A couple years ago, when Eddie was not quite five, I attended a session at a conference on the Expanded Core Curriculum. This is the education that children with visual impairments need outside of the core curriculum. If you’ve never heard of it I suggest you find more information at http://www.familyconnect.org/parentsite.asp?SectionID=72&TopicID=382.
One part of the Expanded Core is career education. At this conference, the presenters found it upsetting that more parents of VI kids weren’t concerned about this. At that point, I honestly had it ranked last in my own order of importance. Since my son was so young, I was more concerned about toilet training, language delays, and his inability to walk. I really felt that career education was something to worry about later…much later.
What I didn’t understand, was that career education for my son was already happening. All of the skills I was working on, including toilet training, were necessary for employment. Taking care of oneself is a huge part of having a job. If a person doesn’t have good hygiene, they often will not be hired for much of anything.
As Eddie gets older, I try to imagine how all of his lessons will prepare him for employment. Obviously, working on braille is working towards literacy, which would greatly increase his chances of getting a job. But even simple tasks like sorting are important. Every job consists of getting a task, and the expectation that you can complete it independently. Really that explains school; the teacher gives you an assignment, and you’re expected to get it done.
In the community there are simple things I do for Eddie in regards to career education. For example, when at a restaurant, I talk about not only the wait staff that he comes into direct contact with, but all the workers behind the scenes. He isn’t going to see a cook or a dishwasher from across the restaurant, so I need to let him know they are there.
Sometimes, children with visual impairments have unrealistic career aspirations. This can come from simply not knowing what options are out there. The more jobs we expose them to, the more likely they are to choose a path appropriate for them. Getting to try jobs out is even better. Honestly, most of what I share with Eddie is likely more than he can compute at this time, but it can’t hurt to get the conversations started.
Every day I’m reminded of how fast Eddie is growing up. If I don’t keep the future in sight, I’m not doing him any favors. Please share if you have any great ways to promote career education. How do you talk to your children about their future? What career aspirations do they have?