Children with Visual Impairments: Do Them a Favor and Give Them Chores!
Authors: Petra Hubbard
Keywords: daily living skills, responsibility, independence, chores
Ensuring that each child with a visual impairment has age-appropriate daily living skills and is responsible for chores has benefits, both for the present and the future of the child. Parents often do not make their child with a visual impairment responsible for chores for a variety of reasons, but parents are not doing themselves or their children any favors by not allowing them to be equal contributors to their families. Not having chores will put the child at a disadvantage compared with his or her siblings who may feel the division of labor is unfair. More importantly, the message that the child with a visual impairment receives is that they are less capable, and not an equal contributor to the family. This will impact their feelings of self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-worth. Having regular chores builds a child’s sense of self-esteem and will encourage a good work ethic and a can-do attitude as they become accustomed to completing a job under the supervision of their first “bosses,” their parents. Regular chores give the child consistent practice with many skills so that these skills become second nature. The individual with a visual impairment will become accustomed to what it takes to run a household so when the day comes to live independently, they will have the experience and confidence to be successful. Having a visual impairment does not mean never having to do dishes!
So, what are the various types of daily living skills? The areas include eating skills, personal hygiene and grooming, clothing management, food preparation, household duties and maintenance, communication, organization, personal record-keeping, and financial concerns.
Assigning chores should start before kindergarten, such as putting toys and clothes away, helping to set the table, clearing and wiping the table, helping with simple food preparation, making their bed, and putting trash in a waste basket. As the child grows, the complexity of the chores can increase, but remember that they will have to be taught. People with visual impairments do not have the same opportunity for learning through casual observation the way people with full sight can, so they must be directly taught how to perform skills safely and effectively. Parents may need to learn some of the special techniques that can be helpful because essential skills can be practiced and refined in the natural context of home. Also, the child’s teacher of students with visual impairment (TVI) can facilitate informal assessment of the student’s current skills and may teach daily living skills. There are several instructional arrangement options: pull-out of class for instructional time, consult with the classroom teacher about modifications they can naturally incorporate into their regular programming (especially in the upper grades where Home Economics classes might be chosen), provide direct instruction before or after school, or have a special summer IEP. Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Service/Division for Blind Services (DARS/DBS) has Rehabilitation Teachers who can provide instruction in the home, and in some areas, DBS offers special programs and events that incorporate daily living skills. The DBS Transition program will help families learn about options for continuing to build and practice skills after the child becomes an adult. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in Austin offers short term and summer programs that teach daily living skills. Region 10 ESC offers technical assistance to teachers of students with visual impairment within the region on how to address activities of daily living, and the Region 10 ESC Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) Planning Committee offers events every year, some of which address daily living skills.
The ultimate goal for anyone is a happy, productive life including full independence and employment, full involvement in the community, and a wide network of friends and loved ones. Acquiring the skills to pursue these dreams has to start early. It will take a village to get there.
There are many additional resources for learning about special techniques, equipment, and environmental modifications for daily living.
TSBVI has an extensive website, www.tsbvi.edu and a search for “daily living skills” will yield many links to websites, curriculum, and free articles.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) at www.afb.org also has many resources. In addition to what is available on their website, AFB has a branch office in Dallas with a model apartment which demonstrates many useful pieces of equipment for daily living skills.
American Printing House for the Blind at www.aph.org has many articles and information.
Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services/Division of Blind Services (DARS/DBS) at www.dars.state.tx.us/dbs/resources offers articles and links to more resources.
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) at www.nfb.org has articles and additional resources.
The Hadley School for the Blind at www.hadley-school.com has free correspondence courses available to visually impaired persons, and some, including the course on Independent Living Skills is also available to the parents and teachers of students with visual impairment.
A search for “daily living skills for the blind” on www.youtube.com will yield many instructional videos.