Opportunities, experiences, and outcomes of residential immersive life skills programs for youth with disabilities
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PURPOSE: To examine the opportunities, experiences, and outcomes of a transition program for youth with disabilities. METHODS: Over three years, in a prospective study, 29 youth (17 males) attending residential immersive life skills programs reported on their experiences in 55 activity settings in which opportunities were also rated using standardized measures. Youth completed outcome measures of self-determination and self-efficacy pre-and post-intervention, and 3 and 12 months later. The alignment of opportunities and experiences was examined, as well as effects of experiences on outcomes. RESULTS: Opportunities were significantly correlated with experiences for males only. There were significant pre-post changes in autonomy (all youth) and self-efficacy (males only). Social and personal growth experiences predicted pre-post changes in autonomy, and experiences of psychological engagement (all youth) and choice and control (males only) predicted changes in psychological empowerment. CONCLUSIONS: The findings highlight the importance of designing transition programs to provide experiences of social interaction, personal growth, choice, and psychological engagement in order to enhance autonomy and empowerment. Further investigation is needed on how gender influences youth experiences. Context-mechanism-outcome linkages offer a useful frame to examine opportunities, experiences, and outcomes, and reveal multiple pathways to changes in youths' self-determination brought about by program involvement.Implications for rehabilitationResidential immersive life skills (RILS) programs enhance the autonomy and empowerment of youth with disabilities.The findings show the value of RILS programs and other complex interventions that provide youth of transition age with a rich variety of opportunities and capacity-enhancing experiences.It is important to intentionally design opportunities for social interaction, personal growth, choice, and psychological engagement.It is important to ensure youth are engaged with program content, and feel a sense of social belonging, choice, and personal growth, because these experiences were found to be related to changes in youths' autonomy and empowerment.Gender differences in program experiences and outcomes were found, which is an important and overlooked area of research.
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