INVESTIGATING PREDICTORS OF COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION OF YOUTH WITH SIGNIFICANT DISABILITIES FROM NATIONAL LONGITUDINAL TRANSITION STUDY-2
University of Kansas
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For decades, youth with significant disabilities have had consistently poor post-high school adult outcomes (Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Garza, & Levine, 2005). In addition, they often leave high school without skills, experiences, and support that lead to meaningful adult life roles. Emergent research indicates that individuals with significant disabilities can take on meaningful adult roles when provided sufficient supports, including integrated employment, participating in social networks of community life, and living in homes of their own. Using data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS-2), this study examined post-high school community participation outcome for youth with significant disabilities, and also examined malleable factors (i.e., youth, family, school, and community) associated with improved community participation. This study conducted descriptive analysis to address the level of community participation across three constructs: community presence, community involvement, and social engagement. The community participation criterion constructs and predictor constructs were established using multidimensional item response theory analysis. Furthermore, a latent regression analysis was conducted to determine the significance of the predictive relationship between criterion and predictor constructs. In addition to the predictive paths, covariates (i.e., gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status) were considered to determine the degree of impact to community participation of youth with significant disabilities. Results showed that youth with significant disabilities rarely participated in community locations. Half of youth participated in community activities or volunteer services, however, few reported to have established adult roles such as employment. Youth reported social engagement mostly with friends with more than half participating in social activities, getting invitations, or hanging out. Using multidimensional item response theory analyses, the criterion and predictor latent constructs were established and the final model including six latent constructs (i.e., community involvement, social engagement, functional skills, classroom behaviors, access to the social networks, and access to the vocational programs) showed a good model fit. Latent regression analysis resulted that access to the social networks while in school is a strong predictor of both post-high school community involvement and social engagement of youth with significant disabilities. In addition, functional skills of youth are identified as a strong predictor of post-high school community involvement. Limitations, directions for additional research, and practical implications are described.
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