Chores for Your Blind or Visually Impaired Child: Yes or No?

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Sooner or later, most parents consider questions like these.

  • Should my child have regular household chores?
  • Should he be paid for doing chores?
  • Should he be made to save his birthday or chore money?
  • What about making the bed every morning? Or making his lunch to take to school? Are these special chores? Or simply part of everyday life?
girl holding a rag under the sink faucet

Responsibility for wiping the table after meals is a chore for this fourth grader. To do so she needs to get a damp rag.

However you answer these questions, if you expect an 8-year-old to keep his room clean, take out the garbage after dinner each night, and save half of his birthday money toward a big purchase, then expect the same things of your 8-year-old who is blind or visually impaired. Setting lower expectations for a visually impaired child than for his sighted brothers or sisters or friends is telling him, in effect, that he isn't capable of doing what everyone else does.

Tips for Giving Your Child Chores

You may need to take more time with your child who is visually impaired than you might with his brothers or sisters to teach him the steps he needs to do. In the beginning, you may need to work together as a team, letting him do some of the steps while you do the others. This is referred to as partial participation.

In helping him learn the steps of a task, consider working backward from the steps he already knows—usually the final step or two of the sequence. This way he'll have the feeling of success as he completes the last step or two without difficulty. Once he manages the last step, add the next-to-last step and so on until he can do all of the steps on his own. For example, if the chore is to empty the dishwasher, you might have your child open the dishwasher, with you taking out all the glass items and putting them away, leaving him the plastic items and silverware. Guide him in putting away the plastic items but have him do the silverware himself. When he's finished that, the dishwasher will be empty, and he can have the feeling of completion as he closes the door.

Once he knows where all of the silverware goes and can put it away without your help, have him take responsibility for the plastic plates and bowls, then add the plastic cups and other dishes, then the glass plates, and so on.

Think about ways you can make the objects your son uses in doing his chores easier for him to see and locate. For example, if one of your son's chores is to feed the dogs each evening, buy dog bowls in colors that contrast with the floor. Put the scoop for the dog food in an easy-to-reach place so that he doesn't have to look for it in the bin or bag of dog food. Simple changes that increase contrast, use color, minimize visual distractions, or provide extra lighting will help your child be more efficient in completing his chores. As he gets older and takes on new chores, encourage him to consider each new chore to figure out what steps might help him complete it most efficiently.

If your child relies primarily on touch to complete activities, think of chores that can be done efficiently with that sense with items that are easy to identify by touch or added tactile labels. For example, if your child is responsible for cleaning his bathroom each week, put all the cleaning products in one place, make sure he understands the purpose of each item, and check to see if labels are needed to help him tell the products apart.

If it will be helpful to your child, make a "chore chart" that shows which chores he needs to do. Have a system to check off which chores are completed or use raised stickers, depending on whether your child uses print or braille.

Give your child realistic feedback about how he does his chores. Tell him what he's done well and praise him but also explain what he can do differently next time so that the job is done better. Don't become discouraged if it takes him time to complete a chore to your standard.

If your child isn't doing his chores, try to find out why. Is he uncertain about how to do it? Can he see or feel the tools he needs to do the chore? Does he understand that by doing the chore he's making a contribution to the household? Talking through the cause of the difficulty may help reveal the answer to it.

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