Dr. Karen Wolffe Listen to Dr. Karen Wolffe’s answer to the question, “What would you like to ask families to do at home?”


I’m Dr. Karen Wolffe. I’m with the American Foundation for the Blind. I am the Director of Professional Development and CareerConnect.

How can parents and other family members support their child’s acquisition of skills related to career education and what would you like to ask families to do at home?

I think that the most important things that families can do at home to help their children acquire the skills that are critical in career education are first, always expect the child with visual impairment to do the same kinds of activities that their same-aged peers are doing both socially, academically, avocationally, and then ultimately, vocationally. The kinds of part-time jobs their peers are doing, the kinds of volunteer work their peers are doing, extracurricular activitiesā€”the expectation should be that that child with the visual impairment will absolutely do what that same-aged peer will do unless there’re some limitations that inhibit that or prohibit it from being realistic.

The second thing I think of is to always encourage children to dream. They shouldn’t try to restrict to reality children’s dreams. Children should dream about becoming the next president of the United States or being a famous basketball or baseball star or being an actress or an actor or a musician.

Children need to dream. They need to dream big, and they need to act out their dreams through fantasy, through play. To play the part of the teacher. To play the part of the doctor. To play the part of an astronaut or a president. They need to have that opportunity to dream and play it out.

And then as they get older, we understand that there’s an important need to be more realistic as we get older. And the way to make that happen is to encourage children to start researching, to asking questions of the people who are doing those things that they think they might like to doā€”either writing them or emailing them or calling them on the phone or actually going to visit them and saying, “Well, what does it take to be an actress,” or “What does it take to be a musician,” or “What does it take to be an athlete?” To find out what the reality is, what the innate skills and the learned skills are that set the stage for people to either be successful going into a career or not. And then to actually encourage children to start doing work that’s like what they think they want to do so that they can find out what they really like about it and what they don’t like about it.

And then finally, I would say, in this area, one of the most important things that parents can do is to encourage their childrenā€”and support their childrenā€”in doing things outside of the home. Being a volunteer. Doing community service. Being a casual worker. Doing things like babysitting for the neighbors or pet sitting for the neighbors or washing cars at a church car was, or being the volunteer ticket taker at an event that’s happening. To get outside of the house and to contribute and to work because we learn about work through working.