• Joshua Harmening

"Leaving the Nest"—an Ongoing, Interactive Guide for Parents and Families.


Helping your Developmentally Disabled Child leave the Family Home and Enter Supported Living:

There are so many things to consider as a child reaches adulthood. A disability magnifies this. The range of emotions is much like the time surrounding birth. Excitement balanced with worry, the anticipation spiked with the eventual feeling of separation. It is difficult for families of disabled individuals to consider what independence means. Everyone has the capacity to reach their full potential. Disabled individuals are often more capable than we think. Exploring all possibilities and alternative approaches is imperative to success. As is allowing for the dignity of risk.

Independence does not mean the same thing for every person. For this discussion, let’s address the idea of independence through supported living within the context of a group home.

The thought of moving your child into an adult family home can bring up all kinds of emotions, concerns, excitements, and doubts. On top of that, it’s a learning process that continues well after your child has moved into a home. It is one of the biggest decisions your family can make, and timing is everything when it comes to this transition.

So, when is the best time to start looking at all the options? Do not wait until more support is necessary. This allows for a slower shift from home life to living with roommates. This also makes the learning process more palatable. Adapting to change is challenging enough without putting a time restraint on the situation. There are often waiting lists for supportive living programs. So consider this option early to give your family time to find the right home. It is hard to think about someone else providing support. But, your child may need to look to someone else for care in the future.

What’s important to consider when planning for the future and what is realistic for your family? Make any kind of new transition a positive experience is very important. This means taking all the time needed with various introductions. Introduce the idea/ concept of living with roommates. Create routines that your child can take with them anywhere they live. Provide a wide range of social opportunities and education around what it means to be “likable”. All these things will help set your child up for a successful more independent future.

Look at programs that are in the right location. Whether that’s a home in the busy, active, city or a quiet, small, rural town. Think about your loved one's personality. How do they react to change? What changes may occur over the next few years? What steps are necessary to ensure that your child is ready?

Schedule tours to see a wide variety of homes. We love having families stop through Coyote House! Book a Tour here. Find out about the admissions process. See if there are ways to get involved with the program and its community. Getting involved is a huge step in making the idea of moving into a home more tangible. This provides introductions and gets everyone more comfortable with the changes a new environment brings.

Take an educational approach. Often, supported living is thought of as a place for disabled adults to live with the support needed to be healthy and content. Or, at worst, purgatory! Thinking about this transition as an educational opportunity brings new light to the situation. It’s like sending your child to college. Holding disabled adults to their highest potential goes above and beyond a basic quality of life practice. Transitioning into an adult family home could be like heading off to school. When there is an educational component, there are opportunities for an individual to continue growing and learning as a contributing member of a community. This makes moving into a home a step towards independence and adulthood, rather than acting as a static landing place for them to grow old.

Finding a program that provides an opportunity to get involved in the community, gain employment, peruse personal interests/goals, and taught independent living skills is no simple task. So again, start looking now and be open-minded.

Preparing for the Big Move:

What to do at home when preparing for transitioning out of the family home and into an adult family supportive living program.

A big consideration when preparing your child for this transition is to work on independent living skills. Think about what makes a good roommate and start working on the skills necessary to be successful in a community setting. These would include: “private vs. public”, “mine vs. yours”, helping with household chores, adaptive communication skills, a morning and evening routine, behavioral skills, and the awareness of others.

Skills to Work On and Things to Consider:

  • Communication

  • Adaptability

  • Independence

  • Likability

  • Transportation

  • Location of the home in relation to services and activities.

  • Financing: What is sustainable? What financial support is available? Comparing out of state vs. in state programs.

  • Privacy: Shared rooms vs. private rooms. What does the community space look like and how is it shared?

  • Space: How much space is needed to meet the individuals needs and how realistic are those special needs? What can be done limit spatial needs while maintaining the individuals’ happiness, comfort, and quality of life?

  • Activities: What kind of activates are provided by the program? What kind of leisure/ recreational outlets will be available?

Conclusion:

The series "Leaving the Nest" is intended to get parents and families prepared for the transition of Developmentally Disabled Children into Adulthood. We welcome any and all question, comments, or concerns you may have!


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