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Encouraging Interests To Become Careers

Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz All Right Reserved

Photo: Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz All Right Reserved

Every child, without mattering what challenges he might struggle with has strengths, passions and interests.  Many children with special needs, have what are considered fixations.  That is the case with both my children; my 4-year-old is obsessed with trains while my 7-year-old daughter loves animals. Instead of trying to discourage this I do my best to channel those preferences or fixations into learning opportunities because interests and talents can easily develop into careers with a little directions and encouragement.

Encourage Interest, Feed Passions and Foster Hobbies

My little man learned the names of all the Thomas trains long before he learned to walk, most of his day is spent building tracks all over the house and at our local train museum everyone knows us..  When buying train tracks for him I make sure the tracks sets can be build in many different ways leaving room for him to explore and be creative.  At bedtime we read books about trains, which have slowly become more complex and technical so that he can learn the mechanics of how the trains work and what all the train parts are called.  He loves to draw complex train tracks, and uses leggos to build train-planes and other train machines, which he proudly displays in his room.  I have no doubt that I have a future engineer on my hands and I want to do everything I can to help him turn that passion for trains into a career he loves


The Benefits of Pretend Play

Pretend plays teaches children to problem solve, build social skills, understand someone else’s perspective, think in the abstract and become more creative.  Pretend play can also help children acquire important life, social and career skills that will help them become independent adults.  This is especially important with children with special needs who will many times face special challenges when entering the work force later on in life.


At home we encourage pretend play and always have props and costumes on hand so that my children can explore different roles from playing doctor or fireman to pretending to be different animals.  We also take advantage of these opportunities to join in the fun and turn playtime into life-like situations that they can learn from. One of my daughter’s favorite games is playing restaurant, sometimes she is the server and sometimes she is the chef.  She will help me cook dinner and put the table and take orders from other family members including the dog.  We not only have a lot of fun but she is also learning important skills like cooking and setting the table.


Look for Volunteering Opportunities for Your Child

My daughter loves animals.  Her first word was dog, and at two the only thing she wanted to do was go to the Zoo so we went to the zoo almost every weekend.  Now that she is 7 she want to be a veterinarian and her favorite toy is a veterinary kit.  We found a local animal shelter that will let her volunteer accompanied by an adult, so she will be going to volunteer there with her Dad walking dogs and helping with dog and cat socialization this summer.


Volunteering will give your child real career experience, increase his social and relationship skills and teach him or her skills that can be easily transferred into employment opportunities. Volunteering will also help your child make friends and contacts, strengthening his ties to the community, broadening his support system and putting him in contact with people who share his interests.  Many people might have negative preconceived ideas about people with special needs or disabilities being valuable employees. When your child volunteers out in the community this will also give you and your child an opportunity to build awareness and educate people about your child’s disability or special need and change perceptions.



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About the author

Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz was born and raised in Guatemala and studied in a bilingual school, which is why she wanted the same for her children. She is a very passionate advocate for disability and Latino rights, loves cooking and loves going to the beach with her children. Paula is the founder and editor of the blog GrowingUpBilingual.com. She lives in Florida with her husband and two kids.

  • Marisol81

    This is why even parents need to continually educate themselves if they wish to parent their children the right way. I have a boy who’s completely in love with trains (much like the author’s boy) but I never paid much attention to it as I thought all boys love trains. But you’re right, it can be and it probably is more than that. With the right motivation and education a child’s simple love of a locomotive can become a career they can actually enjoy having for the rest of their lives. How many of can honestly say that we love our jobs? I bet not many. So why not make this possible for our children? I gave myself too many excuses for being a working mom. I’m going to make sure I help my child realize his dream from now on.

    • paulabendfeldt

      I am so glad that you found the article helpful. There is no greater gift that we can give our children than to give them the tools to find a career that they are passionate about and that makes them happy.

  • Cesar_M

    This is such a great idea! Volunteering will not only allow your child to experience what he or she loves firsthand, but it’s also a great way to teach them to give and to share with the less fortunate or with animals that need our voices to speak for them. How wonderful of you to share such an amazing idea. Thank you so much.

    • paulabendfeldt

      Than you Cesar. Volunteering can truly be a wonderful tool not only for finding employment but also to learn about a new career, not to mention the amazing experience you gain when you help others.

  • Sakuni piries

    super idea