Effective Community Day Programs

January 05, 2016
Posted By: Paige Mador

I’m pleased to introduce Kevin Hughes, Vice President of Day Services, as this week’s guest blogger from Venture’s senior leadership team.  Kevin can be reached at khughes@venturecs.org.

Graduating from high school and entering the “real world” is a significant transition for any young adult.  Typically, these young adults continue onto college or enter the workforce – but for the young adult with intellectual disabilities, the choices can be different.  A small percentage will continue their academic pursuits but the majority will enter the workforce, participate in community based day supports, and/or continue skill development in day habilitation programs.  To complicate matters, some of these young adults will also move into new residential settings as they transition from children services to adult services.  As you can see, the transition can be very difficult and confusing for the young adult as well as the family.

Many agencies offer different residential and day service models, as one model does not fit everyone.  The focus of this blog will be on one model, the day habilitation model.  All day habilitation programs are approved and regulated by MassHealth and must adhere to their standards.  However, many agencies in the field of developmental disabilities are recognizing the need for change within the day habilitation program to offer support to a changing population.

For example, the need to create programs for those diagnosed with autism is changing our field.  Valuable programs include sensory rooms with treatment protocols written by an Occupational Therapist which allow some individuals to interact and manipulate their environment in such a way that is meaningful to them.  Other therapeutic models, such as adaptive yoga, are both enjoyable and allow for growth.  Venture’s Sturbridge community day program offers adaptive yoga and massage therapy in-house and some individuals also participate in therapeutic horseback riding.

Individuals that require behavioral support have the right to competent behavior analysts that have the education and experience to deliver this level of service.  Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) that work together with the team to address problem behavior while increasing skill development is an excellent addition to these types of programs.  In addition, consulting a licensed psychologist or a doctoral level BCBA is recommended for treatment that is more complex. A Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker can also offer additional support and counseling for individuals that benefit from a more traditional therapeutic relationship.

Finally, and most importantly, day program environments should be aesthetically pleasing and well maintained. Individuals have the right to a “physical and social environment that is safe, humane, and responsive to individual needs” (Van Houten et al, 1988).  This includes offering activities that are preferred, focus on skill development, and are age appropriate.  The availability of community activities and volunteer opportunities ensure that skills taught in the program generalize or transfer to community settings.  Functional skill development that is person-centered, encompasses multi-treatment modalities, are preferred, and delivered in pleasing environments.

Van Houten, R., Axelrod, S., Bailey, J. S., Favell, J. E., Foxx, R. M., Iwata, B. A., & Lovaas, O. I. (1988). The right to effective behavioral treatment. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 21(4), 381–384. https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1988.21-381

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