How Can a Peer Mentor Make a Difference for a Switch Student Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired? - Life.Church Leaders

How Can a Peer Mentor Make a Difference for a Switch Student Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired?

by Amber Siany

Hello, peer mentor! I’m Abigail. My younger brother is a senior in high school and checks every box for your typical teenager. He loves listening to his music loud, is up-to-date with all of the celebrity gossip and drama, and uses social media like a pro.

He’s been to Switch a handful of times, but he’s never had an awesome experience. A lot of this is due to his visual impairment. He was born completely blind, so the environment at Switch can easily become overwhelming. What’s crazy, is that my life-of-every-party brother still goes when he is able to because he loves the community, worship, and discussion time.

When I told him about the peer mentors at Switch, his face lit up as he realized the opportunities this could hold.

There are a lot of questions around the “best ways” to serve someone who is blind. If you’re curious, this article has a lot of good ideas. I thought my brother would be a good source to seek answers from. So, we sat down one afternoon and just talked. Here’s what he had to say.

  1. What does school look like for you?
    “I have the opportunity to go to two different schools: one for visually impaired students, and a private school. It is definitely a unique and different situation because I get to experience a ‘specialized’ school as well as a ‘normal’ school compared to what my peers would have. In these two schools, I’ve been able to appreciate when assignments, tests, and readings are accessible for me. It helps me know what’s going on, and to continue learning.”
  2. I know we’ve been to Switch together a few times. Can you tell me what that experience was like?
    “I remember it being very loud. People were moving around me a lot, especially at the beginning in the lobby. Then I remember going into the auditorium and loving the worship. It was loud, I could feel the beat, and I loved everything about it. I think they might have played a game, too. That wasn’t as fun for me because I didn’t really know what was going on.”
  3. What did assistance or guidance look like?
    “Thankfully I was with people I knew, so they were able to help me around. It was still hard though because everyone wanted to do their own things, so sometimes I got left out. I think if I had been walked around, or had a consistent person, it wouldn’t have been as bad.”
  4. What advice would you give someone your age who wants to be a peer mentor for someone who is blind or visually impaired?
    “Let us have our independence, but also don’t leave us. If there’s something we need, we’ll let you know. Please don’t walk away from us without saying something first. If someone is completely blind, like me, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been abandoned. Also, try to include us in the activity and games. If there’s something that may seem dangerous for someone who can’t see, ask them if there’s a way to modify the game or activity to include them and make them comfortable.”
  5. Would you rather have an adult or someone your age for support at Switch?
    “I’d rather have someone my own age for support because I feel like I could relate to them more on a personal level.”

My brother still goes to Switch when he’s able to, since his school schedule is so crazy. However, when he does, he knows that there will be people to assist him. While every student will be different, the things my brother talked about are a great place to start.

Peer mentor, thank you for the role you are playing in helping other students become fully devoted followers of Christ!