Preparing for Work

Tips on helping youth with visual impairments to prepare for the world of work through classroom jobs, chores, and vocational training

As with all “transition” skills, these begin from the earliest stages of a child’s life. While preparing for work may seem like something in the distant future for young children, learning about different types of jobs, developing good work behaviors, and taking responsibility for household or classroom jobs are a great way to begin to prepare for work at a young age.

What can be done in the early years?

Household Chores

Children who are blind or visually impaired should participate in household tasks at the earliest age possible.  For the youngest children or for those with additional disabilities, this might be as simple as picking up their cup or plate when a meal is finished and handing it to an adult, moving next to helping to clear the table and wash dishes.  Other activities include chores such as helping to make the bed, put laundry in a designated area, put items in the cart when grocery shopping, and stirring ingredients during the preparation of a meal.  Each child should participate as fully as they are able in each step of the process, with appropriate support and instruction.  This participation serves the dual purpose of helping children to develop independent living skills and work behaviors, while also helping them to understand basic concepts building on memory, sequence, spatial orientation, and sensory awareness.

Classroom Jobs

Beginning as early as preschool, most classrooms have classroom jobs which all children are expected to perform.  This might include pushing in the chairs, turning off the lights, returning books and other materials to the proper locations. Students who are blind or visually impaired should be expected to do classroom jobs, just as their sighted peers do.

Incorporating Jobs into the Daily Routine

There are many opportunities around the school for students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities, to participate, including:

Be sure to work closely with existing personnel at the school, so that they understand the purpose of including students and training them to help with these jobs.  We have found that once cafeteria staff, office staff, grounds keepers and others around the school campus understand why the students are doing these jobs, they often become excellent mentors.  In many cases the paid personnel are the most creative in coming up with appropriate accommodations or in identifying new work activities!

Strategies to help children develop vocational skills

The following overall strategies are effective in helping children develop work skills:

To read more about this topic, see:  Total Life Learning: Preparing for Transition

Adult chats in an office with an adolescent who is blind

More on Preparing for Work:

Career exploration

Job fairs

Job development

Job descriptions

Tiered work systems

Giving back to the community

A team of support

By Charlotte Cushman