Commentary: Teen Transition Program

June 28, 2016

Summer is the perfect time for teenagers and young adults to make new friends, have fun and get a first job. Many organizations serving people with visual impairments host summer activities to help students with vision loss acquire new skills that will help them become independent and reach their goals. For the first time, The Chicago Lighthouse is offering a Teen Transition Program for teenagers with vision loss who intend to live independently, seek competitive employment and/or attend college or vocational programs. It consists of two components: the First Jobs Program and the Summer in the City program.

Getting my first job was more difficult than I would have liked. I realize that this is the case for all teenagers and young adults, but it is even more difficult for someone who is blind or visually impaired. Truth is, students with visual impairments often need extra supports and resources to learn how to find that all too desired summer job. The First Jobs Program offers training in skills like resume writing, communication, conflict resolution and job accommodations. Participants practice these skills by applying for and interviewing for a job. This year’s participants are working in various roles at Mariano’s and at The Chicago Lighthouse North in Glenview.

In order to succeed on the job and at school, teenagers should also learn other crucial independent living and social skills! The Summer in the City program is a one week residential program for teenagers with vision loss. Held at ICRE-Wood (Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education), it offers classes in technology, mobility, communication and daily living skills. The evenings are spent experiencing all that Chicago has to offer, including sports venues, restaurants, boating, theater and much more.

As someone who is blind, I understand the importance of these programs for teenagers with visual impairments. Today’s era of inclusion has greatly benefited students with vision loss, but many times this means they are not able to learn other disability specific skills during the school year. I participated in the Summer in the City program as a high school student. That – along with my first summer job – provided me with valuable skills that have helped me to this day. With today’s numerous budget cuts and economic uncertainty, I am thrilled to know that The Chicago Lighthouse is offering this valuable service to current students.

Be sure to check out The Chicago Lighthouse’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to read stories and see photos of the Teen Transition Program. We will also post updates on our website. Best of luck to all of our participants, I truly hope this is both a fun and learning experience for everyone!

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