MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN TEENS’ LIVES TODAY!
“Feeling invisible was the worst part of high school”
Navigating the high school years can be complicated and confusing for all youth. For high schoolers with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), there are usually additional layers of complexity.
Rylee, an outgoing 23-year-old who has Down Syndrome, is an active participant in our LifeAbility Talks. When she recalls her teen years she says “Kids weren’t mean, but they completely ignored me, and that felt just as bad. I’m a good friend, I’m funny, and I’m and interesting. I wish I had known how to get them to see that.”
We have seen how our LifeAbility Talks have benefitted adults with I/DD like Rylee. She says that the first time she spoke in front of a LifeAbility group, she felt “a special sense of connection” because all the participants understand what it’s like to have a disability. She described the experience as “pure and empowering.”
Establishing a program like our LifeAbility Talks for teens will have similar benefits, at a pivotal time.
Teen LifeAbility will be designed to help kids with I/DD see all that they can achieve in a fun, peer-driven and comfortable setting. By participating, they’ll come to understand and appreciate their own potential, at a time when building confidence is critical. The program will empower youth with I/DD to become self-advocates at a relatively early age and set them up to be leaders in their schools, their local communities and beyond.
Teen LifeAbility will help high schoolers with I/DD:
- Discover role models they can relate to
- Provide opportunities for independence and self-realization
- Inspire creativity and confidence.
- Provide a chance to be viewed as a leader among their peers.
- Build relationships with other high schoolers.
Although the programming will be focused on youth, we will also build in opportunities for the parents of our participants to connect with each other.
Future Leaders, Fuller Lives
The Arc—Jefferson, Clear Creek & Gilpin counties began LifeAbility Talks programming for adults in 2016. Though the program is facilitated by staff members, it is driven, developed and delivered by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Each talk is led by experienced self-advocates who cover topics that promote more independent, satisfying lives. Typically, 3-4 sessions are offered annually. Since the program’s inception two years ago, roughly 260+ individuals have been engaged in LifeAbility Talks, and repeat attendance is high. Past topics have included communication, safety, health and wellness, and travel.
We are excited to apply the LifeAbility Talks model to the high school age group. As with the adults, teens with I/DD will:
- Determine the session topics
- Help develop each session’s structure and activities
- Deliver the presentations that begin the discussions
We intend to pilot Teen LifeAbility by developing and delivering two sessions this summer. We’ll promote the program within our own membership, and beyond, via our network of community partners.
We expect to continue Teen LifeAbility beyond the summer 2019 pilot, pending funding, possibly adding more sessions during the school year. And we are currently developing a survey to ensure our plan addresses the logistical needs and topic preferences of our potential participants.
TEENS WITH I/DD SHOULDN’T FEEL INVISIBLE
Your donation in March will help us develop the pilot Teen LifeAbility program, deliver the first two pilot sessions this summer and build a plan for ongoing programming.