14% of American children are born with a developmental disability. 8% are born with a learning disability. 7% are diagnosed with ADHD. 2% are born with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. And while some of those numbers overlap to a degree, the end result is that roughly 1 in 5 American children require some form of extraordinary support. Of those, roughly 1 in 15 will continue to need extraordinary support well into what is traditionally considered ‘adulthood.’ But what about those young adults with special needs (YASNs) who are trying to keep up with what society expects by moving out on their own and enjoying the thrills of independence?
Fortunately, there are several options. Unfortunately, it can be all but impossible to know which one is ‘right,’ if that word even has real meaning in this context. The first big decision is between:
• A group home, where several-to-hundreds of similar individuals are all making the same journey together;
• Living with one or more roommates, each supporting the other in learning the necessary skills for independence; or
• A backyard apartment or second suite built on the family’s existing property, where the family can come to help in a pinch and continue to be active in their YASN’s lives.
Questions That Must Be Asked Before Making the Decision:
• Can I live entirely alone — and do I want to?
• What kinds of specialized support would I need to live entirely alone?
• Do I want to live with roommates, shared meals, and a schedule?
• Do I want to live with neighbors, supervised activities, but plenty of alone time?
• Do I want to live with another family, and be treated like a member of that family?
• Do I want to live with another family, but be mostly left alone to do my thing?
• Do I want to live near my family, but in my own space, with little supervision?
Research That Must Be Done Before Making the Decision:
• How will my funding change as I turn 18?
• What State and Federal sources of money exist for someone with my special needs?
• What assistance can my school/teacher provide before I graduate from school?
• What (if relevant) does my case manager think I could take advantage of?
Tips on Finding the Right Place:
• Try to keep your whole family involved.
• Consider carefully the bus routes, restaurants, grocery stores, parks, and other attributes of each neighborhood your potential new homes are located in.
• Start your search with three lists: the list of things that you need (i.e. ramps, a guest room, lawn maintenance included), the list of things that you want (no roommates), and the list of things you want to avoid (i.e. a fire station across the street.)
• As you find places you think you might be interested in, make sure they have all the things you need and none of the things you want to avoid. The want list is your negotiable list — you’ll have to balance it against your budget.
• As you narrow your list down, make a chart including the name, contact information, address, and how many ‘wants’ they have.
Once you’ve gotten it down to a few good choices, you can talk to each one over the phone or visit in person until you find a place that makes you comfortable and confident in your desire to live there. But you’re not quite done — there’s an important skills assessment process you should go through before you start your search. We’ll cover that in a future article.