What to Look for in Independent Living Facilities for Developmentally Disabled Young Adults

For any parent, it’s a hard day when a child finally leaves home and starts a life of his own. For a parent of a developmentally disabled child, it can be even harder. After you’ve both rejoiced in your child’s accomplishments and suffered through the worst days with her, it can be hard to let go. But there are many independent living facilities in every state that cater to young adults and encourage their growth. Here’s what to look for.

Independent Living Research Utilization

According to the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU), an independent living facility can be defined as “a consumer‑controlled, community‑based, cross‑disability, nonresidential private nonprofit agency that is designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities and provides an array of independent living services.” More than half the staff and more than half the board of each official IL center is composed of members who have a disability themselves.

The ILRU notes five core services that a facility should provide: 

  1. Information & referral
  2. Independent living skills training
  3. Individual and systems advocacy
  4. Peer counseling
  5. Transition: transition from nursing homes and other institutions to community-based residences; assisting individuals to avoid institutional placement; and transition of youth with significant disabilities after completion of secondary education to postsecondary life.

IL facilities are available in every state. To choose the best one to fit your young adult’s needs, keep in mind the following:

Location

Where will your son or daughter live? While you may wish them to be close by, it may be better for your child if he lives at a distance from you, giving him greater independence. Where your child ultimately finds a home will directly impact his daily life – will your child be living in a city where there is a constant source of entertainment and emergency services nearby, with easy transportation access? Or will he be living in a more rural area, where it may be safer, with interaction with the great outdoors, but he’ll need a car to get around?

Cost

Depending on the type of facility, certain costs can be covered by insurance – check with your provider to learn more. Other sites offer financial aid or other forms of assistance. Applying for government assistance, grants, or other forms of aid is also an option.

Staff

The quality and quantity of staff in independent living centers can make or break your child’s experience. Of course, the staff should be knowledgable and caring, with plenty of experience. The ratio of staff to client is also important – the lower to ratio, the more devoted attention your child receives. The New York Foundling, for example, operates at a 1:4 ratio in their facility for young adults with moderate disability, and 1:2 for those with severe disability.

Experience

Young adults should be able to experience life – whether suffering from Down Syndrome or autism or a similar disability. Finding a facility that provides the independence they deserve with the security they require is key.