For a young adult with special needs (YASN), making the first big move out of the home takes on several dimensions unimaginable to a typical teenager. Whatever your housing arrangement, it must include support for the specific special needs that you bring with you, and it should also take your family’s circumstances into account as well. The major options include living alone, living in a community of similar neighbors, or living in a group home. Which one is best for you will depend on your masters of certain life skills as well as your financial situation and your personal comfort level.
Note that these assessments don’t distinguish between mental, physical, and emotional special needs — the only question is “can consistently you handle these tasks without assistance, even under potentially stressful circumstances?
The first ‘rank’ of skills to assess is how easily you can get through the least-challenging day without help. In order to accomplish that goal, you need to be able to take care of what the government calls “ADLs” — Activities of Daily Living:
• Mobility and Transference (i.e. from wheelchair to bed),
• Drinking and Eating
• Dressing and Undressing
• Bathing and Hygiene
• Toileting and Continence
If you can handle all of these yourself, you have the fundamental skills necessary to navigate a day without continuous assistance. If you need assistance with one or more of these skills, you’re going to have to live in a group environment that offers around-the-clock assistance. (Not that you have to lack one or more of these skills to take advantage of a group home; if you simply prefer that kind of environment or have other reasons to need one, you certainly can choose it.) “
Mastering the ADLs will get you through a day — but not a month. Living without parental supervision means not just surviving, but having the skills you need to manage a home. These include (but are not limited to):
• Grocery shopping
• Doing laundry
• Preparing meals
If you can handle these skills yourself, you have the skills necessary to survive in an environment where the only assistance you receive is with long-term, abstract tasks. This means you’re a good match for an assisted-living facility where you live mostly alone but for a daily visit from a skilled aide, or for a group home that offers on-call assistance for emergencies and handles long-term matters such as scheduling activities.
Finally, there’s the last rank of cognitive skills necessary for true independence: the aforementioned long-term, abstract skills that society expects of young adults living alone. These include (but are not limited to):
• Scheduling your own time
• Paying bills
• Handling unexpected visitors, phone calls, or other interruptions
If you can handle these skills without help, you’re prepared to live alone except for occasional visits and emergency support. Of course, you can certainly choose any other option as well; you have access to essentially the full range of housing options.
What exactly are those housing options? We’ll go over the most common options in the next few articles.