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Teaching skills to adults including health and wellbeing

Many people with developmental disabilities are ‘cared for’ rather than ‘supported’ in their daily lives. This may be because the potential for adults to learn new skills may not be fully recognised by those providing support. In addition, the majority of research on approaches to teaching skills for those with developmental disabilities focuses on children and young people, leaving a gap in understanding about the most effective approaches in adulthood. A constructional approach focuses on building skills and developing learning opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. This kind of approach can increase the person’s repertoire of adaptive behaviours and their range of positive life opportunities.

The aim of the teaching skills to adults group is to conduct research into teaching skills to adults with developmental/intellectual disabilities in order to promote quality of life. This includes skills in relation to health and wellbeing. Members of the group include Sandy Toogood, Ciara Padden, Vaso Totsika, Louise Denne, Kate Grant, Maria Saville, Rebecca Sharp and Phil Smyth. Foteini Lykomitrou and Beverley Jones are the research assistants who support the teaching skills to adults group.

Teaching skills to adults’ group are currently supporting several projects. Our main projects are:

  • Headsprout Early Reading ® (HER) in adults
    This project aims to improve the reading ability of people with a developmental disability using an online reading programme. Teaching adults to read could help them take part in more activities and do more things independently. In 2017 a pilot study examined the use of HER to teach basic reading skills to adult offenders with mild developmental disabilities in a secure hospital. Results were positive in terms of the feasibility of running the program, as well as showing improved reading skills and self-concept scores for both ‘intervention’ participants compared to the ‘treatment as usual’ participants. In 2018 we conducted a survey to scope the opportunity for a larger study examining the use of a support worker mediated intervention using HER to teach basic reading skills to people with a developmental disability. The results of this are being used to support an NIHR grant application.

  • Structured Learning Scripts
    This project is a systematic approach to produce materials in order to teach support staff how to write teaching plans and then evaluate the quality of those. Structured Learning Scripts provide a way to break down the process of teaching and learning new skills. The first phase of this project involves the development of training materials and an associated manual to help those responsible for the support of others (families, carers, and support staff) to write effective structured learning scripts. The group is also evaluating whether this is an effective way of teaching new skills and increasing independence among adults with a developmental disability.