Exploring the outcomes of participation in the SSAYiT transition program for youth with cognitive difficulties

Author: Samitha Samanmalee Gowinnage Dona

Gowinnage Dona, Samitha Samanmalee, 2019 Exploring the outcomes of participation in the SSAYiT transition program for youth with cognitive difficulties, Flinders University, College of Nursing and Health Sciences

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Introduction: Transition from school to adult life is a challenging period for most young adults as many will make choices on their employment, further education and housing. This is particularly critical for youth with cognitive disabilities who should be supported during this period to achieve successful post-school transition outcomes. Although many transition programs exist in Australia, transition outcomes for youth with disabilities remain poor. The current study evaluated the effectiveness of the novel Support SA Youth initiative Transition (SSAYiT) program on transition to adult life for youth with cognitive difficulties. The aims were to identify the outcomes of participation in the SSAYiT program, and the factors which may influence these outcomes. Method: Data were collected by an interviewer-administered survey at baseline and repeated after the program’s 10-week group sessions, after the 16-week individualised sessions and at three-month follow-up. A combination of repeated measure ANOVA, Freidman tests and Wilcoxon sign tests were used to compare changes in the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21), the Flourishing Scale (FS), and levels of perception of disability, confidence in gaining employment and negotiating reasonable adjustments in the work place. Descriptive statistics were used to report changes in education, employment and community activities over time. Results: One hundred and ten youth commenced in the program, with 79 participants included in final data analysis. The sample consisted of youth aged 15-25 years (median 18.2 years, IQR = 2.27) with a wide range of cognitive disabilities, the majority of whom had a primary intellectual disability (67.1%). Stress levels significantly improved over the study period from moderate down to mild (p=0.01); however, there were no significant changes in depression or anxiety. Similarly, no significant changes were recorded in psychological wellbeing as measured by the FS, or perception of disability, confidence in gaining employment, and negotiating reasonable adjustments in work place. A small positive activity trend was noted at 16-weeks, with 13 participants (16.4%) engaged in new activities: 5 in employment, 5 volunteering, 1 in work experience placement, 1 studying at TAFE, and 1 seeking employment. Conclusion: The results suggest that participation in a 16-week program can improve stress levels in preparing for the transition to employment for some youth with cognitive difficulties and support the introduction of new vocational and educational activities. A range of study limitations are identified, which have limited the quality and scope of the data collected. Future transition programs should consider employing rigorous evaluation design and consider ways in which emotional distress and psychological wellbeing can be best supported through this difficult transition period.

Keywords: Cognitive Difficulties, Transition to adult life, Transition programme,

Subject: Disability Studies thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2019
School: College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Michelle Bellon