Assisting Developmentally Disabled Young Adults On The Road To Independence
As The Parent Of an adult son with Asperger’s Syndrome I have experienced, absorbed, disseminated, and racked my brain to problem solve. There appears to be a plethora of information regarding children with developmental disabilities. As they enter the adult years, services and information for these individuals becomes sparse to say the least.
As a certified lead preschool teacher and infant toddler teacher, I am a strong advocate for early intervention. I believe the building blocks for future skill development are built during those formative years.
However, as these children grow, they will need to possess appropriate living skills to transition into as independent and productive adult lives as possible. As both an educator and a special needs parent I have learned that information on Google and books regarding special needs topics does not prepare us to deal with these issues. Nothing substitutes for experience and the realization that a diagnosis is not a one size fits all learning environment. My favorite phrase is I am not a diagnosis, I am a human being.
That said, There are many factors missed during the transition stage as a rule. Many students graduate high school with a send off I.E.P. and have received academic support. It is assumed that if their future job prospects comprehend the developmentally disabled individuals challenges that the transitioning child will do fine.
This is a misnomer. No doubt students need to learn to count change or write a check, but there are many skills that are lacking that must be reinforced first. If we train an individual to bag groceries but they have not been taught proper social skills, hygiene skills, in a nutshell basic activities for daily living their prognosis for successful employment will be poor.
There are pertinent items that schools should consider adding to their academic agenda to ensure the successful transition of developmentally, intellectually, and mentally challenged individuals to assist them down the road to positive self efficacy. We cannot boil the water without turning on the heat first, so to speak.
1) Hygiene: Many transitioning special needs students do not comprehend the importance of hygiene. This appears to be a mundane concept that neurotypicals take for granted but due to limited cognitive abilities this population does not comprehend the importance of hygiene. No matter what job skills the individual has honed, hygiene issues could be resultant in lack of or loss of employment, illness, and friends. An example of how to approach this important issue taking into account the fact that individuals learn visually, auditory, kin-esthetically would be projects that all individuals would grasp. Read books on germs and their transmission, body odor etc. Show students pictures of germs so they grasp visually what was read in the book. Once you are sure they have comprehend what a germ is, have the students create a book on hygiene rules. Each individual student contributes rules. Combine all of the rules into a book. Have the students present this book as a team. The end result is not only a lesson in hygiene. The project ends as a team effort where all the students have learned to work not only individually but as a group.
2) Social skills courses: These should emphasize reciprocal conversation, tolerance for stressful situations they will definitely encounter with a boss and future coworkers. Before practicing social skills a layered set of steps must happen. Read books on social skills that the student can identify with in their daily life. Engagement occurs when the student has some interest in the topic. Observe all students in the class and attempt to incorporate their interests into the topic of study. It is amazing how a baseball fanatic individual who will not sit still for a math lesson suddenly becomes engaged when number concepts are substituted with baseball statistics. After completing books on social skills, talk about what those skills represent in their everyday life. Again, by applying it to their interests they will be more engaged. Next, practice the social skills to reinforce what was just learned.
A A simple game of Jenga can become a learning tool which to the naked eye is merely a game. I have used this learning tool with great success. It is warranted for use with all age groups and learning levels as no reading is required. Higher thought is developed as the students contemplate which block to pull out without toppling the wooden tower. Group learning skills and tolerance are reinforced as players must patiently wait their turn. Learning to control emotions is reinforced for individual’s who topple the tower inevitably losing the game. Thus it is amazing how learning can be hidden in projects that capture attention and are fun. Upon completion of Jenga, move on to talking about what went on during the game, how the students felt, etc. Focus on coming up with solutions that arose during the game. Now that the seeds for social skill terminology, problem solving skills, and awareness of problems have been sown, move on to role play scenarios. Make sure to ask the students what jobs they would like when entering the adult world. Focus on those jobs during role play scenarios to spark their interest. To be successful the agenda must be based on the students not your agenda. Last but not least have the students solidify their knowledge through developing a real scenario from start to finish. One idea that could incorporate all learning levels would be a car wash. Have students who choose to do so develop flyers. Other students could work on public relations. i.e. posting flyers around town, to businesses etc. Students could make a list of items needed for the car wash, figure out the cost by looking in flyers, (a lesson in math and budgeting slipped in) and decide what roles they will perform at the car wash according to personal taste. The car wash it self is an active lesson in socializing with the public, and following through with task. The end result is earning money that the class could use for extracurricular activities. (Positive self efficacy is built from their new found sense of independence.
Helping developmentally challenged adults transition into adult hood is a nonnegotiable responsibility of society. Help differently abled young adults develop into the most independent contributing members of society that is within the realm of their capabilities.
Look for more tips next week:-0)
Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE
Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9