As you prepare your visually impaired teenager for independence, remember to stay focused on the big picture by helping your teen discover what it will to take to prepare her for a satisfying adult life. This will almost surely mean your child will need to pursue training in independent living skills, Orientation and Mobility, social skills, and of course employment education. As October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, let’s focus on readying your child for gainful employment.
It’s all about trajectory. As your child’s interests and aptitudes become clear, you can help ensure she is currently taking steps that lead to successful employment as an adult.
Let’s examine the experiences and training that can be undertaken now that pave the way toward rewarding employment:
- Maintain high expectations of your child. She must be expected to utilize at home the skills she’s learning at school (especially blindness-specific training such as Orientation and Mobility, braille, access technology, calendar use, study skills, etc.) in order to master them for use in employment. In fact, your child’s independent community travel is a predictor of her future employment success. ( Orientation and Mobility Skills and Outcome Expectations) as Predictors of Employment for Young Adults with Visual Impairments)
- Expose your child to a variety of work settings. (Beyond High School: Preparing Adolescents for Tomorrow’s Challenges)
- Request that transition services begin as early as possible. The dreams, goals, and pursuits of transition services should be student-led, as she is the leader of her future. (Beyond High School: Preparing Adolescents for Tomorrow’s Challenges)
- Ask your child’s IEP team to administer a vocational assessment early in her high school years so that your daughter and the team can identify her career-related aptitudes, strengths, and weaknesses. The team can train your daughter in her areas of weakness and further improve her strengths, preparing her for employment. (Beyond High School: Preparing Adolescents for Tomorrow’s Challenges)
- If at all possible, encourage your child to take classes or high school tracks that prepare her for specific career options. (Beyond High School: Preparing Adolescents for Tomorrow’s Challenges)
- Encourage your teen to participate in community activities, sports, or interest groups. She will benefit from developing and practicing social skills. ( Social Skills for Youths with Visual Impairments: A Meta- Analysis)
- Ensure your teen is participating in family chores. She will develop responsibility and the concept of contributing to a group. ( Three Things Parents Should Know About Career Education)
- Urge your child to begin a work experience, whether a part-time job, a regular work opportunity within the school, or a volunteer experience. (Beyond High School: Preparing Adolescents for Tomorrow’s Challenges)
- Encourage your teen to learn from a mentor who is blind or visually impaired and working in a career field of interest. She should be inspired to work; receive positive, realistic encouragement and feedback; and obtain answers to her questions about working as a person with a visual impairment. ( Orientation and Mobility Skills and Outcome Expectations as Predictors of Employment for Young Adults with Visual Impairments)
If your teen has multiple disabilities, don’t forget to utilize Personal Futures Planning meetings when helping her prepare for employment and a satisfying adult life.
Remember, you’re not in this alone. Preparing your teen for employment is a group effort that includes your child, yourself, the school personnel, and community supports.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions or share your concerns in the comments section or on the http://www.familyconnect.org/messageboards.aspx FamilyConnect message boards.