A training opportunity for teachers

Sure, employment skills and work experiences are important. Resume building, job shadowing, knowing what to wear to an interview—it’s no surprise that transition teachers focus on these areas. But what topics do our students find most interesting?  Like most young adults, they spend a lot of time thinking about their social network, relationships, and dating.

Incorporating relationship skills into transition programs can be a challenge. Without the right support and training, teachers might feel nervous or embarrassed and unprepared to deal with questions. Until recently, Oregon transition programs did not have a recommended curriculum for teaching young adults with IDD about healthy relationships and sexual health.


Friendships & Dating: a curriculum tailored to transition students

“Students with disabilities were not getting the education necessary to make good, safe, healthy choices. Once we recognized that need for information tailored to young adults with IDD, we began looking for a solution,” said Lindsay Sauve, OHSU Program Manager at the Institute on Development and Disability.

Sauve and her colleagues partnered with the Oregon Health Authority to identify a time-tested, data-driven curriculum. They chose Friendships & Dating, a course designed by the University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Human Development. This ten-week class is tailored to meet the needs of young adults with I/DD. Data collected over ten years show the benefits of this curriculum: after completing the course, participants tend to have a larger social network of relationships and have fewer experiences with interpersonal violence.

Students meet for two sessions each week. The first session is to learn about a specific topic in the classroom. Topics range from understanding emotions, boundaries and communication, to personal safety and sexual health. The second session involves a field trip into the community, to see how relationships work in real life. Field trips might be a visit to a coffee shop or a public park to discuss how people interact or watching a movie that involves relationships.


Training opportunities for teachers

While the Friendships & Dating curriculum can be taught in a variety of settings, OHSU is currently focusing on transition programs throughout the state for training teachers to facilitate the class. To date, 78 teachers from 33 transition programs have completed the two-day training. The cohort of teachers in each training workshop then goes on to support each other as they teach the course in their own transition program.

According to Sauve, the cohort structure brings many benefits beyond the workshop training. “They continue to share resources as they begin teaching the class and support each other as challenges come up—anything from ways to discuss difficult topics to ideas for community outings. With a variety of experiences to draw from, the cohort works through the course together,” said Sauve.

Along with the training, teachers receive everything needed to run the class. In addition to the full curriculum and teaching materials, each program receives some funding to cover the cost of community outings. There is no cost to join the training workshop, but teachers are expected to implement the curriculum during the school year following the training, and participate in data collection during and after the course.

The next Friendships & Dating facilitator workshop will take place on August 4th and 5th, from 10 am to 2 pm each day. The training will be held virtually and is open to any transition program teacher in Oregon. Interested teachers can learn more and apply through the OHSU UCEDD site, or learn more about the program through their training overview video.

Photo by Dave Goudreau on Unsplash