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Educating young people who are blind or vision impaired

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Childhood Chores

In our ever increasingly stressful lives, is it wrong for families to expect children to assist or take responsibility for particular household chores? 

For some parents the answer is yes. Others agree in theory but just don’t have the time or energy to enable the child to participate, and there are those who believe that childhood should be an enjoyable, responsibility-free time of life.  

Now add the complexity of a child with a vision impairment and the lack of observational learning who has no idea what needs to be done to make a cup of tea or change the bed, as this is all done often with no interaction or participation.

A chore is a job which benefits the household, but also a life skill; an activity that children should know how to do before living on their own. Most household tasks are important to develop in order to become an independent adult.
For a child with a vision impairment we need to be developing skills required to meet the demands for everyday life and recent research shows that a successful and satisfying life is created by mastering a range of independent living skills.

Nathalie Emanuel, Head of Independent Living Skills
Miss Emanuel, Head of Independent Living Skills

As parents and teachers of children with vision impairments, we know that many incidental learning opportunities are lost to the vision impaired, so we need to initiate learning.  As a parent, it is easy to think a child is not ready to learn or simply to not give the opportunity to participate. We need to provide clear instructions and scaffold the task to build confidence and create a desire to participate more fully.

The following is a rough guide of age-appropriate chores. Every child matures at a different pace, but there is no reason why youngsters with a visual impairment should not be completing the same chores as their sighted peers. 

By age 5

  • Place dirty clothes into laundry bin
  • Straighten duvet and pillow
  • Prepare a bowl of cereal
  • Dust furniture
  • Dress themselves
  • Ask Alexa the time.

By age 6-7

  • Prepare a packed lunch – make a sandwich
  • Sort laundry
  • Set and clean the table
  • Keep their bedroom tidy and organised, knowing where things are kept
  • Brush teeth and hair independently

By age 8-9

  • Put groceries away
  • Vacuum
  • Put away laundry
  • Make toast
  • Take responsibility for own homework

By age 10

  • Fold laundry
  • Change the bed
  • Cook meals with supervision
  • Use laundry equipment

To be able to assist our children developing these skills we can:

  1. Use simple language to express what you want the child to do. For some tasks explicit language is required e.g. personal care
  2. Talk about where things are stored and why
  3. Model by showing them how to do the task
  4. Give plenty of opportunities to complete the task
  5. Praise using specific identified areas
  6. Be patient! It will take longer but the result will pay dividends in the end
  7. Break complex tasks down into smaller steps
  8. Use the natural environment and take advantage of learning at the time when the skill is needed
  9. Have realistic expectations – to be able to complete these tasks will take time, verbal prompts and mistakes will be made – sometimes these are the most valuable opportunities.
  10. Practise practise practise – this allows the task to be learnt

It is important to expect resistance, but don’t give in – you need to be consistent.  Paying pocket money in return for a completed chore can be a false way of working – actually, these chores need to be done and it is simply sharing responsibility.  A good way of encouraging participation is to link their responsibility with something they like to do, for example, ‘You can listen to music when you have put away the laundry’ or ‘ if you want new trainers we need will have more choice if you learn how to tie your laces.’

As a parent, we have to be prepared to invest the time and effort to show the child how to do it. There is no wrong or right method, just patience and a willingness to learn. Sometimes it is quicker to do things for ourselves but will we want to be tying their laces when they are 18? 

When allocating tasks to your children remember they are children, and you cannot expect perfection.  Progress is the key, not perfection.  As a mum myself I still struggle to allow my children to do jobs the way they want to, surely it’s normal to rearrange the dishwasher, and check the right socks are together?

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