Life Prep or Career Planning for Teens

Karen Wolffe

Parents often ask me what they can do to prepare their children with visual impairments for life and employment. I always encourage them to enroll their children in career education and job preparation courses. As we approach the end of October, which is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I am pleased to share with visitors to the FamilyConnect site great news about a new program that Perkins School for the Blind will launch in January 2016: the Perkins Pre-Employment Program (PEP). The PEP will be offered at Perkins’ Watertown, Massachusetts, campus every other Saturday through May. And, yes, there are snow days built in to the schedule – just in case!

This dynamic transition program is offered to give young adults with visual impairments the information and skills they need to explore careers as well as gain the confidence to search for work. The course is tailored to youth between the ages of 15 and 22 who want to strengthen their job readiness skills and break through the barriers that have traditionally kept many adults with visual impairments out of the labor market. Parents are an integral part of the PEP process, providing support and encouragement to their children throughout the program and attending the final celebratory session. The young adults who complete the PEP will draft comprehensive action plans that spell out the assistance they will need from family and school personnel to maximize their current and postsecondary training and employment experiences.

Perkins School for the Blind has been teaching students with blindness and visual impairment for more than 185 years—longer than any other school in the country. The PEP co-facilitators are Perkins educators who’ve worked with students in the public schools and on the Perkins campus. In addition to working with these educators, PEP participants will hear from and meet guest lecturers with and without visual impairments. Hiring professionals and disability specialists from leading Boston corporations like Wells Fargo and Tufts Health Plan will present to the participants on a range of topics related to employment. Likewise, individuals with expertise in assistive technology and a wide range of other disability-specific skills will describe how to manage competently in the world of work without sight or with low vision. In addition, they’ll be guided by strong role models who are visually impaired throughout the program.

In support of their classroom efforts, PEP participants will join and be guided through an online social media site, Yammer, where they can interact with one another and the faculty when they are not in class. This online effort will be facilitated and monitored by Perkins educators to ensure the experience is positive and productive.

The Pre-Employment Program is open to students and young adults ages 15-22. Learn more at

Karen Wolffe, Ph.D., CRC