Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

An Exploratory, Randomized Study of the Impact of Mentoring on the Self-Efficacy and Community-Based Knowledge of Adolescents with Severe Physical Challenges

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

An Exploratory, Randomized Study of the Impact of Mentoring on the Self-Efficacy and Community-Based Knowledge of Adolescents with Severe Physical Challenges

Article excerpt

Adolescents with severe physical challenges face many obstacles to their development of self-efficacy and community independence. Potentially, one important source for the promotion of adolescent competence is exposure to successful role models with similar challenges. The purpose of this study was to conduct an exploratory, randomized field-test of the impact of mentoring by role models on the self-efficacy, disability-related self-efficacy, community-based self-confidence, and community-based knowledge of adolescents with severe physical challenges. The study also aimed to determine the impact of mentoring on the perceptions held by parents regarding the capabilities and community based knowledge of their children. A two-independent group, randomized block design was used to evaluate the impact of mentoring. Students in the experimental group performed twelve activities with their mentors over the course of six months. Results indicated that youth exposed to mentors demonstrated significantly higher levels of disability-related self-efficacy, community-based knowledge and self-confidence than youth in the control group. Furthermore, the parents of experimental group participants perceived their children to be significantly more competent and to possess significantly more community-based knowledge than the parents of subjects in the control group. Implications of these findings are discussed and the need for additional research emphasized.

Teenagers with severe physical disabilities are faced with unique challenges to their development of community independence and self-confidence. Challenged by numerous physical limitations that restrict their strength, mobility, speech, dexterity, vision, endurance, and cognitive capabilities, these youth often experience difficulty performing functional activities and getting around in their environments (Goldenson, Dunham & Dunham, 1978; Stopford, 1987). Many youth also experience significant health instability, requiring on-going medical care and exposure to procedures that may be uncomfortable, disempowering, and incapacitating (Steinhausen, Schindler, & Stephan, 1983).

To obtain assistance with personal care and daily activities, youth with physical challenges often use help provided by others. However, typically they are passive recipients of the help they receive (Powers & Sowers, 1994; Ulicny, Adler, & Jones, 1988). Architectural and communication barriers also unnecessarily increase the helplessness and dependence of youth with significant physical challenges (Cruikshank, 1976; Scherer, 1988), as do negative attitudes held by others regarding their worth and potential for achievement (Edgerton, 1967; Fichten, 1988; Goffman, 1973). Inadvertently, parents may encourage youth to be passive through overprotection (Cruikshank, 1976; Kessler, 1977) or excessive child management (Lindemann, 1981). Parents may also lack knowledge about how to involve their children in activities (Espinosa & Shearer, 1986) or have difficulty encouraging their children's independence while also managing other family demands (Turnbull & Turnbull, 1986).

There currently exists a strong national initiative to provide youth who experience severe disabilities with the skills and opportunities they need to lead lives that are meaningful, productive and integrated. Normalization has become defined by community presence, choice, competence, respect, and community participation (O'Brien, 1987). The development of independent living, supported employment, and supported living programs have provided new opportunities for persons with severe physical health challenges to live increasingly inclusive lives (Sowers & Powers, 1991).

Developing personal mastery or self-determination is critical for successful independent living (Summers, 1986a; Varela, 1986; Ward, 1988). Unfortunately, lack of opportunities to learn self-determination skills and participate in empowering experiences are significant obstacles to the development of personal mastery among youth with severe physical health challenges. …

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