Preparing for Work


As with all “transition” skills, these begin from the earliest stages of a child’s life. While preparing for work may seem like something in the distant future for young children, learning about different types of jobs, developing good work behaviors, and taking responsibility for household or classroom jobs are a great way to begin to prepare for work at a young age.

What can be done in the early years?

Household Chores

Children who are blind or visually impaired should participate in household tasks at the earliest age possible.  For the youngest children or for those with additional disabilities, this might be as simple as picking up their cup or plate when a meal is finished and handing it to an adult, moving next to helping to clear the table and wash dishes.  Other activities include chores such as helping to make the bed, put laundry in a designated area, put items in the cart when grocery shopping, and stirring ingredients during the preparation of a meal.  Each child should participate as fully as they are able in each step of the process, with appropriate support and instruction.  This participation serves the dual purpose of helping children to develop independent living skills and work behaviors, while also helping them to understand basic concepts building on memory, sequence, spatial orientation, and sensory awareness.

Classroom Jobs

Beginning as early as preschool, most classrooms have classroom jobs which all children are expected to perform.  This might include pushing in the chairs, turning off the lights, returning books and other materials to the proper locations. Students who are blind or visually impaired should be expected to do classroom jobs, just as their sighted peers do.

Incorporating Jobs into the Daily Routine

There are many opportunities around the school for students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities, to participate, including:

  • mail delivery
  • messenger
  • supplies (stocking, inventory, delivery)
  • stocking soda machine or other vending machine
  • creating and selling crafts, holiday items
  • greenhouse projects, such as flower delivery, potpourri, making tea bags, watering plants
  • dishwashing, clearing tables; clearing trays
  • preparing condiment table in the cafeteria or dining room
  • answering phone and taking messages
  • laundry:  for students who are in a residential setting, they can do their own laundry.  For students in a public school setting, be creative about working with the cafeteria staff or others at the school who do laundry on a regular basis.
  • student store/snack shop/coffee shop
  • delivery of snacks and supplies
  • office support -- photocopying, stapling, collating assembling packets
  • grounds keeping
  • recycling

Be sure to work closely with existing personnel at the school, so that they understand the purpose of including students and training them to help with these jobs.  We have found that once cafeteria staff, office staff, grounds keepers and others around the school campus understand why the students are doing these jobs, they often become excellent mentors.  In many cases the paid personnel are the most creative in coming up with appropriate accommodations or in identifying new work activities!

Strategies to Help Children Develop Vocational Skills

The following overall strategies are effective in helping children develop work skills:

  • Create opportunities for work in familiar settings; begin with chores in the home and classroom.
  • Describe and demonstrate the work being done by others in their world.
  • Engage students in making choices about work options, allow time to sample options.
  • Encourage students to ask questions of workers.
  • Teach concepts using real materials in real settings. (i.e; money, tools, cleaning supplies).
  • Have students participate in modifying materials to meet their needs.
  • Integrate literacy across work settings.
  • Integrate technology on job sites.
  • Allow student to make mistakes, problem solve solutions.
  • Encourage student and supervisor to evaluate progress together.


To read more about this topic, see:  Total Life Learning: Preparing for Transition

Adult chats in an office with an adolescent who is blind


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Total Life Learning by Wendy Bridgeo,‎ Beth Caruso,‎ & Mary Zatta

Cover of Total Life Learning

The Total Life Learning curriculum was developed for students ages 3 to 22 who are blind, visually impaired including those students who have additional disabilities or are deafblind. The focus is on the development of life and career goals that enable student to maximize independence, self-determination, employability, and participation in the community.