Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Life College"

Last night was the final class of the "life college" mini-program offered by our CCB (Community Centered Board). It consisted of two classes (zumba and money management) offered back to back with a dinner break in between. The classes met twice a week for three weeks. I'd been very excited about the program when I received the email telling me about it and inviting the kids to attend... How perfect, I thought, packaging life skills training in a way that both appeals to and respects young adults with disabilities.

Life skills are a HUGE part of what I'm trying to teach M and R. The success they have in learning life skills will determine how independently they are able to live some day...

The classes ended up being a bit of a disappointment. The kids really liked the zumba... jazzy music and the opportunity to dance is always fun. I had been more excited about the money management class though, as it's really a life skill... something they will need to live on their own. Unfortunately I think they learned very little from it. After the first class they both complained that the instructor used a lot of words they didn't understand... they just couldn't tell what she was talking about. (Yes, they asked questions but still weren't able to keep up with what she was saying...) Later I was able to hear a little of the teaching in that class and realized that the instructor was teaching (reading) from a "script" as she presented the material.. and the material must have been intended for typical teens, not those with developmental disabilities.

So... the kids didn't learn a lot from it. :(

But the really good thing that came out of it is the money management curriculum workbook they were working from... and the "life college" idea. I'm definitely going to reteach the money management class here at home. I was able to get an extra copy of the workbook, and both M and R have their own copy... so I can teach from the extra copy as they work through the material in their own books. That part will be easy (and fun)...

I'm also thinking about the "life college" concept... If I could take the life skills they need and organize them into "classes" what would that look like? We've already done a lot with life skills... we've worked on learning about public transportation, shopping/cooking skills and have focused on learning when and how to take OTC medications (both of those involved lengthy trips to the store!), the kids do their own laundry, are able to do some basic cooking (ramen noodles, fried eggs, etc.... but at least they both know how to use the gas stove!), and follow simple directions for food preparation (mostly microwave stuff). We've also worked on money skills, both kids having their own checking and savings accounts and debit cards, and we've done a couple of lessons at the ATM.

But there is SO MUCH more they need to know... and we need an organized way to review the things that have been taught but they might forget.

So I'm playing around with the idea of trying to organize basic life skills information into "classes"... It's good for them to learn organically as things come up each day, with some more intensive lessons added as needed... but I'm thinking having it all better organized will help with making sure nothing major gets missed, and they get the review they need.

Having it organized in this way would also help me to teach the same things to S, as much as possible in the time she's here. She's had very little in terms of life skills education up to this point... (the other day I had to coach her through putting groceries away, which things are perishable, which aren't!)... so I know it's something she really needs too.

I would love feedback about this... please share your thoughts and ideas!

Here are some of the areas I think need to be covered: (an asterisk indicates something we've already studied but will need review, an asterisk with a "P" indicates we've partially studied this, but there is more to cover)

-Safety at home, what to do in an emergency*... everything from not giving information out over the phone  and over-flowing toilets to natural gas smells, maybe some basic first aid.

-Taking care of yourself and your space*... laundry, cleaning, hygiene, etc.

-Food prep(*P)... reading labels (so important for M!), finding and following cooking directions and simple recipes, stove safety, food safety (salmonella etc.) how to know when your food is done cooking, what to do if something goes wrong (food burns, you get burned, food overboils, etc.)

-Safety away from home*... stranger awareness (M always needs this!), street and parking lot safety, etc.

-Out and about(*P)... appropriate community (social) skills... boundaries, which ones are appropriate in various settings, where to ask for help if you need it

-Money... budgeting, staying within a budget (when shopping), how credit works,

-Banking.(*P).. ATM skills, writing checks, different types of accounts, what happens when there are problems ("oops, not enough money in account!")

-Shopping(*P).... go over again our "rules of wise spending" comparing prices, reading labels, how and when to return something, online shopping

-Public Transportation*... reading the schedule, waiting at the stop or station, paying (buying a light rail ticket, or paying as you get on the bus) safety on the bus, getting off at the right spot, etc.

-What to do when you're sick*... what do to for common illnesses (and discomforts... like constipation), OTC medications and what each one is for, reading the labels, understanding dosages and side effects,  when to call the doctor, etc.

-Being involved(*P).... applications... for jobs, library cards, anything... how to fill them out, where to find the information they ask for., how to sign up for classes, buy tickets for things, etc.

I've tried to find a good life skills curriculum I could buy and haven't found anything I'm crazy about, but I think this idea has possibilities.

Feedback... what have I forgotten? (A lot I'm sure!) Ideas for organizing this in a way that makes sense?

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