First Advisor

Correa-Torres, Silvia M.

First Committee Member

Graefe, Amy

Second Committee Member

Gershwin, Tracy

Third Committee Member

Bezyak, Jill L.

Document Type


Date Created



College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Special Education, Special Education Student Work


Resiliency is comprised of a complex interplay of risk and protective factors that change and develop over time. In the past, research focused on characteristics that allowed individuals to remain untouched by negative events around them; however, over time, this has morphed into investigating not only the characteristics individuals possess but those present within families as well. Families of children who have either a congenital or an acquired disability could face a unique set of risk factors over time that might require different protective factors to ensure they emerged from their adversity positively changed. As professionals, we have a responsibility to assist families in strengthening their protective factors, increasing the likelihood they will develop stronger resilience. There was little research on resilience within families of children with visual impairments. The purpose of this study was to look at the experiences of families of children with low vision to gain a better understanding of their exposure to risk factors as well as the protective factors they found most beneficial. The following research questions guided this study: Q1 What role do risk factors play in the experience of families of children with low vision? Q2 What protective factors do families of children with low vision perceive to be most beneficial? Q3 What are the challenges that families of children with visual impairments experience and how have they overcome them? Ten participants who demonstrated consistently high resiliency were nominated by their teachers of the visually impaired for this study. They were asked to complete an initial survey consisting of basic demographic information as well as the Walsh Family Resiliency questionnaire. Those who scored with a 4 or higher and indicated interest in continuing were asked to complete two interviews as well as a short journaling activity. Interviews and journal entries were coded for common themes in the areas of risk and protective factors and how they interacted with each other. Results found five common risk factors in answer to research question one: (a) unsupportive professionals, (b) trust, (c) finding a place, (d) societal perceptions, and (e) uncertainty. Common protective factors to answer research question two were organized into three groups based on Walsh’s family resiliency theory: (a) belief systems (positive outlook, acceptance of visual impairment, locus of control, and religion); (b) organizational processes (advocacy and information gathering, outside support, supportive professionals, and technology); and (c) communication processes (goal setting, changing relationships, communication, self-care, and problem solving. The implications for practice included ensuring that professionals are providing parents with positive professional interactions along with making parents true partners in the process for their child. Professionals provided invaluable support for parents in information gathering at a level that met their needs and ensuring that parents are connected to the resources they require. The results of this study provided a clearer picture of the pattern of resiliency within these families of children with low vision. While every family responded differently based on their unique makeup and backgrounds, understanding these participants provided a starting point for what to look for in other families of children with low vision to better support them.

Abstract Format



resiliency, disability, visual impairment, low vision, vision loss, Walsh Family Resiliency Theory


202 pages

Local Identifiers


Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.