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Winter 2002 Table of Contents
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Mosquito Netting or Pay Check - Which Will You Choose?

By Ron Lucey, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) , Consumer Resources Coordinator

Each January, I try to motivate families to start planning for their child's summer activities, even though the Central Texas winter seems endless and summer a distant notion. I was recently inspired by my colleagues at TCB to broaden the annual summer camp article to include additional suggestions for using your child's summer break to better prepare them for their future.

Will Your Choice Be Mosquito Netting?

There are a lot of benefits to be gained from attending camp, including telling stories on the size of the mosquitoes swarming the campsite. Younger children may benefit from shorter camp sessions or day camp programs recommended for campers who may not be emotionally prepared to spend a week or more away from home. Often city parks and recreation departments sponsor day camps that seek to include youth with disabilities in city sponsored recreational and learning activities. Meet early with the recreation or day camp coordinator to insure that your child's needs for meaningful participation are accommodated.

For many older children, residential summer camp programs offer a good opportunity to practice and learn new skills, develop a greater sense of confidence and independence, meet peers with similar interests, make new friends and, most importantly, have fun. An updated list of popular residential summer camp programs, and other summer programs targeting youth who are blind or visually impaired, may be found on the TSBVI website at http://www.tsbvi.edu/Education/camps.htm

Suggestions for Selecting a Camp

  1. Be aware of camp deadlines. The more popular camp sessions fill up fast, leaving your family with fewer choices for camps and desired sessions if you fail to beat the rush. By Spring Break, make sure you have made a final camp selection.
  2. Call early (January or February) to request a camp application form. Some forms take longer to complete and may require a medical release signed by your child's doctor.
  3. Talk to other parents, teachers of the visually impaired, TCB children's caseworkers, or transition counselors about the camp you are considering for your child. Visit the camp's website or, if possible, consider a visit to the camp in the off-season.

Will Your Choice Include Earning a Paycheck (or work experience)?

Most of us can remember having a work experience at an early age, even if it was a volunteer job at our local church or hospital. Work experience is crucial for the vocational development of children who are blind or visually impaired. This summer, instead of considering the same camp options, why not think about involving your child in a summer work experience - either informal or formal?

Younger children benefit from having responsibility for jobs around the house, and the reward of earning a little extra spending money. Focus on the jobs or portion of jobs your child is able to perform, and help them develop alternative techniques for accomplishing other more challenging household chores. Suggested chores for younger kids include feeding and caring for the family pet, helping with laundry, washing and putting away dishes and, yes, even yard work. In addition to promoting jobs around the home, consider volunteer experiences with local organizations and/or businesses. Some experiences to consider include folding towels and sweeping at a friend's hair salon, being a junior camp counselor at a local day camp, and volunteering at museums. To explore these options, contact your TCB Children's Program caseworker.

Older youth may wish to explore paid work outside the home through a summer job with a local employer. Local workforce centers offer a good resource for finding paid jobs in the community. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) website has a list of all local workforce centers, as well as online job banks for performing a job search. Their website is www.twc.state.tx.us. Many city/county health and human service departments sponsor summer youth employment programs, with work opportunities in city departments throughout the community. Recruitment for these programs may begin as early as January, with mandatory pre-work training and orientation classes held in the spring. For more information on paid summer work programs, contact your local TCB transition counselor, Regional Education Service Center, or the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Whether your family chooses mosquito netting or a paycheck, the most important part of the experience is to enjoy the summer and all of the recreational, learning, and work opportunities it has to offer!

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Last Revision: August 15, 2002