MAIER Transition to Adulthood Training Modules: Part 7 – Getting Ready for Independent Living
Preparing transition-age youth for independent living is critically important to quality of life, independence, and autonomy. Although much of the focus of this domain of transition planning is centered around specific living arrangements, independent living actually encompasses many areas including community engagement, social relationships, decision making, and recreation and leisure activities.
Independent living is a fundamental right of all people, including people with disabilities, and was a fundamental part of the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Pioneered by leaders like Ed Roberts and other people with disabilities who fought for fundamental rights for people with disabilities, the independent living movement is continued in the work of Centers for Independent Living (CILs), which exist in communities across the country. Click on the link below to learn more about the Independent Living movement.
In terms of transition planning, this broad range of activities and considerations that fall under the domain of ‘independent living’ means that our approach in this area should be grounded in person-centered planning. As we touched on previously, person-centered planning means centering our planning approach around the discovery of a person’s strengths and preferences. This is especially important in planning independent living, where we must spend time to talk to our student or child about their vision for the future and what that looks like in terms of an apartment in the city or a house in the country; living with family or sharing a place with a roommate. When grounded in a desire to truly understand a person’s dreams for their future, mapping that future in a person-centered planning approach can be a powerful tool in guiding services to accomplish the individual’s vision.
Community resource mapping is a strategy that involves identifying assets and resources that can support an individual in order to achieve their transition goals. However, community resource mapping is more than just identifying resources. It also involves taking action to execute a plan for how to use those interconnected resources to achieve goals. When used in the transition planning process, community resource mapping can be a powerful tool for taking transition goals and matching them with concrete resources within the community. For more information about community resource mapping, check out this page from the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.
At its core, independent living is essentially based in communities. After all, that’s where we live, hang out, make friends, and all the other things that make up independent living. As a result, when it comes to planning for independent living, we have to individualize not only based on the student, but also based on the community itself. Finding those matches between the interests and preferences of the individual and the available options in the community is critical to transition planning for independent living. One strategy for doing this is called community resource mapping, which means identifying and partnering with community agencies, organizations, and even specific members that align with goals and interests of the individual.
A major part of living independently in our communities is navigating friendships and social relationships. PEERS® Training is an evidence-based method for promoting social skills in teens and children with disabilities. UMaine is at the forefront of PEERS® research, led by Dr. Sarah Howorth. For more information about Dr. Howorth and her research, click on the link below.
In the next section, we’ll go over how we can bring together all that we’ve discussed so far. Click here to go on to Part 8.