PI: DEBRA CHILDRESS, ANN SAM
TERM: 10/14 – 03/15
Employment is essential for helping individuals with intellectual disabilities achieve independence, financial security, and self-sufficiency to be active members in the community as well as foster a higher quality of life more generally. However, only 25% of individuals with intellectual disabilities are employed two years after high school. Utilizing 3C’s proprietary dynamic e-learning platform, the goal of this SBIR project is to create the first self-paced, adaptive job skills intervention designed specifically to meet the learning styles and social-emotional needs of students with intellectual disabilities. The proposed end product, W.O.R.K (Web-based Occupational Resource Kit), will enhance students’ preparedness for postsecondary employment, optimizing likelihood of success in the workforce following completion of high school. During Phase I, we will accomplish three technical objectives. First, we will develop a fully functioning software prototype with tailored educator and student user interfaces. Second, we will conduct feasibility testing with educators who are likely purchasers and/or users of the end product with students with disabilities to examine the feasibility and potential value of the W.O.R.K. product within authentic special education settings. Third, we will conduct usability testing of the prototype with secondary students with intellectual disabilities to ensure the prototype functions as intended.
We expect the Phase I feasibility demonstration to provide necessary and sufficient evidence to proceed with Phase II R&D during which the W.O.R.K. product will be fully developed and pilot tested. Through development of the proposed W.O.R.K. product, we will: 1) engage secondary students with intellectual disabilities in a customized online interactive environment for scaffolded learning and practice; 2) increase educators’ access to the intervention through easy to use and feasible technology; 3) strengthen the home-school partnership through integrated resources, reports, and activities for easy sharing with parents; and 4) enhance educators’ skills for implementing the intervention through online professional development tools. The low cost and usability of the product ensure maximal feasibility and significantly increase the reach of this novel tool for benefiting special educators and students with intellectual disabilities. Through this SBIR project (Phase I & II), the W.O.R.K. product will provide instruction, support, and interactive exercises based on individual needs to promote the development of critical employment, self-determination and advocacy skills of students with intellectual disabilities thereby supporting these individuals in achieving and maintaining employment.