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Programs for Transition Age Youth (TAY) seek to teach living skills to youth and young adults enrolled in their programs. Whether budgeting, interviewing, or social skills, successful transitions to adulthood roles are thought to greatly depend on mastery of these (and many other) key developmental competencies. How do youth with emotional and behavioral difficulties best acquire these “independent living” skill sets? Through their families? In classrooms or groups? By watching role models, peer supporters or YouTube? Trial and error practice and rehearsal? All of the above?
Think about the last skill you remember learning how to perform. Maybe you wanted to know how to use a new computer program or fix a leaky faucet. Did you read about it (visual/linguistic)? Listen to an explanation (aural)? Do it yourself and learn by trial and error (physical)? Were you by yourself or with others? Clearly no one size or teaching method fits all youth; there’s a mix of preferred learning styles. When attempting to coach effectively, it can be important to assess learning styles and be able to utilize a mix of teaching methods.
The Transition to Independence Process (TIP) Model emphasizes “in-vivo” (in life) coaching as a preferred method. No one ever learned how to swim without getting wet, nor learned how to interview well without having the opportunity to practice and get feedback on interviewing. The in-vivo approach enables staff (Transition Facilitators) to individualize based on a youth’s learning preferences ‐ but focuses on real life situations (or at least simulated role-plays) as preferable to classroom or group curriculum instruction that may not generalize well. The TIP Model identifies three distinct in-vivo methods of skill development — for youth, with youth and by youth.
This approach employs modeling (watch me do it!) as a primary means of teaching. (It does not mean doing a task for the youth, if they are not present and paying attention.) Setting up role-plays or watching demonstrations on YouTube present additional options. These should be followed shortly with, “Now you try it”.
Side-by-side learning is frequently a preferred learning style of many youth. “Let’s both fill out this job application and discuss how each of us would respond”. This flexible style requires the wisdom of knowing when to back off and allow youth to struggle and when to step forward to support optimum chances of success.
Ultimately the success of teaching is determined by whether the youth is able to “transfer” the skill to real life situations when Transition Facilitators/staff are not around. Encouraging the youth to try this at home, with friends, or at new job or school is the critical challenge. Following up with youth to discuss and celebrate their trials and inevitable errors is crucial.
There are many methods, curriculums and techniques to teach youth skills. What are yours?