Summer Programs for Teens Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
Cameron was nearly 17 and looking forward to his last year in high school. He had agreed—reluctantly—to spend six weeks during the summer between his junior and senior years at an independent living program for visually impaired teens. At the program, he lived in a two-bedroom apartment with three other visually impaired teens, and although there was a counselor housed in the same complex, the boys were on their own. He and his roommates had to make their own meals, attend classes, and work three days a week. Cameron’s job was as a clerk in a music store. The students had to learn the bus routes to get to their jobs and the local stores from the apartment and back. By the end of the third week, Cameron was feeling good about all he’d learned: the new bus routes and how to wash his clothes, work the cash register at the music store, and balance his checkbook.
Many states have summer programs for teenagers with visual impairments, sponsored by the state commission for the blind, department of rehabilitation, or other community-based agency. In addition, specialized schools for visually impaired students, sometimes called residential schools and found in most states, often sponsor a variety of summer programs. These programs may be called by different names and have different focuses, including:
- Opportunities to live in an apartment or dorm where each person is responsible for his own belongings, meals, and laundry as well as getting to classes and work on time.
- Job-readiness skills, including how to find a job, keep a job, and work a job. Many of these programs give teenagers the chance to work at job sites in the community.
- College preparation skills, involving students in taking one or two classes at a college campus so they can become more familiar with college coursework and requirements.
- Instruction in assistive technology or other areas of the expanded core curriculum, providing teens with learning opportunities they may not get routinely during the school year.
For many teenagers, summer programs are their first chance to live away from home. Within the curriculum of the program, skills can often be tailored to individual student needs. One student may be learning to make a grilled cheese sandwich, while another with more advanced cooking skills is learning to prepare lasagna. In working with your child’s educational team to choose an appropriate program, consider the following:
- In what areas of the expanded core curriculum does your child need the most instruction and reinforcement?
- Is your child headed to college or work after graduating from high school?
- Has your child had a chance to spend time away from home, where he has responsibility for his own needs, such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and money management?
- Would your child benefit from meeting others who have visual impairments?
Talking to your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments and other members of your teen’s educational team can help you answer these questions and locate an effective program.