When it comes time for a young adult with special needs (YASN) to leave the nest, one of the most reasonable options for many is to move into a place with one or more other people who can help them balance the responsibilities and freedoms of independence with their unique situations. The first question is, do you want to live with someone who has special needs akin to yours? Or would it be better to live with a friend? Either way, there are a few options for a mostly-independent life with one or more roommates.
Types of Residence with Roommates
• Private Residence: One of the best options when it’s affordable is for 2-3 families that all have young adults with special needs to put their funds together and purchase a single-family residence, and move all of them in together. (Obviously, this works best if the three are acquaintances or friends beforehand.) The families can guide their YASNs from afar, helping them learn to responsibly deal with bills, holding down a job, and keeping a house.
• Apartment Community: In most larger towns across the country, there are community organizations that maintain one or more apartments for YASNs. Alternatively, several families that have YASNs can come together and organize to rent several apartments in the same complex (with the landlord’s involvement and approval, of course). This is a great option for parents who don’t mind driving over to visit a few times a week and can help organize activities. This is great for families that have a dependable income but don’t have a lot of savings.
• Dedicated Community: Some independent-living facilities have special areas for or are fully devoted to YASNs, supporting between a dozen and a hundred ‘cottages’ of 2-4 roommates who live together, sharing chores and participating in activities organized by the community. Some such facilities accept SSI payments, making them ideal for YASNs that are ‘officially’ disabled. Such communities often offer a stable routine, a good mix of activities, and (importantly!) safe transportation to shopping and workplaces.
Which is Best for Me?
If you’re fairly certain that you want to live with at least one other person, but you don’t know which of your options is appropriate for your particular situation, here’s a short set of questions to answer.
• How much structure do you need to feel comfortable getting through your day? If your answer is “quite a bit, thank you,” you should consider the dedicated community — both informal apartment communities and private residences can start strong, but are often organized by one or two people and can fall apart unexpectedly if something goes wrong.
• How much do you value privacy? If the answer is “quite a bit, thank you,” you should consider the apartment community — it’s the only option that gives you a space that is actually your own while keeping ‘roommates’ literally a door or two down the way.
• How well can you navigate a few days entirely without assistance? If the answer is “quite well, thank you,” the private residence (provided you have a set of families that can afford it and are interested) is the option that most strongly supports independence and learning skills that further that independence.