Sunday, October 21, 2012

Life skills for Down syndrome fostered by supportive open employment

by Vicky Manley from Science Network Western Austrialia:

RESEARCH exploring open employment and the transition from school to adulthood for young adults with Down syndrome has won the ‘Three Minute Thesis’ (3MT) competition for an ECU Occupational Therapist.

PhD candidate Ms Kitty-Rose Foley presented the winning 3MT ‘Life after school: there’s room for improvement for young adults with Down syndrome’ about research into transitioning young adults with Down syndrome.
The research examines positive and adverse influences in the transition from school to post-school.
“I was particularly interested in exploring the factors which may influence different outcomes post-school, such as: behaviour, family quality of life, young adults quality of life, functioning in activities of daily living, socio-economic status, gender and living region,” says Ms Foley.
Participating families completed questionnaires over a longitudinal period from 2004–2011.
Part one of the questionnaire pertained to a young person’s characteristics and part two, family characteristics.
The research examined factors associated with different day occupations such as open employment, training, sheltered employment and/or day recreational programs.
According to Ms Foley, the emerging results suggest that families of young people who are attending supported open employment [post school] are achieving better outcomes in terms of family quality of life.
Interestingly open employment even for a small amount of time per day achieved better outcomes.
Behaviour patterns improved in those participating in open employment as opposed to those who mainly attended day recreation programs—whose behaviour problems showed an increase.
“This could be due to modelling appropriate behaviours from typically developing colleagues or perhaps these young people are more focused on their day to day tasks,” says Ms Foley.
The findings also indicate that intellectually disabled young adults were rarely consulted on decisions about their future—irrespective of their individual abilities, interests and capabilities.
The research concluded that a young person functioning in activities of daily life (self care, communication, community skills) and good family support were associated with participating in open employment and better quality family life.
“This provides important information to guide services and policy when targeting the intervention for young people with Down syndrome,” says Ms Foley.
Ms Foley is with the School of Exercise and Health Sciences at ECU and is based at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Subiaco working as an OT for children with a range of disabilities.
The competition allows researchers three minutes to communicate their thesis and Ms Foley said she was lucky to win the Edith Cowan University (ECU) finals. 

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