‘Independent Living’ Living a life of One’s Own

It is exciting to read about a new federal initiative that will help individuals move from institutions to the independent living. This program will involve the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Service, with Health care and support services coordinated through Medicaid’s “Money Follows the Person.” To read more about this initiative at http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2011/01/07/independent-living-boost/11861/

We hear a lot about independent living (IL). But depending who we are, for example, a young adult with a disability, a parent of son or daughter with a disability, a professional, or policy maker, different assumptions linger about what IL looks like and what persons are considered to receive IL. Most importantly, the assumptions for parents about IL may include fear of the unknown and how it could help their young adult. This most definitely included me too. Or parents are anxiously waiting for their young adult’s name to come up on the wait list.

I have developed personal beliefs about IL because of the 10 -year experience my son Trent and I have with IL. I also learned from many other parents who have young adults with autism about their beliefs on IL. Their experiences were part of my own research.

My beliefs about IL:
A person’s level of disability should not be used to deny one entry into community living options. Nor should others’ presumptions about the young adult’s functioning level and his or her limited ability to benefit or grow from IL be the criteria for exemption from IL.

This is where broad creative supports are important. BCS that meet the individual where he or she is in development as well as personal interests and strengths that actually becomes a bridge connecting one to continued learning and participation in their communities. Outcomes of BCS can materialize as volunteer work, a paid job, being a consumer making purchases, or being a member in a group, such as a church or other organizations. Other outcomes may include self determination, and social emotional growth. BCS include traditional supports as well: Medicaid Waiver, Vocational Rehabilitation, Other Supported Living Grants and Initiatives. Moreover, broad creative supports can enable a young adult to become less dependent and more capable.

In order that an individual has exposure to varied community settings and activities, broad creative supports are necessary and helpful. John Holt a well known educator said, “We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way. I love this quote. I can relate this directly to individuals with autism or other related disabilities seeking IL:

1) I see persons learning to accept new settings and new people by participating in their neighborhoods and communities by doing it, there is no other way.

2) I see persons learning about who they are as a unique individual through exposure to new activities, their interests, and strengths, by doing it, there is no other way.

Please share this blog with your friends and colleagues. Also I am interested in your opinions and views, even if you disagree.

Thank you.