Blind Beginnings Programs

Junior Explorer’s Program

Junior Explorers Sports Day with BC Blind Sports

A series of workshops and structured activities provides children who are blind or partially sighted with learning opportunities to develop cognitive, social, creative and coordination skills, and self-orientation techniques.

The Junior Explorer’s Program is comprised of:

  • Play Group for Preschoolers
  • Junior Explorer’s Clubs: Metro Vancouver, and the Fraser Valley
  • Echolocation & Self-directed Discovery Workshops
  • Creating Confidence Workshop ~ Part 1

This program seeks to help children increase self-confidence, become more independent, and be able to participate in a broader range of life activities. It also provides opportunities for both children who are blind or partially sighted and their sighted siblings to develop friendships with other children experiencing similar life circumstances in order to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Play Group for Preschoolers

Presented in partnership with CNIB.

Blind and partially sighted children up to six years of age and their parents/caregivers enjoy a morning of stories, songs, snacks, and socializing! Come out and meet some other families who are new to raising a child who is blind or partially sighted.

To find out when and where the next Play Group is taking place, please sign up for our mailing list or contact us.

Junior Explorer’s Club

Junior Explorer’s Club is for blind and partially sighted children 5 to 12 years and their siblings—younger and older children are also welcome.

Participants meet one Saturday a month to participate in a variety of recreational and artistic activities. The purpose of the club is to introduce blind children to basic skills related to physical activity, foster the development of friendships, and simply have fun with their siblings and peers. The unique learning and developmental needs of partially sighted children are addressed to help them develop cognitive, social, creative and coordination skills through sports, creative arts, music and other recreation activities.

The monthly clubs are currently being offered in Metro Vancouver, and in the Fraser Valley. If you would like more details or to start a club in your community, please email us.

Echolocation & Self-directed Discovery Workshops

This program is for blind and partially sighted children up to 12 years and their families.

For children and youth who are blind or partially sighted, to be able to explore their environment, know where they are and move safely and independently, are essential skills that are taught by Orientation & Mobility Specialists. Echolocation is another tool that can help with orientation.

Echolocation works the same way that submarines use sonar when they send out a sound to detect information about the surrounding environment. When a blind person emits a sound with a tongue click, hand clap or finger snap, the sound bounces off nearby objects, providing the person with information about his/her surroundings. Children and adults who orient themselves using echolocation learn to identify the size, depth, distance and texture of objects or landscape, by the way they sound, which results in greater mobility and independence.

Every two years, through a partnership with Daniel Kish of World Access for the Blind, Blind Beginnings offers the Echolocation Workshop series to blind and partially sighted children and youth in BC.

About Daniel Kish

To find out when and where the next Echolocation workshop is taking place, subscribe to our email updates or  email us.

Creating Confidence Workshop ~ Part 1

In a fun and safe environment, blind and partially sighted children 8 to 12 years participate in activities, discussions and real-life situations that help to increase confidence and expand social skills, while they also become more comfortable talking about blindness and/or visual impairment.

Specific topics include:

  • What your nonverbal communication says about you
  • Effective communication about your blindness
  • Adopting positive self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • Knowing how to prepare your look and what to do in social situations

The workshop includes an opportunity for participants to do a mock presentation about their visual impairment, as if they were presenting to their class at school.

Please email us to book a Creating Confidence Workshop in your community.


 Youth Leadership Program

Our 2014 Youth Leadership Weekend
Our 2014 Youth Leadership Weekend

This leadership training program provides adolescents 13 to 19 years who are blind or partially sighted with opportunities to develop skills in public speaking, mentoring, team building and leadership.

The Youth Leadership Network is comprised of:

  • Leadership Training Weekend + Leadership in Action Practicum
  • What Happens After Grad Workshop
  • Creating Confidence Workshop ~ Part 2

Program Objective This program aims to help youth build self-confidence, set challenging personal goals, and develop career-building skills through mentoring younger children, making presentations in their community, and assisting with fundraising events.

