Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Independent living on the autism spectrum

One of the top concerns facing autistic adults and their families is the thought of leaving the nest and living in their own place.    Independent living is a crucial marker of adulthood.  However when you have autism or any disability,  this task becomes very complex as there are a lot of variables that you have to consider.   Things like housing, supports needed as well as what daily living skills that the person will need to learn.   Living on one's own requires a lot of planning on the part of the individual and their family.   As for my situation, I still live at home with my parents.  However in the future, I want to live on my own someday but know that it's going to require a lot of planning and that living completely independently without supports would result in a less than desirable situation.  It is with this post that I will talk about some the things to consider if you or your family member is considering moving into their own place.

The first step when planning to move into your own place is finding affordable housing.  Like everywhere else across the country,the housing crisis makes it hard for people with developmental disabilities to reside in their own homes in the community..  Of course, there are Section 8 housing vouchers that can help those with autism and other disabilities find affordable housing.  However, there is a waiting list  and the availability of subsidized housing is far and few in between.  Plus, not everyone will meet the financial requirement to qualify for such housing.    Finding a place that is affordable and doesn't eat all of my paycheck should be a priority. I also want a place that is in a decent neighborhood with a relatively low crime rate.  However since the price of housing and rent is soaring high all over the place, it is hard to find a house, town home or an apartment in a modest neighborhood.   Given all these challenges, we need to focus on the housing issue if we want those with autism (as well as those with other disabilities) to be able to live and participate in the community.

Perhaps my biggest concern about the prospect of living on my own is arranging for supports to assist me with daily living.  In anticipating this future transition, my executive functioning difficulties in managing everyday tasks like (cooking, budgeting etc.)and also dealing with change (I am still adjusting to living in Washington state) are some of the areas I will need assistance with.  I will need someone to act as a coach and provide emotional support. The hardest part is figuring out supports/services as well as finding the right people for the job. The good news is there are many different ways to arranging for support or care needs.  Perhaps a roommate can help out or support workers (either from an agency or individual providers) that can come in and assist with daily living skills, errands/appointment as well as social/recreational activities.    Another creative idea, is having caregivers that double up as roommates.  This type of arrangement involves a roommate who receives free rent or receives paycheck in exchange for providing  needed supports and services.  Of course deciding which support arrangement will work best depends if an individual qualifies for state services or if they have enough money to pay for support workers privately as well as the availability of natural supports. 

A third variable is measuring adaptive skills or living skills a person possesses.  This means taking an inventory of skills the person already knows, skills the person will need to learn as well as tasks the individual will need help with.   This can be done either through a person center planning meeting or a formal adaptive living skills assessment.  The amount of living skills the individual already possesses and has the ability to learn will vary.  Of course parents can help their loved one prepare and help master some living skills.  Measuring daily living skills can help figure out what assistance he/she will need once they move out.

I believe independent living is possible for those with autism and other developmental conditions.  There is just some extra planning and research that will need to take place.  It is something to consider long term since living with family is not a permanent solution since parents/caregivers will eventually grow old to care for their adult offspring.   I am aware that some families have chosen group homes or intentional communities for their loved ones.  However, this post is mainly addressed to those families or individuals who want to live in the community.  Autistic people deserve to have the same opportunities as those adults without disabilities.

Image result for person washing dishes

1 comment: