Winter Programs 2021

Image of snowflakes against a winter backdrop with the words Winter Programs 2021 over top.
Kids Connect Support Group | Exploring Work Wednesdays | Virtual Parent’s Night Out  | Online Baby Beginnings Program / Adam’s Accessible Story Time | Creating Connections | Baking With Blind Beginnings | Real Teen Talk Creating Confidence Workshops | Online Mental Toughness Creating Confidence Workshops | Seeing Things Differently Parent Support Group | Online Youth Leadership Program | Harry Potter Book Club

Kids Connect Support Group

EVERY SECOND Tuesday STARTING JAN 5 – 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM PST

This program is for children & youth who are blind or partially sighted 7 – 13 years

Many children across BC are missing the social connection with other kids at school and in their communities. Each Tuesday, children 7 – 13 years of age who are blind or partially sighted can connect with each other in our Blind Beginnings Zoom room. This is a place to share struggles, strategies, and successes, but also to play games, tell stories, and make new friends.
When: Every second Tuesday starting Jan 5  at 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm PST
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room
Register now for the Kids Connect Support Group!

Exploring Work Wednesdays

Second Wednesday Of The Month 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm PST

Due to popular demand, we’ve extended this program and included it in our Winter Programming!

What kind of careers do people who are blind or partially sighted have? What are some potential career paths? What is it like for an employee who is blind or partially sighted at a workplace?

Parents quite often ask these types of questions, and uncertainty about future careers can be very stressful for both families and youth.  In order to help answer some of these questions, we are inviting parents and youth to our Blind Beginnings Zoom Room this Fall as we meet individuals who are blind or partially sighted and hear all about their own employment journeys.

Each session will consist of two guest speakers who will tell us about how they chose their career, what training, education, and accommodations may have been required for their job, and any challenges they may have had to overcome.  

Our goal is to not only inform but also to inspire youth that may feel unsure of what kind of jobs may await them as they enter the workforce.

Who We Will Meet:

Wednesday, January  13, 2021

In this session, we’ll meet Grant and Graham Hardy, brothers who are both blind from birth. Grant is a Presenter with Accessible Media, and Graham is a lawyer.

Wednesday February 10, 2021
TBA

Wednesday March 10, 2021
TBA

When: January 13, February 10, and March 10 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room
Register now for Exploring Work Wednesdays! 

Virtual Parent’s Night Out

EVERY OTHER Thursday Starting Jan 7, 2021 – 7:00 pm PST

Parents are invited to connect online, without your children, to share your challenges, frustrations, worries, and strategies for coping. Some of you aren’t seeing all the professionals who normally come into your home to work with your child, some of you are juggling home-schooling and working from home, some of you may have lost your jobs. Whatever your situation, this group is a place to receive support from other parents as well as a registered clinical counselor.

This winter we are adding something new to our Virtual Parent’s Night Out. In addition to offering this chance to drop-in and network with other parents of blind or partially sighted children, we will also be offering a workshop format once a month where parents will be able to gain information and resources about a pre-determined topic.

Our first drop-in parent support will take place on January 7, 2021. A registered clinical counselor will connect with parents to make introductions, answer questions, and offer support.

on January 21, 2021 our workshop topic will be “Preparing your Child for Pre-School or Kindergarten” and our presenters will be Adam Wilton of the Provincial Resource Centre of the Visually Impaired, and Bruce Taylor, Early Childhood Vision Specialist.

On February 18, 2021 our workshop topic will be: “What is a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, and What Support Do They Provide”, and our presenter will be Winnie Lee.

Who can attend: Blind Beginnings Parents across BC / Yukon
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room
When: every other Thursday starting January 7, 2021 at 7:00 pm PST
Register now for Virtual Parent’s Night Out/Online Support Group

Online Baby Beginnings Program / Adam’s Accessible Story Time

Every Second Saturday Starting Jan 16 – 9:00 am – 11:00 am PST

Our Online Baby Beginnings Program, in partnership with Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada BC, is a bi-monthly drop-in group for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers who are blind or partially sighted and their caregivers.

Parents of children birth to five years of age are invited to connect online every second Saturday. We start at 9:00 am with a consultation with Margret Hanke, an Early Child Vision Specialist from Vision Loss Rehabilitation BC. This is a chance for parents to ask specific questions about your child’s vision and/or development.

At 9:30 am, All Blind Beginnings children/youth and their families are invited to join the Zoom room for Adam’s Accessible Story Time! Adam will read stories, but also provide image description and explain concepts that might be new to some listeners. Following each story listeners can share their thoughts or ask questions about the story.

After the stories, parents are welcome to stay in the room for some social connection and support from other parents, and Shawn Marsolais. This is a chance to share strategies and celebrate successes with a group that can relate to the experience of raising a child with a visual impairment.

Who can attend:
From 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM PST – Parents/Caregivers of children birth to 5 years of age
From 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM PST – Any Blind Beginnings child/youth and their families
When: Every other Saturday starting January 16, 2021
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room
Register now for Online Baby Beginnings / Adam’s Accessible Story Time

Creating Connections

4TH Friday of the Month Starting Jan 22 – 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm PST

This program is for children & youth who are blind or partially sighted 12 – 20 years

On the last Friday evening of each month youth who are blind or partially sighted 12 – 20 years are invited to connect online for Creating Connections!

This is an opportunity for youth to meet and socialize with peers who are also blind or partially sighted, and make new friends. There will be get-to-know-you games, themed activities, and of course some laughter and fun.

Who can attend: Children & youth who are blind or partially sighted 12 – 20 years
When:  4th Friday of the month: January 22, February 26, and March 26, 2021  7:00 PM – 8:30 PM PST
Register now for Creating Connections

Baking With Blind Beginnings

4th Saturday of the Month 10:15 AM PST

After the great success and enthusiastic reception of Baking with Blind Beginnings during the Fall, we have decided to include it into our Winter Programs as well!

One of our first Blind Beginnings programs ever offered was our Family Community Discovery program where BC’s children and youth who are blind or partially sighted and their families attended a range of outings in the community to learn new concepts through hands on experiential learning.
The purpose of this program is twofold: 1) offer opportunities to children and youth who are blind or partially sighted to learn about their community and concepts at their own pace, and 2) offer families to spend leisure time together while meeting other families who form part of their network of support.

Each month, families who register for this program will receive the recipe and list of ingredients and equipment needed in advance. On the morning of the program, families will join us in the Blind Beginnings Zoom Room from their kitchens across BC. Together we will each prepare and bake that day’s recipe. We will be led through the process by one of our long-time Youth Mentors Jill Sloane. If you attended our online Independent Living Skills Workshop this summer, you know how competent and capable Jill is.

Jill grew up with a visual impairment, but lost her remaining sight at age 15, and had to learn how to do everything all over again. She now lives independently, a plane ride away from her family, and has direct experience on how vital these skills are, as she tells us:

“I always had plans to move to Vancouver and attend university, and without these life skills there’s no way that would have happened. In my opinion, life skills are one of the main things needed to become independent, and they are a great way of showing family and friends that you are capable and can do anything you put your mind to! I was so grateful to have the instructor I did teach me all of these things, and I am so excited to be able to lead the Baking with Blind Beginnings program.”

As Jill talks us through the steps to bake our delicious treats, families will follow along in their kitchens. If you are stuck, you can unmute and ask your questions. When our baking is in the oven, we can enjoy some social time together while we wait for, and then taste what we have made.

So what are we making? Prepare your sweet tooth, we’ve come up with a list of recipes that will be sure to please everyone in your household!

January 23 – Lemon Squares
February 27 – No Bake Cheesecake (please note: will require an electric mixer)
March 27 – Mini-Egg Cookies

Who can attend: Any Blind Beginnings family across BC
Please note: This is a family program, so we would ask that each child with a visual impairment is accompanied by at least one parent or responsible adult.

Recipes will be sent on the Friday, a week before the baking session to allow families time to purchase the necessary ingredients. If you know now that you wish to register for all 3 sessions, please include that information when you register.
Register now for Baking With Blind Beginnings!

Real Teen Talk Creating Confidence Workshops

January 7, 14, 21, and 28 2021 from 4:00 – 5:30 PM PST

This program is for BC youth who are blind or partially sighted 13 – 19 years

Over the course of 2021, we will offer four Creating Confidence workshops each focused on a different topic. The first Workshop of 2021 is our Real Teen Talk Creating Confidence Workshop which begins on January 7, 2021 and will run for four consecutive Thursdays.

Fitting in can be hard.  For children and 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, how they are styling their hair, and how they use body language, you wonder about your own physical appearance and style.

Sighted people are often unfamiliar with blindness and may choose not to speak to a person who is blind or partially sighted out of fear that they may do something to offend.  The sooner children who are blind or partially sighted learn how to put sighted peers at ease the easier social interactions will be.  The more comfortable we are with our visual impairment, the more comfortable our sighted peers will be with us, and the more likely friendships will develop.

We all need help sometimes, but when you have a visual impairment you worry when you seem to be asking for help more than others.  It’s important to recognize what you bring to the friendship, but also some ways to make things feel more balanced.

Throughout this workshop, Youth aged 13 – 19 will participate in activities and discussions that will increase confidence and expand social skills, and help them to become more comfortable with themselves. Specific topics include:

  • Tips for Navigating social situations and putting people at ease about your visual impairment
  • How to determine if your friendships are balanced and what to do if they are not
  • Physical appearance – how do you choose your image and style when you can’t see what others look like
  • Tips for grooming & personal hygene including make-up, nails, hair, fashion, etc.
  • What is flirting, and how can you tell if somebody likes you
  • Problem solving the challenges of menstruation when you are blind (Note: we will provide a private breakout room for those who menstruate for this conversation. A different topic in a separate room will be offered to those who do not)

When: Four consecutive Thursday afternoons:  January 7, 14, 21, and 28, 2021 from 4:00 – 5:30 PM.
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room – so from the comfort of your home!
Register now for Real Teen Talk Creating Confidence Workshops!

Online Mental Toughness Creating Confidence Workshops

February 18, and 25, and March 4, and 11, 2021 from 4:00 – 5:30 PM PST

This program is for BC youth who are blind or partially sighted 13 – 19 years

Since the beginning of COVID-19 almost a year ago, it has been a challenging time for all of us. When we reflect on the challenges, many are not necessarily physical – they have been emotional and could arise from many different situations and in many different ways:  feeling lonely because we can’t see our friends and families, feeling angry that we can’t do the activities we enjoy, feeling sad that some of our favorite places have closed down, feeling scared that we will have forgotten some of the independence skills we rely on or feeling grief for the people we have lost.

Life is full of challenges and adversity, which is why it is important for teens to develop some mental toughness.

This February and March, we invite participants Age 13-19 to join Registered Clinical Counsellor Shawn Marsolais in a workshop to begin to build psychological strength and mental toughness.

Each week, Youth aged 13 – 19 will explore and discuss specific topics such as:

  • How your physical health affects your mental health; sleep, diet, exercise, meditation
  • Handling big emotions like anger, sadness, frustration, loneliness, and discouragement
  • Practicing gratitude, and how it is not the same as thinking positive
  • recognizing signs of stress within yourself and strategies for coping with stress
  • Creating healthy self-care habits

When: Four consecutive Thursday afternoons:  February 18, 25, and March 4, and 11, 2021 from 4:00 – 5:30 PM
Where: The Blind Beginnings Zoom Room – so from the comfort of your home!

Register now for the Online Mental Toughness Creating Confidence Workshops!

Seeing Things Differently Parents Support Group

March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, and April 6, from 7:30 – 9:00 PM PST

This program is for parents who are raising a child who is blind or partially sighted in BC/Yukon

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 juggling appointments with PT’s, OT’s, and specialists.

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 diagnosed.  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.

When: The group will begin on Tuesday March 2, 2021 and will run for six consecutive Tuesday evenings until April 6 – March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, and April 6, from 7:30 – 9:00 PM
Please mark these dates on your calendar. We ask that you commit to attending all 6 sessions
Who: Parents who are raising a child who is blind or partially sighted in BC/Yukon

Group Facilitators:
The group will be facilitated by Shawn Marsolais and Jan Hart; both are registered counsellors and parents.

