Our First Family Day

Authors: Barbara Knighton, Parent of a TSBVI student

Keywords: TSBVI, Family Day, families

Abstract: A parent provides information about Family Day at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) and what it meant to her family to attend for the first time.

Each November, TSBVI welcomes families of current students to come and experience what life at TSBVI is all about. Aside from bringing people together, a major focus is to provide families and instructional teams the opportunity to have a face-to-face conference about their student’s progress. These conferences are relatively unstructured and centered around areas of growth, strengths, and planning for next steps. This is all carefully orchestrated around a Transition and Wellness Fair, a carnival in the quad, a performance, and tasty meals served by the cafeteria staff. Our son Joshua is in 9th grade, and this is his first year at TSBVI. Not knowing what to expect, we made our way from Houston to Austin. We were looking forward to Family Day, and while we were filled with excitement, we were also a bit apprehensive with anticipation of the weekend ahead.

Joshua’s school building hosted a Fall Festival on the Friday before Family Day. Students from various classes made items to sample and sell. There were yummy foods and beverages, beautiful artwork, and handmade crafts. Some of the students showed off their musical talents with a brief performance. Joshua’s class made buttons, magnets, cards and hosted a photo booth. It was awesome getting to see all the students’ handiwork and creativity. The foyer itself was decorated, and there was such a positive energy between students and staff who visited from all over campus.

A student stands with an adult in front of a green backdrop topped with red and yellow balloons.

Joshua and Katie, his Orientation and Mobility Instructor, pose in front of his class’ photo booth.

On Saturday morning, we arrived in the cafeteria to get our individual schedules and have breakfast with other families. We were treated to a brief welcome and announcements from the superintendent, and then we were off to begin our day. The weather was perfect, and we were able to explore the Transition and Wellness Fair and some games outdoors. The Transition and Wellness Fair had lots of valuable information for both parents, families, and students. Some of the exhibitors included the Texas Workforce Commission, the TAPVI parent organization, and information on SSI and SSDI. After exploring the fair, Joshua enjoyed watching his peers partake in the motorcycle rides. He rode on a tandem bike. He also joined us in the photo booth.

Mark and Joshua on tandem bike

Joshua and Mark, Recreation Staff member, take a ride on a tandem bike during Family Day.

When it was time to conference with Joshua’s instructional team, we made our way to his classroom. As we requested, all of the related services staff were able to attend. It was so uplifting to hear so many positive things being said about our son and the progress he’s made. Unlike our experiences with ARD meetings, the conversation felt less structured and free-flowing. We asked questions and exchanged ideas. The hour really flew by!

After our conference, we had lunch with other families in the cafeteria. TSBVI brought in sandwich boxes from a local restaurant and had ice cream for dessert. After lunch, Joshua took us on a tour of “his” campus, as he calls it. He beamed with pride as he showed us his favorite places on campus. He walked us around to where he gets on the bus to come home, where he goes bowling, and where the recreation center and track are located. After our tour, it was time to head to the auditorium for the student showcase. The performances were outstanding! We really enjoyed the show.

After all the fun, we headed back to the hotel for some rest before dinner. Joshua chose to stay with us at the hotel instead of in the dorm. He loves to travel and stay in hotels, so this was a real treat for him. We ended our weekend by dropping him off at his dorm on Sunday morning after breakfast and then headed home.

The decision to send our only child with multiple impairments and cognitive deficits off to a residential program several hours away was extremely difficult. Family Day gave us the positive feedback we needed, and it really reinforced our decision. Not only did the experience put our minds at ease, but everyone really made us feel like an integral part of Joshua’s team and the TSBVI family.

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