Leadership Training Weekend + Leadership in Action Practicum

The program gives blind and partially sighted youth 13 to 19 years opportunities to develop skills for future employment, feel less limited by their disability and set higher expectations for their academic, career and personal lives. This is accomplished through participation in a 3-day training held at the Blind Beginnings office in New Westminster. Transportation is arranged for participants who live outside the Lower Mainland. Meals and accommodations are provided at nearby restaurants and a pre-arranged hotel. Adult chaperones are present on a 24-hour basis.

Following completion of the Leadership Training Weekend, youth are required to complete a 12-month practicum to develop skills in public speaking, communications, mentoring, organization and time management, team building and leadership. Each participant is placed in a small group led by a former graduate of the program. These Youth Mentors assist new participants in meeting their volunteer and presentation targets. All participants work together on fundraising and marketing projects to help raise funds and awareness, which are essential for the continuation of the program. Through these tasks, partially sighted youth gain transferable employment skills, potential employment connections, valuable work experience, and increased confidence.

Youth Leaders who live in different parts of the province communicate with each other via Skype, email and/or social media to set goals, divide tasks, evaluate progress and support each other throughout the 12-month program.

The primary objective of this program is to increase the employability of youth who are blind or partially sighted by providing them with leadership skills training and practical experience in public speaking and volunteering. A secondary objective is to connect trained youth leaders with families of younger blind children to help them build self-esteem and learn to set higher personal goals.

Once trained, Youth Leaders are ready to volunteer in several capacities including:

    • Mentoring younger children who are blind or parents new to raising a blind child
    • Providing presentations in their communities to raise awareness about blindness and the limitless capacities of people who are blind
    • Assisting in the planning of fundraisers and special events in support of Blind Beginnings

The Youth Leadership training weekend takes place every Spring in New Westminster and priority is given to youth who have not previously participated.

 What Happens After Grad Workshop

The purpose of the workshop for blind and partially sighted youth attending Grades 10, 11 and 12 is to prevent the perpetuation of the high unemployment rate of people who are blind or partially sighted. Through this workshop, blind youth will gain the necessary skills, information, resources, and confidence to enter the workforce and compete with sighted peers for their career of choice.

As the youth begin to realize the extent and variety of options in regard to their future employment, they will begin to think differently about their disability. Throughout the workshop, participants will unlearn the negative views they have developed about blindness and learn strategies for reacting to future negative messages.

Over four sessions, the following topics are explored:

  • Career Exploration: Limitless employment possibilities
  • Applying for a Job:  Research and Resumes
  • Importance of Networking: cold calling and information interviews
  • Preparing for the Job Interview: How and when to disclose a disability
  • Workplace Accommodations:  Assistive Technology and Funding

To book a What Happens After Grad Workshop in your community, please email us.

 

Creating Confidence Workshop ~ Part 2

Creating Confidence Workshop ~ Part 2 is designed for blind and partially sighted youth 13 to 19 years.

Fitting in can be hard for most adolescents. For youth who are blind or partially sighted, it has added social challenges. Whether we can see or not, what we look like is often the first thing sighted peers notice. When you can’t see what your peers are wearing or how they are styling their hair, you wonder about your own clothing and hair. Many females who are blind choose not to wear make-up because they don’t want to risk leaving the house with uneven make-up or bad colour choices. The first step to creating confidence is knowing we look great!

Another social challenge for youth who are blind is clearly communicating with sighted peers. If approximately ninety percent of communication is non-verbal through eye contact, posture, gestures, and facial expressions, how do partially sighted youth know that they are communicating the messages they want to?

Finally, sighted youth may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable with blindness and may choose not to speak to a youth who is partially sighted out of fear that they may do something to offend. This means that youth who are blind or partially sighted need to know how to put sighted peers at ease. Being able to talk openly about their visual impairment and answer those unasked questions can result in more positive social interactions with sighted peers.

This workshop includes a make-over session where males and females will receive consultations on their hair-style, clothing colours and style choices, nail care, shaving and hair removal tips, make-up application tips and practice, and skin care suggestions.

At the Creating Confidence Workshop youth will learn:

  • What your nonverbal communication says about you.
  • How to communicate effectively and put people at ease about your blindness.
  • What clothing, hair-styles, and colours look good on you
  • Tips for feeling more confident in social situations

For more details, or to book a Creating Confidence Workshop in your community, please email us.

