Students with intellectual disabilities (ID) face unique challenges during the transition to independent living on college campuses. Issues like time management, navigating relationships, and dealing with stigma are just some of the challenges they must face.
Brittany Powers first noticed a gap in the system working in the Health and Wellness Unit for Individuals with Disabilities at the University of Delaware’s Disability Research Center on campus. These gaps have come to the forefront as the population of students with ID continues to grow across college campuses.
“They are developing new certification programs and independent living skills programs to help students with intellectual disabilities gain college experience and establish some degree of career readiness, but most colleges and universities do not of students are underequipped to support their mental health needs,” Powers said.
The lack of adequate support for these students has inspired Powers, a fourth-year health behavioral sciences and promotion doctoral candidate in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition at the University of Health Sciences, to ease the transition and help students with ID. I tried to give you strength.
“We wanted to create a program in the style of a group workshop that was not therapy-based and focused on time management and stress. Students with ID,” said Powers.
Powers holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Providence College, a master’s degree in public health from New York Medical College, and graduate degrees in maternal and child health and disability through the Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders Leadership Education (LEND) program. I participated in a fellowship. West Chester Institute for Human Development. For the past three years, she has participated in the National Research Consortium on Mental Health for Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled.
“My PhD. Thanks to research, combining all of my different passions about supporting mental health needs, working with people with disabilities, and supporting their unique and family needs was completed.
As part of her thesis, Powers interviewed students and staff on campus to better understand the unique stressors and anxieties faced by students with ID and to identify coping strategies already in use. Her interview highlighted that students with ID face socialization and relationship challenges.
“They have to navigate changing relationships with dependent parents and guardians,” Powers said. facing.”
A student with an ID identified a variety of healthy coping mechanisms, including listening to music, watching TV, napping, and exercising.
“This transition creates time management issues, such as class levels and finding time to plan meals and rest. Powers said. “Sometimes, when students with ID get stressed, they shut down, drop out, and miss classes and assignments. They also stopped talking to their mentors.”
This feedback informed Powers’ pilot intervention, the MIND/MOVE Yourself program, which was tested in the fall semester among ID students at UD, Villanova University, and East Stroudsburg University. Twice a week, students with IDs enrolled in UD’s Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) Program met with Powers in a Warner Hall group setting over his six weeks.
Each week, students in the group focused on a variety of topics, from understanding stress and self-reflection, to time management, scheduling healthy habits, recognizing identity, and connecting to campus resources.
“It can be a sensitive topic when you’re talking about what causes stress and how to deal with it,” Powers said. It speaks to the group setting being the right dynamic for this program.”
Powers began the session by asking students to rate their stress levels. From there, she transitioned to mindful breathing and meditation. The final week of the program focused on connecting students to campus resources and setting larger goals for their time at UD.
“We want them to understand how important it is for their mental health to make the most of their campus experience and ensure they connect with other students and other students,” Powers told the group.
Programs typically consist of 30 minutes of discussion and 30 minutes of yoga practice, but there is some flexibility.
“We only did 15 minutes of yoga because that kind of detailed discussion was going on within the UD group,” Powers said. “We have received feedback from students that these discussions and time to share experiences are very important.”
Powers, who is also a certified yoga instructor, hopes the program she developed will give students with ID more tools to manage stress.
“They have samples of different techniques and strategies that can be used,” says Powers. “Yoga isn’t for everyone, but I hope they enjoy learning about breathing and relaxation as part of their practice. I hope you saw the setting as an opportunity to share, connect and build social companionship that can relieve stress.”
Zach Simpler, a CLSC senior who participated in the MIND/MOVE Yourself program, doesn’t have much trouble finding his home on the UD campus. He works with Blue Hens Football on his team’s equipment needs.
“It’s basically my third home because all the players and coaches know it,” Simpler said. “Since my first day of work with his football team, I felt like I was unappreciated and accepted into his football family at UD Blue Hens.”
He found the yoga portion of the program most helpful. He liked it so much that he built a yoga studio in Caesar Rodney’s dormitory. There he serves as his floor captain and organizes pizza and movie nights to get his students together.
“Yoga takes me to another mentality, to parts of myself that I haven’t charted or explored before,” Simpler said. I feel out of this world when I’m in… It brings me to that mindset of peace.”
He also learned enhanced coping mechanisms.
“When I’m stressed, I focus on breathing exercises or listen to records. I also use the planner to schedule my day hour by hour,” says Simpler.
After graduating, Powers said he hopes to test the MIND/MOVE Yourself program on more college campuses, evaluate its effectiveness, refine the program, and eventually implement the curriculum at other colleges.
“Brittany’s study not only shows whether the MIND/MOVE Yourself program reduces stress and anxiety in college students with ID, but her assessment of autonomic function and daily perceived stress suggests that the program It will give you an idea of how it works,” said Associate Professor Freda Patterson. of behavioral health and nutrition. “Her results are expected to directly inform and improve stress prevention and management programs for college students with ID. We are excited about the positive impact Brittany is having on her field.” I have.”
Simpler said he recommends the MIND/MOVE Yourself program to all students.
“People would go crazy if they turned down the opportunity because it was worth it,” he said.
But his participation in the program was centered around making a difference for fellow students with ID.
“I always wanted to feel part of something that would help change the world so that people with disabilities would feel more accepted on campus,” says Simpler. “By participating in this program, I felt that I was making a positive impact on my students.”