Self-Awareness and Self-Determination at the Gottschall Access Program

What are Life Skills? For many, the idea of a Life Skills curriculum conjures up thoughts about functional life skills including cooking, laundry, hygiene and cleaning. For some it might mean vocational skills such as following directions, computer skills or alphabetizing.  Others may think of lessons about accessing the community: safety signs, social skills and transportation.  While many of these skills are important and necessary for young adults transitioning to adulthood life and responsibilities, I think we sometimes overlook an important process on this journey.  What do you WANT to do?

Moving on to adult life can be a daunting experience for all of us who have made that transition. I think many of us have reached that point in our life when we wonder if we work to live or live to work. I know in my case it is certainly both! Fortunately, my work is rewarding, dynamic and plays to my skill set.  My first job at Papa Gino’s however, (while I did love the employee discount) was a job of necessity.  It is vital to offer everyone the opportunity to find employment that fits well with their skills, interests and motivations while matching their need for support and fulfillment.

Through the Gottschall Access Program, our first year of Life Skills Curriculum aims to provide the base for this opportunity.  Our first two semesters concentrate on the principles of Self-Awareness and Self-Determination.  We feel that these 2 tenets are crucial to the process of figuring out “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

“Creating Happiness is done in many steps.  Only with self-awareness can we see where our steps are taking us.” – Pathway to Happiness

Self-Awareness is defined as “The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior. The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a ‘growth mindset.’” – Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

Through our self-awareness curriculum we support students’ exploration of their strengths, interests, skills and talents.  So many students come to us well aware of their challenges and the things they cannot do well, but they often have a difficult time identifying the things that they are good at.  Through assessments, guided activities and self-exploration we encourage the students to realize their skills and interests.  It is also necessary through this process to discover our challenges and areas in which we require support or accommodations. This can be an empowering process for students to realize that while they do have limitations, as we all do, it’s ok! It’s vital to know ourselves before we can move onto knowing what we can provide others in work, school or community environments.  Once students have identified what they are good at and what areas they need improvement in, we can move onto self-determination.

“When you know yourself, you are empowered. When you accept yourself, you are invincible.” – Tina Lifford

Self-Determination is defined as the process by which a person controls their own life.  Once the students are comfortable with their self-awareness and have a good handle on not only what they are able to do, but what they would like to do, we can move on to how make that happen.  Through our self-determination curriculum we explore and practice how to be effective communicators, how to identify and request needed accommodations and how to set achievable goals.  A very important component of self-determination is motivation. For some students entering adult life, their decisions and advocacy has been done for them by their support system.  Students need to be self-motivated to want to achieve their goals. Without this, goals become the property of someone else rather than the student’s own. Motivation will provide perseverance when things don’t go as expected and a desire for self-advocacy to make changes when needed. It is important for us to teach students how to formulate goals, make plans and advocate for themselves or request support when needed.

It is our hope, at The Gottschall Access Program, that our students will emerge with a confident idea of who they are and a plan to live their best lives.

 

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