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Youth in Transition Toolkit:


Activate families

Supporting independent living

Families play a key role in helping youth prepare to live independently and participate fully in their communities. However, many families need help to imagine what living independently means for their child. In addition, some cultures don't view independence as living outside of the home.

As you work with families, find the right balance — advocating for an adult life based on the person's goals while considering any limitations (such as the need for nursing, transportation or supervision) through a lens of cultural responsiveness.

Lightbulb LEARN

LEARN: Develop your knowledge

Learn how to support families in exploring independent living.

At its core, independent living means living a self-determined life. Still, it can be frightening for families to embrace the concept of a youth being the expert in their own life.

Families are worried about safety, decision making and money management. Though these concerns are valid, they shouldn't prevent youth from living a self-directed life. 

Diffuse any tension between family engagement and self-determination by encouraging a common goal — building a youth's ability to have full say over what happens in their life. This doesn't mean an end to the family's presence. It's simply a transition from primary decision-maker to supporter.

Resources DO

DO: Work with families

Find resources to help families explore independent living.

Encourage families to:

  • Help youth build responsibility, confidence, and problem-solving and communication skills, even from a young age. Reinforce the idea that they'll need these skills when they get older.
  • See failure as an option. Many families are so protective of their youth that opportunities to try new things are limited. Keeping safety in mind, trying and failing is how we learn. Having a disability shouldn't limit someone's ability to explore new skills and experiences.
  • Define independent living broadly. Independent living doesn't always mean living outside the family home. Many people live with their families by choice or based on resource limitations. Still, people who remain in the family home should still be given opportunities to have new experiences, interact with the community and work in competitive integrated employment.
  • Plan ahead for parent or caregiver deaths. As difficult as this conversation may be, a plan is critical.
  • Consider what a "good life" looks like for their youth. Many people with disabilities are offered only a life of services and protection. A good life happens when a person is treated with dignity and given opportunities to explore interests and to do things for themselves.

Learning and practicing life skills is an important step in the transition planning process. The Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) offers a life skills checklist (PDF) to help youth ages 14 to 22, their families and their IEP teams track independent life skills.

Got Transition's parent and caregiver portal can help families support youth in gaining independent health care skills, preparing for an adult model of care and transferring to new clinicians. 

Start by asking families to take this quiz: Is your child ready to transition to adult care?

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