Last week we talked about guardianship and how it helps a person when it is written for a particular purpose, but if it is not written well, it might cause severe damage to the person. The person must have support around them. Someone might need help at home, at school, at therapy, and in the community as well. How do you build a community around the person?
The person needs to have support from all angles of their life, and if one part of their life is missing support, other factors might get affected. The term is called supported living. It has been around for years. Throughout the years, people have made supported living even better.
Before we dive deep into supported living, I have a question for you. Can one person build a house? Maybe, if the person knows carpenter work, electrical work, plumbing, and other skills, although it might take a long time to finish. Let’s say that you hire a plumber, electrician, and a builder, but you don’t tell these people what you want. Will the house be built for you with your design? Probably not because there was no communication between the workers.
Let’s get back to supported living. You can have a teacher, a therapist, and a vocational person helping you or your son or daughter, but they don’t communicate with each other. Will you see improvement in your life? You might, but it might be very minimum. If they work on different goals and do not know about the other objectives, they work in silos. That is not good on so many different levels.
Getting a job or keeping a job it takes several skills. You have to talk maturely and dress nicely and among other things. A vocational specialist can do so much for a person if the person is not ready, but if everyone works together with having a common goal, getting a job is realistic to achieve.
Supported living does not start during high school, but it begins in first grade. Naturally, a child at age six or seven does not know what they want in life yet. They only know what they want to play with, and it is like any other kid. A kid can get a toy that they want to play with, but a child with a disability often receives a toy without asking what toy they want to play. This fundamental difference might make a child dependent on other people to make decisions for them. If these kids start making decisions at an early age, they will make many decisions on their own.
Nobody makes decisions alone. A couple makes decisions together, such as a high school student decides which college to go to with their parents’ help. So, everyone makes decisions with help. Supported living helps people with disabilities to make decisions with other people who are in their lives.
By starting at early age, the child learns how to make decisions, but also know who to ask for help when they need assistance. By high school, they could run their own IEP in theory, and that is the best thing that parents could give their teenager. Having this skill, they will use it for the rest of their lives.
If you are a parent of a teenager with a disability and you are hearing about supported living for the first time, you are wondering if you have messed up. When I was a teenager, there was no supported living that I know of. I attended only one IEP and that was during my Junior year of high school because they wanted to know if I wanted to graduate the following year or stay two more years. I had all of my credits in four years so I would be graduating in four years and they were not happy with me at all.
My friend Mike stayed the extra year in high school but when he went to college, he struggled a lot. So, doing what the “experts” say does not always work out for the best. Supported livingg really helps some people but other people with disabilities don’t need much help. The only thing that I would say is to treat your child like any other kid and they will do terrific. you know your child the best so use your gut feeling and go from there.