Shawn Marsolais is a Registered Clinical Counsellor who has been working with children & youth who are blind or partially sighted for over twenty years.  She completed her Masters of Education in Vocational Rehabilitation Counselling in 2012, and has been offering individual counselling and facilitating Parent Support Groups through Blind Beginnings since then.  Shawn was born with a degenerative eye-condition that caused her vision to deteriorate throughout her childhood.  She understands firsthand the challenges families face when coming to terms with a permanent diagnosis.  Shawn also works part-time doing individual counselling in private practice through Denis Boyd & Associates in Coquitlam.

Jan Hart is a Registered Professional Counsellor with 6 years’ experience running her own counselling practice. She sees both individuals and families, has run counselling groups for children with anxiety as well as parent support evenings. She was a public School teacher for twenty years working mainly with elementary age students and also taught art in high school.  One of Jan’s motivations for becoming a counsellor was to assist others in the challenges of parenting

Register now for the Seeing Things Differently Parents Support Group!

Online Youth Leadership Program

April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, May 6 from 4:00 – 5:30 PM PST

This program is for BC youth who are blind or partially sighted 13 – 19 years

For over ten years, Blind Beginnings has hosted a Youth Leadership Weekend each Spring for teens who are blind or partially sighted. Historically, it has drawn youth 13 – 19 years of age from all across BC to participate in a series of sessions and activities that are designed to build confidence and employment skills in order to prepare them for their future transition to work and adult life.

In 2020 our in-person training weekend had to be cancelled because of COVID-19. Instead we offered a 6-week online training program which was also very successful.

We are excited to offer this training again in 2021. The sessions will run on six consecutive Thursdays starting on April 8. Each session will focus on a different leadership skill and in order to graduate as a Youth Leader, (which enables the youth to start volunteering on our youth led projects) participants will need to participate in all six sessions.

The sessions are as follows:

Session 1 – April 1 – Introductions/Team Building/What makes a good leader

Session 2 –April 8 – Communication: Empathy & Active Listening

Session 3 –April 15 – Self-advocacy: How to Ask for What You Need

Session 4 –April 22 – Public Speaking & Presentation Skills

Session 5 –April 29 – Professionalism & Attitude

Session 6 –May 6 – Benefits of Volunteering and Youth Leader Opportunities Within Blind Beginnings

The objective of this program is to provide youth with transferable skills and volunteer experience that will assist them in their future employment pursuits.

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

  • Being a mentor and resource to younger children who are blind or parents raising a child that is blind
  • Providing awareness presentations in their communities
  • Contributing to our Limitless Podcast and/or Blog
  • Assisting in the planning of group projects, fundraisers, and special events

Deadline to register is March 29, 2021

Register now for the Online Youth Leadership Program!

Harry Potter Book Club

WEDNESDAYS from 4:00 – 5:30 PM PST Starting March 3rd

ATTENTION ALL WITCHES AND WIZARDS!

Just like He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, the Blind Beginnings Harry Potter Book Club has returned! However, our plan isn’t a nefarious one that involves the vaporizing of a certain young wizard — we just want to have fun reading the next book in the epic J.K. Rowling series!

All Blind Beginnings children and youth are invited to join us as we convert the Blind Beginnings Zoom Room into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and spend some time reading our way through Book 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!

Starting on March 3rd, and running every Wednesday from 4:00 – 5:30-pm PST, we’ll listen to some Blind Beginnings Youth Mentors read a couple of chapters.

If you have a copy of the book, you are welcome to read along. If you don’t have your own copy, and you’d like one, we’ll do our best to find you one. Wands and robes are optional.

Register now for the Harry Potter Book Club!

Registration Information

If you would like to attend any or all of these sessions, register by emailing Emily at:  emily@blindbeginnings.ca.   Please provide the name of all participants, and ages of any children or youth, and the program or online event that you wish to attend.  Also include the email address we can send the Zoom link to.

All participants must be members of Blind Beginnings.  You can become a member or renew your membership at https://www.blindbeginnings.ca/support/membership/.