Parent-to-Parent Support Program

Designed for parents of children who are blind or partially sighted, this series of workshops and counseling support provides parents with opportunities to learn how to access resources and opportunities to help maximize their child’s academic, social and career success. Mentorship training prepares experienced parents to support parents who are new to raising a child who is blind or partially sighted.

The Parent to Parent Support Program is comprised of:

  • Seeing Things Differently Parent Support Group
  • Parent Education Workshops
  • Parent-to-Parent Peer Support

This program aims to ensure parents are informed and supported as they help their child to reach his/her full potential.

Seeing Things Differently Parent Support Group

This support group is for parents/relatives raising a child who is blind or partially sighted.

You have a child with a visual impairment which means life is now different. On top of typical parenting, you have the added challenge of learning about an unfamiliar diagnosis, trying to understand what your child can or can’t see, and you are now using words like braille, white cane, sighted guide, assistive technology, concept development, and blind.

If you are like most parents of a child who is blind or partially sighted, you had not met anybody who was blind before your child was born. The Seeing Things Differently Parent Support Group is a place to connect with other parents who have a first-hand understanding of what you are going through.

Here’s a quote from a parent who participated in the first group:
“If I hadn’t heard other stories I would have continued along the path to what I believed or became my “normal” life and who knows where I would have ended up. The counselors provided the platform to teach us to feel our emotions and supported us with tools to discover the inner strength within us leading us along a holistic healthy emotional path.”

This group takes place over six consecutive weeks for two hours each session. Childcare and light refreshments are provided. Please email us to find out when the next session will be starting.

 

Parent Education Workshops

These workshops are for parents or relatives of a child who is blind or partially sighted. Blind Beginnings offers a variety of workshops to parents who are raising a blind or partially sighted child.

Some topics include:

  • Introduction to braille and early literacy
  • The Ins and Outs of Mobility
  • How to advocate for your child

Encouraging independence at home

  • The latest in assistive technology
  • How to approach the topic of sex education with your blind child
  • The endless opportunities for blind Sports & Recreation

If there is a an additional topic that interests you, or if you would like to request one of these workshops, please contact us.

Parent-to-Parent Peer Support

Peer support is for parents raising a child who is blind or partially sighted.

Parents who have raised a blind child participate in a no-cost, 3-day training weekend to become Support Parents to parents who are new to this role. Experienced parents are trained in basic empathy, active listening, advocacy, workshop and support group facilitation, presentation skills, and current services and resources available to blind children and their families. Each trained Support Parent is then paired with new parents in their community to provide year-round information and peer support.

If you are interested in connecting with a Support Parent or want to attend the next Support Parent training session, please email us.


 Family Community Discovery Program

Smelling garlic at an Urban Farm in Vancouver
Smelling garlic at an Urban Farm in Vancouver

Through participation in family outings in the community, summer camps and annual events, children and youth who are blind or partially sighted are given real-life, hands-on opportunities to learn about basic concepts, develop physical and cognitive skills and build the confidence to try new challenges.

The Family Community Discovery Program is comprised of:

  • Community Discovery Outings
  • Family Social Events
  • Family Adventure Camp
  • Camp Hornby

This program seeks to help children and youth to expand personal boundaries, build self-confidence, as well as providing families with unique bonding experiences and opportunities to build support networks.

Community Discovery Outings

Our Community Discovery Outings program is for blind and partially sighted children up to 19 years and their families.

Community Discovery Outings give blind children the time and opportunities for hands-on exploration they require in order to learn new concepts in the world around them. Children who are blind or partially sighted require a different learning environment than sighted children. For example, when students are taken on a field trip to a farm, sighted children will instantly recognize a cow, whereas sight-impaired children need time to touch, smell and hear the cow to develop an image of this animal in their mind’s eye.

Community Discovery outings currently take place in Metro-Vancouver, Vancouver Island, and Kamloops.

To find out where the next Community Discovery outing will be, please email us.

Family Social Events

For blind and partially sighted children up to 19 years and their families.

