Persons with learning disabilities struggle academically and have difficulties with social integration essential to human development. This need has not been addressed by any other organization. Adults with learning disabilities also have difficulties recognizing secure relationships and are likely to fall prey to unethical, unscrupulous and sometimes criminal groups. By participating in social, cultural and educational activities their lives are greatly enriched. Step Out’s ultimate goal is enhanced self image through continued education and social integration. This goal is achieved by providing special events, seminars, peer support and mentoring thereby improving communication skills and nurturing new friendships and happier individuals.
Parents and professionals in the Chicago area have joined to establish Step Out USA, Inc., a social service organization addressing the needs of adults who are confronted with continued impasses in their lives due to their condition of delayed social development.
An active schedule of planned events and seminars is geared to their interests and talents. All events are facilitated by a professional, enabling easy access and encouraging members to establish peer mentor relationships:
- Seminars on relevant subjects such as financial planning, use of public transportation, personal organizational skills, and “making small talk” encourage confidence in members.
- Social events include bowling and skating outings, concerts, museum and zoo visits, amusement parks, theater and sporting events.
- Members, drawn from a wide metropolitan area, help plan the events and are encouraged to develop additional “get-togethers” in their neighborhoods.
- Major events are centrally located to facilitate easy access using public transportation.
Parents do not actively participate in planned events and activities. Their involvement is adjunct dealing with fundraising and peripheral support.
Self-advocacy is encouraged. Peer support allows members to explore their talents and resources in a safe comfortable environment.
- Step Out USA serves not only the adult with learning disabilities but also the family. Seminars for parents address their needs as they strive to increase their understanding of adult issues faced by their children. Peer support among parents helps everyone establish a more harmonious as well as independent relationships with their adult children.
- Regardless of special education and accommodations during the formative years, developmental delay can keep adults from functioning effectively in the mainstream. Children with learning disabilities can grow up to become adults with learning disabilities.
- Beaten by repeated academic struggles while growing up and challenges as adults in the workforce, they often find themselves underemployed, resigned to partial independence and experiencing minimal social opportunities.
- They become vulnerable to many of the negative influences in the contemporary world. Their lives lack positive friendships and happiness.
- All members must be employed or in the process of obtaining employment. Their erratic work schedules, lack of confidence, transportation problems, and poor executive function create the major challenge for active participation. Every effort is made to assist members with use of public transportation using buddy system and peer support. During the screening process, potential members are advised on opportunities for further education and job possibilities.
- As the group increases and friendships form, members begin to transfer dependence on parents to dependence on one another and themselves. Happier and more active lifestyles result.
- Research shows when people of similar interests and backgrounds join together they grow to become stronger and happier individuals.
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