Age-Appropriate Career Education and the Expanded Core Curriculum

What Is Age-Appropriate Career Education?

Career education includes the knowledge and skills children and youth learn to successfully transition from school environments to adult roles, including postsecondary education or training, employment or work-related activities, and independent living.

Career education for children and adolescents with blindness or low vision should begin as early as possible. Topics include career awareness, career exploration, career preparation, including developing vocational and job-seeking strategies, and career or job placement.

Finally, career education should also include information on how to keep a job through effective communication and learning or adapting to the workplace culture.

Early Childhood

Career education focuses on foundational knowledge and skills: learning about the environment, following directions and schedules, and developing early organizational strategies (i.e., sorting, matching, and pairing). In addition, this is the time to introduce good work habits and personal responsibility, such as putting away one’s belongings. Finally, just like same-age peers who are sighted, preschool children with visual disabilities should explore the roles adults in their lives play. This exploration becomes a foundation for career education and imaginative role-playing.

Elementary School

Career education involves more organization and personal responsibility. Children learn to take care of themselves and their possessions, assume responsibilities at home and school (for example, doing chores), learn skills for both independent and group work, master the use of basic tools for home and school assignments, and explore their strengths and challenges (academically, socially, and recreationally). This is a critical time for children to explore how their abilities, personality traits, and values translate into career interests.

Middle School

Is the time for adolescents to refine their academic, social, and recreational interests and abilities. It is also the time to begin participating in work activities through volunteer or paid work. At this stage, adolescents get feedback from peers and people outside their immediate families. Youths with blindness or low vision need the same realistic feedback from their community (neighbors, extended family, and acquaintances) about how their performance compares to youths without disabilities. Input from supervisors in this early work exploration and experience stage helps young people evaluate their career options.

High School

The focus should be on building work experiences and refining talents and abilities needed in future careers. Just like their peers, youths who are blind or have low vision should be counseled to apply the technical, social, and self-management skills learned in the classroom to various work situations. In doing so, these students start to recognize their strengths and needs. By developing awareness of their training needs, these students can create a course of study, or action plan, to pursue in postsecondary education or training.

Why Teach Age-Appropriate Career Education as a Specific Area?

If children receive career education and instruction in job-seeking skills while in school, they increase their likelihood of finding a job once they leave school. This reflects the expected outcome of teaching career education, that students will find employment.

Research also shows that early and repeated work experiences are important predictors of adult employment, especially for individuals who are blind or low vision. However, children and adolescents with blindness or low vision face unique challenges at each stage of the career development process (awareness, exploration, preparation, and placement).


Children with blindness or low vision tend to have limited awareness of themselves and the world around them due to their inability to observe the environment. This casual observation allows fully sighted children to model the behavior of other children and adults in everyday activities.

This includes everything from personal grooming to using tools and equipment to perform tasks. Casual observation also allows children with full sight to compare, reflect on, and refine their performance in home, school, and community roles.

Finally, this awareness of the environment is how children without visual disabilities learn about what’s happening in the world through incidental learning.


Is a critical learning activity for all children, especially those with blindness or low vision. Unfortunately for children with visual disabilities, adults in their lives tend to have heightened concerns for their safety and well-being.

Parents and caregivers, teachers, and the school community often don’t realize that these children can or need to explore the world around them tactfully. However, it’s through hands-on exploration that these children gather first-hand information about the world and how things work.

In cases where hands-on exploration is actually dangerous or impossible, these children still need to learn about careers. In such situations, teachers, school staff, and parents can offer precise verbal or signed explanations. They can also organize activities to educate children about various jobs and careers. This includes the skills needed, tasks involved, challenges faced, and potential results. Children should also understand and experience the rewards that drive adults to work and contribute to society.

Moreover, getting involved in early employment or volunteer work is beneficial. It provides young people with references beyond school. These references can vouch for their skills and abilities.


Youths with blindness or low vision need early work-related opportunities to prepare for adult work roles. These experiences include volunteer work, job trials, job shadowing, and even paid part-time work.

Young adults with blindness or low vision often face hurdles in job hunting. They might miss job opening signs and lack the skills to travel to work alone. Employers might also hesitate to hire them. As a result, while most high school students start working, those with blindness or low vision may not. This leads to a career prep that’s more about theory than real-world experience.

Moreover, actual work experiences are crucial. They help young adults understand their job preferences, strengths, and challenges. Without this, they miss out on learning what works for them and what doesn’t.


Placement: Many students who are blind or low vision are guided to do what the adults in their lives think they’d be best at. Unfortunately, many students are encouraged to pursue academic and leisure activities instead of work. This might be due to the adults’ lack of confidence in the youth’s ability to compete with peers who are fully sighted and/or the young person’s lack of knowledge of, or experience with, a variety of work and career options.

It may also be caused by employers who find it hard to believe that someone without sight can be a productive contributor in the workplace. Regardless of barriers, access to early or entry-level work is crucial in preparing youth with visual disabilities for jobs after high school.

How Do TVIs Approach Instruction?

TVIs and related services personnel can greatly support work competency by including career education in their lessons. For example, teachers working on braille literacy can ask children to write out their interests, abilities, and values. Students can use their lists to search for books in the library. These books should detail careers that align with their interests. For younger children, in preschool or kindergarten, teachers play a key role. They can teach students to organize and care for their school items. They should expect them to follow spoken instructions. Teachers can also encourage role-playing games. These can include roles like a parent, teacher, doctor, nurse, or police officer. Such activities help kids understand and develop work skills.

During O&M sessions, instructors can offer detailed descriptions of the travel surroundings. This includes the layout of stores, what window signs say, and observations about people in the area. Noticing how people dress for work or the tools they carry can be insightful. These activities help children learn about jobs and careers they might want to investigate more in the future.

How Can We Support Instruction in Career Education in Schools?

The law identifies transition planning and career education as significant factors in the education of students with disabilities. Therefore, schools and educators must ensure that career education is addressed in each child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). TVIs should assess each child’s strengths and needs in this area to identify each student’s age-appropriate career education activities and skills. Children with blindness or low vision should be exposed to various careers and participate in various work exploration activities, whether through research online, volunteering, working, job shadowing, or talking with mentors.

TVIs and other professionals can promote these opportunities by developing networks of working adults with blindness or low vision who can serve as role models for these students. Observing successful adults will help these students identify what accommodations can be used on the job and also show them what jobs they might be capable of.