Technology 4 Independence pilot program was launched, with the support of the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board, in the fall of 2020. As we began the assessment process, there were two focus areas that needed to be addressed before any type of technology could be introduced. How self-directed the clients and staff were in their own learning as well as what the current beliefs, values, and attitudes of staff towards their clients’ abilities were. Technology is an amazing tool that can enhance anyone’s life; however, you must engage actively with the tools for it to be effective. Many times, there is a lack of belief in oneself or from staff when it comes to a person with disabilities. Looking at the current mindset of both the clients and staff were at the core of introducing and maintaining technology as an effective tool in building self-confidence, self-determination, and increased independence.
AMF engaged 10 Emmaus clients over the past 18 months in the Technology 4 Independence program. Pre-assessment results showed lower scores in four key areas: 1) initiative and independence in learning, 2) Love of Learning, 3) Creativity, and 4) Positive orientation to the future. This information assisted our staff in focusing on making sure the technology goals the clients wrote for themselves were meaningful and positive working towards real-life adulting functional skills. The Pre-results for the staff showed lower scores in three key areas: 1) Difficulty with understanding each other’s point of view, 2) Don’t ask what the client’s indicate their learning needs are, and 3) Don’t have the confidence that the clients will develop the skills they need. A focus was put on supporting the staff and clients to revisit their relationship and helping the staff have higher expectations and trust that their clients can make their own decisions and engaging at a higher level with technology.
After the 18 months of the pilot program, the post-assessment results were undeniable. The self-confidence, self-reliance, love of learning, and being able to connect what they were learning to real-life situations that meant something to them was making a difference in their lives. The staff reports gaining new insight into what their clients can do, increased self-confidence and job satisfaction, and new communication methods that has increased their ability to understand their clients better. Technology is a tool for everyone, the real challenge is looking inside ourselves and challenging our beliefs, values, and attitudes about ourselves and others.