, you will find information about upcoming events. We welcome you to share your events, thoughts, and resources on our Facebook group, TAPVI Families Connected. To join, just answer some brief questions, and an administrator will let you in the group.

I look forward to meeting you all this year and making new connections!

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