Community Economic Development: Community Connections for People With Disabilities Grant Final Report

Community Connections for People With Disabilities Grant

Final Report

Grantee: Lake County Subrecipient: New Star, Inc.

The Connect to Possibilities program was designed to reach people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Lake County that had become more isolated during the pandemic. It helped discover their strengths and passion while increasing their skills and socialization. The program began with three virtual courses: Health and Wellness, Employment Readiness and Creative Expression. Each of these virtual courses was held for a total of 8 weeks. During this time, the instructor met with the class virtually twice a week and had other activities to participate throughout the week outside of the virtual meeting (videos, activity sheets, projects, etc.). Eventually the PEERS curriculum was added as part of the project. PEERS is an evidence- based curriculum designed to help young adults with developmental disabilities and autism improve social skills, manage conflict and make friends.

Each individual received a toolkit delivered to their home to help them fully participate in all activities scheduled for each class. Worksheets and tool kits were distributed to the individuals for program enhancement on a weekly basis. Technical support was provided to ensure technology equity and internet access. A lending library of 25 tablets was established. At the end of each eight week course the tablets were returned.

The project goal was to serve 120 people. In total, the project served 150 residents of Lake County of which 52% were male and 48% female. All persons served were over the age of 18 and low income.

The project measured its impact using a pre and post course survey called the Loneliness Scale developed at UCLA. It is a 20-item scale designed to measure subjective feelings of social isolation. Participants rate on a Likert-type scale how often they experience different feelings related to loneliness. This tool has been found in studies to be highly reliable and valid.

The average score on the pretest was 48 and the posttest was 26, with higher scores indicating stronger feelings of loneliness. The improvement in the group scores was statistically significant as demonstrated through means testing (t(11)=3.03, p=.01).

Furthermore, there were significant improvements among score of the following specific items: I have nobody to talk to, I feel left out, I feel alone, I am unable to reach out and communicate with those around me, I don’t have strong relationships, No one really knows me well, I feel distant from others, I am unhappy being withdrawn, I feel shut out and excluded by others, I feel alone in a room full of people.

This preliminary data shows that this intervention program was successful in decreasing participants’ reported feelings of social isolation as a short-term goal.

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