Friday, January 28, 2011

Planning for Spare Time

Vacation to Denver Hiking in the Mountains

An important part of transition planning is being sure your son or daughter has friends and a support network within the community.  This includes not only their friends and family but people from their church, neighborhood and workplace.  Unfortunately after they leave school at twenty-one many of the disabled who live at home lose touch with friends they had in school and don't have the social skills necessary to make new friends.  As they become more and more dependent on their families they lose what independence they had developed when they were in high school or vocational school. 

It is important to help them plan activities they enjoy as well as activities that are held where it is easy for them to get to by mass transit or paratransit systems.  As family you will not always be able to drive them places they'd like to go.  Fostering independence in choosing and getting to social activities is critical for your son or daughter to maintain a happy and healthy social life on their own. 

Contact groups in your community that have get togethers like churches or Best Buddies.  Often the Mental Health Office in your community can refer you to places or groups.  Taking adult classes or being part of Special Olympics or other sports is critical.  Not only does this get exercise for minds and bodies but it brings them into contact with more people with whom they can be friendly.  Vacation planning is also an important part of their leisure time.  There are many groups that have camps or that sponsor vacation trips for the disabled with varying amounts of supervision.  Hiking and riding are great options.  Check your local state parks or communities for hiking groups in your area.  Cooking classes are helpful and will help them learn new skills that they can practice on their own.  The options are endless, it just takes some time to find the ones that appeal to your son or daughter the most. 

Becoming active at their church or synagogue can fill many voids both religious and social. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Section Eight Housing -- Sign Up Before Your Son or Daughter is Ready to Move

Due to the scant resources currently available for Section 8 housing it is critical for your son or daughter to get on the list for these resources as soon as possible.  This means that when housing opens up they will already be in the system.  Talk to one of the professionals at Residential Living Options about navigating the maze of the Housing Authority.  They can offer you ideas for future planning.  You can apply for a voucher online or by requesting an application.  Delaware County offers you help navigating your way through the government legalese.  Work with the Arc of Delaware County, the MHMR (Mental Health Mental Retardation) office and your son or daughter's transition planner at their high school. 

Getting a voucher is only half the battle.  Then it's time to find an apartment.  Take the time to network before your son or daughter gets a voucher with local landlords.  We were very fortunate in finding a landlord on our own who had never worked with the Housing Authority but who was more than willing to make the effort.  Letting landlords get to know you before you actually need housing can be critical to finding an apartment that will be a good long term fit for your son or daughter. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Planning For The Future: When to Start Thinking About Transition Planning

It may sound funny to admit this but one of the first things we thought about when we found out about our daughters' intellectual disabilities were how to make them as independent as possible so they would be able to live on their own as adults.  You might think we were jumping the gun but in a funny way it was always part of our plan for their futures.  When our oldest daughter was three we didn't know what her future would hold but we did know we wanted her and her sister to be as independent as possible.  So we started by looking for a great school district, not just one with a great special education department but one with a good regular education department too.  We knew they would have to become part of the overall educational system as children and teens if they were going to become an integrated part of society after graduation.  This meant they were part of regular sports teams and part of regular scout troops as well as part of activities designed for the differently able.  I can't say it was easy along the way, sometimes it was, sometimes it was hellacious (hmm is that a word? well anyway, you get the idea) but no matter what it was rewarding in the end.  Today most school districts have special ed students in regular classes, but when they started school there were still the traditional classrooms for just special ed students.  Later I'll tell you some of our stories about the work to get them into regular classrooms with regular ed students! But that's a tale for another day.

So if you have a child with disabilities start thinking about what their abilities are.  What CAN they do, not what can't they do.  Plan for the future today because tomorrow comes faster than you think.  Small things like teaching them to plan their time and how to do simple household chores will pay off in the longterm.  Is what I write here the answer for every family? No, because each of our children are different and no one size fits all.  So take the advice that 'fits' your family and find what works for you.

Meeting Announcement of Everyday Lives Advisory Committee

The Everyday Lives Advisory Committee in Delaware County Pennsylvania has a meeting planned for January 19, 2011 at 12 noon to 2pm.  It will be held at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit Building, 200 Yale Avenue, Morton PA.  (Any weather alerts about the closing of the Delaware County Intermediate Unit will result in the cancellation and rescheduling of this meeting).  This meeting will be helpful to families with adult sons and daughters or for families facing future planning needs.  It will also be helpful to students about to graduate, educators or anyone in the community who supports individuals with disabilities. 

The speaker at this meeting will be Catherine Friedman from Residential Living Options who will discuss living options for adults with additional needs and how to meet them.  Her creative approach has helped many families successfully make this transition.  She also can provide you with many resources on transition planning.  Kathryn Vecchione will be a featured speaker.  She has successfully lived in her own apartment for two years and will give a personal perspective on independent living and how it has effected her life.

Please join us and give us your personal perspective on independent living.

Transition Planning and My Family

For many families the transition of adult children moving out of their home and into their own apartments is an easy one.  But for families with children with a variety of disabilities it can be a minefield filled with the potential for a disasters. This blog is to encourage families to pursue independent living for their children with either intellectual, mental or physical disabilities.  It also tells the story of how our family handled our daughter moving out on her own and the important people who helped make her transition from our home to her own apartment possible. 

Please feel free to leave comments about any post with ideas and experiences from your own family.  We'll explore different living options for adults with a variety of needs since obviously what works for one individual won't be a good fit for another. 

As options evolve I hope to explore them and provide you with information so you can get more information from the appropriate sources in your own community.