Sharp-eyed readers will know that I've been working these last few weeks on a huge project. It's involved a fair bit of research, plodding through piles and piles of data and writing. Now, of the three, typically I like writing. But, in this case, the research and the data analysis were the easy parts. The writing, man, that was work. It's a style of writing I'm not comfortable with, nor good at. Journal writing involves a different set of skills and a manner of presenting information that I find really, really, difficult. When done, my handy statistics page on Word told me I'd spent 856 minutes on writing. That for a measly few thousand words!
But it's done.
It's in the hands of editors now.
What I wanted to tell you was that in doing the data on three of our classes, Self Esteem, Relationship Training and Abuse Prevention, there was significant learning for those attending. But here's the thing. Every single person who attended classes came out with a higher post test scores. Sometimes the increase was remarkable, sometimes the increase was modest, but there was an increase 100 percent of the time. That's 100 per cent of the time.
Those who attended weren't hand picked, they were just on the wait list for training. Those that attended were a broad cross section of people with intellectual disabilities that Vita serves. And to a one they learned.
Here's something else we found that isn't in the journal article. We measured confidence in answering questions in both Relationship Training and in Abuse Prevention. What was notable was that when the confidence increased for an individual, so did the post test scores in an astonishing manner. Remarkable. Improbable. Astounding.
Now I know our trainers at Vita are good. But they will forgive me for saying, 'no one is that good a trainer'. What was clear to me was that lack of confidence in self pushed down the pre test scores. People with disabilities expected less of themselves and performed down to their expectations. I found some research that showed that people with intellectual disabilities who see their disability as meaning 'unable' perform less well. Learning that they are people with disabilities who can learn may be the most important lesson that was taught.
I've always said that whenever you are teaching a person with an intellectual disability anything, you are automatically teaching two things. First, whatever it is you think you are teaching. Second, you are teaching that learning is possible - for them.
That's what was achieved.
I've always believed it but to see it in black and white. To see the numbers tumble out the bottom of my pen. To read a pre test, read the post test, and then, sit startled at the results and then go check to ensure that I didn't mix up the data sheets was mind bending. But there it was time and again, confidence up, scores shoot up. Stunning. Amazing. Incroyable!
Learning that learning is possible.
Learning what disability doesn't mean.
Learning to expect of self.
We thought we were teaching skills, but something bigger happened. Much bigger.
I found myself weighed down by gritty research into the bad things that happen to people with disabilities, first in the world, then in the justice system. But I come out of it believing, again, that once we get it right, and I believe we will one day get it right:
the world will change.