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Ontario Independence Program Research (OIPR)

The Ontario Independence Program Research (OIPR) team includes researchers and clinicians from three children’s treatment centres in Ontario; Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto; ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development in Mississauga; and McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton. In 2011, we began a program of research looking at Residential Immersive Life Skills (RILS) programs for youth with disabilities, funded by the Centre for Participation and Inclusion at Holland Bloorview, with the support of the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation.

In 2014, the OIPR team, led by Drs. Gillian King and Amy McPherson, was awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant to conduct a prospective longitudinal study comparing youth who participated in RILS programs with matched control youth who did not participate.

RILS programs

Residential Immersive Life Skills, or RILS programs, are group programs where youth with disabilities spend multiple nights away from home in a college or university residence and have the opportunity to develop the skills they will need in their adult life. Life skills refer to behaviors like problem-solving and goal-setting that are necessary to meet the demands of everyday life. Youth involved in the programs are in their later teen years. Holland Bloorview, ErinoakKids and McMaster Children’s Hospital each run a RILS program annually during the summer.

RILS programs offer a promising approach to support and develop life skills among youth with disabilities. Part of the “magic” of RILS programs seems to come from “situated learning”; during the programs, youth are taken out of their usual environment and practice new skills and face new challenges while interacting with a group of peers. However, little is known about the ways that skills that youth learn are maintained over time, how well youth are able to apply the skills that they learn to other environments, and how higher order life skills like self-determination and self-efficacy are supported by learning everyday skills during a RILS program.

Our program of research

Our research program seeks to address the following questions:

(a) What opportunities for learning and development are offered by RILS programs? What strategies are most highly used by those delivering these programs?

(b) What are the experiences and perceptions of youth prior to, during, and following participation in a RILS program? What are the expectations and experiences of their parents?

(c) What changes in outcomes are observed, including self-determination and self-efficacy?

To date we have completed three studies, the Youth Retrospective Study, the Service Providers’ Expertise Study and the Youth Prospective Study. You can find descriptions of the studies under Project Summaries. Plain language summaries of the findings are available, as well as links to publications that have come out of our work and research tools that have been developed by members of the OIPR team and used in our research.