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Dr Julia Louw: Incoming Fellow

Project Title: Enhancing the Social Inclusion of Youth with Severe to profound Intellectual Disabilities: A Multi-site and Social Media Intervention (ESISM study).

Host Institution: National University of Ireland Galway

Host PI: Dr Geraldine Leader, Director – Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research, NUIG

Home Institution: Michigan State University


Project summary:

Social inclusion has been noted as an important determinant of health and understood to be inclusive of all individuals on an equal basis and without discrimination.  However, people with disabilities including  young  people with  intellectual  disabilities  (ID) experience  stigma, discrimination, lack  of  access  to  basic  services  and  they  are  often  excluded  from  ordinary activities  in  society thus depriving  them  the  opportunity  to  build  meaningful  relationships. In a study conducted by Whitehouse et al (2001), researchers developed a social inclusion intervention for adults with severe intellectual disabilities (ID), and found that facilitated social activities with a small group of participants with severe ID was an effective way to enhance social inclusion. Staff members however, discontinued these activities once the research ended.  The research design did not include any post intervention measures, thus the impact of the intervention could not be evaluated. This current proposed research study aims to build on the social intervention previously implemented by Whitehouse et al by replicating the study with young people and modifying the design to address the gaps highlighted.  Hence, this research proposal sets out an intervention to facilitate  social interaction activities  using information  communication  technology  (ICT) via a  mobile application and  social media to determine to what extent social inclusion initiatives can be sustained over time.

Therefore this research project aims to:

  • Facilitate social interactions with youth (15-24), with severe to profound ID, using ICT via a mobile application uploaded with a number of social inclusion activities.
  • Evaluate the intervention across multiple treatment groups in different settings (home, institution, community).
  • Increase staff and family involvement with their participation into the design, the development of the intervention, training and as well as analysis of the data.

Julia’s bio: Julia completed her PhD in Rehabilitation Counseling at Michigan State University (MSU). Upon her arrival at MSU in 2007, she was awarded with the MSU Nelson Mandela scholarship after receiving a Ford Foundation fellowship to complete her doctoral studies. Her PhD dissertation focused on teachers and child care providers' views of teaching HIV and AIDS programmes to learners with disabilities in Special Need Schools (SNS) in South Africa. Prior to completing the PhD in 2010, she worked as a Senior Researcher in the office of the CEO at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in Cape Town. Both the Masters degree (in Research Psychology) and her undergraduate degrees (BA and BA Honors in Psychology), she completed at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. Julia have conducted and participated in various research studies including in HIV surveillance studies, Monitoring and Evaluation, Implementation Research and Project Management. In 2011, she acted as a Project Manager on a cluster randomized control trial titled ‘Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI) for harmful alcohol use among TB patients study. In 2013, she was Project Manager on a multi-year Monitoring and Evaluation Learning initiative on Early Childhood Development for children affected by HIV and AIDS in 5 African countries. Her special interests are in sexuality education, social inclusion, youth and disability studies.