Family Social Events (summer BBQ and Christmas party) provide families with opportunities to meet each other. Due to the low incidence of blindness, families often live far from each other so these events aid in establishing important support networks, for the blind children, sighted siblings, and their parents.

Subscribe to our news and events email updates to find out this year’s dates for the family social events or  contact us by email.

Family Adventure Camp
Family wagon ride at Summer Camp
Family wagon ride at Summer Camp

Family Adventure Camps are for blind and partially sighted children up to 19 years and their families.

Every summer over a 4-day weekend, children, siblings and parents participate in this camping and adventure experience, along with other families. Children challenge and extend their personal limits by participating in guided sporting activities, such as kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, high ropes, caving, horseback riding, and archery. They also learn survival and orienteering activities, such as how to pitch a tent and use a compass; and daily living activities, such as meal preparation, cooking and clean-up.

The camp also provides families with opportunities to learn from Youth Leaders who are also blind or partially sighted, and to build peer networks of support. Evenings are spent around a campfire complete with stories, songs, and snacks.

Family Adventure Camp not only facilitates friendships among blind children, but also enables their parents and sighted siblings to build necessary networks of support.

This annual family camp takes place the 4th weekend in August and is offered in a new location each year. If you are interested in registering your family for the next Family Adventure Camp, please  email us.

Camp Hornby

Camp Hornby is for blind and partially sighted children up to 20 years and their families.

In 2002, The Camp Hornby Society was founded to provide an integrated annual outdoor adventure camp for children who are blind, partially sighted and deaf/blind. This camp takes place at the Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre on Hornby Island.

In 2015, Blind Beginnings adopted the camp as part of our Family Community Discovery program.

The objective is to provide campers the opportunity to participate in a variety of challenging and fun activities, and forget about their disability for the week. All activities are led by the trained staff from the outdoor education centre and are not modified for blind children but are conducted within appropriate safety parameters for all children.

Younger children usually come to camp with their families until they feel ready to attend on their own. Child and youth campers are split into small groups and spend each day at camp rotating through a series of activities including; high ropes, repelling, rock climbing, kayaking, a ride in a speedboat, an opportunity to drive a tractor, etc. Each afternoon they enjoy free time at the beach where they can swim in the ocean or relax on shore. In the evenings, large group activities are organized by the Outdoor Education Centre Staff. Each day ends with campfire including songs, stories and skits.

Parents often enjoy informally connecting with each other while their children are busy doing their small group activities. Everybody comes together at mealtimes for delicious food provided by the Outdoor Education Centre.

The camp takes place near the end of July from Thursday through Monday. To receive a registration form for this year’s camp, email us.


Workshops for the Community

 Blindness 101 Workshop

Blindness 101 is a workshop offered to parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends or family members of a child or youth who is blind or partially sighted.  The purpose of the course is to provide an introduction to the basics of blindness including:

  • The Blind Beginnings “No-limits” philosophy
  • Basic labeling and organization strategies
  • Introduction to braille and adaptive technology
  • Importance of exploration, discovery and echolocation

After participating in this course, individuals will be better informed as to the resources and tools available to children who are blind or partially sighted. As a result, whether parent or caregiver, the individual will experience increased confidence and clarity to support blind or partially sighted children to reach their full potential.

 

The Blindness 101 Workshop is available to groups of individuals in any BC community. It is offered in variety of formats including: two hours, half day, or one full day. Cost varies depending on the length and location of the workshop, but is designed to not be a barrier to participation.

To find out about upcoming Blindness 101 Workshops or to plan a workshop in your community, please email us.

No Limits Presentations

Blind Beginnings provides awareness presentations to any community organization highlighting our ‘no limits’ philosophy.

No Limits Presentations are ideal for schools, after-school programs, daycare centres, businesses, community groups, family members and potential employers.

These workshops are offered on a fee-for-service basis.

For more information or to request a workshop in your community, please email us.


Counseling & Consultation

General Support

Blind Beginnings offers a toll free number to family members, professionals, and the general public providing information, resources and support related to blindness.

Call us at 1.866.736.8620 or email shawn@blindbeginnings.ca