This year's Youth Summits were educational and empowering --RSS Feed

By Harvey Ross, Independent Living Services Coordinator
We held two successful Youth Summit sessions for high school students and young adults with disabilities this summer. The first was here at IndependenceFirst, and we had more than 20 youth participate. The second was at the Mequon Nature Preserve and 15 youth participated. 
Both sessions were full weeks of presenters and workshops in which the youth participated in a wide range of Independent Living Skills building sessions. Our goal is to get these high schoolers and young adults prepared for post-secondary school or work—whichever direction they choose to go in. The workshops promoted advocacy, conflict resolution, healthy relationships, self-esteem and so on.  
Having the attendees participate in group activities helps them build their social skills and gives them the opportunity to know one another on a personal level. What I have noticed is usually the first day the youth are pretty reserved but by the second day they become a little looser and more willing to share with each other. 
The activities tend to be more of a conversation and physical interaction with the opportunity for Q&A either at the end or in the middle of the activity. When we are at the nature preserve the youth get to go on a nature walk and see some of the inhabitants of the land. 
One of the topics that is rewarding to cover in the summits is the sex education portion. When we offer sex education classes—whether as part of the Youth Summit or as separate classes—we oftentimes find that many of the youth with disabilities do not know some of the “common” information a person would anticipate someone their age would know. I think a lot of parents are either uncomfortable or think youth with disabilities are not interested in sex. We use best practices and our experience in the field to provide material that they can understand. 
Another session that was very good was the conflict resolution session. The youth had the chance to participate in role play where they worked through some mock situations. They had to figure out when a situation was escalating and what they could do to resolve it before it got out of hand. We talked about recognizing nonverbal cues, tones of voice, etc. 
The Youth Summit provides a safe place for high school students and young adults with disabilities to learn something new and beneficial for their future. For more information on the IndependenceFirst Youth Leadership Program contact Youth Leadership Coordinators Grant Heffelfinger, 414-226-8367 V/Relay, or Kristin Stern, 414-226-8332 V/Relay.  

| Wednesday, 8/9/2017 - 11:07 AM | 0 comments
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