Angelica Downey Receives ARDRAW Research Grant

FAU doctoral student Angela Downey

by Teresa Crane | Friday, Aug 27, 2021

Florida Atlantic University doctoral student Angelica Downey was awarded $10,000 for her proposal to conduct research on an employment intervention for college students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The Social Security Administration’s Analyzing Relationships between Disability, Rehabilitation and Work (ARDRAW) selected Downey as a graduate-level recipient of this one-year stipend to conduct research designed to ferret out innovative and fresh perspectives on disability, specifically rehabilitation, work.

“ARDRAW has been administering these grant opportunities for SSA, opening doors for serious graduate students to conduct research. Angelica’s selection for this grant shows the value of her employability research with people who have IDD – it shows just how talented she is,” said Mike Brady, Ph.D., chair and professor, FAU Department of Exceptional Student Education. “Her work is cutting edge and shines a light on the important work done at FAU’s Academy for Community Inclusion! We hope she is just the first of many doctoral students at FAU to gain support for their research.”

Studies suggest that on-topic conversational skills, and the instruction of these skills are a critical part of employment training programs designed for adults with Intellectual Disability (ID). Downey proposes to employ remote audio coaching (RAC) to help college students with ID overcome social skill deficits that put job promotion and retention at risk, specifically on-topic workplace and employment related communication.

The RAC intervention follows a study Downey published earlier this year that demonstrated using literacy-based interventions via e-books proved an effective teaching tool, Teaching Virtual Job Interview Skills to College Students with IDD Using Literacy-Based Interventions. This earlier study suggests that remote instruction is successful with this population. Her current research aims to measure the effectiveness of remote audio coaching when delivering on-topic workplace communication skills to adults with ID and retention of those skills after RAC removal.

A quantitative single-subject design methodology will measure behavior through direct observation across numerous RAC sessions. Four college students diagnosed with ID and little to no work experience will participate in intervention sessions via Zoom until four consecutive sessions show un-prompted employment conversation exchange at 90% or higher. Data collection will resume one to two weeks after the last intervention session to determine if students maintained the skill.

The study will culminate in a paper submission to ARDRAW and a webinar presentation of the processes and results. If RAC increases on-topic work communication, then Downey will undertake a second study to determine if RAC will increase on-topic workplace conversations in real world community employment settings with novel professionals. Downey plans to present the proposal for a second study with generalized outcomes to her dissertation committee.       

“I am hoping that with the use of RAC, we can help adults with ID eliminate the issues that arise through conversations at work and ultimately maintain their employment positions,” said Downey.Downey serves as Curriculum and Training Specialist for FAU Academy for Community Inclusion (ACI), a college program designed to increase overall independence in employment, self-determination, and community experiences for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Exceptional Student Education at FAU College of Education.