Latch-On is much more than just a literacy program. The ultimate goal of the program is to create a community of practice that goes beyond the classroom. The theme for this year’s International Youth Day is “Youth Civic Engagement”. What a better way to celebrate than showing you how the Latch-On program has helped students become more active in their country’s community and politics.
What is Civic Engagement?
Excerpts from Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000, define civic engagement as:
“Working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.”
The United Nations stated that:
“The engagement and participation of youth is essential to achieve sustainable human development. Yet often the opportunities for youth to engage politically, economically and socially are low or non-existent.”
The engagement of young people with intellectual disabilities can be even lower. Yet their lives heavily rely on political decisions.
Latch-On: a pathway to civic life for young adults with learning disabilities
Being an active member of the community means staying up to date with what is going on in the community. As such following current news is a vital part of the modules during the two-year program. Most of in-class and homework exercises spin around latest news. Literacy skills are taught with a purpose.
Students learn to read, write about, communicate and present these news to the class. Students and teachers stay up to date with what is happening in their communities, latest books, movies, TV series, pop culture and anything that are keeping students interested and motivated.
As a result, Latch-On is not just a literacy, numeracy and technology program for young adults with learning disabilities. It is much more than that because it is contextual. The aim of the program is for students to acquire strong and lasting literacy skills. Those literacy skills are ultimately used to improve their civic life in the community.
“My Opinion My Vote”
My Opinion, My Vote (MOTE) is a European Project which aims to empower people with learning disabilities through active citizenship and participation in political elections.
Graduates of the Latch-On program at Down Syndrome Ireland have had the opportunity to participate in MOTE:
“It is characteristic of a modern democracy that all adult citizens have an equal opportunity to exercise active political influence. Political decisions influence the lives of people with learning disabilities in the same way as they influence the lives of the general population. Moreover, when looked upon as a group, people with learning disabilities represent a percentage of the population whose life conditions are most dependent on political decisions; nevertheless, people with learning disabilities represent a group in society who are most frequently excluded from the political process.”
Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI) is our first partner in Europe. Some of the Latch-On graduates enrolled in a one-year post-graduate course. In this case, students learned about their political rights. Thanks to the literacy skills acquired through the Latch-On program they were also encouraged to form and express an informed opinion and decision during local, national and European elections and referenda.
The outcomes have been overwhelmingly positive to date:
“The survey conducted during the initiative concluded that the MOTE education programme provided an effective and language accessible method for teaching people with learning disabilities about politics. ‘My Opinion My Vote’ has since reached approximately 1000 people with learning disability and 4000 facilitators (carers, professionals and decision makers).”
Literacy for adults with learning disabilities
In the words of Jen Selinsky, literacy is truly “one of the greatest gifts a person could receive”. Literacy is undoubtedly the single most significant skills in life, and lifelong learning should be accessible to all for a successful education, career and quality of life.
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The Latch-On Team