Household Responsibilities for Teenagers Who Are Blind

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In a few years, your teenager may be moving out of your home—to a college dorm room, an apartment with a roommate, a place of his own, or a group home. Or he may continue living at home until he feels confident that he can manage on his own. Whichever course he follows, you can help him use his teenage years to develop skills and assume more responsibility for his own needs while still under your roof.

By now your teenager should have responsibility for cleaning his own room. This should include vacuuming, mopping, dusting, making his bed, and changing his linens. If these are skills he hasn't learned or mastered, target one at a time to teach. When showing him how to do a task, such as changing the linens on his bed, break it down into small steps. Demonstrate the steps, letting him get close to see or touch your hands to feel how something is done.

Learning to prepare a shopping list, buy groceries, bring them home, put them away, and cook the food is fundamental to independent life. Help move your teenager beyond microwave meals by giving him the responsibility for planning, buying the ingredients, and cooking dinner one or two nights a week. His teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) can give you ideas about how to teach him these skills and others needed for household tasks.

Organization is important in any room of the house: Working together, develop systems that will enable your teenager to know where things are and locate what he needs. In the laundry room, he may want to use safety pins to keep pairs of socks together. In the kitchen, he may want to put tactile labels on bottles and jars so he can quickly identify what he needs.

Show your teenager how to do laundry. If he doesn't already know how to operate a washing machine and dryer, he'll probably learn quickly with your help. Then expect him to take responsibility for washing and drying his own clothes. You might suggest that he use two hampers, one for light-colored items and one for dark. It would probably be helpful to put tactile markings on the machines; it's also a good idea to put them on kitchen appliances.

Knowing how to do basic home maintenance tasks is also important. How to change the battery in a smoke alarm or replace a hook that's come off the screen door are things your teenager should know. When this sort of task needs to be done, ask him to do it or to help you do it. These day-to-day opportunities for learning tasks will help him be ready for the day when he has to do them himself.

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