Parents and caregivers of children who are blind or visually impaired, you have an important role in helping your child prepare for a successful transition to adulthood. And did you know a successful transition starts in early childhood?! It’s true.
The book Beyond High School: Preparing Adolescents for Tomorrow’s Challenges states “For students with disabilities, in particular, family support and involvement contribute to a successful transition and positively impact post-school outcomes.”
Transition – How parents can help prepare
But just how can parents and caregivers support a child’s transition to adulthood? Let’s start with core concepts that begin when you first hold that tiny babe or meet your precious adopted child.
- Your role is to love your child for who they are, no matter their range of attributes and abilities. You give your child the understanding and foundation that they are valuable and lovable. This will be the backbone of their self-confidence (increasing their quality of life and employability).
- You have knowledge of your child like no other supporter in their life. Your role is to help your child identify their preferences, interests, skills, and limitations. They will benefit from the self- awareness as they make career-related decisions.
- You provide continuity and consistency as you support your child’s development and education throughout childhood. You know what motivates your child and how they best learn, and can therefore educate their educators on “what works and does not work” during IFSP or IEP meetings, and in any personal futures planning meetings for your teenager with multiple disabilities.
- You are your child’s advocate, ensuring they are as prepared as possible for future employment. You speak up for the needs of your child, including accessibility requirements, proper evaluations, and appropriate education (general and blindness-specific). You then teach your child to self-advocate!
Here’s another core concept worth highlighting, which we’ll focus on for the remainder of the blog: Most of the skills and experiences your child will need to live independently can be rehearsed and mastered while still living at home, and only you can insist your child takes responsibility for them.
Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC)
So, let’s examine the specific foundational skills and experiences that pave the way toward a satisfying adult life and rewarding employment. The skills and experiences are research-based; you’ll find each source in parenthesis.
- You can support your child who is blind or visually impaired in learning the Expanded Core Curriculum, the subjects and skills that enable them to study the basic educational curriculum along with their sighted classmates. One such subject is Orientation and Mobility, or learning spatial concepts and learning to travel safely. In fact, your child’s independent community travel is a predictor for future employment success. (Orientation and Mobility Skills and Outcome Expectations)
- You can expose your child to a variety of work settings. (Beyond High School: Preparing Adolescents for Tomorrow’s Challenges)
- You can request that transition services begin as early as possible. (Beyond High School: Preparing Adolescents for Tomorrow’s Challenges)
- You can ask your child’s IEP team to administer a vocational assessment early in the high school years so that your child and the team can identify career-related aptitudes, strengths, and weaknesses. The team can train your child in areas of weakness and further improve strengths, preparing your child for employment. (Beyond High School: Preparing Adolescents for Tomorrow’s Challenges)
- You can encourage your child to take classes or high school tracks that prepare them for specific career options. (Beyond High School: Preparing Adolescents for Tomorrow’s Challenges)
- You can encourage your child to participate in community activities, sports, or interest groups. They will benefit from developing and practicing social skills. (Social Skills for Youths with Visual Impairments: A Meta- Analysis)
- You can ensure your teen is participating in family chores. They will develop responsibility and the concept of contributing to a group. (Three Things Parents Should Know About Career Education, Dr. Wolffe)
- You can recommend your child 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)
- You can encourage your teen to learn from a mentor who is blind or visually impaired and working in a career field of interest. Your child may be inspired to work; may receive positive, realistic encouragement and feedback; and may obtain answers to any questions about working as a person with a visual impairment. (Orientation and Mobility Skills and Outcome Expectations)
Supporting your child’s incremental skill development in the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) and ensuring a variety of work-related experiences can feel daunting! If only children came with handbooks—or, even better, an app that would alert you, reminding you to work toward a new skill!
The 4to24 Mobile App
Cue the fanfare! Mississippi State University’s National Technical Assistance on Blindness and Low Vision created one such tool: the 4to24 mobile app. The purpose of the app is to encourage incremental skill development and experiences by sending information, suggested activities, and accompanying resources such as APH FamilyConnect to parents of children ages 4 to 24 (or the youth themselves) and APH CareerConnect articles for transition-age youth who are blind or visually impaired. The self-paced modules are an effort to address all areas of the ECC, preparing the young person for a satisfying adult life and gainful employment.
You can support your child’s smooth transition to adulthood as you intentionally live out the core concepts of loving your child as they are, paying attention to their interests, advocating for their needs, and ensuring the skills and experiences your child will need to live independently are rehearsed and mastered while still living at home. Thankfully, the 4to24 app can support you by providing notifications of when it’s time to teach certain skills, as well as ideas and resources for how to teach them. What a gift!
To learn more about how the 4to24 app works and what it offers to families to support transition and growth over a large age span, please join Mississippi State’s National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision’s Karla Antonelli on Saturday, March 19th at 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM (Eastern). Register HERE for the 4to24: A Transition App For Parents of Youth with Blindness or Low Vision webinar